Monday, January 30, 2012

Chicken Wings in lemon & Oregano

6 chicken wings, dissected to 2 parts; Juice of 2 large lemons; 5 pip of garlic (grated); 1 small knob of ginger (grated to yield 1 tbsp); 1 tbsp dried oregano; 1 tsp cornflour; 1/2 cup water or lemonade; white pepper; Kosher salt

  • Marinate the chicken wings with the lemon juice, grated garlic & ginger, Kosher salt, white pepper and oregano. Leave it in the fridge for 2 hours.
  • Heat the pan with 2 tbsp of cooking oil. Spoon in the wings Without the residue liquid from the marinate. Reserve the marinate liquid.
  • Cover the pan with lid and let the wings cook on medium heat for 7 to 10 mins, turning the wings once to prevent over cooking/burning on one side.
  • Add the 1/2 cup water/lemonade to the reserved marinate liquid and dissolve the cornflour into this liquid mixture.
  • Turn up the heat and pour the liquid mixture into the pan and coat the wings evenly. The sauce will thicken, once bubbly, turn down the heat, cover with lid and let the wings cook for another 3 mins.
  • Serve while hot.
Serves: 4 as side dish or finger food

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Black Vinegar Braised Pork Hocks

Without realising it, January is almost coming to an end already. Is it me or the same with everyone else that the days and months seem to fly by so fast that I feel like I am always trying to squeeze in time for everything here and there and never have enough rest even during the weekends! While I long for Fridays to come by when Mondays start, the fact is I haven't even time to laze around when Fridays kick in and the alarm clock is already blaring 6am Monday morning. Oh well, like they say, time waits for no one and I will just have to run with the hours.
Today is the 7th day of the Chinese New Year celebration and I am almost a total failure this year for not having attempted any fancy Chinese cooking to celebrate the Dragon year. Not even made my annual Sticky cake that my kids love so much. Luckily there are still 8 days to redeem myself before the celebration officially ends on the 15th day which falls on Feb 6. On this 7th day, we are celebrating the birthdays of everyone. In short, it is celebrating and cherishing the meaning of life. Remember how I blogged about the Chinese being a very auspicious group that relates anything to everything, especially in terms of food? Well, I thought this dish will be very appropriate on this 7th day, not officially, but in my interpretation.

This dish is a type of confinement food served to Chinese ladies who have just given birth and the black vinegar together with the ginger are said to invigorate the body after labor and regulate the flow of the blood and the body system back to normal state prior to giving birth. I have eaten this dish too during my afterbirth with the 2 kids and I simply ate it by the pot. But eating too much of this can be heaty too and causes constipation. For people who loves the taste of pickles and fatty pork, this dish incorporates the best of both. I am not very sure on the origin of this dish as every ethnic group of the Chinese people do cook this dish. The black vinegar is only available at Asian stores, which tastes a bit malty and comes in sweetened or plain. Mine was plain and I had to add some brown sugar to the cooking to achieve a sweet and sour taste.

Recipe (Serves 4 with Rice)

Ingredients :
4 large pork hocks (about 2.5lbs), cleaned; 4 hard boiled eggs, peeled; 2 knobs of ginger, about the size of 2 thumbs, sliced thickly; 5 pips of garlic, sliced; 3/4 cup black vinegar; 1/4 plus 1/8 cups Dark Soy Sauce; 50g brown sugar (I used the Chinese block type); 1 & 1/2 tbsp Chinese cooking Wine; 1/2 tbsp Sesame Oil

Method :
  • Heat 2 tbsp of cooking oil in a large pot. Tip in the ginger and garlic and saute for 1 min.
  • Add in the pork hocks, sesame seed oil and spread them out and mix in with the ginger and garlic. Add in 1 tbsp of water. Close lid and bring up the heat and let the contents sit for 3 mins.
  • Pour in the dark soy sauce and coat the hocks. Pour in the black vinegar and lower the heat to medium , close the lid and let the contents simmer for 45 mins. Open lid and stir the hocks around during the cooking to ensure even coating of the black soy sauce. Add 1/2 cup water .
  • The hocks shall be cooked to a soft texture, where the meat is easily snip apart with a pair of kitchen shears. After 45 mins of cooking, add in the brown sugar and the boiled eggs and close the lid and let it simmer another 15 mins.
  • Test and cut the meat, if it is falling off the bone, it is ready. Turn off the heat and let the contents remain in the pot for another 15 mins. This is so that the sauce will thicken from the gelatin released from the pork hocks and makes a thick gravy.
  • Serve with steamed vegetables and rice with the gravy poured over the rice.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Kumquat & Tangerine Chiffon Cake

