Cooking with herbs

Vesak Day was a day well spent for me.

School holiday started a day earlier, thanks to the Vesak Day holiday. Early in the morning, we brought the children to MacRitchie Reservoir to feel and explore the nature. My children enjoyed themselves very much, especially the eldest boy as he gets to discover the plants related to his Science subject. We spent the whole morning in the park.

In the afternoon, the kids were "sent off" to their cousin's birthday celebration at McDonald's. It was a peaceful time for me to prepare food for dinner. I invited my parents and siblings to my place for dinner. Some of the food wasn't quite well done, however, family members being family members, they took whatever was being given to them. Perhaps, they have no other choice? :p

My spouse went to JB for a short business trip earlier in the week and I asked him to help me to buy some herbs for my cooking. So I made use of three different herbs in my cooking for dinner. Here were the list of food prepared specially for my family dinner.

1. Salad with SWEET BASIL leaves
Coral red and green lettuce, honey and cherry mini tomatoes, golden raisins, onions, almond nibs, olive oil and some chopped basil leaves, plus some sea salt and ground black pepper. I found that adding basil leaves to salad really brings out a simple salad into a classier salad.

2. Curry potato wedges
Marinated potato wedges with curry powder, turmeric powder and olive oil. I have forgotten to add some salt into it and tasted a bit plain. I have also over baked it a little. I baked at 190C for 1 hour, which was too long. Should have baked it for 45mins. However, when the wedges were dipped in mayo, it changed the taste completely. It tasted really good. The curry and turmeric powder were not spicy.

3. ROSEMARY Roast Chicken
Marinated the night before with my fresh rosemary herbs, light soy sauce, honey, some ground black pepper and olive oil. With the addition of honey, it caramelised too fast and made the chicken very black way before it was cooked. Therefore, after baking, I had to remove the skin before it was being served. In future, I would omit honey, even though I like the sweet honey taste in the chicken.
[The chicken was too black to be posted here. For it might be mistaken as black chicken from the market where Chinese used it for tonic soup!]

4. Pasta with MINTS
Recently, I was quite hooked on watching Asian Food Channels (AFC) on cable. I like one of the show called French Food at Home hosted by Laura Calder. I love the way she prepares and cooks her food. They look truly gourment to me! There was this episode which I caught it half way through and tried to prepare the food. Not sure if it's correct. Here is roughly how I perceived and prepared it.

Prepare the pasta as usual. Toss the pasta in olive oil. Grind whole almonds, spearmints, peppermints and some walnuts together till rather fine. Separately grind pine nuts a little, but not too fine. Then mix them together. Next, zest an orange and a lemon into the olive oil covered pasta. Add the blended nuts in and mixed thoroughly. Also add some sea salt and ground black pepper to taste.

My family commented that the pasta is very special. It's not the usual pasta you get to take outside. It's really healthy with the nuts, at the same time, there are the freshness from the zests of the citrus fruits. I guess if you want, can add in fish fillets or prawns. I think it will taste nice too. However, the grind nuts must be reduced if seafood is added. You can use any mint leaves that is available in the supermarket. Since my spouse bought spearmints and peppermints, I just use a bit of both mints. Probably should have use more mint leaves. Also, I think walnut might not necessarily be added as it wasn't in the original recipe. Almond and pine nuts should just be nice.

5. Lemongrass Drink
Chopped 8 bulbs of lemongrass and boil it in a pot of water (approx. 2.5litres). After boiling, add sugar to taste. Let it infused and cooled. Then refrigerated it. Before serving, add a teaspoon of lime juice to the drink. Add ice and serve.

6. Chocolate Cream Eclairs
Initially I was indecisive on what desserts to prepare. I can't decide if it should be trifles or brownies. Then I happened to look through some recipe book and realised that it was a while before I made choux pastries. So I decided to make some cream puffs. I happened to see that Ju also made some puffs too! Mine wasn't as cute as hers though.

I filled my choux with whipped cream and topped it with chocolate ganache. The choux pastry was really light and thin, I like it very much.

Cooking with herbs were the theme for the day. I shall try to use herbs in my food in future, that is, if I can get my hands on them!

