Thursday, January 14, 2016

Hong Kong Royal Chicken / 香港贵妃鸡

Happy New Year to everyone! It's a brand new year for 2016 and CNY is just around the corner. I think it's the right time for me to share my Hong Kong Royal Chicken recipe.

Tender chicken piece with some gelatinous layer in-between. Salty, with a hint of angelica root. The existence of Cekur, Turmeric and Spring Onion on the water bath injected all the flavors into the chicken and gives really good flavor. A dish that looked simple, but yet requires every details to be followed to ensure it's success.


Chinese New Year is just a month away and I would like to share with you Hong Kong Royal Chicken (香港贵妃鸡) recipe which I think it is ideal as part of the CNY dish served during Chinese New Year dinner.


During my previous trip to Hong Kong last year Jan'15, I had Gui Fei Chicken in Hong Kong Tasty Congee Noodle Wantun Shop 正斗粥麵專家, it was really good. I like it. So, I decided to replicate it at home. But the one in Hong Kong is dried version. The one I've re-created is with sauce. I like the idea of having sauce. If you are unsure with the sauce, you could always serve the sauce separately.

The chicken dish on the picture above is showing half chicken only. I save the other half for the next meal.

My mom did this once, many years back. She gave me quite a number of tips to ensure I didn't go wrong. These are the tips :
  1. Cekur (沙姜 Sand Ginger) is a must. Do not replace with Cekur powder or ordinary ginger. They are different. 
  2. Turmeric (黄姜) is also a must. Do not replace with Turmeric powder. 
  3. Choose a nice chicken for this dish. Even if you have to pay more for the chicken.
Ingredients
(Source : Harvest Rich Recipe Book, with modification)
  • 1 Fresh Chicken, preferably Kampong Chicken (est. 1.3kg) 甘榜鸡
  • 60g Cekor Ginger 沙姜
  • 15g Turmeric 黄姜
  • 5g Angelica Root 当归
  • 2.4L Water, or more 水
  • 75g Sea Salt 海盐
  • 2 + 2 tbsp Rose Wine 玫瑰露酒
  • 1 tsp Sugar 糖
  • 1 Sprig Spring Onions 青葱 
  • 5g Goji Berries / Wolfberries 枸杞子
Turmeric is easily available at the wet market. But not all wet market sells Cekor Ginger. I got mine at Tekka Market, where they sell all sorts of spices to cater for Indian and Malay cooking. I love Tekka Market :)

For the water, you just need to make sure that you have enough water to cover the chicken, Probably 2.3L to 2.5L, depends on the size of your pot.

Method
  1. Wash and trim away visible fats from the chicken. Chop away the chicken feet. Set aside for later use.
  2. In a slim and tall pot that can fit in a chicken nicely, fill with water, dissolve salt in water, add in Cekor Ginger, Turmeric, Angelica Root, 2 tbsp Rose Wine and Sugar, Bring to boil. Switch to low heat and continue boiling for 15mins.
  3. Once water is boiled for 15mins, the water should have been infused. Hold the chicken head (refer to photo), soak the chicken body into the boiling water. With your hand still holding the chicken head, lift the chicken up, and soak it into the boiling water again. Do this for 4 times before you release the chicken head and let the chicken submerge into the water completely. By doing this, water will go into the chicken cavity, and hence, the whole chicken will be well cooked. Water level must completely cover the chicken.
  4. Immediately turn the fire into dead low and slow, lids on, and leave it there for 5mins. Remember to set timer. Do not go over 5 mins. 
  5. After 5 mins, heat off. Leave it there untouched. Set timer for 50mins (for 1.3kg chicken). Walk out of the kitchen and go watch your TV show. If your chicken is 1.7kg or anything bigger, please make it 1 hour and 10mins or so. You have to gauge the time yourself. For 1.6kg chicken, it would be about 1 hour.
  6. Use a pair of chopsticks, carefully and gently remove the chicken from the pot and place the chicken to the big tub, and fill with running tap water to cool down the chicken. Try your best not to bruise or tear the chicken skin. We need the chicken to have nice appearance.
  7. When the chicken is cooled down abit on the surface, put the chicken into a tub of ice-cold water to further cooling process until chicken turned room temperature inside out. Drain.
  8. Chop chicken accordingly and arrange it nicely on a plate.
  9. For the sauce, pour 2 tbsp Rose Wine and add Goji Berries into half bowl of stewed soup (the water that you used to cook the chicken), pour it on a separate saucepot, bring to a boil. Give it a taste to ensure the saltiness is right, or adjust it accordingly. Thicken the gravy with tapioca starch. Pour the gravy on the chopped chicken. Garnish with Spring Onions and serve.
You don't have to remove the skin for both Cekur and Turmeric. It is fine to leave the skin on, just remove the dirts if any. Shaving off the skin is just for cosmetical appearance only.
 

I used 菜园鸡 (Veggies Farm Chicken), which is widely available in Malaysia. I'm happy with it.


As advised by my mom, I adapted the recipe from a recipe book "Harvest Rich" by Choong Su Yin, and modified it accordingly. This is how the chicken dish looked like in the recipe book. The chicken looked really yellow, which I don't think the amount of Turmeric indicated on the recipe book gives this result. And the recipe book asked for 150g Salt that makes my jaw dropped.