Today is the Eve of the Chinese New Year and as with all Chinese families, we will be having our Reunion Dinner tonight. I grew up loving and longing for Chinese New Year celebrations despite being a very westernized kid but there seems to be an underlying understanding in me that I am pure Chinese, only that I am illiterate in its language but everything else, I am almost perfect. I speak 3 Chinese dialects, have rice and soup everyday, watched Chinese dramas and movies since young, love Chinese pottery, porcelain and art, memorized Chinese songs to sing in Karaoke and now still trying to figure out how to learn the Chinese written language, which I doubt I ever can get it right!

At the time of this post, my family back in Malaysia and Hong Kong have eaten and enjoyed their Reunion dinners and possibly extending the hours into the early morning with the must do auspicious activities of all.... adults might be on the table rubbing the Mahjong tiles or blowing luck on Playing cards trying to win some while kids are all staying up digging out money from their little red money packet Ang Pow received from their parents, grandparents and immediate Uncles and Aunties. My kids have missed out on all these fun and no matter how we try to get together with friends here to celebrate the occasion, somehow the atmosphere back in Asia is exclusive and can never be replicated here. 

I didn't continue to bake anything after the last batch of Pineapple Tart cookies 2 weeks ago. And forseeing also that I don't have much time in the coming 2 weeks due to other commitments, I just baked this cake to enjoy on this Eve of the New Year. And with the ever auspicious mind of a Chinese, I planned and incorporated the colors and ingredients to reflect the hopes and thinking of the Chinese people, especially at this very revered new Dragon year, which is wishing for more fortune and good luck! In Chinese, the Tangerine sounds like the word Gold, and Kumquat is literally translated to mean Gold Luck. It is fun to attach  literary metaphorics this way, and trust me, the Chinese has a dictionary dedicated to all these manners of relating words to objects and vice versa. 

For this recipe I used 10 kumquats, patiently cutting and slicing the rind of these little morsels and removing the flesh inside. It is the rind that gives out the sweetness and the oil that exudes the crisp clean citrus taste. And for the decoration, I peeled and used fresh tangerine pulp and red and white non pareils. Red and Yellow are definitely the favorite colors of the Chinese and with this cake , I think I have incorporated all the good meanings!  Gong Xi Fa Cai and Kong Hei Fatt Choi........ well, one day I will be able to type that in Chinese! Gather your Drive and Passion this Dragon year and all the best to everyone!! :)

200g Cake flour; 75g sugar; 6 large eggs, yolk and white all separated; 1 tsp Baking Powder; 1/2 tsp cream of Tartar; 1/2 tsp Salt ; 2 tsp Orange Emulsion/Oil (use vanilla if not available); 80ml fresh Orange Juice; 80ml water; 110 ml Vegetable Oil; extra 50g sugar; rind of 10 kumquats , sliced thinly & flesh removed

Garnish: pulp of 1 tangerine; powdered sugar; Non pareils

  •  Preheat oven to 325F. Prepare a 9 inch tube pan.
  • Sieve the flour together with 75g sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  • Beat the egg yolks with the vegetable oil and add in the orange juice and water. Beat to mix.
  • Pour the egg & liquid mixture into the flour mixture and with electric beater, beat to mix in.
  • Mix in the orange oil/emulsion and Kumquat rind. Leave aside.
  • In another clean bowl, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar till foamy. Add in the 50g sugar and continue to beat the egg whites till soft peaks (holding onto the beater).
  • Scoop 1 spoonful of the egg white and fold into the flour & egg yolk mixture. Fold in with quick strokes. The mixture will lighten, continue to add in the remaining egg white and fold in with quick strokes till no more white streaks.
  • Pour the mixture into the tube pan, place pan onto another large baking sheet and bake for 1 hour 10 mins till cake is cooked, when gently pressed with finger, the top of the cake will bounce back.
  • Remove from the oven , turn the tube pan upside down and let the cake cool completely inside before removing from the pan.
  • Sprinkle with powdered sugar and decorate with tangerine pulp and non pareils.
Serves 6 to 8

Monday, January 16, 2012

Meyer Lemon Tart

Although it is cold winter now, my appetite somehow yearns for spring and summer flavors. Perhaps it was the overeating of meat, nuts and anything buttery during the prior holiday months of November and December, come January and February, I always feel like I have to trim down by eating more greens and fruits based desserts. I do enjoy dishes with heavy gravy but when comes to the sweet tooth, I love something citrus with the combination of tart and sweet.

