Friday, July 30, 2010

Cinnamon Buns

Just baked these cinnamon buns, preparing them for the family gathering for tea on Sunday :)
This is the 3rd time I'm baking them in 2 weeks. I know the children love them.

Recipe for Cinnamon Buns
(makes 12)
125g warm milk (I used warm water instead)
50g sugar
5g dry active yeast
1 egg, room temperature
35g melted butter
(C) Sift
300g bread flour 
(D) Mix
40g melted butter
60g brown sugar
6g ground cinnamon
chopped pecan nuts (optional)
1) Dissolve sugar in warm milk/water. Stir in the yeast. Let the mixture stand for 10mins, or till it is foamy.
2) Stir in (B). Add flour. Use dough hooks of beater and mix well till dough ball is formed.
3) Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and give it another good knead for another 5-10 minutes. Add a little more flour as necessary to prevent sticking.
4) Heat oven to 100 degrees & switch off. Place dough in a greased glass bowl. Cover bowl with a moist towel and leave in oven for 1hr or till dough has doubled.
5) Roll dough flat. Trim dough into a rectangular shape. (The trimmed off dough can make another 2-3 buns)
Spread the cinnamon-sugar-butter (D) over the dough and sprinkle chopped pecan nuts all over. 
6) Roll up dough & cut into small pieces. Place rolls on greased pan, leaving space for expansion. Cover & let the dough rise for 30 mins, or double.
7) Bake at 200 degrees in pre-heat oven for 15 mins or till golden brown.
8) Enjoy your cinnamon buns hot & soft. To keep, let them cool & put in air-tight container & keep in the fridge. Just need to reheat before serving.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bird Nest Soup

Bird Nest Soup is a delicacy in Chinese cuisine, some called it the 'caviar of the east'.  It is actually the saliva of the swiftlets that are used to make their nests. I remember when I was young, my mother  would be spending hundreds on buying birds nest to cook bird nest soup for the family. It was really a rare treat then. Now, we have them almost every week :P

About 5 years ago, my father got into a swiftlet farming craze. With a kilogramme of the nests costing up to $2000, it's easy to see why swiftlet farming has become very popular. My father decided to buy a plot of land in Malaysia and build a swiftlet farm. The swiftlets came and the bird nests started coming in gradually. He managed to convince Jerome that this is a viable business that can be invested in and it requires minimal monitoring. Basically you just build a multi-storey building, play the calls of the swiftlets using a good sound system, and 'invite' the swiftlets to build nests in your farm. After the baby chicks hatch, grow and leave the nest, you can then collect the nests.

Hence, we decided to buy a 3-storey shophouse and converted 2 levels into a swiftlet farm. Glad to say that we have had our first harvest of about 30 nests in the beginning of the year. It will be a few more years before we can start selling the nests. Now, it's just enough for our own personal consumption. But before we can really enjoy the fruits of our labour, there's a lot of work to be done...

Look at all these feathers, you can't eat them, can you? You can't pull out the feathers now as they're stuck to the harden nests.

So first, we need to soak them in water until the nests are soft.

After about 2 hrs, the nests are soft...

Pour everything into a sieve and wash it under the running tap to get rid of the small bits of egg shells and feathers. This will help to clear up the 'mess' faster...

Using a pair of long tweezers, you can then start removing the fathers bit by bit, feather by feather. 
You will need a few bowls of water to do this. 
After 2 hours, no more feathers!
(Removing the feathers is a time-consuming and almost 'back breaking' process, so you can see that's why the bird nests have been in storage for over 6 months now :P)

Can't see the bird's nest as well?

Here, drain out the water... 
Looks like jelly...

Bird's nest on its own is quite tasteless, you'll need other ingredients...
red dates, pao sheng (American Ginseng slices), rock sugar...

Pour everything + water into a double boiler...
30 minutes later, enjoy your birds' nest soup...
you deserve it... or rather I deserve it :P

I have some leftover... Put in the fridge...
And tomorrow cold bird nest soup!
Benefits of Birds' Nest: High in protein & amino acids, aids in digestion, good for complexion, promotes growth & tissue repairs. 

