Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Rosemary Tomato Chicken

This dish is a tweak from the French dish Chicken Chasseur. I omitted the mushrooms and added olives instead and the grape tomatoes added color and extra taste to the gravy. This dish is very homey and I love the gravy over rice, although I served this with pasta instead.

The good thing about making dishes like these is that I don't have to use much effort and the oven does everything. The idea is to slowly cook the chicken till tender and succulent while still retaining the juiciness of the grape tomatoes, that adds to the richness of the gravy. The presence of a little paprika gave the gravy a redder hue and very subtle.

I roasted some zucchini with grated garlic and salt and pepper to go along with this dish.





Recipe:
4 large chicken quarters (include drumstick & thigh)

1 sprig of rosemary, chopped

12 black olives (each cut into half)
12 grape tomatoes
1 large red onion, halved & sliced thinly
4 pips of garlic, minced
3/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tsp sweet paprika
Salt & Pepper
Olive Oil


Method:


1)Remove the fat and sinew from the chicken quarters and cut them into 3 parts each. Wash and pat dry. Marinate with the rosemary, paprika, salt & pepper and 1 tbsp of olive oil for 2 hours in the fridge.

2)Preheat oven to 350F. Heat a big skillet with olive oil, about 4 tbsp. Put in the chicken and spread out to cook evenly for 5 mins on each side. Remove to a casserole dish and arrange to sit besides each other.

3)Using the same skillet, add in the onion, garlic and white wine. Stir in the tomato paste to combine and let simmer for 5 mins. Add in chicken stock, tomatoes and olive and stir and simmer for another 10 mins. Turn off heat.

4)Pour the contents of the skillet into the chicken meat inside the casserole dish and distribute the contents all over the chicken meat. Cover with lid or foil and put into preheated oven and cook for 1 hour and 15 mins.

5)Remove and serve hot or warm over rice or pasta.


Serves: 4



Washington DC (Part 5)

Day 5

After being in a hotel room for 3 nights, all I wanted was my own bed and the smell of my own pillows and blankets. We departed from the hotel around 10am and I was infact in charge of the whole driving to our next stop in Pennsylvannia. I believe that there is a reason for everything and the fact that I simply plunked in a home cushion into the car before we left from New Hampshire turned out a very good idea for Curry's serious backpain! And so he sat all the way while the GPS guided me all the way.

Remember that Curry said there was somewhere he still wanted to go and promised that it will be very amazing? Frankly I thought he slept through the idea and forgotten about it and will let me drive quickly to my cousin's place within 2 hours drive from DC but obviously, his back pain didn't deter his plans. And so we drove about for almost 1 hour to the National Air & Space Museum, near Dulles airport. This is a part of the Smithsonian Museums in DC at UdarHazy Center and simply the best place to see all the aviation and space artifacts that you can ever see in your whole life! For an entrance fee of $15.00 per car, this place is worth every penny and minute of your time and we stayed for almost 3 hours!

For the collections, words cannot describe it all and you just have to see it to believe it. There were aircrafts, old and modern, small and big, mighty and friendly and most of all, exclusive in the sense that only here you can really go up close and personal. The Space Shuttle Enterprise is also housed here together with all sorts of missiles, space aviation apparatus and anything that a Star Trek fan can fantasize about!
For something more nearer to Earth, the aircrafts' section is a must see for all flying jets enthusiasts. Despite Curry's straightened pained back, he managed to drag himself across the large floor section to see his wanted to see things, the Blackbird SL 71, the fastest jet in the world. And also the famous Enola Gay B 29 Superfortress Bomber that dropped the first atom bomb in Hiroshima in 1945. Looking at the air aviations achievements in terms of design, speed and sophistication, one cannot help but admire the humankind's plight and imaginations to conquer and soar in the air space. Definitely a well kept promised from Curry and so much more awesome than the main Air & Space Museum in DC.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Washington DC (Part 4)