Birthday Celebration - A Carrot Cake

I was undecided on what to bake for my father-in-law's birthday. I wanted to bake something for him, but not something with lots of frosting since we will be dining out. So I decided on a carrot cake. I've tried a couple of carrot cake recipes before and all of them are really good. This time, I decided to use the recipe from Rose's Heavenly Cakes (time to use it). I don't want to keep using the same recipe, and preferred to try a new recipe, even though there might be some risk involved.

I frosted it with cream cheese as the way I like it, even though the recipe given was with Creamy White Chocolate frosting. Since my in-laws are not a fan of cheese, I used only very minimal and frosted it very thinly. If it was for my own consumption, I would have doubled the recipe for the cream cheese frosting and spread it thickly! *yum* I also decorated it with some fondant, just to beautify it a little. The cake was very moist, just the way I remembered and like.

Recipe for Carrot Cake, modified from Rose's Heavenly Cakes (finally!)

Carrot Cake
300g Plain flour
1 1/2 tsps Baking powder
1 tsp Baking soda
1 tsp Salt
1 tbsp Cocoa powder
2 tsp Cinnamon powder
190g Sugar (original was 300g)
100g Light brown sugar
269g Canola oil
200g Eggs (approx. 4 large eggs)
2 tsp Vanilla extract
454g Carrots, coarsely shredded (approx. 4 large carrots)
142g Raisins (I soaked in rum the night before)
120g Walnuts, coarsely chopped (optional, this was not in the original recipe)

1. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cocoa powder and cinnamon.
2. In a bowl of stand mixer fitted with flat beater, beat the sugar, brown sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla on medium speed for 1 min, or until well blended.
3. Add the flour mixture and beat o nlow speed for about 20 secs, just until incorporated.
4. Add the carrots and the raisins and beat for another few secs to mix.
5. Add in the walnuts and mix just enough to incorporate.
6. Pour the batter into a 9" round cake pan. [Original recipe use two 9" round cake pan. That will bake for about 45-55mins]
7. Bake in a pre-heat oven of 175C for about 85mins, or until the cake tester inserted in the centre comes out clean.
8. The cake should just shrink from the sides of the pan.
9. Let the cakes cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10mins. Remove and cool it upright on a wire rack.

Cream Cheese Frosting
100g Cream cheese, softened at room temperature
50g Icing sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp Lemon juice
Some lemon zest

1. Beat cream cheese and icing sugar till light and fluffy.
2. Add the lemon juice and lemon zest. Beat till incorporated.
3. Then frost the carrot cake, and decorate it.

Coconut Chiffon Cake

Since my previous successful attempt with Pandan Chiffon Cake, I was tempted to bake another chiffon cake. I also wanted to use up my coconut milk from that bake too! So I decided on an easier recipe.

That will be Coconut Chiffon Cake, from Kevin Chai's "Chiffon is Done" again! As it turned out, the chiffon was light, and has a crunchy bite because of the desiccated coconut. Hope you like this as much as I did!

Recipe for Coconut Chiffon Cake, modified from "Chiffon is Done".

Egg Yolk Batter
3 Egg yolks
30g Cooking oil
75g Coconut milk
25g Toasted desiccated coconut
10g Caster Sugar
75g Self-raising flour

Egg White Batter
3 Egg whites
1/4 tsp Cream of tartar
40g Caster Sugar

1. To make egg yolk batter, combine egg yolks, cooking oil, coconut milk, desiccated coconut and sugar in a mixing bowl. Fold in the flour.
2. To make egg white foam, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until mixture forms soft peaks.
3. Gradually add in sugar, beating at high speed until frothy and stiff peaks form.
4. Gently fold beaten egg white foam into egg yolk batter until blended.
5. Pour batter into a 7" tube pan. Bake in preheat oven at 170C for 35mins or until cooked.
6. Remove from oven and invert the whole cake until completed cooled.