Anyway, I'm happy with the result. My husband love this dish. Although this dish is not difficult to make, but there's quite a number of steps needs to be noted and not to be missed.


 
I hope you like this dish.

祝大家新年快乐,万事如意!

You may also like : Hakka Steamed Salted Chicken / 客家蒸盐鸡

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Strawberry Peppermint Tart

There are times when all that matters is creating something glamorous. A little red dress instead of a black ones. Abit of lace peeking out, that sparky eye-shadow and lots of lip gloss. 

You might not know what I'm talking about, but when you look at this picture, I know you do. I'm talking about this Sexy Strawberry Peppermint Tart.




It's Christmas, and I thought, this is the right time to share this recipe. Christmas is about Red, and that little Green in-between. 

I've come up with my own version of Strawberry Peppermint Tart that I adore recently. It's light, refreshing and with that sweetness in-between the tang. I've spent quite sometime to come up with this favorite combination tart of my own and I come to a realization that different individual appreciate different type of layering combination.

I'm anal. I prefer mine. Sexy. Delicious!


When I create this Strawberry Tart, I imagined that I want my Strawberry Tart to have the kind of Strawberry overload succulence explodes in my mouth, the cheese layer melts away in my mouth like butter. And oh, I want that cakey layer too, but not heavy, and the combination taste must be nothing short of heaven. 

So, here, with all my cookbook readings and online readings, I've come up with my own favorite Strawberry Peppermint Tart. But I won't pretend to tell you that this is easy. The difficult part is not the tart making. The difficult part is to gather all the ingredients and to get the nicest Strawberries for the tart. 

I used 6 Inch Tart Tin (Gobel Brand), Made in France. Got it from Tott Store at S$26. If you are making bigger tart, you can double up the recipe accordingly. 

Ingredients

for the Tart Crust
  • 90g Cold Unsalted Butter, cubed
  • 150g Cake Flour
  • 45g Icing Sugar
  • 2 Egg Yolk
  • Pinch of Salt
for the Almond Filling
  • 40g Unsalted Butter
  • 30g Icing Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/2 tsp Corn Starch
  • 40g Almond Powder
  • 1 drop of Vanilla Extract
for the Cream Cheese Layer
  • 125g Cream Cheese, room temperature
  • 20g Unsalted Butter, room temperature
  • 25g Icing Sugar
  • 15g Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 50g Creme Fraiche
  • 4 tbsp Good Quality Strawberry Jam
for the Strawberries Layer
  • 30 to 35 Fresh Strawberries (I used Organic Strawberries from USA)
  • 4 tbsp Mirror Gel 
  • 3 tbsp Water
  • Few drops of Peppermint Extract
  • Some Fresh Mint Leaves
Method - for the Tart Crust & Almond Filling
  1. Blitz Tart Crust ingredients in a food processor till crumbly. Pour the crumbs on a double layered clingwrap, wrap them up into a ball shape. Use your hand, give them a few press until the crumbs are well combined into a pastry dough. Do not overwork the pastry.
  2. Roll the pastry into a round 8 inch shape with the aid of the clingwraps to prevent pastry from sticking to the rolling pin and working top. 
  3. Wrap rolled pastry well with clingwrap, and put the pastry into the fridge for 1 hour. 
  4. Remove pastry from fridge, remove the clingwrap, press the tart crust into the tart mold evenly with your fingertip. Do not panic if the pastry cracked. Just cut the excess pastry at the side of the tart and patch it on the cracked side. It's like playdoh. This tart crust pastry is very forgiving. Just shape the tart crust until you are happy with the thickness and prick the tart crust bottom with a fork to finish. 
  5. For the almond filling, combine all almond filling ingredients in a food processor. Blitz until everything comes together, and it is ready to spread on top of the tart crust. 
  6. Bake the tart crust with almond filling in the pre-heated oven at 175 Degree Celsius for about 23 to 25 mins. Remove from the oven and let the tart cool down. 
Method - for the Cream Cheese Layer 
  1. In a big bowl, mix all Cream Cheese layer ingredients together until combined. Spread the cream cheese mixture on top of the cooled tart. 
  2. Spread a layer of good quality strawberry jam on top of the cream cheese layer. if you are lazy, you can also mix the strawberry jam with the cream cheese. But your cream cheese layer will be softer. 
Method - for the Strawberries Layer
  1. Ensure Strawberries are washed, hulled and dried with kitchen towel. 
  2. To glaze, mix Mirror Gel, Water, and Peppermint Extract in a big bowl. Put the Strawberries in and give it a toss. Ensure Strawberries are all well coated with the glaze.
  3. Arrange glazed strawberries on top of the tart evenly. Make sure strawberries are standing straight, tall, and proud. Make sure strawberries are arranged to the rim of the tart. Make it full!
  4. Brush more mirror gel mixture on top of the arranged strawberries to give it a nicer gloss. Put the tart into a container, covered well, and let the tart sit in the fridge to set for about 4 hours. 
  5. For finishing touch, arrange some fresh mint leaves on top before serving. 
I've did quite a few attempt. I tried to remove the almond filling layer, and double up the Cream Cheese filling. It's a crowd pleaser! But tart crust might crack during baking process. To salvage it, Alan recommend me to apply a layer of chocolate on the tart crust to secure it. Like that, my Strawberry tart will be fully cream cheese base and with that hint of chocolate. It's nice. Many people loves it.  