Eu Yan Seng Bak Kut Teh

My father loves to eat Bak Kut Teh. When I was young, I remember my father bringing the family to the coffee shop at Bugis for Bak Kut Teh almost every week. But the stall had to shift as the site was redeveloped. The current site is the empty plot of land next to Bugis Junction.

My father still eat Bak Kut Teh frequently. In Singapore, he would go to Rong Chen Bak Kut Teh at Sin MingRoad. The soup is clear with a huge spare rib and lots of pepper. Not really my kind of Bak Kut Teh. I prefer the darker soup served in claypot with more herbs. In Johore Bahru, there are a lot of coffee shops just serving claypot Bak Kut Teh.

Had tried a few brands of Bak Kut Teh premixes and some of them are quite good. I like Uncle Sun but I think it's expensive at $4.90 a packet. But if you're preparing a big pot of soup for a bigger family, it's a good choice to consider. Since there are so many brands of Bak Kut Teh premixes in the market, I thought I can slowly try them all :P in search of the best Bak Kut Teh premix...

Anyway, I bought a box of Eu Yan Seng Bak Kut Teh last week and finally used it this evening...
Well, when the soup was boiling, it was fragrant, just like bak kut teh should be...

But when I finally got to taste it, I was really disappointed. It was really bland and I can't taste pepper at all. I had to add my own soy sauce and peppercorns. 

Personally, I think it's the worst Bak Kut Teh Premix that I've tried so far. But the worst is yet to come... I still have another 9 packets in the box...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Fish Porridge

It's been a cold rainy day... It's actually starting to feel cold in sunny Singapore. A bowl of fish porridge is just perfect for such a night and after we had too much guilty food :P

A bowl of hot fish porridge garnished with spring onions. 

I guess adding some deep fried shallots won't do much harm, right?

Prima Taste Laksa

I had laksa again :P, this time Singapore's style- Katong style... Unlike the Penang sour version, this is sweeter with coconut milk. Yap, it's a sinful lunch. 

A packet of Prima Taste Laksa Premix, some laksa noodles, prawns, 'tao pok', fishcakes, beansprouts and water...

Katong Prima Taste Laksa

Yummy! But we had to go jogging in the evening to make ourselves feel better...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Going Bananas

I've started buying bananas regularly just recently. Jerome likes bananas. We have a bunch hanging in the kitchen almost every week. I've heard some people saying that pregnant women should avoid eating Del Monte bananas are they are cooling/'liang'. Not that I'm pregnant now, but I avoided buying Del Monte and bought Dole instead. I wonder if it makes any difference. I wonder if what I heard about the Del Monte bananas is really true. Is it just a myth? Hence, I decided to find out more about this fruit that we're now having regularly. You are what you eat...

What I've found out so far from the net:

First, the benefits about bananas. They're better than apples. So it's time to say "A banana a day keeps the doctor away."? Great! I'll continue to buy bananas regularly.

Then I read on other sites about 'banana wars' and 'blood bananas'...

The land, environment and workers at the banana plantations are 'poisoned' by the mass chemical pesticide used in growing these bananas.  See here and here. And quite a bit of bad press regarding Del Monte's exploitation of its workers and workers being murdered.

So no Del Monte bananas for me.

What about Dole bananas then?
"Bananas! The Shocking Film that Dole Doesn't Want You To See"

So no more Del Monte or Dole bananas for me until I know the situation has improved.

I know I'm going to see the bananas in a different light...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Woh Hup Nonya Chicken Curry

Tried the Woh Hup's Nonya Chicken Curry Premix (1 for for $2.20 and there was a promotion- 2 for $3.50) last week for lunch. 

It's a drier version of chicken curry, not much of curry gravy. But it was just perfect to go with plain rice for lunch :) Jerome approves of it and I've just bought another 2 packets to stock up :)

Penang Laksa!

If one were to ask me, what would my last meal be? I would definitely answer "Penang Laksa!"
The soup base is sour and spicy with bits of fish flesh, usually kamong fish. The noodles are fat rice noodles that are just so springy. Hmm... thinking of having another bowl now :P

I've just had this bowl of Penang Laksa from Old Town Cafe at Jurong Point after watching "Despicable Me" in 3D last Saturday evening. I was initially quite disappointed when the bowl of noodles arrived. The soup looked kind of pale and I expected it to be a very diluted tasting soup. Fortunately, I was wrong. It was good! So good that I almost accepted Jerome's offer to get me another bowl :P When we last visited Penang, I had Penang Laksa for almost every meal :P

Jerome ordered a bowl of curry noodles that aren't too bad as well.

