Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

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Merry Christmas Folks! Ho! Ho! Ho! Greetings from Santa and Rudolph.

The year had zoomed past so quickly and it is Christmas again. My extended family had the usual Christmas bash at my brother's house. This year, instead of having it potluck style, we had the food catered. I also took a 'sabbatical' from roasting the turkey this year and instead, ordered one from the supermarket. I say 'sabattical' because I have been appointed as the official turkey roaster for the family and have been the one roasting the turkey for the past 6-7 years!

Knowing that I will have some free time pre-party, I had planned in advanced to decorate a Christmas fruitcake. In fact, I had baked three fruitcakes ~ two 6" in size and one 9" in size. The mixed fruits were soaked in orange juice and rum well ahead of time and the cakes were baked at the end of November. I had faithfully stippled the cakes twice a week with Grand Marnier to keep them nice and moist.

You can see the 'bumps' on the surface as I did not 'seal' cakes with marzipan as is usually done. I merely covered cakes with Marshmallow Fondant directly.

The two smaller cakes are simply decorated with some store-bought figurines and were given away to the family of my children's significant other.

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For the 9" cake, I had handmade the Santa and Rudolph figurines with sugarpaste. It was such fun seeing jolly Santa take shape. The biggest challenge was to get the heads of Santa and Rudolph to stay in place. Even with a toothpick embedded, they still flopped somewhat because they would not dry fast enough due to the wet weather. The antlers were another problem too as they refused to stay on Rudolph's head.

Overall, I was pretty satisfied with the end results as this is the first time that I have shaped figurines entirely with my own hands.
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Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Rolling Good Time

I had a rolling good time the last two days as I tried my hands at making a swissroll. I have never been really successful at doing it. My previous tries resulted in once, a cracked roll and on another occasion, a sponge that was ultra dry. I had followed the instructions to a T. I just could not understand why I had failed so badly. I recall that I had been more successful during my school days making the humble swissroll with a layer of strawberry jam. I wouldn't say I am very successful this round but well at least I am getting somewhere.

Chicken Floss Swissroll. Not too bad ~ the roll was soft, the mayonnaise-buttercream paired well with the floss. However, I had envisaged something even tastier. Perhaps using a spicy meat floss would perk it up further.
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The second roll I tried was the Black Forest Swissroll. I have seen these rolls oozing with whipped cream and I shudder at that very thought. Although I have a weakness for desserts, I decide to put in less cream than normal. My mistake was that I did not brush the cake with enough cherry-Kirsh syrup to compensate for the reduction in cream, otherwise the roll would have been perfect. At least perfect in my eyes.
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With just a couple of days to Christmas, it is time to make my favorite Gingerbread Boy. I just love the heavenly smell of ginger and cinnamon wafting through the air and the taste of black molasses. From past experience, I realised that many people do not take to a cookie which is too heavily spiced which is why I left out the ground cloves. If you are thinking of making some gingerbread this Christmas, this is a definitely must try recipe.
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Gingerbread Cookies
Ingredients:
63g butter, room temperature
85g light brown sugar
180g dark molasses
438g plain flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves (which I omitted)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup water

Method:
1) Preheat oven to 180 degree C.
2) Sift flour, soda, salt & spices together.
3) Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy, add molasses and cream till well mixed.
4) Add in the flour and water alternately and mix till combined.
5) Rest mixture for 10-15 minutes.
6) Roll dough on a very lightly floured surface or waxed paper and cut into your desired design. Decorate with currants or chocolate chips (or decorate with royal icing after cookies have cooled).
7) Bake for between 10 - 12 minutes depending on the thickness of your cookies. Cookie is done when it springs back lightly when pressed.
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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Sunday's Food

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At the request of my daughter's colleague, I attempted to 'write' a recipe for my Shepherd's Pie. I usually just make them based on 'feelings' ~ a little bit of this, a dash of that. So Vanessa, here is the Shepherd's Pie recipe to the best of my abilities:

My Shepherd's Pie
Ingredients:
1.3 kg russet burbank potatoes
1 can Campbell's Condensed Soup - Cream of Mushroom or Chicken
50gm butter
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper

Boil potatoes till soft, mash and add the soup, butter salt and white pepper. Mix well, cover and set aside

500gm minced meat
270gm chopped large white onions
2 garlics - chopped
150gm mixed frozen vegetables
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp white pepper
2 tsp dark soya sauce
2 tsp Marmite
1 tsp light soya sauce
Pinch of salt
3 tbsp olive oil
150ml water
1 tbsp cornflour mixed with 2 tbps water.

Method:
1) Heat 1 tbsp of oil, 1/3 of the chopped garlics and saute the frozen vegetables for 2 minutes. Dish up and set aside.
2) Heat the remainder oil and saute the garlics and white onions till fragrant. Add the minced meat and keep stirring to loosen the meat.
3) When the meat is cooked, add the mixed vegetables, seasoning ingredients and water. Stir fry for a while, adjust seasoning and thicken with the cornflour mixture. Dish up and set aside.
4) Scoop meat into a heat-proof casserole or inividual size loaf pan. Top with the mashed potatoes.
5) Roughen the potatoes with a fork, dot with butter and bake at 180 degree C for 20-30 minutes (depending on the size of your tray) till top is slightly brown.
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As this Sunday was my dad's death anniversary, we had a memorial session for him at my brother's home. Dad was an avid angler. In memory of him, I made a fish-shaped buttercake and covered it with Marshmallow Fondant. The whole fish is then painted with a mixture of silver, gold and pearl luster dust. I had also made a fish rod and hooks out of sugarpaste to go with the fish. Unfortunately, due to the wet weather, the rod and hook did not dry on time and the rod actually broke into three parts. In the end, I 'told' my dad: "Sorry old guy, no fishing for you today. Just a steamed fish for you".