But I personally still prefer the version with almond filling in it. Because almond filling gives another level of distinctive flavor to the overall taste of the tart. And also, with the almond filling, I have no worries if my tart crust will crack or not during baking process. It will hold together. Very safe. 

Do take note that different type of strawberries gives different results in overall taste. My take is, if you are putting in so much effort to make this Strawberry Tart to impress your loved ones, you don't be stingy. Good ingredients gives you good quality tart. 

Now, let's take a look at the layers. It has thin layer of tart crust, a layer of almond filling, a layer of cream cheese filling, a layer of strawberry jam, and then, the fresh organic strawberries coated with peppermint glaze, and oh... that touch of green mint leaves. 


The tart has it's refreshing Peppermint moist, that cakey almond layer, and that creamy richness, while the strawberries are plump and juicy. One bite on it, it all mixes together to make a decadent scrumptious slice of heaven. 

Before you complaint about how expensive those ingredients are to make this Strawberry tart, ask yourself. How much are you willing to pay for a slice of Strawberry tart that looked like this at Fruit Paradise? Think again :)




I think I've had enough of describing how much I love Strawberry Peppermint Tart. It's Christmas! It must be Peppermint! 


When I'm looking at my Strawberry Tart, it's like, that little red dress fits you oh, so perfectly.


It's pure indulgence, pure pleasure. And this is the kind of pleasure you can create at home freely and share the joy with your friends and relatives. 

I hope you like it. And Merry Christmas to everyone!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Master Class with BBC Celebrity Chef Rachel Allen

A great start to the weekend comes in the form of fun bakes with Rachel Allen.

Collaborating with BBC Lifestyle, Rachel Allen is visiting Singapore for the 5th time and I'm honored to receive an exclusive media invite by BBC Channel to attend cooking master class with BBC Lifestyle conducted by her.

BBC Celebrity Chef Rachel Allen returns to TV screens on BBC Lifestyle (Starhub Channel 432) with a new series - Rachel Allen: All Things Sweet - as she indulges in her passion for delectable desserts.



BBC Celebrity Chef Rachel Allen returns to TV screens on BBC Lifestyle (Starhub Channel 432) with a new series - Rachel Allen: All Things Sweet - as she indulges in her passion for delectable desserts.



She recreates mouth-watering morsels from her same-titled cookbook and shares some sweet-making secrets in the class. The recipe in the class is flavor-filled Banana, Ginger and Golden Syrup Bread, and Chocolate Peanut Brittle Butter Cookies.

I brought Kattie along as I knew she will enjoy the fun. And indeed she is. She is so hyped throughout the class and cracked good jokes too. Chef Rachel recognized her as the 'relaxed assistant' as what Kattie named herself. This Irish TV chef is quite a fun person.


All thanks to Palate Sensations for the nice and fully equipped kitchen. Everything was nicely arranged upon our arrival. All we need to do is to whip away with the flow.


The recipe is not difficult to follow. The Banana Bread is just mix, pour over, and bake. Result is really nice. The whole kitchen smells so good. Look at this happy girl with her bakes.



My favorite part is the crunchy peanut brittle. Kattie did it very well. The peanut brittle was nicely and evenly coated with caramelized sugar.


I can't tell you how much love I had for those caramelized crunchy peanut brittle. I had been eating em' while the butter cookies still baking in the oven. I don't think I can wait. Haha..


When I popped some peanut brittle into my mouth, I told Chef Rachel that "Kitchen is how kitchen supposed to be like". She laughed and she popped some into her mouth too. 

This is the end result baked by Chef Rachel. The ginger taste is at the strong side. It needs to be reduced slightly as the ginger powder in Asia is probably stronger than those in UK.


This Chocolate Peanut Brittle Butter Cookies. Too good and too addictive. I feels like Christmas!


From impressive afternoon tea goodies to irresistible treats for the little ones, I believe Chef Rachel Allen's All Things Sweet cooking tips will entice to rediscover the joy of baking. Probably I should take a look at her cookbook soon.



There's always room for something sweet :)

All thanks to BBC Channel and Palate Sensation for the hospitality. We had fun and we had a great experience.

Corn Chowder (玉米浓汤)

Corn Chowder is one of the ultimate comfort food. I had been cooking this soup for many times and I never gets tired of it. I guarantee you, this hearty home-made bowl of soul is easy and delicious.


Since my whole family loves this soup, I see no reason for not sharing this recipe. This recipe makes super comforting chowder and it's easier than you think to make. This Corn Chowder soup doesn't use milk, flour and corn starch. The starchy and the thickness comes from the potatoes. It's real stuff.


If you wants to make it more of a meal, you can add abit of fish or seafood in it. Probably crab meat, chunks of prawns, or even smoked fish.

This recipe feeds 4 soup portion. But if you are adding some seafood chunks, this recipe serves 3 as a meal.