But I still prefer my Penang Laksa :)

Who knows where else I can get a bowl of good Penang Laksa in Singapore?

Lunch for 7

Jerome's younger brother & family came over for lunch last Saturday. It's been quite a while since I've prepared a proper meal for so many people- 5 adults & 2 children. I've just been preparing a meal for 2 :P

Managed to get everything done in 2hrs. Could be faster though :P

Spinach Soup with Wolfberries (without the century egg)

Think this was the most popular dish :)

I'm glad that all the dishes turned out fine & we managed to finished everything :)

Jerome's elder sister will be returning from the US for a month visit tomorrow and we're planning for a gathering at our place this coming weekend. A meal for 13 people- 9 adults & 4 children... something for me to worry think about... 

Friday, July 23, 2010

Strawberry Cake

What happens when you were just given 2 hours notice that there will be guests coming for a home visit in the late afternoon? I baked a sponge cake and decorated it with freshcream & strawberries. I've also offered the cinnamon rolls that I've baked last evening :) Glad that everyone loves the cinnamon buns. The cake was brought home as there were lots of fruits. Think durians, mangosteens, rambutans... tropical fruits that are difficult to find in Australia :)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

My Oven

This is my humble oven that I use for baking cookies and cakes :)

Jerome bought it a couple of years back. The in-built oven in the condo kitchen was spoilt as I didn't use it often enough. The repair guy came and said that we need to change the heating element in the oven and that cost a few hundred dollars. Of course we didn't change it as I didn't use the oven often then. But I've always thought that an oven is an essential piece of equipment in the kitchen. Well, at least for me. On the other hand, I don't have a microwave at home. Had wanted to get a smaller oven, but Jerome kept saying no as I don't really use it.

Then on my birthday, when I returned home from work, Jerome said he got me a big present and led me to the guest room. There on the bed was a huge box covered by the blanket. There was a 'birthday card' right on top. It was an A4 piece of white paper with "Happy... Birthday, Babe!" written with a black marker. He was grinning and wanted me to guess what he got for me...

I looked at him, smiled and said without hesitation, "An oven." 
He said I know him so well...
I thanked him for getting me a present that I wanted...

I like my oven. It has served me well. It's still in very good condition. 

I like it... but not really as a birthday present... 
Ermm.... it's like the rice cooker is spoilt, your husband bought a new one and said it's your birthday present...

I've been telling him that I like a Cuisinart Kitchen mixer. 
Now I doubt he's gonna get me one for my next birthday. 

Life's not perfect, but it's still good...

Bread Talk

This is not really taking about bread...

Happened to walk pass Bread Talk yesterday and they were having a Celebration Sale to celebrate them being 10-yrs old! Anyway, all bread were selling at $1.10 each. I walked around and got 4 chicken floss buns. Think they're still my favourite bread from Bread Talk.

Anyway, was eating the bread and took a closer look at Bread Talk's plastic bag.
I've never really taken a close look at the plastic bag. 
Have you look closely at it?

What can you see?

You can easily see bakers in orange juggling octopuses...
If you're observant, you'll see the baker in the centre facing front, the bakers at the sides facing right.
What else do you see?
But can you spot the bakers in white?
Jerome can't...

Take a closer look, the baker in white, right in the middle of the 4 orange bakers...
With an extra hand? and a butterfly...

Another baker in white, this one with a mustache...

I was pretty amazed :) Maybe there're more to the pictures... 
Do you see anything else?

Yah, you can see I have nothing better to do...
but pay attention to some plastic bag :P

Not forgetting to mention that I took the time to take a few pictures...
And now even blog about it :P

Sunny Pancakes

Prepared pancakes for breakfast this morning.