Oranges are in season now and with the Chinese New Year looming, there are plenty of Clementines and Tangerines in the stores. I even managed to find Pomelo and to my surprise I saw these Meyer Lemons. I have seen alot of Bloggers bragging on how they were lucky to have neighbors with a Meyer Lemon tree and got a basket full to bake and cook with them while I look around and only found the usual sour pucker Lemon in my area. I was simply overjoyed and grabbed a packet of 8 and ran home clicking for recipes. Even before opening one up, I already loved the smell of this type of Lemon, which is a cross breed between a Lemon and a Tangerine, with a smaller tight roundish and smoother rind and loaded with juice. In my view, the grated zest of this Lemon is more pungent and doesn't fade even after baking. And the juice yields an intense taste of both sweet and tart, rightly combined and I only added a bit of sugar to the lemon filling.

This recipe creates pudding like filling rather than the firmly baked type. I adapted the recipe of Gordon Ramsey from BBC Good Food and tweaked it a bit to yield a smaller 6 inch tart with less quantities of the ingredients stipulated. Since the Meyers were partly sweet, I totally skipped out of adding any sugar to the tart dough and used only 100g of sugar to the filling. The tart is good served warm or cold and definitely a citrusy treat on a very Cold winter day.

For this 6 inch tart, follow the recipe Link above but reduce the quantities of ingredients to the following portions:

Tart Dough: Same as recipe given
Filling: 2 eggs plus 2 egg yolks; 100g sugar; 125ml Meyer lemon juice; grated zest of 2 Meyer Lemons; 150ml Heavy Cream

Baking Time: 
Tart Dough (Blind Bake): 375F (20 mins, lined & with baking beans) and reduced to 325F (10 mins, without baking beans)

With Lemon Filling: 325F for 55 mins.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Lotus Leaf Wrapped Glutinous Rice

My kids absolutely love sticky rice and everytime we go to the Dim Sum restaurant, they will always ask for the Lotus Leaf wrapped Sticky Rice (Lo Mai Kai) alongside the Char Siew (BBQ pork) steamed Buns. Glutinous rice is high in starch and requires extra water to cook it and some people gets indigestion for having too much. There are sweet glutinous rice desserts in the Chinese cooking, which I have yet to attempt and doubt my kids will eat it since they have only been eating glutinous rice in this savory way.

I have made the Chinese dumpling in Bamboo Leaves and glutinous rice , where the dumpling contained uncooked rice stuffed with fillings, bundled and wrapped into triangular shapes in Bamboo Leaves which was totally immersed into water to boil to perfection while the latter was the same thing except that the uncooked rice was mixed with the cooked fillings and put into the rice cooker with enough water to cook it. The extra character of this dish now is wrapping the rice together with the filling in a large Lotus leaf and steaming it on high heat so that the aroma of the leaf infuse into the rice. And the difference is that the glutinous rice here is cooked in the rice cooker prior to mixing in with the cooked fillings which blends the ingredients all together better and resulting in an evenly cooked rice. This cut down the time of steaming.

Dried Lotus Leaves comes in a huge packet of 10 to 12 and each leaf has already been folded into a half of a fan shape and needs to be softened and cleaned in hot boiling water prior to use. In texture and appearance, they look like grape leaves. I cooked about 2 and 1/4 cups rice here and used 2 leaves to wrap it all up, hence my rice packets looked 2 times bigger than those in Chinatown.

The original version of Lo Mai Kai contains diced chicken meat rather than pork and also the dried shrimps that impart the extra Umami taste with the shiitake mushroom. I ran out of both these ingredients and substituted diced pork and Goji berries for an additional color and sweetness to the overall rice. The most important thing in this dish is the texture of the rice, which is soft and sticky but not mushy and watery and also that the flavor from  the combination seasoning of the dark & light soy together with the Chinese cooking wine, white pepper, 5 spice Powder and sesame oil must linger and present after the high heat steaming.