Monday, December 18, 2006

Saturday's Food

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Over the weekend, I finally attempted Jo's (of JoDeli's) Glutinuous Rice Sausages . It was her Glutinuous Rice Sausages (GRS) that started me on a mad frenzy to find the sausage casings in Singapore to make the Chinese Lup Cheong. As I had some casings leftover, I decided to try the GRS. I have added two other ingredients to make it into a luxurious version - Chinese Scallops & Chinese Ham and also added Aged Soya Paste to season the rice in addition to the soya sauce.

Luxurious Glutinuous Rice Sausages

Ingredients:
500gm glutinuous rice - soaked overnight
8 Chinese mushrooms - soaked till soft, squeeze dry and chop finely
3 Chinese sausages - diced finely
3 Chinese scallops - soaked in a little hot water, torn into shreds when soft
35gm Yunnan Ham - diced finely
40gm dried shrimps - soaked and chopped finely

Seasonings for rice:
40-50gm shallots, sliced thinly
2 garlics, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp Aged Soya Paste
2 tsp five-spice powder
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tbsp light soya sauce
4 tbps oil

Method:
1) Heat 1 tbsp oil and fry Chinese mushrooms till fragrant. Dish up and set aside.
2) Heat remainder oil and fry shallots till brown, scoop up the brown shallots and set aside. Leave oil in the wok.
3) Add garlic and saute till fragrant, add shrimps and fry for a couple of minutes till fragrant. Add the five spice, ham and scallop, fry for a while and then add the sausages.
4) When the sausages starts to exude it's oil, add the mushrooms. Stir fry for a while.
5) Add the rice,fried shallots and season the rice with the seasoning ingredients bit by bit*
6) Scoop up and leave the rice to cool.

Assembly:

1) Tie one end of the casing and using a funnel, fill casings with the rice mixture till 3/4 full and tie the other end.
2) Run a loop of twine in the middle to create two links of sausage.
3) Steam over boiling water for about 1-1/2 hours till cooked.
4) Cool befoe cutting.
Before steaming:
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After steaming:

Note*:
As the sausages, shrimps, scallops and ham are salty on their own, add the seasonings bit by bit to avoid over-salting the rice.

For dessert, I made an Aloe Vera Snow Fungus boiled with some pandan leaves. Very refreshing served cold.
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Saturday, December 09, 2006

New Office, New Friends

Phew! The office move went smoothly without a hitch and am I glad it is finally completed. I can now heave a sigh of relief.

My thanks especially to Andy who ensured that our computers are up and running so that operationally, there was no downtime. Thanks too to Hui Ni. She was a tremendous help to us, coordinating the move at this end. So it was literally, all systems go the moment the final carton was unpacked and it’s contents stored away.

It has been a week now since we moved in and I have settled in comfortably and made many new friends at the office. Everyone is friendly and had been immensely helpful to orientate us around the various departments.

I was making my daily fix of coffee the second morning when I was invited to try a dessert made by Amy. Although I have made many different types of desserts, I have not made one with the milk of the Chinese Almonds. Amy taught me how to make this delicious Snow Fungus with Almond Milk. Chinese Almonds are known to ease coughs and reduce phlegms. Learning how to make his dessert is a blessing. Thanks Amy. It could not have come at a better time than now as everyone at home is nursing a cough.

Chinese Almonds are actually not almonds but apricot kernels. There are two types, Pak Hng (北杏)Northern Almonds which is bitter and slightly toxic if eaten raw, and Nam Hng (南杏)Southern Almonds which is sweet. The almond milk is extracted by liquidising them with water and added to snow fungus, fresh ginko nuts and barleys. This is indeed a smooth and fragrant dessert and is best enjoyed warm.
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Midweek evening, I decided to bake a simple Pistachio-Mint Chocolate Cake for my new colleagues to express my thanks for the warm welcome received. Pistachio paste was added to the mint portion to give it a subtle nutty flavor. Nothing fancy, each piece is topped with a chocolate fudge rosette and sugar flower. I hope they have enjoyed it as much as I have enjoyed baking it for them.
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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Sunday's Lunch

This was lunch on Sunday.

Saute Cabbage with Black Fungus.
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Sambal Tumis Prawns
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Deep Fried Beancurd with Okonomiyaki Dip
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And a Chinese Roast Pork that only meets 70% of my expectation.
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While preparing the belly pork, I knew immediately that I would not get a good crackling on the roast. The skin was extremely tough and it took a lot of effort to prick the surface when usually, it would be a breeze to do so. Normally, it would be very easy to prick the skin all over with the special 'skin piercer'. This time, I had a hard time pushing the nails of the piercer in. There were just too much resistance. As expected, I did not manage to get the skin as crispy as I would normally be able to achieve.

Piercing the skin after salting the meat.
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Vinegar is applied to the skin and left to dry. This process is repeated 4-5 times to soften the skin.
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To get a good crackling, a thick coat of coarse salt is piled onto the skin. Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
After 10 minutes of roasting, the salt would harden and form a crust that must be removed.
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The pork is left to roast till the skin bubbles and meat is cooked through.
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