Sunny, Soft & Fluffy Pancakes :)

Baked Teriyaki Chicken Thighs

Was busy baking cookies yesterday and didn't have much time to prepare dinner so I baked teriyaki Chicken thighs in my smaller oven while the bigger oven was baking the cookies. So easy to prepare, and simply yummy...

Baked Teriyaki Chicken Thigh

Baked Teriyaki Chicken Thighs (Serve 2)
2 chicken thighs (I used 3, cos it's so yummy, 1 is not enough for Jerome)
Marinade for a few hours (best overnight) in
3 tbsp light soya sauce
3 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp brown sugar

1) Preheat oven to 160C.
2) Put chicken thighs on a baking tray with skin face down. 
3) Bake for 20 minutes. Brush additional marinade in between baking. 
4) Turn the thighs over to bake the other side of the chicken. Brush on additional marinade as well. 
5) Bake for another 15-20 minutes. 
6) Serve with boiled vegetables and baked potato.

Baked Potatoes
I used Holland (they're really from China) potatoes yesterday and they're so sweet that I didn't have to add any other dressing, like sour cream or bacon bits. We enjoyed them plain. 

Wash the potatoes clean and rub some vegetable oil all over the potatoes.  
Use a skewer to prick a few holes all over the potatoes to release steam in the potato and aid in the baking process.
Preheat oven to 200C and bake the potatoes for 15 minutes before turning down the temperature to 160C to bake the chicken together. This give the potatoes a head start to bake. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Phad Thai Again

Just prepared Phad Thai for lunch today. Think it looked and tasted better than the first time I tried them. This time round, I added a little more tamarind water to make the sauce a little more tangy.

But honestly, I've forgotten how the original Phad Thai should taste like. The last time I tried an authentic one was last Dec when we visited Bangkok. I loved it so much that I had it for almost every meal :P

Well, we'll be going to Phuket this Saturday so it's a great time to catch up on my Phad Thai again :P

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Double Lotus Soup

Double Lotus: Lotus root and lotus seeds :)

Double Lotus Soup (Serves 2 to 3)
300g of meat (pork or chicken)
lotus root
red dates
lotus seeds
a carrot
1 litre of water 
a pinch of salt (optional)

1. Parboil the meat to remove the scum.
2. Put all the ingredients into a pot. 
3. Bring to a boil on low heat. (Meat will be tender if cooked using low heat).
4. If using a thermal pot, boil for 20 minutes before transferring to thermal pot. 
(The residual heat and the thermal action will ensure further cooking)
5. Add salt to taste before serving. 

Lotus roots help to release fatigue & improve imbalance of the nervous system.
Lotus seeds nourish the spleen, improve digestion, prevents diarrhea, strengthens the kidneys and have astringent properties. 
Red dates help to release anesthetic toxins, protect the liver, reduce pain after surgery, improve pale complexion and coldness of the limbs. 


Parboiling - the partial boiling of food in order to finish cooking it later.

This helps to remove the scum from the meat for soups. 
Your soup will remain clear and free from scum...

A layer of scum on top of the water...

To parboil the meat for cooking soup:
Boil a pot of water. Put the meat in and cook for 5-10 minutes. 
Remove it from the pot and do a quick rinse with water from tap.
Parboiled meat is now ready for use to cook your soup.

Monday, July 12, 2010

3C Soup

I must admit that I'm quite a lazy cook, resorting to stock cubes most of the time. But last week, decided to get some meat and cook a vegetable soup. I bought a packet of celery and used 2 stalks for chicken pies. Hence, I decided to make this soup in my thermal pot. I call it the 3C soup- celery, carrot and corn. The natural sweetness of the vegetables meant that I didn't have to add any other seasoning.

Serves 2-3
300-400g of soupbone, parboiled to remove scum
6-8 stalks of celery, cut into short chunks
1 corn, cut into parts
1 carrot, cut into parts
1.5 litre of water or just enough water to cover all the ingredients

Boil water and add all the ingredients. Bring the soup to a boil.
Let it boil for 15 minutes before transferring into the thermal pot.
The thermal pot will further cook the meat and meat will be tender after a few hours.
You can serve the soup straight from the thermal pot or bring it to a boil again.

* Thermal pot retains the heat and further cook the soup without using more electricity or gas.
I view it as a magic pot. 