Day 4

On our last day in DC, we were done with the Museums and set out to see the rest of the beautiful monuments. Curry's back hurt too much and was bed ridden at the hotel room while I lead the pack and explored out. At first I had my doubts as I haven't done any travelling with me being the sole guide and I have a very bad understanding of map directions. Thank goodness the kids were in good spirit and the weather was so airy and nice that we managed to walk for miles without any hitch. Abraham Lincoln's Memorial Monument has always been the planned highlight of this tour and I still look at it in awe after having been there for more than twice. Sitted inside is his marble statue with his famous speeches of Equality for All Men which was an inspiration to all his successors and more poignant now that President Obama is holding the helm of the most important post in America. The architecture of this monument is amazing and standing inside it felt so great and inspired.

From the inside of the Monument, the Reflecting Pool looked the best. With the towering Washington Monument behind it, the view can never looked any mightier and grander. One cannot help but recall all the great and important happenings that occured within this vicinity, notably Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'I have a Dream' speech and the protests of wars by peace lovers.
From the Monument, we walked along the Vietnam War Memorial Site. Black granite wall running for almost 1/4 mile, engraved with names of those who died and participated in the much protested war of that time provided tourists a moment of reflection. Although these War Memorials were built to honor the greatness and bravery of those men who died, being here
is somewhat distressing and sad to one's mind. Almost 1 mile down passing a large pond, we arrived at the World War II Memorial. Perhaps this was the only War that all Americans agreed on being for the better cause rather than a futile attempt as with the Korean, Vietnam and currently the war in Iraq. From the architecture of this Memorial, one can feel that the participation of America in World War II was a great feat that united the states and people. On every block of the stones going around the perimeter of the Memorial, each state's name was engraved on it and there were 2 archway stone gates that stood on opposite sides of the Memorial Fountain Pool that represents the Pacific and Atlantic part.
Across the street, stood the mighty Washington Monument. To me, I don't find anything interesting about this Monument, it looked like a plain Obelisk with no spectacular carvings on it but just being mighty tall for all to see from every corner of DC! We ended our walk to the National Aquarium, being the oldest Aquarium in America. The kids were excited as the place was situated in the underground of a huge cobblestone building, totally dark inside with small and mini sized aquariums containing exotic fresh water fish from the rivers in America and also sea water ones. And the only place we had to pay for an entrance fee!
Overall, the kids enjoyed the trip and pity that Curry had a backache while I had to stay alert all time just to make sure everything is in place and to get us to our next destination!


Washington DC (Part 3)

Day 3


We were off to Curry's must see Museum of Air & Space today. This was my least favorite as it is always crowded regardless of any hours or days and I am really not a very scientific nor technological enthusiasts. Having said so, this is the easiest Museum to move around and its IMAX theatres always have good shows scheduled. Much to Curry's delight, he got to revise everything about the solar system with Missy E while Prince D got all excited about the airplanes hanging overhead. Noticing my non interest, Curry promised that in 2 days time I will see the real thing. At that time I didn't know what he was saying and I only hoped he doesn't make me drive our minivan too far to see another airplane that looks more like replica than real! With a backache lurking in him, I see that I will be the sole drive for the rest of our road trip and to think of the journey back to New Hampshire..... geez , I was ready to jump onto the next flight available!




Next we moved on to a more artistic site. Obviously my favorite ones as I admire pottery work with all the intricate drawings, sculptures, bronzed products and whatever that sits neatly in a glass display glass with a history to it. Almost 1 mile down, we reached the Freer & Shakler Galleries of Art. Beautiful collections of things, mostly donated by rich men who rather give to the society than let the beautiful porcelains hide in their houses when they are gone. The most outstanding thing I saw was an old tortoise shell, engraved with chinese characters! There were good collections of artifacts and potteries from all over the world, mostly from the Asia part of the world. And on a hot day, these quiet and cool museums serves the mind and body some relaxation while kids doze off in the stroller and the lounging chairs in every exhibit hall! For me, these are my kind of Museums.


