TOTAL 0% Greek Yoghurt Split Pots

Monday, 28 February 2011

TOTAL greek yoghurt has just launched a brand new range - Total 0% Greek Yogurt Split Pots and I was asked if I wanted to review. "Yes of course!" I love the consistency of Greek yoghurt - so rich, creamy and thick. It is great with fresh fruits, nuts and cereals and I use it a lot in my cooking. Mainly for thickening curries, stews and soups.

TOTAL 0% Greek Yoghurt Split Pots 3

Total Greek yoghurt is made with just milk, cream and live active cultures to create 100% natural Total yoghurt with no sugar, sweeteners, thickeners or additives added. They are known for their original full fat, 0% and 2% fat-containing Greek youghurt products. The brand range of Total 0% split pots combine natural fat-free Greek Yoghurt with a side portion of honey or fruit compote.

TOTAL 0% Greek Yoghurt Split Pots 4

Available in four delicious flavours, TOTAL 0% split pots are the perfect fat-free indulgence, with no artificial sweeteners and no compromise on taste. Higher in protein than other yoghurts, these convenient little pots have less than 130 calories per pot except for the one with honey which is 167 calories.

TOTAL 0% Greek Yoghurt Split Pots 5

Take a swirl of sweet honey or fruit compote and plunge your spoon into the smooth, thick Greek yoghurt to create the perfect mouthful.

TOTAL 0% Greek Yoghurt Split Pots 2

All the split pots with fruit compote were really delicious with just the right amount of sweetness. My favourite is the Tropical fruits. The fruit compote is made of kiwi, passion fruit and papaya. Nice clean and fresh flavours. Good consistency with bits of fruits! The one with honey was rather disappointing as the honey was solid when I took it out of the fridge making it hard to mix.

TOTAL 0% Greek Yoghurt Split Pots

TOTAL 0% split pot in Honey, Blueberry, Strawberry & Tropical Fruits are available in most Waitrose stores from 8th February. Retail recommended price £1.09 - or 0.79p as introductory offer until 1st April.
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Ginger Beer Cake

Friday, 25 February 2011

This cake is spicy, really rich, dense and moist. More like a steamed pudding or a fruit cake. See the lovely golden brown colour? Read on to find out about the secret ingredients!

Ginger Beer Cake 2

Crabbie's is running a competition, ‘When One Has Guests’, on their blog and the winner will win a cooking lesson for two. What you have to do is to come up with a recipe using Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer as the main ingredient and leave the recipe as a comment on the Crabbie’s blog by Friday 4th March. The winner with the best recipe will receive a cookery lesson in the winner’s own home, learn how to become a culinary wizard and host their own spiffing dinner party! This competition is only open to residents of England, Scotland and Wales aged 18 or over, so do join in the fun!

Ginger Beer Cake 5

Crabbie’s was launched in 1801 by a man called John Crabbie in the Edinburgh port of Leigh. Ginger Wine was first made, and it was in fact used as a cure for seasickness in sailors. Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer is a new addition and was launched in 2009. It contains 4 secret ingredients along with steeped ginger, which is still shipped all the way from the Far East, just as the first Scots Merchant Adventurers did all those years ago.

Ginger Beer Cake 3

My original plan was to make a ginger beer bread until I came across this recipe. It involves golden syrup which I had a lot of leftover from using just 2 tablespoons for my Indonesian layer cake. I made a few changes depending on what I had in my pantry. I used butter instead or oil. Added a bit of salt to balance the sweetness of the cake. Walnuts and raisins for the extra texture and flavour. The original recipe calls for 260 ml of golden syrup but I used whatever was left, which was about 1 cup. The golden syrup adds a lovely toffee-like flavour to the cake and gives the cake a nice golden-brown colour. The cake is spicy, really rich, dense and moist. More like a steamed pudding or a fruit cake.

Ginger Beer Cake
Ingredients: 9-inch cake
Adapted from the Good Food channel website
  • 260 g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 100 g unsalted butter - softened at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup caster sugar
  • 1 cup golden syrup
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tbs grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup ginger beer
  • 1 cup walnuts - coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup raisins

Directions:
  • Pre-heat the oven to 150°C.
  • Lightly grease a 9" round pan and line the base with parchment paper.
  • Sift together plain flour, baking powder and salt.
  • Beat butter, caster sugar and golden syrup until well mixed.
  • Slowly mix in eggs, one by one.
  • Add in ginger and cinnamon.
  • Pour in half the flour mixture, mix.
  • Add in all the ginger beer and mix.
  • Mix in the rest of the flour mixture.
  • Lastly, mix in walnuts and raisin.
  • Pour into a greased baking tin and bake for about 1 hr 15 mins-1 hr 30 mins or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the cake.