Ingredients
  • 1 pack Sweet Corn Whole Kernels (380g). ** SEE NOTE
  • 2 Big Russet Potatoes, diced ** SEE NOTE
  • 1 Big Yellow Onions, chopped
  • 200g Bacon (about 8 slices)
  • 400ml Chicken Stock ** SEE NOTE
  • 200ml Water
  • 50g Butter
  • 100ml + 50ml Whipping Cream
  • 1 Fresh Red Chilli, finely chopped (optional) ** SEE NOTE
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • Some chopped parsley for garnishing
Note :
1. Sweet Corn Kernels might be in a pack or in a can. No specific brand required. I use Del-Monte is because the packing is easy to open. This brings laziness to the next level. Haha... Anyway, you just have to be more alert when you purchase it. There's sweet corn whole kernels and sweet corn cream style. Don't get the wrong one. If you want, you can use fresh sweet corn and cut the kernels on your own. But taste result will vary. Frozen corn kernels might be a good alternative too.

2. If your potatoes are too small, use 3 potatoes instead of 2.

3. It's undeniably that chicken stock gives better flavor to the soup. But if you don't have chicken stock at home and you are not fussy about it, you could just use water. The existence of rendered bacon gives good flavor to the soup too.

4. Adding red chilli in the chowder will surprise you. I always do that. Chilli in the soup will bring your overall corn chowder taste to another new level. But for this particular time, I forgot about my chilli. I only realize my red chilli still sitting in the fridge AFTER I finished cooking my corn chowder! *Grrrrr!!*  If you are feeding kids, and worrying the existence of the chilli, then, you can choose not to add them in.

Method
  1. Prepare all the ingredients - Chop yellow onions, dice potatoes, cut bacon into small pieces, remove seeds from chilli and finely chopped them. 
  2. A tablespoon of cooking oil (or lard if you have some at home) on the saucepot, throw in all the bacon pieces. Let it render under low flame, stirring it occasionally to prevent sticking at the bottom, otherwise it will get burnt easily. Render until all bacon pieces are all brown and crispy. Refer to picture. Remove some bacon bits from the saucepot, set aside for topping later. Leave the rest in the saucepot. 
  3. Add chopped onions into the saucepot and cook together with the bacon pieces under medium low fire, stir well, let it cook until onions are fragrant and soft. 
  4. Set aside 1/4 portion of sweet corn kernels aside. Pour the balance 3/4 sweet corn, chopped red chilli and diced potatoes into the saucepot. Stir well and cook for about 5 mins. 
  5. Add in 400ml chicken stock (or water). Once it is boiled, let it simmer under medium low fire for about 8 mins.
  6. Pour the soup into the blender and blend until smooth. You can roughly blend them if you prefer the less smooth soup texture. Pour the blended soup into a pot. Add 200ml water into the blender to 'rinse' the balance soup in the blender. Pour it back to the pot. No waste. Add in the remaining 1/4 sweet corn kernels. Stir. Let it simmer under dead low fire for another 5 mins. You have to keep stirring the soup so the soup doesn't stick to the pot.
  7. Add in 100ml whipping cream, salt and pepper. Stir and taste. 
  8. At this point of time, go whip up 50ml chilled whipping cream until stiff peak, keep it in the fridge for later use. However, this is absolutely optional. You can do away without whipped cream topping if you want it less fancy.
  9. To serve - Reheat the soup. Add in 50g Butter and give it a good stir. The butter will give the soup a very good gloss and nice buttery fragrant that you won't be able to resist. Top with whipped cream, chopped parsley and crunchy bacon bits. 
Ingredients are easily available at the supermarket. This corn chowder is absolutely fuss free.


Rendering bacon pieces under low flame. This takes abit of patience. Please ensure that you are stirring it occasionally to prevent from sticking at the bottom and ensure every bacon piece are well cooked. I use lard in replace of cooking oil. I love lard. It gives really good flavor.


Render Bacon pieces, add in chopped onions. Add in diced potatoes and corn kernels, add chicken stock, and simmer away. It's easy and it's not difficult to follow when there's photo shown here.


Next, blend the soup into smooth texture, add cream and butter. That's it. Easy.


As I mentioned above, to make it a meal, you can add seafood into the soup. And Oh.. don't forget to grab some bread to go along with. What you see here is a good combination of Corn Chowder, Romaine Walnut Salad, Nordic Sourdough with butter, and some chips to go along. This is my weekend lunch! Mad love!!!!


You could tweak the recipe by adding extra diced potatoes onto the blended soup, give it a good 5mins slow simmer before adding the cream. Leave it there untouched. The diced potatoes will soften by the remaining heat from the soup. This way, your chowder will good chunk of potatoes bites.

Maybe this recipe can be a generic recipe across other soups or chowder as well. Just replace corn kernels with leek and some celery, you will have Leek Soup. Replace corn kernels with fresh peas, and you will have peas soup.  It doesn't matter. The idea is really to be as hearty and as homely as possible. Right?


You know what? I hate it when some western-food-wannabe casual dining place serves me f**ked-up canned soup diluted with water and thickened it with corn starch. Urghh!!!

No more canned soup. Eat the real stuff. Try cooking corn chowder at home now!!!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Beef Brisket Clear Soup Stew / 清湯牛腩

Beef Brisket Clear Soup Stew is a very popular Cantonese dish. Sweet and beefy in taste, soft and tender meat and clear soup with hints of spices. It may looked like a normal dish, the scent and fragrance of the soup from hours of simmering is lip-smackingly delicious.