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Washington DC (Part 2)

Day 2

The day was beautiful. Warm but not humid, sunny but not blazing hot and kids were all rested and excited to see the dinosaurs and everything animal and natural at the Museum of Natural History. Talk about resources, the Museums along the Mall are world class places of everything and only here, you feel that your tax dollars have been rightly spent, so to speak! Entrance is free and the varieties of man made products artifacts and natural phenomenon of living species well preserved for today's generation curiosity and learning are all for you to explore, study and admire.

Our first stop was the Museum of American History. The crowd was smaller and everything that America has pioneered, developed, produced and the whole facts and proof of its history are all stored in the vast 3 floors of this Museum. Compared to England and the rest of Europe, American History is considered young but yet despite its inception was only slightly past the two century mark, America's growth as a country politically, economically and socially was indeed impressive and to be able to see its progress as a nation through exhibits and notations of historical documents in one place is pretty neat!

The original Star & Spangle Banner, sewn in 1813 by Mary Pickersgill and her helpers at home was on display and I was amazed on the size of that flag! Imagine those days when there was no sewing machines let alone proper lighting. Rightfully placed in a dark room with dimmed light to avoid further damage to an old piece of material, the worn down flag with torn edges and parts here and there still exhibits its glory and greatness. The other section which was very popular was the First Ladies gallery which housed all the old gowns, jewelleries, photos and memorabilia of the Presidents' Women. The fashions were not as opulent nor extravagant as those of European women in those ages and eras but emphasis were more on one colored tone dress with minimal jewelleries accents. Along the way, there was a section specially dedicated to Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President whose legacy of equality among races attracted a new light of attention recently due to President Obama being elected the first black President of America. From my casual reading of the Presidents, I too admire Lincoln for his determination to read and educate himself even under hardships of life in his younger days and for advancing the idea of abolishing slavery in the Southern states which eventually led to the Civil War, and it is also this idea that eventually propounded the hatred of slavery supporters that resulted in the assassination of him. Other than that, besides domestically successful in pioneering inventions for the betterment of its people, America was involved in alot of Wars after the World war II and the displays of photos, reports, replicas and war antiques were endless!




After lunch We walked over to the next Museum, which was expectedly packed and crowded. Museum of Natural History is always a magnet for kids with the over publicized lives of dinosaurs, mammoths and whatever species that existed before us the homo sapiens. Luckily we fed the kids first as cries and winding of everyone else's kids were a bit annoying when we tried to maneouvre across the many exhibits. My favorite part was the sea world part with skeletons and bones of whales, fishes and marine life all painstakingly put together and beautifully displayed. It is very easy to get lost in this museum as it is architecturely round in shape and lots of archways leading to somewhere.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Blueberry Walnut Streusel Muffin

Blueberries again! While May and June are everything red and strawberry, my summer month of July is definitely in the blue. Or rather purple after the baking. As blueberries contain more juice than any other berries, it imparts moisture into anything I bake and for these muffins, the texture is moist while the berries oozed their gooey goodness inside and added color on the outside.

I got these little ceramic baking dishes at one of my favorite stores, Pier One. Besides IKEA, I always find pretty and neat little things there and I simply love the size and colors of these dishes. Sometimes it is the tools and utensils that inspires me to bake, rather than the ingredients available. While other husbands may complain that their wives spend too much on clothings and shoes, mine frowns everytime he sees me carrying home a big bag of kitchen stuffs!

Instead of greasing the dishes, I used paper liner inside them, to reduce the fat on the butter and save me some scrubbing in the sink. As the shape is square and boxy, the bottom and height of each muffin baked was stretched in diameter and not as roundish high as the round shaped muffins. Most of the blueberries were added into the muffin batter and the ones that decorated the top were added in at the last 15 mins of baking, so as to retain some of their roundish shape and not mushed all over. I love streusel toppings and incorporating nuts into them is like the icing on the cake. Walnut is a very rich nut that imparts texture and taste into any baked goods and its slight crunch complemented the soft berries. I didn't cover the whole surface of the muffins with the streusel but only scattered it sparingly among the 12 little square muffins.

What makes a rainy day at home fun? Baking sweet things to go with that hot cup of coffee or tea and able to keep the kids happy too! And something fancy for tomorrow's breakfast too.