Ginger Beer Cake 4

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Malaysian Food at Ning

Thursday, 24 February 2011

As some of you readers have probably gathered, the PigPig and I have upped and moved to sunny Manchester in North West England, 200 miles away from London. Manchester is the third largest city in England (still pretty small compared to London though) and is home to University of Manchester which has the largest student body in the whole of England. The Chinese community in Manchester is also quite significant with lots of students from the Far and South East countries. Naturally, various enterprising people have sought to make a profit by opening restaurants to provide for them.

Ning is such an example, providing Malaysian cuisine for the many Malaysian students in the university. Self taught chef Norman Musa has been very active since Ning’s opening in 2006 with him taking part in Taste of London 2010, Manchester Food & Drink Festival 2010 as well as being race chef for the Lotus F1 team this year. Needless to say, we were highly looking forward to eating traditional Malaysian food.

We arrived at our booking time of 6.30pm on a Friday night and the restaurant was already packed to the seams with happy diners. Conveniently, there was an early bird (before 7pm) set menu of £12.95 which consists of a starter, main course and an accompaniment. Since we could both find something we each wanted from the set menu we decided to take advantage of the good offer, since the average price of a main dish was about £10 anyway.

Malaysian Food at Ning 9

Malaysian Food at Ning 8

Thai Fish Cakes”. Four fairly sizable spheres, each of them containing quite prominent flavours of fish, herbs and spices; however, they were quite potato-ey and the texture was quite doughy.

Malaysian Food at Ning 6

Murtabak”. Murtabak is one of those funny things that I never really eat in Malaysia (being distracted by other things I prefer like roti sardin or roti kaya) but seem to order more often than not in the UK. The filling of beef and potato was denser than the ones I remember having before although it was actually pretty good. A more major complaint is the lack of both dhal and curry, which for me is a pretty necessary adjunct. Instead, Thai sweet chilli sauce was provided.

Malaysian Food at Ning 7

Malaysian Food at Ning 5

Kuey Teow Goreng”. There are loads of koay teow vendors in Malaysia but less than half of them are any good, and there is only a handful that I would deliberately visit time after time again to sample their goods. Despite that, London had some pretty good offerings with the best coming from Sedap so I was having high hopes for Ning’s version. Unfortunately, I had a sinking feeling the moment I laid my eyes on it – real char koay teow shouldn’t have green peppers in it. Tastewise, it was a heartsink as well, lacking any real wok hei and being weirdly too sweet.

Malaysian Food at Ning 4

Masak Merah”. One of my favourite dishes has to be ayam masak merah, basically a fragrant aromatic mildly spicy curry that contains lots of tomatoes and without any coconut santan. Sniffing at it, I thought it was a bit muted which was confirmed when I had a taste of it – reasonably tasty, but completely dissimilar to the excellent examples I had both in my hometown and in Satay House in that there wasn’t enough aromatics involved. Portion sizes were incredibly generous though as I basically finished my rice after only eaten half of the dish.

Malaysian Food at Ning 3

Sambal Udang”. Being absolute pigs, we also ordered an extra main dish to share. The menu describes it as being a “traditional fiery sweet & spicy chilli gravy” dish. When the dish came, the PigPig looked at it and said "why is it not red?". We even flagged the waiter and asked if we got the right dish. I found that it lacked any real spicy element and the sweet element was too strongly evident here as well.

Malaysian Food at Ning

“Seri Kaya”. For dessert, we shared a pretty traditional Nyonya kuih but changed the vanilla ice cream to home made mango and ginger ice cream, which was pretty good. The seri kaya, a “sweet cake of sticky rice and pandan & coconut milk set 'custard'” was actually pretty decent but I would have preferred a bigger portion although some people might find that a bit too filling. The syrup and cocoa powder was a surprisingly interesting and nice combination with it.

Malaysian Food at Ning 2

Altogether, the bill came up to about £45 including a glass of soya bean milk. Service was reasonably good and friendly as well. The interior felt a little cramped but there were lots of little nice and modern decorations around the periphery from traditional Malay culture.

My colleague at work declares Ning to be his favourite restaurant in Manchester and from his point of view I can see why as the everything was really tasty and comes in generous portions. For me though, Ning has been a massive disappointment as the food bears little resemblance to my memories of local Malaysian cuisine (I'm not really fond of “modern interpretations” or anything fusion of Malaysian food).

Best bit: seeing a thriving Malaysian restaurant overseas.
Worst bit: seeing and knowing that if any of the local people here go to Malaysia, they’ll be completely confused by the local food as it bears little resemblance to Ning’s food.