Recipe (serve about 4)
2 Lotus Leaves, Soaked in Hot Boiling Water for 5 mins & Rinsed with cold water after softened, Pat dry
2 & 1/4 cups Glutinous/Sweet Rice
5 Dried Shiitake Mushrooms, Re-hydrated & Sliced thinly
2 logs of Chinese Preserved Sausages (Sliced)
150g Diced Pork or Chicken Meat (marinated with 1 tbsp soy sauce, white pepper, sesame oil and 1/2 tsp cornflour)
2 tbsp Goji Berries
3 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp grated ginger
1/2 of a Red onion Or 3 small shallot, minced
Dark Soy sauce, Light Soy Sauce, Chinese Cooking Wine, White pepper, Sesame Oil, 5 Spice powder

  • Run the rice under running water for 4 times, wash everytime till the water runs clear. Soak the cleaned rice in water for 2 hours.
  • Cook the rice in the rice cooker, about 2/3 cup more water than the water required to cook normal Jasmine Rice. Turn off the rice cooker and scoop out the rice to cool.
  • Heat a large pan with 2 tbsp cooking oil. Tip in the minced garlic, onion/shallot and ginger. Cook for 1 minute.
  • Add in the pork or Chicken and cook for 5 mins.
  • Tip in the shiitake Mushroom and Chinese sausages and mix in. Cook for about 5 mins. Add 1 tbsp water. 
  • Fold in the Rice and mix up to incorporate all the other ingredients.
  • Add in 2 tbsp Dark Soy sauce, 1/2 tsp White pepper, 1/2 Tbsp Chinese Cooking Wine, 1 tsp Sesame Seed Oil, 1 tsp Chinese 5 Spice powder. Stir and mix to coat the rice. Add more soy if color is not thoroughly mixed.  Turn off heat.
  • Lastly, scatter the goji berries all over the rice and gently stir in.
  • Take one Lotus Leaf, open it up gently to its original round diameter, scoop 1 rice spoonful of the rice mixture near to the middle with plenty of space near the rims. Double Fold the rim if required and fold up to enclose the rice, like packing up a book. Ensure all sides are enclosed and tie up with twine to secure the filling.
  • Place in a steamer (not inside the water but on a steamer plate standing over boiling water) and steam at high for about 20 to 25 mins.
Serve and scoop to individual plates.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Bento Days

It is hard to believe that X'mas was just 3 weeks ago. January started with a very busy schedule for me and my kids, hubby including. Today is only the mid of the second week of the first month of the year 2012 and I already feel like I am doing alot everyday and wondered if I still have stamina to run the whole year before the next X'mas comes along! On the bright side, no snow and terrible wintry weather so far helps alot and with the unusual 'warm' air, I see stores coming out with spring gardening tools already. I already see the squirrels scurrying up and down, like Autumn never left! Signs of a very friendly Winter to me... I don't mind!

Ok...our next big thing is Chinese New Year. It will be celebrated on January 23 and onwards for a total of 15 days with auspicious and superstitious beliefs practiced in every Chinese homes and doings. And more this year as we are preparing to usher into the year of the Dragon which is the most Auspicious animal of the Lunar Calendar. Dragon is a symbol of grandness, power and ambition and I can only imagine the festive atmosphere back in Malaysia and Hong Kong, where business owners, big families and public all alike celebrating and revering in the celebrations to the max with no holding back, all in the hopeful thought for return of bountiful  prosperity and luck.

To kick off this Chinese New Year, I made a dragon bento for my daughter today. Lucky for me that I bought a dragon vegetable cutter during my last Summer trip to Hong Kong as I have no clue on how to carve out or create a dragon using the Bento ingredients. Cutters like this are special cutters made and catered to Chinese restaurants for carving decorations to accompany elaborate dishes and can be pricey. As with anyone on a vacation, I didn't mind the price but had to get it! I shall try to prepare another Bento using this cutter and motif as I think this one is not very appropriately Chinese themed. No one eats sandwich on Chinese New Year... that is for sure! Till then...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Japanese Meals on the Go Bento Boxes By

I first got fascinated with Bento when I was once in Japan 10 years ago. O-bento as known to the locals is boxed meal, literally. As with any other lifestyle practices of the Japanese which emphasizes alot on presentation and practicality at the same time, preparing Bento involves the appreciation for aesthetic and presentation skills together with balanced proportions of the ingredients involved.