Recipe :

Streusel Topping:
1-1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp all purpose flour
2 tbsp cold butter

Muffin:
2 eggs
3 tbsp butter, melted
3/4 low fat milk
1 cup fresh blueberries
1-1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt


Method:
Muffin:
1)Preheat oven to 375F. Line muffin tins with paper/foil liners.
2)Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together. Stir in the sugar.
3)In another bowl, beat the eggs lightly and add in the milk and melted butter to combine.
4)Scoop 2 tbsp of the flour mixture and set aside. Wash the blueberries and pat dry with kitchen paper towel.
5)Pour the egg mixture into the remaining flour mixture and stir to combine.
6)Toss the blueberries into the reserved flour mixture and pour into the batter and fold to incorporate. Spoon batter into the muffin tins, filling 2/3 full.
7)Streusel : Toss the chopped walnuts with the sugar and flour till evenly mixed. Rub in the butter and crumble to coat the walnut flour mixture. Scatter this mixture onto each of the filled muffin cups.
8)Bake for 20 mins. Take out and insert some blueberries into the soft streusel and continue to bake for 15 mins. Use the toothpick test to determine if the muffins are cooked.
9)Remove from oven and let cool on rack. Serve at room temperature.

Makes : 12 muffins

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Blueberry Lemon Cream Tarts

It is definitely blueberries season now! One thing about picking them is that you can go on and on and forget on how much you have filled the box until you pay for it at the farm kiosks. But unlike strawberries or raspberries, eating blueberries is a fun thing as they are small and juicy and eating more only means you are doing good to your body with anti-oxidants overload.

Over the years, I have bought a number of cake tins and tart moulds. Sometimes due to impulsive buying and most of the time I am tempted by the shapes of these moulds and tins and love to imagine on how to create an eye catching pastry or dessert that I have in mind at that particular moment. Although I look plain, my mind is always full of colorful ideas when comes to baking!

I have come to like this new idea of baking tart cases, using straight sided pan instead of the norm of jagged edges. Presentation wise, it is definitely more neater and able to contain more fillings. Making wise, the dough has to be rolled a little thicker and bigger to cover the whole of the mould. To ensure a uniform shape, the dough needs to be drapped over the mould and slowly pat into the middle and sides of the mould before the excess is slowly cut off the rim. As with all baked goods, tart cases shrinks during baking and it may look hugely hollow before the baking and filling. After everything is done, the tarts never looked better!
As I am yet to get any mould rings, I resorted to using my mini cheesecake springform tins. Of all my baking tins collection, these 2 tins are my favorite as I use them everytime I want to experiment making cakes for they are the perfect size to nibble and doesn't take up space in the fridge as in a full sized round cake. Measuring 4 inches each, I used the same unsweetened pastry recipe as in the Bacon Basil tart instead of a pate sucre/sweet pastry. For the filling, the cream was first infused with grated lemon rind for 15 mins prior to cooking it with sugar, egg yolks and flour. I added 2 tbsp of fresh lemon juice after the custard has been cooked and removed from the stove. Cooking this pastry cream is not difficult, it is just that attention is required once the eggs and flour are added and constant stirring is required. Once the custard starts to coat the stirring spoon, it must be immediately removed from the heat to prevent curdling or else a new batch will have to be made again as there is no way a curdled and lumpy custard looks or tastes good on anything! The cream will thicken and firm up beautifully in the fridge after 1 hour.
I filled up one tartlet with the pastry cream and blueberries only while I did some fancy work on the other one. I whipped up some cream and added a bit of pureed blueberries with added sugar for the piped lilac part on the surface of the pastry cream. To create the dots/blooming effect, I simply used a small plastic bag, conveniently snipped with a small opening and piped the cream in a circular motion till it filled up the whole of the surface.