Ning
92-94 Oldham Street
Manchester, M4 1LJ
Official website

Ning on Urbanspoon
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Shepherd's pie

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

After posting a French classic recipe, I thought I'd follow the trend and post a British classic - shepeherd's pie. It is a variation of cottage pie. Cottage pie refers a British or Irish dish made with minced beef topped with a mashed potato crust. Shepherd's pie, on the other hand, uses mutton or lamb. Traditionally, these pies are made with leftover pot roast or stew, but nowadays, minced meat is also used. The recipes for cottage/ shepherd's pie are pretty forgiving, so it's a great way of getting rid of leftovers. The filling should be really rich and flavourful. As for the mashed potato topping, just remember to put in lots and lots of cheese!

Shepherd's pie
Ingredients:
Adapted from Gordan Ramsay's recipe
F0r filling:
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 500 g minced lean lamb
  • 1 large onion - finely grated
  • 1 large carrot - finely grated
  • 3 cloves garlic - pressed
  • 2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbs tomato paste
  • Handful of thyme sprigs - leaves picked, chopped
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary - needles chopped
  • 250 ml red wine
  • 250 ml chicken stock
For topping:
  • 1 kg potatoes - peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 2 egg yolks
  • Parmesan, for grating

Directions:
For mashed potatoes topping:
  • Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until tender.
  • Drain then return potatoes to the hot pan over low heat to dry out briefly.
  • Pass them through a potato ricer or mash the potatoes then beat in the egg yolks, followed by lots of grated Parmesan.
  • Season with black pepper and salt.
For lamb filling:
  • Heat the oil in a large pan until hot.
  • Season the mince and fry in the oil over moderate to high heat until the lamb is "frying" in its own oil.
  • Tilt the pan and discard the oil, leaving about 1 tbs of oil in the pan.
  • Stir the onions and carrot into the mince then grate the garlic in as well.
  • Add the Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste and herbs and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Pour in the red wine and reduce until almost completely evaporated.
  • Add the chicken stock, bring to the boil and simmer until the sauce has thickened.
To assemble:
  • Spoon the mince into the bottom of an ovenproof dish. Using a large spoon, layer the mashed potato generously on top of the mince, starting from the outside and working your way into the middle.
  • Cover the surface with more grated parmesan.
  • Sprinkle some salt and pepper on top.
  • Fluff up the mash potato with a fork to make rough peaks. Bake in the 180˚C pre-heated oven for approximately 20 mins, or until bubbling and golden brown.

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Coq Au Vin

Monday, 21 February 2011

How can anyone resist a dish with wine, lots of bacon, and extremely thick and rich gravy.

Coq Au Vin 2

Coq au vin is a French classic prepared with chicken braised in wine, lardons and mushrooms. Traditionally, old rooster is used. It is cooked slowly in wine to soften the hard and stringy meat. Nowadays, chicken is more widely used. There are many variations of coq au vin and the most popular version is the one cooked with Burgandy wine or any other red wine. Other versions involve using white wine, Reisling or even champagne. Some say that white wine is best as it complements the flavour of the chicken rather than over-powering it. Can't comment on this as I've never tried, but I guess the "white wine with white meat" rule applies.

Coq Au Vin
Ingredients:
  • 1 kg chicken pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups red wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 sprigs thyme
  • Oil
  • 150 g bacon - coarsely chopped
  • 1 tbs butter
  • 8 shallots - peeled
  • 3 cloves garlic - peeled, crushed
  • 2 stalks celery - chopped
  • 1 carrot - chopped
  • 150 g closed cup mushrooms - halved
  • 1 1/2 tbs plain flour
  • 1/3 cup brandy
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 tbs sun-dried tomato paste
  • 1 handful parsley - coarsely chopped
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
  • Combine chicken, red wine, bay leave and thyme in a large bowl. Leave chicken to soak in the fridge overnight.
  • The next day, remove the chicken pieces from the red wine mixture, dry the chicken pieces with kitchen towels.
  • Heat up a bit of oil in a pot, place chicken skin side down and leave to brown. Flip and brown the other side as well. Do this in a few batches and do not overcrowd the pot. Leave browned chicken aside for later use.
  • Discard the oil leaving just a bit behind in the pot, add bacon and fry until browned.
  • Add in butter, followed by shallots and garlic, fry until fragrant and lightly browned.
  • Mix in celery, carrots and mushrooms, fry for a few mins.
  • Stir in plain flour. Mix well.
  • Pour in brandy to deglaze the pan.
  • Add red, wine mixture, chicken stock, tomato paste and chicken pieces. Bring to boil then lower heat to simmer for about 45 mins-1 hr or until chicken is tender.
  • For a thicker sauce, remove the chicken pieces once cooked. Increase heat and cook the sauce for a few minutes until the liquid is reduced. Return the chicken back into the pot.
  • Throw in a handful of coarsely chopped fresh parsley.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Serve and enjoy!