Undeniably, the clear beef brisket soup has such a strong umami flavor that you cannot resist but finish it to the last drop.


In my hometown Kampar, we do have this soup serve alongside with dry noodles. In Hong Kong, this dish is easily available, especially the famous Kau Kee Beef Brisket Soup Noodles. Asians have plenty of ways of cooking their version of 'beef stew' or 'beef soup', while Cantonese prefers this clear soup version. However, different family will have different preference in the type of spices added into the soup.


I stewed this pot, and I served 6 adults along with fluffy white rice. Yumms!

Ingredients
(Source : Chinese Food Recipe with modification)
  • 650g Beef Brisket 牛腩
  • 200g Beef Shin 牛腱
  • 6 Water Chestnut (Optional) 马蹄
  • 10 Beef Balls (Optional) 牛肉丸
  • 1 White Radish 白萝卜
  • 1 tbsp Shao Xing Wine 绍兴酒
  • 2 stalks Spring Onions 葱
  • 40g Old Ginger, sliced 老姜
  • 2500ml Water 水
  • Sea Salt to taste 海盐
Spices for the soup
  • 1 Bay Leaf 香叶
  • 10g Rock Sugar 冰糖
  • 1/2 tsp Fennel Seed 小茴香
  • 1/2 Szechuan Pepper 川椒
  • 1 Cinnamon Bark 桂皮
  • 4 Cloves 丁香
  • 2 Star Anise 八角
  • 1 piece Licorice Root 甘草
  • thumb sized Sun-Dried Tangerine Peel 老陈皮
Method
  1. Preparation - Cut meat into pieces and white radish into big chunks. Give the spices a quick rinse. Soak tangerine peel till soft, scrape off the whitish part. 
  2. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add brisket and shin into the boiling water, simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, drained, rinse the beef pieces and the saucepan to get rid of the scums. 
  3. Heat a pan with some oil, fry sliced gingers till fragrant. Add in the rest of the spices, shao xing wine, rock sugar, beef brisket and beef shin. Stir well. Add in water and bring to a boil. 
  4. Turn the heat to low and simmer for 30mins, scoop the scums away (if any) and add in 1 stalk of spring onions. 
  5. Add in white radish and beef balls, continue to simmer under low fire for another 30mins (or more), covered. Check the tenderness of the beef brisket and beef shin to your likeliness
  6. Turn off the heat, add salt to taste. Let the soup continue to 'cook' under it's own temperature, for another 30mins.
  7. To serve, reheat the soup, scoop onto the bowl, sprinkle spring onions and serve with fluffy white rice.
This recipe is very forgiving. You can choose to use only beef brisket if you doesn't like beef shin. I added some beef balls into the stew because my big boy Max would love to have em'. Water chestnut can add extra sweetness to the stew. I happened to have some at home, so, I just conveniently add some in there.


I got my beef brisket, beef shin and beef balls from Chinatown wet market. Beef brisket cost S$10 per kg. Good deal eh.

The variety of spices I used is quite alot. But if you don't have all of them in the list, you can opt out some of them. However, ginger, spring onions, szechuan pepper, rock sugar, tangerine peels are essential. Otherwise, you won't be able to get even the right flavorful taste of the broth.

I didn't remove the ginger skin. Ginger and ginger skin has health benefits. I'm sure very little people knows that leaving the skin on your ginger is better for you. Ginger skin doesn't only makes the dish taste better, it aids in digestion by improving absorption of essential nutrients and helps to break down the proteins in your food. Of course, for some cosmetic reasons on certain dishes, I will still remove the ginger skin :)


Fusing with the lean meat into one, the brisket has generated a heavenly consistency. I brewed the soup for 30mins, and the flavor of the spices is all over the soup. I don't the spices to over-powered and covered the beefy taste, because beefy sweetness is eventually what we want. So, I removed the strong flavored spices star anise, cinnamon bark, cloves and licorice root from the soup. You can also do the same or if you prefer stronger spices flavor, you can leave the spices in the soup all the way.


Now, I am able to make this beef brisket clear soup stew at home anytime. To me, the best part about cooking is that you are willing to make something from scratch, and your loved ones enjoy eating it.


I find this soup absolutely suitable for all-year-round dish. The soup is clean, slightly sweet, intensely beefy. Surely will cook it again in near future.


What's next for me to explore? I don't know. I shall think about it :)

Happy cooking!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Pandan Coconut Butter Cake (班兰椰香牛油蛋糕)

To me, the flavor of Pandan is wholly unique and indescribable. The butter cake is nicely perfumed with the scent of Pandan leaf and coconut, but taste wasn't overpowering. Pandan and Coconut? Yes! They are perfect match!

I received a request on Friday night, asking me to make a cake for one lovely auntie who's celebrating her 84 years old birthday over a Soka Gathering. Idea strikes me, and I drafted this recipe on a paper on a friday night at 11.55pm before I forget. I tweaked the ratio using my all-time-favorite Butter Cake that I've posted back in 2012, and I get started with my baking preparation.


This cake is really overwhelmed with response from fellow beautiful aunties and uncles who tasted my Pandan Coconut Butter Cake this afternoon. Both Facebook readers, friends who had been WhatsApping me for the recipe, yes I know. I've rushed this recipe for you guys now as promised.