After everything was done, I only wished that I had made a sugar glaze instead of using the powdered sugar. Unlike strawberries and raspberries which are porous and absorbs the powdered sugar easily, blueberries are firm fruits and the powdered sugar kind of deter the natural hue of the fruit, hence non perfect contrast in terms of the colors! The lemony custard cream complements the blueberries nicely both in color and in taste.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Washington DC (Part 1)

This post has been long coming! It was only 3 weeks ago when we packed the kids and things and drove to Washington DC and yet it seemed so long ago! Although it was my third time there, the capitol city never ceased to intrigue, inspire and educate me in all aspects of history, politics and the greatness of a country. I always feel privileged being able to see alot of things in one place and Washington DC provides just that in a very neat, comfortable and clean environment. After being a suburbanite for some time, navigating around a city on foot with 2 kids, a stroller with videocam, camera and junks and an over enthusiastic hubby and a father in law, I can say that we can still move very fast despite the tourists crowd and occasional whinning of the kids. Planning is everything and we were ready this time.

First Day

After almost 10 hours on the road, we arrived in Washington DC, excited albeit lacking in energy. Despite the humidity, we ventured out to the White House and the area around it for a glimpse before sunset sets in. Although the map set out very clearly on all the streets directions, a sway from the beaten path was unavoidable and we actually had a better view of the White House at its rear side. Lesser crowds at this part meant more opportunities for photos and lesser frustrations from the kids. The well televised Playset brought in by the new First Lady was standing at one corner, and Missy E wanted to go play! Well, only if your dad is the President... and so I said! I love the architectural structures of the buildings and pity though, my camera didn't work very well under the hot sun blaze! Whether it is Gothic, Roman influenced, post Independence or modern, the city has it all. Although from different eras, everything seems to blend in nicely and neatly.




........ to be continued!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bacon Basil Tart

With less rain in the forecast, all is bright and summer is finally here to stay! It is mid July and I feel that half of my summer time outside with the kids have been robbed from me and trying hard to make up for the lost days with daily trips to the swimming pool and letting them pedal their bikes to their hearts content. By the end of the day, exhaustion kicks in and that is what summer is about, long rewarding days!

So far, I think I have only made one savory baked good in my Bake Galore. Infact, I like savory stuffs more than sweet and sugary stuffs. But because of the multitude of berries and everything pretty and sweet, cakes and sweet pastries tend to be the norm.


We started planting root vegetables and herbs this year and the basil and mint have been bearing leaves. The only thing that I find myself compatible with Curry is this. He plants and grows vegetables while I pick and cook them. Other than that, we are always like sweet and savory! Opposite attract I guess.


Quiche is always a nice summer dish. It is so versatile for picnics, light lunch or dinner over a bottle of white wine. Basically, it is a tart with crust made from the simple combination of butter, flour and ice water and the filling can be anything from meat to vegetable with the presence of eggs and cream to create the luscious rich set custard part. Cutting out the cream totally doesn't yield the same velvety rich taste and I simply cut the amount to half and added low fat milk. Bacon is always nice on its own or cooked with other ingredients and for this tart, it needs to be cooked first in some olive oil to release its fat content and drench in the kitchen paper towel to rid any excess oil and moisture before adding to the blind baked tart. This is to avoid the fat content from soaking the tart case and getting everything greasy during the baking of the tart. The black olives were for garnish and added after the bacon and egg mixture has been poured into the baked tart case, hence they are more neatly placed and creates a pretty contrast to the tart as a whole. I chopped up some basil leaves and fried it with the bacon and mushroom to bring out the fragrant of the leaves and added some more on top of the tart prior to baking.


Recipe :
Tart Case:
150gm all purpose flour
90gm butter, almost room temperature
3 tbsp cold water


Filling :
10 slices of bacon, preferrably smoked and cut to small slices
225gm button mushrooms, sliced
5 basil leaves, rolled together and sliced and chopped
3 eggs
6 pitted black olives, sliced thinly each
120ml heavy cream
100 ml low fat milk
salt and pepper
fresh basil leaves for garnish
1 egg white, lightly beaten




Method :
1)Tart Case: Cut the butter into the flour and using hands, coat the flour with the butter thoroughly, crumble till resembling coarse meal. Gradually add the water till the flour mixture comes together as a dough. Knead gently and shape into a disk and let it rest in a plastic bag inside the fridge for 45 mins.