Coq Au Vin 3
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The Lime Tree

Friday, 18 February 2011

We’ve been in Manchester for nearly half a year now but I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve been out for a dinner meal. Instead, I’ve been enjoying the PigPig’s home cooking. Still it is nice to go out for a nice meal and we were lucky enough for a reader to give us some recommendations.

The Lime Tree took up a cosy little corner in the suburbs of West Didsbury. Outside was a placard stating that it was the 6th best restaurant in the North West according to the Sunday Times, high praise indeed. Inside was a comfortable looking place and the staff were cheerful so we were very much looking forward to a hearty meal.

The Lime Tree, Manchester 7

As we made our reservation just the day before, we started out meal at 6pm and were pleasantly surprised that we weren’t the only patrons that early. It turned out that there was an early bird offer (3 courses for £15 or so).

Chicken liver parfait with chutney, pickles and toast”. The generous slab of the chicken liver, placed on top of a little pile of dressed rocket, was pretty tasty although it had an odd grainy texture. It wasn’t really noticeable if eaten together with the toast though and the pickled shredded carrot was great.

The Lime Tree, Manchester 6

Breast of wood pigeon, confit pork belly & Bury black pudding with game jus”. Although nice and pink in the middle, the cut from the outside of the piece of breast was a tad chewy. The confit pork was delicious though, especially with the sweet apple sauce at the bottom to go with it. The jus also struck a nice balance of good gamey flavour without being too rich and creamy.

The Lime Tree, Manchester 5

Roast loin of Cheshire lamb with moussaka, cous cous and mint yoghurt”. Again the meat was beautifully cooked, but it just felt a little bit dry and tough. Although there was the yoghurt to go with the lamb, I would have preferred more gravy instead; what gravy was given was absorbed by the cous cous.

The Lime Tree, Manchester 2

Goosnargh duck breast with confit leg, orange sauce, pickled kumquats and market vegetables”. The PigPig’s main course looked like a hefty portion. Each of the three slices of breast meat was juicy on the inside but still had a slightly crispy skin around it. The confit leg was far too salty for my tastes though. The orange sauce was sweet without being too sickening while the kumquats added more tangy citrus notes.

The Lime Tree, Manchester 4

Fat chips, soup cream and chives”. Feeling particularly ravenous at the time of ordering, we also added this side of fat chips. What we got were obese chips though, neither of us ever seeing such huge cuts of potato before for chips. To be fair, I did quite like it as the inside was fluffy while having a slightly crunchy surface.

Note that the plate of vegetables beside the chips is the accompanying “market vegetables” for the duck.

The Lime Tree, Manchester

Stem ginger and date sticky toffee pudding, hot toffee sauce and vanilla ice cream”. Being far too stuffed at this point, we had to share one dessert between us two. There was an ever-so-slight-yet-definitely-there aroma from the ginger but there was also a rather strange texture throughout the pudding; it felt a bit like when one chews on newspaper by mistake and I assume it was from the ginger. We both loved the ice cream and the PigPig also liked how the pudding was practically swimming in toffee sauce but I found that a bit overkill.

The Lime Tree, Manchester 3

Altogether, the bill came up to £60 for the food above. I brought a bottle of wine from home and they charge a corkage fee of £5.

According to their website, the food started out French and has now morphed into Modern British. To me, it feels like standard hearty gastropub fare. Most of the dishes are fairly straightforward with no twist or turns in a very pleasant and warm environment.

The Lime Tree
8 Lapwing Lane,
West Didsbury,
Manchester
M20 2WS
Tel: +440871 811 4873
Official website

Lime Tree Resturant on Urbanspoon
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Ajitsuke Tamago (Seasoned Soft-Boiled Egg)

Thank you all for all your wonderful comments on my latest daring cooks challenge. Everyone seemed to love the soft-boiled egg. Who doesn't huh? The oozy orange yolk is so hard to resist! Well, it was't just an ordinary soft-boiled egg, it's an ajitsuke tamago, which simply means flavoured eggs in Japanese. I had my first taste of ajitsuke tamago at Marutama ramen in Malaysia when I was home for Christmas last year.

We ordered it without knowing what "ajitsuke" meant as none of us know Jap. But glad we did! It's not only soft-boiled, but flavoured beautifully. So much better than onsen tamago IMO. Not that onsen tamago is not good, don't get me wrong, but this...flavoured soft-boiled egg, can you imagine??!! It was so good we ordered another one. It turns out, making it is pretty simple. Just soak soft-boiled eggs in a seasoned liquid for a couple of hours. That's it. I tried 1:1:1 water:soy sauce:mirin ratio, but it was quite salty. So I would suggest using 2:1:1 instead.

