10 Aug 2014

the weekend cake

Since starting the new semester, I have been quite busy keeping up with the never ending list of things to do. Things keep amassing by themselves - emails to send, papers to write, research to do. This course I signed up for around this time last year, was far from what I expected. It's been challenging, but also very rewarding (most times), especially where I am placed for my rounds this semester. Halfway through my first round, I became kind of discouraged, but by chance, I was able to visit many of my secondary teachers for two days last week who gave me unconditional support and encouragement. Standing from a different perspective, my philosophy has changed from what it initially was. It's definitely something I want to work on improving.

The patience, dedication and time I received from one particular teacher is what keeps me going. I didn't tell him that, but I thanked him for the invaluable advice he's given me once again. "It's easy for someone to sit at the back and criticise, but doing your best is what makes the difference."

In case you were wondering, the cake has nothing to do with my reflection. It was something I whipped up late yesterday afternoon and it's too good not to share. Originally it was meant to be an apple cake, but after I discovered it was rotten inside, I crossed my fingers and switched to using pears. The cake is moist and spicy with the pear pieces giving it extra sweetness and textural crunch. It's only been less than a day and it's almost gone! Luckily it doesn't take long to make. Hopefully with apples next time.

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spiced pear cake     makes 1 x 17.5cm square
adapted from the 350 degree oven

2 packham pears, chopped in small pieces
200g raw sugar
juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp ground cinnamon, sifted*
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg, sifted
1/2 tsp mixed spice, sifted
2 large eggs
65ml cooking oil
150g plain flour, sifted
1/2 tsp baking powder, sifted
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda, sifted

Mix pear pieces with sugar, lemon juice and spices. Combine eggs and oil in another bowl and set aside.

Make a small well in the sifted flour and powders and add the egg and oil mix. Fold in to combine. When flour is mostly incorporated, add the pears and fold in thoroughly.

Pour into the prepared tin and bake in a preheated oven at 175 degrees celcius for 30-35 minutes or until skewer comes out clean when inserted.

*The cinnamon taste is quite strong on the first day, but mellows on the second. You may want to reduce the amount if you don't like it so strong.

15 Jul 2014

toasted coconut waffles

I've made a few variations of waffles up to date, but my sister keeps coming back to these ones (I like liege waffles!). I worked out a recipe last holidays for these coconut waffles but I forgot where I put it...so I've come up with a different one that tastes just as good if not better. I made some with pandan paste last week and wanted to try making some without. Tastewise, my sister prefers the green ones but I'm ok with either. 

I still see them being sold in Vietnamese bakeries around my area and I think they're still as popular as they were back then. I'm not quite sure how much one costs nowadays, but back in the heyday they were about $1 each.

My sister is a crazy waffle eater so I often make double batches to be toasted later. If you're interested I've included an ingredient list at the end of the post since not all ingredients are doubled. For my previous waffle recipe that incorporates yeast, please click here

It's become a habit to do chicken scratchings on sheets of baking paper when I bake so I can adapt and perfect the recipe for another time. Actually, this is what my uni notes look like. Unfortunately there is no food involved.

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toasted coconut waffles     makes 6-7 
adapted loosely from the recipes in the manual

200g plain flour, sifted
1 1/2 tsp baking powder, sifted
120g caster sugar 
50g desiccated coconut, toasted
pinch of salt
2 large eggs
300ml coconut milk
60ml cooking oil
few drops pandan paste (optional)

Combine flour, baking powder, sugar, coconut and salt into a medium sized mixing bowl. Stir to combine and make a 'well'. In another bowl, beat the eggs. Add coconut milk, oil and pandan paste (if using) and whisk to combine. Pour into other bowl and stir to combine. Cook waffle mixture on a hot waffle iron according to manufacturer's instructions. I like to use the 'darker' setting.

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double quantity waffle batter

300g plain flour, sifted
3 tsp baking powder
200g caster sugar
100g desiccated coconut, toasted
two pinches of salt
3 large eggs
600ml coconut milk (or 400ml coconut milk + 200ml milk/water)
120ml cooking oil
few drops of pandan paste 

Cook as above.

8 Jul 2014

poppin' chicken

I came across this recipe in a local food magazine when I was in Malaysia. It's a home-style fried chicken dish but I was intrigued by "cekur powder" (沙姜粉/sha jiang fen). I asked a supermarket staff if she's heard of it/stock it but she said she wasn't quite sure. A Malay customer tried to help me find it, but we found something else instead. When I got home, I asked my grandma about it and she told me it's a type of ginger and she doesn't like the taste of it. I tried my luck at a herb shop near my grandma's and they actually stocked it. I bought a small quantity back just to make this. Opening the sealed bag, it smells quite fragrant and familiar. I haven't seen it on the shelves in Asian grocers here, but it might be available in traditional herbal medicine shops. If you can't find it, I think it's ok to leave it out since the recipe only requires a little bit.

This actually reminds me of the Taiwanese popcorn chicken (盐酥鸡/yan su ji), sold at a street vendor near my uncle's apartment in Taiwan. We'd pass the stand everyday and grab a bagful on our way out and some more with iced lemon tea on the way home. It was so so addictive just like these!

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Taiwanese crispy chicken     serves 4 as part of a shared meal
Adapted from Josten Tan’s recipe in Famous Cuisine 名食谱 vol. 85

2 pieces chicken thigh fillet (approx. 500g)
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Half a thumb of ginger, finely chopped
30ml soy sauce
Dash of sake or shaoxing wine
50g self raising flour
25g rice flour
Water, as required
Coarse sweet potato flour (粗番薯/地瓜粉), as required* (or cornstarch)
Cooking oil, as required
2 handfuls of Thai basil leaves, roughly chopped
Five spice pepper salt, as required**
A good pinch of sand ginger powder (沙姜粉/cekur/sha jiang fen) powder, (optional)***

Trim excess fat off chicken and cut into thin strips. Cut chicken into bite sized pieces if you want to make popcorn chicken. Marinate with garlic, ginger, soy sauce and wine and leave for a few hours up to overnight.

To make batter, combine self raising and rice flour with enough water (approx. 125ml). Batter should be runny. Add in a glug of cooking oil if you want and mix in thoroughly. Leave to rest for 10-15 minutes and stir again before using.  

Dip chicken strips into batter and coat well with coarse sweet potato flour. Deep fry in hot oil until light golden. Drain chicken of oil and deep fry again until crispy.

In another wok, heat and toss crispy chicken with basil leaves, five spice pepper salt and sand ginger powder until basil leaves begin to dry. Serve hot.

*Should be available in Asian grocery stores near the packaged flour section. I didn't think the flour would fry properly because it was quite lumpy, but after frying, I was surprised those lumpy bits turned into crispy bits.

**My dad makes his own blend and cooks it over a low heated wok. The original spice blend in the magazine includes: 1 Tb five spice powder, 1/2 Tb fine salt, 1/8 tsp sand ginger powder, 1/8 tsp pepper.

***If you can't find it, just leave it out

Edit: 10/07/14 I'm submitting this post to Cook Your Books #14 hosted by Joyce of Kitchen Flavours.