2)Remove from fridge and roll out to a large circle to fit in an 8 inch tart pan. Grease the pan and place in the rolled out dough.


3)Cover with cling film and return to the fridge for 30 mins. Preheat the oven to 350F/180C.


4)Filling: Heat 1/2 tbsp olive oil in a shallow pan. Pan fry the bacon for 5 mins. Add in the mushroom and stir in. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 5 mins. Sprinkle in the chopped basil and let cook for another 3 mins. Turn off heat and remove contents to a plate layered with kitchen towel.


5)Take out the tart shell, layer with parchment paper and baking beans and bake for 15 mins. Remove from oven and remove the parchment paper and beans. Brush the inside bottom and side of the tart with beaten egg white. This will produce a crisper texture of the tart and provides a layer that prevents sogginess.


6)Return to the oven and bake for a further 10 mins. Remove from oven and cool slightly.


7)Beat the 3 eggs with the cream and milk. Scatter the bacon and mushroom evenly into the blind baked tart case and slowly pour in the egg mixture. Garnish with the olive slices and insert a few slices of the basil leaves. Bake at 350F/180C for 40 mins.


8)Turn off heat and let the tart sit in the warm oven for another 10mins. Remove and garnish with basil leaves. Serve warm.




Serves: 4 to 6 persons




Thursday, July 9, 2009

Portuguese Short Crust Egg Tarts

Egg tarts are lovely to look at and needless to say, delicious when they are fresh out of the oven. I remember when I went back to Malaysia 2 years ago and when my kids were still very particular and unfamiliar with the food there, my mom would always insist on buying some egg tarts for them. According to her, it kind of gave her a peace of mind knowing that at least the kids are getting some nutrition in the form of high protein! And the hilarious thing about my kids then was that Missy E only ate the crust while Prince D only scooped out the custard part. Talk about picky eaters.

Forward 2 years later, both the kids have learned to take the egg tarts wholly and always welcome egg tarts when we patronize the Dim Sum restaurants. The one that we usually get is the Hong Kong style egg tarts, with short crust tart shells and firm and smooth egg custard filling, of which custard powder or corn starch is usually added. The other version which is more rare to come by in the neck of my woods is the Portuguese egg tart, with flaky puff crust and a more softer filling resembling creme brulee. The burnt spots on the custard part is a result of baking in a very hot oven and when they come out from the oven, the custard is still bubbly and releasing steam which eventually will harden on the surface layer while maintaining the soft curd inside. I like the rustic look of these tarts with its wobbly and sunken custard.

I could have used the pack of filo pastry in my freezer but I was curious on how to make a flaky crust. Half way, I decided to reduce the butter quantity required to be folded in with the dough, as in puff pastry dough and the crust turned out firm on the outside and flaky inside after the baking! So, I believe this is more like short crust rather than the original flaky puff crust of the Portuguese tart. Making the pastry part is alot of work and I don't think I will make it from scratch next time and making the custard part required constant attention and stirring when the eggs starts to thicken the cream and milk on the stove. As soon as the custard thickens to the stage that it coats the stirring spoon, it must be removed from the heat immediately and let cool before filling it into the unbaked crust cases. Initially I baked the tarts at 400F and increased it to 425F at the last 10 mins to get the burnt effect. As this tart is loaded with a rich filling made of cream, milk, eggs and sugar, I recommend that smaller or medium sized tart tins to be used instead of the large ones like these and a cup of strong coffee or tea is lovely with these tarts.

Recipe :
Pastry:

300gm Cake Flour
50gm All Purpose Flour
75 gm butter (room temperature)
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 tbsp sugar
165ml cold water
75gm butter (slightly cold)

Filling :

125gm sugar

250ml milk

200ml heavy cream

1 egg & 3 egg yolks

Method:

1)Sift the cake flour, all purpose flour and salt together. Stir in the sugar.