This cake is really yummy. I can't help it but wanting to share to everyone. It's so moist, fragrant and flavorful. Me and Max only get share a small piece because fellow aunties and uncles snatched the whole cake within a few minute when the birthday auntie says "Wah! Very delicious leh!". That's how overwhelmed it is.

There is no need to frost the side of the cake at all. Sometimes less is more. And that's how I feel.


This makes large cake and good for you to bring it to a party. Please read all the notes and steps that I've written. Those details are there for a reason.

Ingredients
  • 250g Salted Butter, room temperature
  • 5 Eggs, large sized and in room temperature
  • 150g + 50g Castor Sugar
  • 200g Self Raising Flour
  • 1/4 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Bicarbonate Soda
  • 1 tsp Extra Virgin Coconut Oil (Optional) 
  • 50ml Coconut Cream
  • 20ml Concentrated Pandan Juice *See Preparation Note
  • 25g Desiccated Coconut
Whipped Cream Topping
  • 1 tsp Corn Flour
  • 1 tbsp Water
  • 1.5 tsp Castor Sugar 
  • 100ml Dairy Whipping Cream
  • 50ml Coconut Cream
  • some grated fresh and firm coconut flesh
  • some green lime zest
  • some edible sugar flowers as deco (Optional)
Preparation Note
- You will have to prepare the concentrated pandan juice way in advance, at least 5 hours. The reason is because you need time to allow the pandan juice to set before you can get the best out of the best that sunk at the bottom.
  1. Buy a bunch of Pandan Leaves (aka Screwpine Leaves). It cost me about 20cts from the wet market. 
  2. Wash Pandan Leaves clean and snip them into pieces. 
  3. Dump pandan leaves into the juicer, add a cup of water and blits away. 
  4. Strain the pandan juice, covered, and keep them in the fridge to set for few hours. I left mine in the fridge untouched overnight.
  5. When the pandan juice is set, you will see two layers. The dark greenish colored concentrated pandan juice will sink down. That dark green part is the part we want for the cake. 
- Yes. It's tedious to make your own concentrated pandan juice. You can choose to use the bottled  pandan paste that you can conveniently bought it at any Phoon Huat or Supermarket. But you know? It taste different. You can go ahead and use it. The choice is your's.

The dark greenish concentrated Pandan juice sunk at the bottom after it's left in the fridge overnight.

Method - for the Cake
  1. Pre-heat oven at 175 degree, fan OFF. 
  2. Prepare 8 x 8 inch square baking pan. Line the base and the side nicely.
  3. Separate egg whites and yolk 
  4. Sieve flour together with baking powder and bicarb soda.
  5. Mix both concentrated pandan juice and coconut cream together in a small bowl. 
  6. Cream butter and 150g castor sugar until pale and fluffy. Add in extra virgin coconut oil (if you have it), beat for awhile, and followed by adding egg yolks, one at a time. 
  7. Put in half of the sieved flour, mix on low speed until they are half mixed. Add in pandan juice and coconut cream mixture in 2 additions until well incorporated. Mix in the balance flour. As long as the batter is mixed well, stop it. Do not over-work the batter.  
  8. Beat egg whites until soft peaks, gradually add 50g castor sugar in 3 additions until egg whites achieved stiff peak.  
  9. Take 1/3 of the egg whites, fold into the batter. Take another 1/3, and repeat the folding process. 
  10. pour the mixed batter to the balance to the mixing bowl where the balance 1/3 egg whites is. Continue to fold it until well mixed. Be gentle. We need to retain the egg whites bubbles as much as we can. 
  11. Pour batter into the lined pan, level, and bake it for 1 hour or until skewers comes out clean. Leave cake to cool completely, use clingwrap to wrap it well and put them into the fridge overnight to let the whole cake infuse. Butter cake taste better overnight :)
Method - for the Whipping Cream & Decorations
  1. Ensure Whipping Cream is always in chilled condition. This is the first thing you need to check.
  2. In a small saucepot, add in corn flour and water. Stir well on a very low heat. It will turn sticky and gluey very quickly. So, you will have to remove it from the heat once it starts to thickened and quickly pour the thickened corn starch onto the castor sugar. Continue to stir until the castor sugar is melted.
  3. Prepare bowl of ice water, get another clean and dry bowl, sitting on top of the ice water, pour 100ml of whipping cream. Whisk till soft peak.
  4. Add in the thickened corn starch mixture into the whipping cream and continue to whisk till stiff peak is achieved. Keep it in the fridge. 
  5. In another clean and dry bowl, sit on top of the same ice water, whisk 50ml coconut cream till stiff peak.
  6. Take out the whipping cream, combine both whipping cream and coconut cream together, put it back to the fridge for later use.
  7. As part of the delicious topping, I grate some firm coconut flesh coarsely using my microplane, and then sprinkle a tsp of castor sugar on top of the grated coconut. 
  8. Grate some green lime zest to create another level *fwoh* to the overall taste of the cake and it gives nice color contras to the grated coconut too.
  9. To assemble - I want my cake to look clean and showcase the beautiful pandan color of my cake, So, I trim the side of the cake. However, trimming is absolutely optional. Spread the cream on top of the cake generously. Push the cream to the edge, but leaving some space to avoid cream touching the side. Sprinkle grated coconut flesh evenly and top with green lime zest for the color contra. You can stop here, or you can add more decorations if you wants. 
Note : This is a fresh whipping cream with coconut cream. Fresh whipping cream always taste delicious, not as heavy and rich as buttercream, and they are absolutely not as stable as other cream. They must be chilled all the time. I added some corn starch, wanting to delay the melting time of the whipping cream. You can add gelatin of course, but I didn't do that this time. Always remember this point. This whipping cream is NOT stable. Never attempt to put the cake under room temperature and leave it unattended. The whipping cream topping will melt. If you want sturdier cream as topping, then, you have to change the topping recipe to suit your individual preference.