Wanton Noodles

Thursday evening, I told my hubby I was indecisive on what to cook for Saturday lunch. He just replied me, "fried noodles". Both of us love fried noodles, whether it's Hong Kong noodles, vermicelli or Ee Fu noodles. As long as it's noodles, we like it. Even though I like this idea, I'm just worried about the kids. The children took their lunch at home daily. Very often, my domestic helper prepares noodles at least once or twice a week for them. So for them, if it's noodles again on Saturday, they'll comment "noodles again??" even though for us, "it's noodles!" There are just two different group of "eaters". It's quite difficult to please sometimes.

After thinking for a long time, I decided to make wanton noodles. I need to plan before hand so that I can buy the necessary ingredients the following day (Friday). On Saturday morning, my helper helped me with the cutting and chopping of the ingredients for the wanton (dumpling) filling. I marinated it, wrapped it up uglyly. These were the ingredients that went into my wanton filling: minced pork, prawns, carrots, chinese mushrooms, water chestnuts, onions and spring onions. To marinate, I put oyster sauce, chicken stock, cornflour, ground pepper and sesame oil.

I decided to fried half of them and "blanched" the other half. I knew my kids don't eat dumplings in soup, they only love those fried ones. Haiz, kids! I used fresh HK noodles (mee kia) from local supermarket.

I prepared my sauce based on the chee cheong fun sauce recipe. Then added some oyster sauce, cornflour to thicken it and the char siew sauce which came with the char siew I bought. A bit like rojak (means a mixture of everything!)  Surprisingly, the sauce was really nice! It was sweet, a bit salty and very tasty. Almost like what we eat outside! My family members simply love the wanton noodles specially prepared for them! I was glad I made the right decision. Sometimes, I took the trouble to prepare something special which I think my your family members might like, but it turned out otherwise. I'll get really disappointed. Fortunately, it was not one of those times! :)

It's Roasts' day!

It was my domestic helper's day off today. I had to plan in advance what I would want to cook today. It's either eat at my in-law's house (for lunch), buy take aways, or cook myself. Since it's a good opportunity for me to be home with the kids on a Sunday, I decided to roast a chicken for them! And since I had to roast a chicken, I might as well make it...TWO!

I bought two large chickens at a local supermarket yesterday. Had it washed, and marinated. For one chicken, I marinated with rustic tuscan herbs which my ex-colleague gave me previously, while the other, I marinated it with fresh rosemary herbs my hubby bought for me from JB two days ago. The marinate included some oyster sauce, dash of peppers and olive oil.

So for lunch, I roasted the rustic tuscan herbs chicken and baby potatoes (skin on) with fresh rosemary herbs and olive oil. My children loved the roasted chicken and baby potatoes very much. It has been quite a while since they last eaten a roast chicken. The chicken meat was very tender and it tasted fantastic with the herbs! The baby potatoes were crispy on the outside and soft on the inside and it was sweet!

In the late afternoon, I roasted the other chicken, to be brought to my parents-in-law house. I also cut some potatoes to be baked together with the chicken. My sister-in-law and niece commented that the chicken tasted really juicy and fragrant, and the potatoes were soft and good too! I was glad they loved it too!

Pandan Chiffon Cake

I hasn't been quite successful in chiffon least not yet. Therefore, when I saw that ieatishootipost posted up his analysis on the Panda Chiffon Cake that he baked, I was determined to followed his recipe and try it out! It's truly not easy to master chiffon cakes. I personally like chiffons because they are so light and I could have a few pieces at a go!

I decided to give it a try on Saturday as I have pandan leaves in the fridge for quite a while. I bought it a week ago, wanting to try it last week, but I didn't get the chance to. Since I don't have any commitments for baking yesterday, I might as well try out the pandan chiffon cake.

I was rather nervous while baking this cake. On one hand, I wanted it to succeed very much, on the other hand, I was worried it won't turn out well. Life's just ironical sometimes. I followed almost according to the recipe and the steps. Finally, it was baked, and cooled. When I cut the chiffon, I was rather happy at the results. Even though it didn't browned too much at the top, sides and bottom, at least the holes were rather uniform, despite having some extra large holes. The chiffon was very light and tasted very good. However, I realised that my chiffon was a bit too moist.