2)Cut the butter into the flour mixture and use fingers to coat and rub into the flour thoroughly till resemble soft crumbs.

3)Slowly pour in the cold water to make a dough. The dough will feel heavy and cold to the hands. Knead into a dough ball and cover in plastic and let it rest in the fridge for 45 mins.

4)Take out the dough and roll out to a rectangle of 1 inch thick on a floured surface.

5)Take pieces of the remaining cold butter and smudge roughly all over the surface of the dough. Fold the rectangle dough in 3 folds from left to right.

6)Turn it around where the joining edge is nearest to you. Roll out to a rectangle again and fold again in 3 folds from left to right. Put into a plastic bag and let it rest in the fridge for 30 mins.

7)Make custard: Put all the ingredients except the egg and egg yolks in a pot and slowly bring to a boil. In a separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs.

8)Once the milk, cream and sugar mixture starts to boil, remove from heat and slowly pour some of the mixture into the eggs while continuing to beat the eggs with one hand. This must be done to prevent curdling. Pour the egg mixture back into the pot mixture and cook by stirring continuously on slow heat till the custard thickens to coat the stirring spoon. Remove from heat and let cool.

9)Preheat oven to 400F. Grease the tart/muffin tins.

10)Take out the dough and roll out to 1 inch thick. Using the right size cookie cutter, cut the dough to fit the size of the tart/muffin tins of choice. Divide and pour the custard to fill up the tart cases.

11)Bake for 20 mins at 400F and increase to 425F and bake for 10 mins, till the custard is bubbly with slight browning on its surface. Remove from oven and let cool in the tins itself for 10 mins before removing them to the rack to cool.

Makes : 8 large tarts; 12 medium tarts; 24 mini tarts


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Glutinous Sesame Balls

It started gloomy this morning and the rain came back after a hiatus of 5 days. This summer has been wet and cool during the evenings, making me feel that autumn couldn't wait any longer and overtaken summer once and for all! The summer fruits fields must have suffered from this excessive moisture as I have witnessed spoiled cherries on the trees and mushed strawberries on the ground.

After a straight 2 weeks consumption of buttery and sweet cakes, I took a leave from baking and proceeded to deep frying instead. I have always wanted to make these sesame balls, which is a staple in the Dim Sum menus everywhere and knowing that it takes alot of effort to make, I procrastinated till today when the rain cooped me at home and I had nothing better to do than get messy and standing in front of the hot pot of frying oil!

The most popular filling for this glutinous sesame ball is lotus nut paste and I had a can sitting in the kitchen pantry, which I had intended to use for last year's mooncake making. After I discovered the way to make fresh fillings paste, I never bothered to turn back to canned ones anymore. Still, canned ones are good for lazy days like today. And I almost went nuts when I amended a recipe from the book and the batter came out so watery and I was all out of glutinous rice flour. To save the day, I added the Japanese Mochiko flour to make up and luckily it worked!
As with all deep frying, all you need is a right temperature of the cooking oil and all the patience in the world to see the glutinous balls slowly sizzle and churn around in the hot oil bath while you eagerly anticipate the gooey inside and crispy on the outside end product. I heated the oil slowly till boiling point and turned it down a little before I started the frying. To ensure that the glutinous balls do not stick to the bottom of the pan during the cooking, I used tongs to clasp one ball at a time and lower each ball into the hot oil, holding it for 5 seconds when it starts to sizzle and drop it in. It is a chemical reaction when the outer part seems to have coagulated perfectly and holds the inner part and this way, I had no sticky balls situation and no oozing of the lotus nut paste. The balls were first totally immersed in the oil and when it is almost cooked, they floated up to the surface. However, extra time is required to leave the balls in the oil to get an even browning and continuous turning with the tongs or chopstick of each ball is needed. These balls is best consumed while still warm and one is never enough if you are a deep fried food lover.