The side of the cake is trimmed to showcase the nice green color. 

Grating my coconut flesh using Microplane. 

And not to forget the nice touch of green lime zest. 

The result of this cake..... Simple, old-fashioned flavor. Combination of Pandan and Coconut, this definitely won't go wrong. Adding Extra Virgin Coconut Oil gives extra flavor to the cake. It's like, instead of adding coconut essence, I would recommend you to add Extra Virgin Coconut Oil. They smells amazing and they are genuine stuff! I use Coconut Oil for cooking too. But if you don't have em' at home, then you can choose not to add. It makes no sense for you to buy a bottle of Coconut Oil just because you wanna use 1 tsp for this cake.


I like my cake to be less complicated and unpretentious. Although cake decorations will create good impression to your guests and wow them, but the cake must be delicious! Good flavor and texture must be the first priority! Share this recipe if you agree with me. Hahah.

I love the topping. The white snow flakes melting away, the greens came alive. It's like... Winter turning into Spring! How lovely!


 Look at this beautiful white hair auntie. She's 84 this year. Her sweet smiles melts my heart away :)


As long as the fellow seniors are happy, my effort is worth it for sure :)

Happy Baking everyone!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Laksa Lemak / Nyonya Laksa

Seafood-rich and creamy coconut milk curry-like gravy with a lingering spice kick, enjoy together with noodles and the rest of the fresh ingredients. Ahh... That's the bowl of warm, gently spicy comfort noodles I want now. If you are celebrating Singapore SG50, cook this! Make Laksa Party!

Salivating!


For those who stayed in Singapore or visited Singapore before, I'm sure you love Singapore Laksa, or Laksa Lemak, or also known as Nyonya Laksa, which is a popular Peranakan dish. The Peranakans are ethnic Chinese who settled in the British Straits Settlement back in the olden days.


However, as most recipes go, several variations of Laksa's were tweaked to their individual liking and can be found in different parts of hawker centres and food courts in Singapore. Although there's arguments says that Katong Laksa serves the best and iconic Singapore Laksa. They are good, but I personally feels that it could be better. I shall leave it to you to do the judgement. I shall focus more on this recipe.

This is Alan's recipe, produces thick and flavorful gravy, not as watery as what you expect at the store-bought kind. This recipe is absolutely good to host a Laksa Party at home. It feeds about 6 to 8 adults. This dish includes plenty of Southeast Asian combinations. Dried shrimps, fish cakes, cockles, coconut milk, daun kesom, chillies, lots of spices and everything nice.

Before everything else, as I was told, Rempah (also known as spices) is the soul of a good bowl of Laksa Lemak. Rempahs can be prepared way in advance, even a week ahead or so. Whenever you want to have so good bowl of soul food, you have your rempah's ready in the freezer!

So, for the first, let's begin with preparing the Rempah.

Ingredients (for Generic Rempah)
  • 70g Red Chillies, remove seeds
  • 10 Dried Chillies, soaked in hot water until soft, remove seeds
  • 5 Candlenut / buah keras
  • 110g Shallots, peeled, sliced
  • 25g Garlic, peeled
  • 20g Ginger, sliced
  • 10g Turmeric Root, sliced
  • 10g Galangal, sliced
  • 4 Stalks Lemon Grass, only slice lower 1/3 whitish portion
  • 5 Bird's eye chillies / cili padi (Optional)
Method (for Generic Rempah)
  1. Chop and blend or pound all spice ingredients together into a fine paste. (See Photo)
  2. Heat up generous amount of cooking oil over medium low heat, gently saute blended spices until fragrant. The spices should darken considerably, starts to glisten as the oil begins to separate from the paste. We identified it as pecah minyak stage for our rempah cooking. 
  3. When generic rempah is cooked, leave it completely cooled, air-tight and store it in the fridge for tomorrow use. Or if you are using it much later, do keep it in the freezer. 
Bird's eye chilli / cili padi is absolutely optional. I prefer to be more fiery. So, I added some of them in the rempah mixture. 
 

Second..... the Prawn Stock. You need some fresh prawns from the market for ideal result.