I analysed it and learnt that I should have baked it longer since I only baked it for 56mins at 140C fan oven. I was rather careful with the temperature of my oven as I found that it's hotter than other oven of the same temperature. Another thing to improve is the folding of the meringues as there was some streaks of whites in the chiffon. Overall, it was pretty good-tall, soft and fragrant! I think anyone who likes chiffons (like I do) should try this recipe.

After baking this chiffon, I decided to try another new thing - Chee Cheong Fun. After learning this chee cheong fun last week, I thought it wasn't too difficult to attempt, so I went ahead to buy the necessary materials-cloth, tray and aluminium steamer. Then I started preparing the batter. Cut the necessary ingredients- char siew and spring onions. Then proceeded to make them. Alas, they didn't turn out well! It was either too thick, or they were all broken up while I tried removing them! It wasn't in one piece! Feeling disappointed, I decided not to finish the batter, and stopped after more than an hour struggling with it. By then, I had made quite a number of rolls already. And since I thought it was still edible, I distributed some to my sisters and parents, and kept some for myself. [My family members are very forgiving and they don't mind trying as long as it's edible. That's what families are for! :p]

The next day, Sunday, I decided to pan fried the chee cheong funs. Added some sauce, and topped it with spring onions, fried shallots and chilli sauce. With the condiments and chilli, it tasted rather good though. I was pleasantly surprised! Hmm... I think, sometimes, even though the main dish is not very good, with the addition of condiments or good chilli sauce, it did make the dish taste reasonably good! Therefore, I feel that sauces play an important part in most dishes. They can help to enhance the food, cover up the taste of the food or make the food taste differently, don't you agree?

Baking with California Raisins Workshop

Earlier this month...

PAB: Grace, there's a free workshop on bread. You want to sign up or not? I am going.
KC: (sheepishly as she was in the middle of something) Huh? When will that be? What time?
PAB: It's on 11 May, starts at 2pm. Can you make it?
KC: What kind of bread are they teaching?
PAB: Don't know leh. But I think it's those kind of Continental Bread. The baker is from France. I'll send you the information, you take a look okay?
KC: Okay, can you sign up for me also?
PAB: Okay okay. See you then.

This was forwarded to her.

Came 11 May, Grace and I met for lunch at Lucky Plaza. Then we proceeded to Grand Hyatt Hotel for the event. As we were really early, we took the opportunity to take some pictures around the place. Slowly, people started streaming in. I also met Chef Judy from Creative Culinare. Caught up with her for a brief moment before the workshop started.

The workshop started with the organisers from California Raisins sharing with the benefits of using California Raisins in baking. Most of the participants are from the F&B industry, including Swissotel, Provence, Shatec etc. Then it was time for Chef Fred Mougel, a baker in France who owns two bakeries, to bring us through his bread baking theories. As he is French and can't speak English very well, Chef in Black, Emmanuel Stroobant was the facilitator for the workshop. He will help to translate words for Chef Fred if he has difficulties explaining. It was actually quite hilarious!

We had a great time, watching him going through the steps of bread making. He also explained the recipe and the methods in detail. It was rather thorough. There was also a short break during the workshop. The pastries served were really good. There were sandwiches, raspberries and rose macarons, japanese cheesecakes, cream puffs and fresh fruits. On the other table spread, were the breads baked by Chef Fred. The breads were really good. Grace and I love them very much. Some of the breads were baked using our Asian spices.  The taste was truly alluring!

We took the opportunity during the refreshment to take a picture with Chef in Black. It was a rare opportunity to be so up close and personal with him! Hahaha...

After the tea break, we continued with the steps on the bread making. We only get to see the dough being proved till before baking. By then, it was the end of the workshop. We were given some recipes of the breads created by Chef Fred with California Raisins, and also other recipes with California Raisins.

It was an enriching workshop, learning more about how french bakers made their breads. Both of us had a great time, learning from the professional, and tasting the pastries and breads!

Three Mother's Day Cakes in a weekend!