Stir Fry Nai Bai Cai

Bought a packet of Nai Bai Cai from the supermarket. It's a smaller version of the bai cai and it's softer and sweeter. I don't often see this available as it's seasonal. So when I saw the last packet ($0.60) there on the shelf, I grabbed it.  This batch of nai bai was small so there was no need to cut them at all. I just stir fry them in garlic and added a pinch of salt for seasoning. Yap, they're so 'good' you can really eat it on its own.

Spinach Soup with Century Egg

This is one of the easiest soups (ready in 15 minutes) to prepare and Jerome loves it.

a bundle of chinese spinach (I prefer the baby spinach with pointed leaves)
1 tbsp wolfberries
1 ikan bilis stock cube
1 egg, beaten
1 century egg, cut into smaller bits
some small fried ikan bilis

Boil 1 litre of water with wolfberries and add the ikan bilis stock cube.
Add the chinese spinach and cook till soft.
Add in the beaten egg, stirring the soup at the same time.
Add in the century egg into the soup.
Serve the soup by sprinkling some fried ikan bilis on the top for that extra crunch and flavour.

Sweet & Sour Fish Slices

Tried to cook this sweet & sour fish slices dish for dinner. I used the same sweet & sour sauce recipe for Ku Low Yok. Jerome said this was better than Ku Low Yok. I've tried the chicken version as well and that was good as well. I'll probably just make more of the sweet & sour sauce and keep them ready in the fridge for use anytime.

Sweet & Sour Sauce:
100ml water
1 tbsp plum sauce
3 tbps Maggie tomato sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp rice vinegar

Fry the mixed vegetables. Pour in the sauce, boil and add in your fried fish slices. 

Cereal Prawns

There was a packet of freshwater prawns sitting in the fridge for over a month now. We caught them during one of our prawning sessions at Bishan. Decided to finally cook them since I found a packet of Cereal Prawn mix... Tasty but a little more on the salty side... This is actually quite unhealthy. The recipe required quite a bit of butter and 5 egg yolks but I decided to use 4. What difference does 1 make?  Anyway, now I have 4 egg whites sitting in the fridge... Still haven't decided what I'm going to do with them...

My Wilton Cake Decorating Tool Box

Actually invested this tool box last year as I got into cake decorating. Was thinking of signing up for a Wilton Cake decorating class but spent the $ on investing on the tools instead. Jerome has his toolbox for fishing and I've got my own toolbox too!

The box came with some basic tips and food colouring... 
More room for expansion...

I need to practice more on my own...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Century Egg- Pi Dan

A century egg, a hundred-yr-old egg? A preserved egg, a mysterious egg...
Usually eaten with some preserved ginger slices, in congee or as an ingredient for some Chinese dishes (I used it for Spinach soup)
Have you heard of it being preserved by horses' urine?
Anyway, decided to go do some research on the net how it's really being preserved.

Wikipedia's entry about century egg...
The traditional method takes 3 years for the egg to be ready for consumption!
The modern method takes a few weeks.
About the eggs being preserved in horses' urine, thankfully that's only a myth :)
Nevertheless, it's best not to take them often...

This site has some nice pictures of the century egg :)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Party Cupcakes

A friend in school wanted to order a cake for 20 pax for the children in her programme. I suggested cupcakes instead. Easier to eat and I've always wanted to try decorating cupcakes. I took a lot of trouble to prepare the order now that I have the time to spare. I went to B-I-Y store at Bukit Timah to buy some cupcake trays and a Wilton 1M decorating tip just to make the big buttercream swirls on the cupcakes.

I probably spend more money on the cardboard box and cupcake trays than the ingredients for the cupcakes. $11 for 4 plastic cupcake trays... That's expensive plastic! Was hopeful to get the trays back so that I can use them again... Jerome said I'm a lousy business woman if I'm thinking of earning some money here. Definitely not worth the time and effort. But I told him it's really for fun!

Anyway, I had 6 cupcakes left and we just had some for tea earlier on :) Yummy cake, but honestly that's a lot of buttercream... It would be great to use whipped fresh cream instead but I just wonder if it could have survived the transportation.

Pastel pink, super sweet ...

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