Ajitsuke tamago 2

Now lets get on to cooking the egg part. Some of you asked about how to cook perfect soft-boiled eggs. I'm no expert but I do have a few tips and a foolproof way. Tip one, use old eggs. Fresh eggs are extremely hard to peel. Even if you plunge them into cold water after boiling, peel them under running water or prick a small hole at one end, it just doesn't work. I learnt that the hard way. How old is old? About 5 days old is fine. Tip two, use room temperature eggs as they are less likely to crack. Tip three, always start with cold water, the eggs are less likely to crack this way too. Tip four, wash the eggs under running water right after boiling. This stops the cooking process and the steam creates a space in between the egg and the shell making it easier to peel. Tip five, just be gentle. My foolproof way of cooking the perfect soft-boiled egg is using a kettle.

soft-boiled eggs

The wild boar thought me this actually. When we were in boarding school, we have room checks at 10 p.m. (or 10:30, I can't really remember, but it's early I know) every night, we were suppose to stay put in our own rooms, not allowed to make any visits to other rooms, not allowed to do this and that, not allowed to cook. But we were all teens, teens are all rebellious in nature, so we usually have little "parties" right after room check. The girls would normally be chatting till wee hours, while the boys gather for counter strike sessions or have supper, which usually involves Chinese sausage rice with canned food and pork floss, food that can be cooked with just a rice cooker, in the room. Growing boys, I know. I was quite surprised when the wild boar sneaked me a bowl of Indomie with a perfect soft-boiled egg on top. This man can actually cook I thought. Even I couldn't cook such perfect eggs. But I was fooled, that's about the only thing he cooks best. Oh well, too late =P

The trick is to use an electric kettle. The one with concealed heating element works best. Place eggs inside the kettle and add enough water to cover the eggs by about 1/2 an inch. Start the timer as soon as you hear the "click" sound - just when it switches itself off. 3 minutes for very soft-boiled eggs. 4 minutes for white set but yolk still soft (like in the pictures). It works everytime.

Ajitsuke tamago
Ingredients:
  • 3 eggs - soft boiled, peeled
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup Japanese light soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup mirin
  • 1 tsp Hon-dashi seafood flavour seasoning
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 stalk spring onion - sliced

Directions:
  • Soft boil the eggs whichever way you are comfortable and confident with.
  • Mix all the other ingredients in a small container.
  • Add in eggs, cover and refrigerate overnight. You may want to turn the eggs around every now and then as the eggs float, you will end up with a small un-stained patch.

Ajitsuke tamago 3
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Daring Cooks - Cold Soba & Tempura

Monday, 14 February 2011

The February 2011 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by Lisa of Blueberry Girl. She challenged Daring Cooks to make Hiyashi Soba and Tempura. She has various sources for her challenge including japanesefood.about.com, pinkbites.com, and itsybitsyfoodies.com

Hiyashi soba

Hiyashi soba 2

Hiyashi soba is a type of cold noodle salad served during Summer in Japan. It is usually topped with colourful ingredients of all sorts. The best thing about this dish is that you can serve it with anything you like. I wanted something really simple for lunch and was feeling really lazy to julienne so many types of ingredients, so I served it with some pickled daikon, soy sauce seasoned soft-boiled eggs, nori and a simple dipping sauce. The challenge? Noodle preparation.

The most important thing is not to overcook the noodles, or you will end up with a gelatinous mass. Rinsing the noodles after boiling is also crucial. Soba is packed with starch on them, so it needs to be rinsed off after cooking. After boiling, just rinse it vigorously under cold water to stop the cooking process and to rinse off the excess starch. If you are not serving it straightaway, place the rinsed soba in a bowl of cold water. This can be kept in the fridge for up to a couple of hours and it will still be nice and fresh.

Hiyashi soba
Ingredients:
  • 2 quarts (2 Liters) water + 1 cup cold water, separate
  • 12 oz (340 g) dried soba (buckwheat) noodles (or any Asian thin noodle)
Dipping sauce:
  • 1/3 cup Japanese light soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup sake
  • 1/3 cup mirin
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp Hon-dashi seafood flavour seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 stalk spring onion - sliced
Toppings:
  • Japanese furikake (Rice seasonings)
  • Pickled daikon - julienned
  • Nori (Japanese seaweed) - thinly sliced
  • Ajitsuke tamago (flavoured egg)
  • Wasabi