Out of the three cakes that we had, I made two of them. My hubby came home on Friday with a cake he bought from Bengawan Solo for Mother's Day. I was too quick to add that there wasn't enough space in the fridge as I'll be making two cakes-one for my mum, and the other for my mother-in-law. Suddenly, I realised how ungrateful I was! He was kind enough to buy a mother's day cake for me and there I was complaining about the fridge space! After I realised what I have done, I quickly asked what cake did he get for me. He said it was a chocolate cake. The children were more excited than me. Before we could take a picture of the cake, each of them have already eaten the chocolate decorations! It was a chocolate cake decorated with chocolate pearls. Very nice indeed!

Now back to my cakes. I had wanted to make the Passionfruit and Mango Mousse Cake since I learnt it from a workshop some time back. I followed the recipe carefully and I thought it was really close to the cake I tried last time! This was made for my mum and my family. I thought the cake was pretty well done, except for the mango centrepiece. I couldn't handle the mango well, so the centrepiece was quite horrible!

The sweetness of the chocolate meringue sticks complement the sourness of the passionfruit really well! The coconut dacquoise goes really well with the passionfruit and mango mousse. I sandwiched the mousse with mango. My family liked it very much.

As for my mother-in-law, I made a coffee cake from Nasi Lemak Lover on Saturday, and had it frosted on Sunday morning. I had to bake it earlier as I had to attend a workshop on Sunday. I thought she might like this cake. I was rather surprised when the cake turned out to be quite flat. From her blog, it looks rather high and big, I couldn't achieve the same. I almost wanted to redo the cake. After discussing with Grace, I decided to proceed with the frosting of the cake the following day.

Fortunately I heeded Grace's advice, the size of the cake and the frosting was just nice. I decided to decorate it with chocolate coffee beans, and silver dragees, which is more reflective of Mother's Day. I distributed the cakes to my mother-in-law and sister-in-law, so I had no chance to taste it. However, my niece did comment that the cake was soft and the buttercream is really nice. Therefore, this recipe will be a keeper for me! ;)

Chee Cheong Fun Workshop

to all the greatest Mothers!
[This bunch of flowers were given to me by my younger sister! ;)]

I had a great Mother's day today. Doris invited me to a Chee Cheong Fun workshop arranged by her at her place. Due to the confidentiality of the chef, I won't be providing much details of the overall process of this workshop. I arrived at her place early and started to help her and Sharon to prepare the ingredients. There were a lot of ingredients to prepare. It took us almost an hour to get the ingredients ready before the workshop proper.

The workshop included making of the Chee Cheong Fun sauce, the chilli sauce, and the different fillings for the Chee Cheong Fun. We also learnt how to prepare a dessert-Almond paste with White Fungus. I must say, the overall experience and the food was truly fantastic!  I really love all the Chee Cheong Funs and the Almond dessert!

These were on the menu today.
Chee Cheong Fun with Char Siew Fillings and the Chilli sauce.

Chee Cheong Fun with Fried You Tiao with its sauce. Also known as Zhao Leong Cheong Fun.

This is Fried Chee Cheong Fun with XO Sauce. The Chee Cheong Fun was made with dried shrimp, spring onion and fried shallots fillings. The XO Sauce was made by Sharon. This is truly fantastic! I love this very much!

Finally, it was the dessert. This is Almond paste with White Fungus. This is best eaten hot. The Almond was very very thick and smooth. The taste is... PERFECT!  This is very good for the lungs!

Fortunately, Doris baked some multigrain buns to feed us. Otherwise, we might have starved a bit while waiting for the food. The multigrain buns were really soft and good. 

The workshop stretched longer than expected. The chef was very patient in answering our questions and explaining the process in details! We even have some hands-on making the Chee Cheong Fun ourselves!

All thanks to Doris who hosted the workshop and prepared most of the stuff and baking the buns for us! I had a wonderful afternoon, and get to know more friends with the same interest! ;)

What's for lunch?

I was home today as my eldest boy wasn't feeling well. The rest of the kids were also home since it's a school holiday. The exams are coming too!

I made my own lunch today. I bought some coral lettuce yesterday and decided to make a salad for myself. I used a packet of salmon flakes which my elder sister gave me. Mixed it with my homemade sesame olive oil dressings.