Ingredients (for Prawn Stock)
  • 1kg Fresh Prawns
  • 1 tbsp Cooking Oil
  • 500ml + 1000ml Water
Method (for Prawn Stock)
  1. To prepare the prawns - 1st, snip off the thorn on the prawn head. 2nd, snip off the eyes. 3rd, remove those dirts inside the prawn heads. 4th, remove the shells and deveinned. 
  2. Keep half amount of the peeled prawns meat well, wrapped, in a fridge for next time use. I'm using it for other dishes. While another half of the peeled prawns, blanch it under 500ml of boiled water until the prawn is just cooked. Keep both cooked prawns and boiled water for later.  
  3. In another stove, a pan heated with a tbsp of cooking oil, add in prawn heads and prawn shells. Pan fry under medium heat until they turned color and the prawns aroma is all over your kitchen. Keep an eye on it, do not burn it. 
  4. Pour 500ml of boiled water that you used to blanch prawns, and additional 1000ml water. Turn it to medium high heat, let it boil. Lower down the heat and let it simmer for 15mins.
  5. Transfer the prawn stock together with the prawn head and shells into the blender. Blits till fine, carefully strained, like making bisque. And prawn stock is ready to use.
Things to take note. Snipping away the prawn eyes and remove dirts inside the prawn head is VERY IMPORTANT. Prawn eyes and dirts are bitter. If you are going to blitz those prawn shells and heads for prawn stocks, you must remove them from the prawns. Otherwise, your whole pot of prawn stock will have bitter aftertaste. My mom used to own a prawn noodles stall when I was very young. This tips is her great advice. I would't wanna take the risk. I will listen to her.


Thirdly... the Laksa Gravy. You can only do this when your generic rempah and prawn stock is ready for use.

Ingredients (for Laksa Gravy)
  • 400g Generic Rempah (as above)
  • 1.5 tbsp Coriander Seeds / ketumbar
  • 100g Dried Shrimps
  • 1 tbsp Toasted Belacan Powder
  • 800ml Fresh Coconut Milk
  • 1500ml Prawn Stock (as above)
  • 6 sprig Daun Kesom / laksa leaves
  • 3 tbsp Sugar, adjust to taste
  • 2 tsp Salt, adjust to taste
  • 2 tbsp Cooking Oil
  • 16 Fish Balls
  • 10pcs Tau Pok, snipped into strips
Method (for Laksa Gravy)
  1. On a small pan, start off with dry-frying the coriander seeds until they are aromatic before milling them into fine powder. The recipe ask for 1 tbsp coriander seed, but I used 1.5 tbsp instead. Sift the milled coriander powder as we only need those fine coriander powder for the gravy. Coarse coriander seeds that doesn't pass through the sieve, and this explains why I use 1.5 tbsp instead, because some will be discarded. 
  2. Dried shrimps needs to be washed and soaked for awhile before grinding them finely into floss using a food processor. 
  3. With a big pan, heat up some oil, add in generic rempah, coriander seeds, dried shrimps, and toasted belacan powder. Fry till fragrant.
  4. Add in prawn stocks and bring to a boil. And followed by coconut milk to create the base. Add more water if needed as you have to build your own preferred gravy consistency. 
  5. Add in daun kesom to the gravy. This gives another level of dimension to the laksa gravy. Add in salt and sugar at this point of time. Give it a taste. Make sure you adjust to the saltiness and sweetness to your individual liking.
  6. Strips of tau pok are then added to soak up all that wonderful richness from the broth. Also, you can add in fish balls at this time to allow it to simmer together. Do this on medium heat for a few minutes and then switch off fire. Do not cover the pot with lid.

Lastly, prepare the rest of the condiments and assembling.

Ingredients (for Condiments and Noodles)
  • 800g to 1kg Rice Vermicelli
  • 500g Cooked Prawns (prepared as above)
  • 300g Bean Sprout
  • 3pcs Large Flat Fish Cakes
  • 4 Hard Boiled Eggs, assuming one portion of laksa only need half eggs
  • 500g Fresh Blood Cockles (weight with shell on)
  • 2 to 4 sprigs Daun Kesom, julienned
Please buy the freshest blood cockles from the market on the same day. Bring home and remove from the shells on your own. Try not to buy those that's sold in bags that shells had been removed for your convenience.


For those who wants some special sambal chilli to go along, as shown on the picture, here's my recipe that I've created on the spot just before the Laksa Party begins.

Special Sambal Chilli (Optional)
  • 70g Generic Rempah
  • 20g Dried Shrimps, washed, soaked, flossed
  • 50g Shallots
  • 3 tsp Sugar
  • some shallot oil
In a pan, put everything together, sautee until fragrant. And now, with everything is ready, the Laksa Party begins....

To Serve
  1. Blanch one portion of rice vermicelli as well as beansprout over a pot of hot boiling water. Drain the water thoroughly before pouring the noodles onto the bowl.
  2. Ladle some hot Laksa gravy onto the noodles. Arrange some fish cakes, hard boiled eggs, blanched cockles on top. Add more laksa gravy over the ingredients if you prefer. 
  3. Garnish with julienned daun kesum, and serve along with some sambal cili immediately. 

The recipe is complicated as it uses alot of ingredients. But I assure you that you will be able to make this a success if you follow my recipe, and let me walk you through the proper preparation of every element. I have to thank Alan for his detailed recipe for sure. He gave me so much insight to this noodle dish.

As an optional idea, you can cut up the noodles, so that the whole dish can be slurped up with a soup spoon, without the need for chopsticks. It's up to individual's preference.


The laksa gravy is thick. I like it that way. This way, the noodles are well binded together with the laksa gravy when eating.

Now that I've tested the recipe, and proven that it works! I would encourage you to do the same, re-invent it to suit your astoundingly acute palate.

You want a bowl right now?


I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. I definitely will recreate this recipe again and again.

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