Directions:
For soba:
  • Heat 2 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Add the noodles a small bundle at a time, stirring gently to separate. When the water returns to a full boil, add 1 cup of cold water. Repeat this twice. When the water returns to a full boil, check the noodles for doneness. You want to cook them until they are firm-tender. Do not overcook them.
  • Drain the noodles in a colander and rinse well under cold running water until the noodles are cool. This not only stops the cooking process, but also removes the starch from the noodles. This is an essential part of soba noodle making. Once the noodles are cool, drain them and cover them with a damp kitchen towel and set them aside allowing them to cool completely.
Dipping sauce:
  • Just mix all ingredients for dipping sauce in a container. Stir/ shake to dissolve the Hon-dashi powder.
To serve:
  • Traditionally soba is served on a bamboo basket tray, but if you don’t have these, you can simply serve them on a plate or in a bowl.
  • Divide up the noodles, laying them on your serving dishes. Sprinkle each one with nori.
  • In small side bowl or cup, place 1/2 cup (120 ml) of dipping sauce into each.
  • In separate small side dishes, serve each person a small amount of wasabi, pickled daikon, and green onions.
  • The noodles are eaten by sprinkling the desired garnishes into the dipping sauce and eating the noodles by first dipping them into the sauce. Feel free to slurp away! Oishii!
Tempura

The second part of the challenge is tempura, which is vegetables and seafood that has been battered and deep fried. This for me was the biggest challenge. I hate deep frying. The secret to light and crispy batter is using fresh ingredients, ice-cold water and minimal beating. Prepare the batter just before deep frying and avoid over-mixing, lumpy batter is fine. Over-mixing the batter will result in the activation of wheat gluten, which causes the flour mixture to become chewy and dough-like when fried. Using ice cold water minimises oil absorption, so the batter is often kept cold by adding ice, or by placing the bowl inside a larger bowl with ice in it. Regulating the oil temperature is also important. Should the oil temperature drop below 340° F/170° C, the tempura will most likely end up greasy and soft. If you follow ALL the steps above religiously, you will end up with light and crispy tempura. I added some Hon-dashi powder into the batter mixture for some extra flavouring.

tempura
Ingredients:
  • Vegetables or seafood of your choice (I used carrots, oyster mushrooms and prawns)
For batter:
  • 1 cup ice cold water
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 2 tbs cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp Hon-dashi powder

Directions:
  • Place the iced water into a mixing bowl. Lightly beat the egg yolk and gradually pour into the iced water, stirring (preferably with chopsticks) and blending well.
  • Add flours, salt and Hon dashi, stroke a few times with chopsticks until the ingredients are loosely combined. The batter should be runny and lumpy.
  • Place the bowl of batter in an ice water bath to keep it cold while you are frying the tempura. The batter as well as the vegetables and seafood have to be very cold. The temperature shock between the hot oil and the cold veggies help create a crispy tempura.
  • Heat the oil in a large pan or a wok. For vegetables, the oil should be 320°F/160°C; for seafood it should be 340°F/170°C. It is more difficult to maintain a steady temperature and produce consistent tempura if you don’t have a thermometer, but it can be done. You can test the oil by dropping a piece of batter into the hot oil. If it sinks a little bit and then immediately rises to the top, the oil is ready.
  • Start with the vegetables, that won’t leave a strong odor in the oil. Dip them in a shallow bowl of flour to lightly coat them and then dip them into the batter. Slide them into the hot oil, deep frying only a couple of pieces at a time so that the temperature of the oil does not drop.
  • Place finished tempura pieces on a wire rack so that excess oil can drip off. Continue frying the other items, frequently scooping out any bits of batter to keep the oil clean and prevent the oil (and the remaining tempura) from getting a burned flavor.
  • Serve immediately for the best flavor, but they can also be eaten cold.

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BRITAIN’S BEST Family Recipes

Friday, 11 February 2011

Family recipes always involve "a little bit of this and a little bit of that" and as they are passed down through generations, they evolve. And, if your next generation doesn't give a crap about cooking, they disappear.

BRITAIN’S BEST family recipes are in danger of extinction but who can save them? Simon King and David Myers collectively known as The Hairy Bikers are on a mission to save great British recipes, those forgotten gems and secret scribbles, many of which have been handed down from generation to generation.



If you watch a fair amount of cooking shows on TV, you should be familiar with The Hairy Bikers. They are two men, with lots of facial hair, who travels around on their bikes in search of good food. They are very lovely, down-to-earth with a great sense of humour. What I love about them is their fuss free, easy-to-follow tasty recipes.

The Hairy Bikers: Mums Know Best is back on BBC two by popular demand and this time they’re in search of mums with traditional recipes passed down from parents to children over many generations. They discover their stories and create their lip-smacking family favourites including cheese pie, clootie dumplings, home-made crumpets, Barrovian love sponge, pan haggerty, Great Granny’s pudding, bacalao al bras, roast saddle of venison, baked Alaska, roast ham and more.

In conjunction with the screening of this new series, the first series will be released on DVD as a three-disc boxed set on 14 February 2011 by Acorn Media!

Hairy Bikers 3d

In each episode of the first series, the mums join the Bikers at a Food Fair to share their best recipes, while members of the public bring theirs. There's the "high tech, low tech" race against the clock featuring various cooking accesories from across the ages – from potato mashers to whisks, cheese graters to can openers. They are tried and tested to see whether new ways or old ways are best. Each week's Recipe Fair has a different theme such as Family favourites, Picnics, Simple Suppers, Sunday Dinners, Show Off Dinners, and Birthday Treats. Featured recipes include classic cheese pie, fish & chips, samosas with a Scottish twist, fly pie and many more delicious family recipes.