Recipe:

450gm glutinous rice flour

50gm wheat starch ("HK Tang Min Flour')

2 tsp Baking Powder

30gm/3 tbsp vegetable shortening

180gm sugar

1-1/2 cup water

400gm lotus nut paste or any other paste of your choice

2 tbsp white sesame seeds plus 1 tbsp black sesame seeds (or just use 2 tbsp white sesame seeds)

Vegetable oil or peanut oil for deep frying (around 4 to 6 cups)


Method:

1) Put the glutinous flour, sugar, wheat starch and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Stir to combine.

2) Using hands, rub the vegetable shortening into the flour mixture, coating the dry ingredients thoroughly. Make a well in the centre.

3)Slowly add in the water to make a soft dough. Knead gently for 5 mins. Divide the dough to small balls, weighing 40gm each. This recipe yields almost 22 balls.

4)Divide the lotus nut paste into balls weighing 25 gm each.

5)If using 2 types of sesame seeds, combine them evenly and lay out on a flat plate.

6)Take one dough ball, gently flatten it on your palm, thinner towards the edges. Place a ball of the lotus nut paste in the middle of the dough and wrap up and join the edges. Roll the ball gently and put on your palm and sprinkle with the sesame seeds to coat. Continue with the rest of the dough balls and lotus nut paste.

7)Heat oil to rolling boil temperature. Test with one ball first and using a tong, clasp one ball and submerge into the oil without letting go. If the ball sizzles, the oil is ready. Hold each ball with the tong for 5 seconds each before completely dropping them into the oil.

8)Cook in batches of 4 each time and when the balls float to the surface, keep turning them around to get an even browning, about 3 min to 5 mins. When the balls are golden brown, lift them up and drain on kitchen paper towel. Serve warm.

Makes: 20 to 22 balls

Friday, July 3, 2009

Missy E's day

What day is more important than Independence Day? My daughter Missy E's birthday of course! She was born exactly at 12.30am on this date 5 years ago, which was one day before Independence Day then. I remember looking out from the hospital bed to a wide array of fireworks display and wondered what this first kid of mine will bring to me.
After a whole year of late nights feedings, countless diapers mess and alot of baby babbling, Missy E suddenly sprouted in her first year. She picked up everything quickly from speech to feeding herself and went on the airplane for 7 hours to attend her dad's annual work conference in California just 3 weeks before her first birthday and I never had a single worry about a difficult baby as she did very well. And came the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and now the 5th birthday! Sigh, she has completed all the fingers on my one hand and I cannot comprehend on how fast it will go before she hits 10. With the kids going into Kindergarten level, time passes as if it was a blowing wind and will not stop for anything.
The same can be said about Missy E. Everytime I look back to the old photos and what she has learned throughout, it just amazes me. This year she obviously shine in her piano playing, expanding vocabulary, self awareness of everything and last night, she learned her first game of chess. I, myself being a mother sometimes get really lazy but because of Missy E's determination in learning everything and wanting to know everything keeps me on my feet all the time. I seriously have to thank her for opening up my own world as I hardly remember my own childhood filled with so much opportunities of learning, fun and play and to see my own child having such privileges and learning the qualities of winning, losing and playing fair under my watchful eyes and guidance makes me proud of myself. All I can say is my daughter is a remarkable little girl and although I would like to practise modesty, praising her on her birthday is a right on its own! Happy Birthday Missy E, mommy wishing you the best in your 5th year and love you always!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

July Bento Days (1)

After a whole week on the road ingesting fast food, greasy take outs and mindless binging, I was glad to be back home and detoxing my stomach system. Nothing is like a home cooked meal, warm and content.

We got fresh shiitake and abalone mushrooms from Pennsylvannia, courtesy of my dear cousin who is herself a food enthusiast. We feasted on all of them throughout this week and they were delicious. And also healthy.

For Curry's Bento today, I stir fried some shiitake with onion and soy sauce. Fresh mushrooms are more succulent in bite than their dehydrated form and if we had a mushroom plant here like that at my cousin's place, I would buy by the boxes every week.




Contents of Curry's Bento Box:

Pan fried Panko pork patties with Japanese sauce; omelette and green beans; Edamame beans; flavored rice (furikake); stir fried shiitake with onion and soy sauce.



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