Here's what went into my healthy sumptuous salad-coral lettuce, cherry tomatoes, button mushrooms, salmon, fried garlic, almond nibs, black pepper and sesame olive oil dressings.

Quite sometime back, my sister ordered some books from Amazon and asked if I want to order. I told her I wanted to buy "Heavenly Cakes" by Rose. She ordered for me and didn't give me until lately.  I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out that she has shared with the other two sisters to give me the book as a present! I was elated! Isn't it just great to have siblings who give you what you wanted? I'm going to enjoy this book...

Alleluya Cafe's Ginger Cake

Last week, I made a Ginger Cake for Grace. I thought she might like something special. Personally, I love anything that is spiced, ginger or cinnamon. So I thought she might like this Ginger Cake. I browsed through the food magazines that I have and found this cake. This was a cake sold in a cafe in Auckland and the cafe was generous enough to share this recipe. Therefore, I'm sharing their recipe here as both Grace and I like the cake.

Recipe for Ginger Cake, extracted from "The Foodtown Magazine, Oct/Nov 2008 - Alleluya Bar and Cafe's Ginger Cake", with modification.
[Makes a 6" round cake]

1 Egg
120g Fine sugar
109g Canola oil
155g Golden syrup
1 tsp Ground ginger
1/2 tsp Ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp Baking soda
125g Self raising flour
118g Warm water

25g Unsalted butter
25g Golden syrup
1 tsp Ground ginger
1/2 tsp Ground cinnamon (not in original recipe)
50g Icing sugar

  1. Preheat the oven to 160C. Line the base of a 6" round cake pan.
  2. Beat together the eggs, sugar, oil and golden syrup until well mixed.
  3. Combine the dry ingredients and stir them into the egg mixture.
  4. Mix in the water. This makes a very thin batter.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake for 60-80mins, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  6. Leave the cake in the pan for two days before turning out and icing.
  7. To make the icing, heat all the ingredients until the butter is melted.
  8. Mix well.  Cool slightly and spread over the cake.
  9. Serve the ginger cake with whipped cream.

* I reduced the golden syrup and sugar quite tremenduously.

* Original recipe was golden syrup. However, my golden syrup was maple flavoured. Therefore, the maple flavour was very strong. If I use this maple flavoured golden syrup again, I'll increase both the ground ginger and cinnamon to double.

* The batter was really very thin after the addition of water. However, after baking, the cake rose rather high and nice.

* The cake was very very soft after the second day. I covered the cake pan with cling wrap and place them in the oven.

* The texture of the cake was similar to Sticky Toffee Cake (as commented by Grace) since I've not tried this before.

Rosemary Focaccia

It was a long time since I can enjoy the early morning sunrise.  On usual weekdays, I would have left the house for work. On usual Saturdays, I would have been at the Serangoon stadium for my usual slow jog. On usual Sundays, I would still be in my dreamland. So this morning, with a layer of clouds hovering in the city skyline, I decided to take some pictures... zooming in to the new Marina Bay Resort and the Singapore Flyer. Here's sharing with you on the beautiful early morning before the sun appears today.
If possible, I prefer to bake breads on Saturdays as I have the whole day to do it. Breads have very take very long floor time! I made Rosemary Focaccias from my previous bread workshop. This recipe produces very very wet dough. It took me a long time to knead the dough (using the mixer)! Even after three hours of two floor time, the dough just didn't rise to double the height. Okay, I said to myself, nevermind, just bake it. However, the moment I put it into the oven to bake, it rose thrice its height! Was this recipe like this?  I really cannot recall! Anyway, after baking, it rose really well, and the holes were real neat. That was what it mattered right? Whew!
Thanks to my dear friend, Grace, I was able to use the cake container she gave me to keep my focaccias, and transport them over to my mum's house for my siblings! No wastage of plastic bags... Hooray! This container is very useful. Big and tall enough for a 9" cake. Now, even two thick focaccias can fit in. Handy!
By the way Grace, do you find any difference in my pictures? Looks sharper and nicer? Heehee... A good teacher produces a good student! ;))