Untitled-1

The current series is on BBC Two and will screen for eight weeks from Thursday 10 February 2011 at 8pm.

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Burdock Soup 牛蒡汤

The Cantonese love their soups but the wild boar is an anomaly. He loves butternut squash soup, seafood bisque but not a huge fan of Chinese herbal or any Cantonese slow-cooked soups (lo foh tong 老火湯). See the trend there? He enjoys rich and thick stuff rather than clear broth. That's the reason why I rarely cook soup, having it once a week is way too frequent he says.

Burdock Soup 牛蒡汤 2

I was quite surprised when the wild boar told me he enjoyed this. With just a few ingredients, it was really tasty. The main ingredient of this soup is this tree branch-like thing. It was about 1 meter long, I cut it just to fit the entire thing into a picture. It gives the soup a very pungent and earthy flavour. Tasty aside, it was quite...fibrous. I'm not sure if that's normal since I've never had it before.

Burdock Soup 牛蒡汤

This is not just any other woody tree branch, it is known as the burdock root 牛蒡. Also known as "gobo" in Japanese, burdock root is harvested from the Great burdock plant (botanical name: Arctium lappa). It is originally from Europe, Siberia, and mainland China but it is popularised in Japan. It is also known as the "oriental ginseng" due to its extremely high nutritional values.

Burdock is rich in nutrients like protein, vitamins A, B1, and C, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, iron and other minerals. It also contains inulin which is a natural dietary fiber, thus aids digestion. In addition, burdock has been traditionally used as a "blood purifier" to clear the bloodstream of toxins. Besides, it also prevents aging, moisturises skin, prevents strokes, lowers blood pressure and blood sugar, relieves constipation, diarrhoea, and high cholesterol. It is also useful for treating colds, cough and sore throat. Burdock is also said to help fight cancer.

All in all, burdock is good for you!

Burdock Soup 牛蒡汤 3
Ingredients:
Adapted from Happyhomemaker88
  • 1 burdock root (about 1 meter long)
  • 700 g pork ribs
  • 15 dried Chinese red dates
  • 6 cups water
  • 1/2 cup goji berries
  • Salt

Directions:
  • Peel the burdock root, cut into smaller chunks and soak in water for about 10 mins. [this helps to get rid of the bitter woody taste.]
  • Blanch the pork ribs. [Place pork ribs and enough water to cover all the ribs in a pot, bring it to a boil. You will see a lot of scum on the surface. Discard and rinse the ribs under cold water.]
  • Place blanched pork ribs, burdock, red dates and water into a pressure cooker pot. Cook under pressure for about 1 hr. Allow the pressure cooker to cool down on its own. [You can simmer for about 3-4 hrs if you don't have a pressure cooker.]
  • After the pressure is released, return the pot to heat, add goji berries and simmer for further 10 mins.
  • Add salt to taste.
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Indonesian Layer Cake - Take 2

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

I did it! Woooooooo hoo!!! Around this time last year I made a not-so-successful Indonesian layer cake (or kek lapis) with 20 egg yolks. You can check out the rubbery and chewy cake here. This year, I made another one with 25 egg yolks and it was a success! I came across a few recipes that uses less than 10 eggs but since this cake is all about the fats, and I only do this once a year, I decided to use You Fei's recipe which involves 25 egg yolks.

Indonesian Layer Cake

Check out the beautiful layers! They aren't that even but it's definitely a huge improvement from my last attempt. It was extremely dense and rich, yet tender. I managed to "spread all the fats" to my relatives at a family's Chinese New Year reunion and everyone seemed to enjoy it. Phew, I'm glad the 25 egg yolks didn't sacrifice for nothing!

Indonesian Layer Cake 2
Ingredients:
Adapted from Loving baking/ Rose's kitchen
  • 170 g plain flour - sifted
A:
  • 500 g unsalted butter
  • 1 tin (397 g) condensed milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 tbs golden syrup
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 2 tbs brandy or rum
B:
  • 25 egg yolks
  • 100 g caster sugar
C:
  • 5 egg whites
  • A pinch of cream of tartar
  • 100 g caster sugar

Directions:
  • Grease and line the bottom of an 18x18cm square cake pan.
  • Preheat oven at 180°C (i.e. top + bottom heat).
  • Sieve Flour and set aside.
  • Cream butter with condensed milk, vanilla essence, golden syrup, brandy & mixed spice till well mixed and set aside.
  • Beat egg yolks with 100 g sugar on high for about 10 mins or until thick and creamy (i.e. ribbon stage).
  • Add egg yolk mixture to the butter mixture and mix well.
  • Fold in sieved flour.
  • Whisk egg whites with a pinch of cream of tartar and 100 g of castor sugar till stiff. [whisk egg whites with pinch of cream of tartar till frothy on medium speed. Add in 1/3 of sugar, continue whisking for 1-2 mins. Add in the second 1/3 and continue whisking 1-2 min. Add in the rest of the sugar and whisk for 1-2 min until stiff]
  • Fold egg white mixture into the egg yolks/ butter mixture.
  • Before baking the first layer, pre-heat the lined baking tin in the oven for a few mins. [this makes it easier to spread the batter]
  • For first layer, spread about 4 tbs of mixture into tin and bake in oven at lower middle/ lower rack at 180°C for 10-15 mins. Or until lightly browned.
  • If there are air bubbles, pierce with a knife. Gently flatten layer using something flat to ensure the layer is even.
  • Switch oven to grill mode. (i.e. top grill only).
  • For subsequent layers, spread about 4 tbs of mixture on top of the previous layer and grill each layer at lower middle/lower rack for about 3-5 mins. Or till lightly browned. [timing may differ depending on individual ovens. Just grill untill surface is lightly browned. The darker the surface, the darker the layers will be later. The brown surface is what defines each layer.]
  • Pierce bubbles if any and flatten the layer gently.
  • Repeat until the batter is finished.
  • When top most layer is completed, switch oven back to baking mode (i.e. top + bottom heat), cover with a piece of foil and bake at middle rack at 180°C for a further 5 min. It will take longer if the sides are still wet.
  • When the cake is done, turn cake out onto a metal grid. Let it cool on the cooling rack completely before cutting. If you don't want any cooling rack markings on the top, flip it right side up after cake has 'fallen' out and let cool completely before cutting.
So, any ideas on what to do with all the leftover egg whites?

Indonesian Layer Cake 3

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Valentine's Day Cupcakes Giveaway!

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Love is in the air!

Valentine's day came early for me this year. After receiving a gorgeous box of chocolates from Hotel Chocolat, this beautiful box of cupcakes from Queen of Cupcakes arrived at my doorstep today.

Queen of Cupcakes giveaway 2

Valentine's day is just a week away, if you are still thinking of what to get for your loved one, here's another great idea - a box of rich chocolate sponge with delicious chocolate buttercream icing decorated with red fondant icing roses or hearts.

Queen of Cupcakes giveaway 4

For Valentine’s Day, Queen of Cupcakes have a beautiful collection of ideas to give to your loved one or to that person you have been admiring from afar. You can either treat them to a luxurious Valentine’s Day gift box with cakes decorated in red and gold, or perhaps a singly wrapped cake would be the perfect gesture in gorgeous wrapping and a bow.

Queen of Cupcakes giveaway 3

If you are not familliar with the Queen of Cupcakes, it is run by Antonia from her home in Bury St Edmunds where she makes all the cakes herself. She started out making cakes for her four children who have now all gone off to school and decided to turn a hobby into a business. It has always bothered Antonia that so many cakes look very pretty but taste of very little. A cupcake is about taste first and foremost, and the pretty bit is just the icing on the cake!

All the cakes are made with the best quality and locally bought free range eggs from Toby Rush of Rymer farm who delivers once a week on his way to the school run. (Queen of Cupcakes strives to be as green as possible!) They are often still warm from the chickens when they arrive in the kitchen! Only the best ingredients are used and unlike so many other cupcakes real butter is always used. There are no artificial additives or preservatives and only natural food colourings are used. All of the cakes last for five days in an air tight container (beware of any cake that state it lasts longer) and they all freeze beautifully to be stored for any future event.

Queen of Cupcakes giveaway

More flavours are available if you want something different. I don't know about you, but I'm dying to try their famous carrot cake which is claimed to be the best carrot cake in the world. Wonderfully moist and rich and packed with fruit and nuts and carrots. Cream cheese frosting sprinkled with walnuts and cinnamon. Sounds awesome doesn't it?

Queen of Cupcakes giveaway 5
Photo courtesy of the Queen of Cupcakes

Now, for a chance to win a box of these gorgeous cupcakes, simply leave a comment below telling me...

what is your favourite cupcake flavour.

You can also tweet about this giveaway and leave a comment telling me you've done so to increase your chances of winning.

The competition ends at 8 a.m. GMT 11th February 2011 (this Friday) and is open to UK residents only since they are made freshly to order. A winner will be selected using random.org and will be contacted via email, so please remember to leave a valid email add.

Good Luck!

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This competition is now closed. The winner is...

Janice!

"It has to be double chocolate - you can never get enough chocolate.
Especially for Valentine's Day"

Congratulations!

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