The Bento culture has evolved and expanded vastly outside Japan these past few years and I am seeing more and more enthusiasts of this form of food art through blogs, websites and recent published English language books. Although it is evident that the Bento culture appeals mostly to mothers of school kids, the idea is also adaptable to adults who packs lunch to work and for those who are watching their diets as well as those who are healthy and fascinated by the idea of a lunch meal complete and compacted in one container box.

I bought this Bento Book a year after I started making lunch boxes for my hubby. Previously, my lunch boxes were comprised simply of things that I thought colorful, yummy and were a total experimental ground for my novice cooking skills then. After a while, I realized that my lunch boxes were messy looking and I never understand why I can never fill up the gaps in the containers and the food inside sloshed around with rice balls falling apart and wet and saucy food soaking up stir fried vegetables. As there were limited books on Bento then in my local bookstore, this book caught my eye and I bought it hoping that I will learn more Bento like recipe to fill up my hubby's lunches to work rather than mindlessly cooking up and making something non appealing despite being good to eat or the other way round!

One thing I like about this book is the various recipes inside it and how the recipes for all the different ingredients that makes up one bento Box content are written out and categorized separately in one page. In one page, I can read on how the rice is prepared, the recipe of the accompanying main dish of meat and vegetable and additional photos showing how to

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Buckwheat Soba & Ham in Broth

Today's temperature has dropped below 0'C but no snow in sight. I didn't complain much about this winter as there was no snow ever since that big Noreaster that dropped heavy snow on us last October. And I was glad that we did our X'mas break road trip with no hassle nor worries about icing roads.

I was not joking that I ate my X'mas ham almost everyday last week and definitely all will be gone by this mid week. Today I cut some into strips and boiled it with some soy sauce, sesame seed oil and white pepper to make a clear broth for my Soba Buckwheat noodle lunch.  I have grown to love Buckwheat noodle ever since last year and not seeing myself going back to the egg noodle  so quickly. Soba is usually eaten with a cold broth in Japan but is versatile too in hot served broth. This noodle cooks quickly and comes in dried form and easily found in the Organic aisles of local supermarkets. This is such a simple lunch and much more healthier than the instant noodles that comes plenty with preservatives. Soba has a velvety texture and good for slurping.

Ingredients :
1 portion of Buckwheat noodle; 3 leaves of Baby Bok Choi; Sliced Ham; 1 small bunch Enoki Mushroom or 1 shiitake, rehydrated and cut to thin slices;  1/2 tbsp Fried Onion Flakes (from Asian stores); 1/2 tbsp Light Soy Sauce, 1/2 tsp Sesame Seed Oil; pinch of white pepper

Method :
.Bring one pot of water to boil and immerse the Buckwheat noodle into it. Cook for about 2 mins on High heat. Remove and drain the water, place noodle in a bowl.

.Fill the pot with about 3-1/2 cups water, add in all the Bok Choi, Sliced ham, mushroom, onion flakes and all the condiments and bring to a simmering boil for about 7 to 10 mins.

.When boiling, turn off heat and arrange the bok choi, ham slices and mushroom on top of the Buckwheat noodle. Pour the broth in last covering about 3/4 full. Serve immediately.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Ham & Cheese Vegetable Pastry Pouch

Happy New Year 2012.

2011 went by so fast for me and I can hardly remember what I did a year ago. This year will be my 4th year doing this Blog and every year I hope to do something different from the last. Thanks to my hubby for getting me a new camera, I have ditched my old Canon and jumped ship to Sony. Food photography has become an obsession rather than a hobby for me, and I intend to progress to a better stage from here. Still, the food itself is the subject matter of the photoshoot and if it is not tantalizing to the naked eyes, no super high end or sophisticated camera can make it any better.

From my previous post, everyone must have noticed how huge my X'mas Spiral Ham was and indeed, the carved meat has been consumed with all effort and in all styles, including frying it with the omelette, serving it with hot broth Noodle and boiling it down with the Rice Congee. And today, I took out some left over frozen puff pastry that I used for the mince pies and made these Ham Pouches.

Puff Pastry is a very handy helper when you need something small, dainty and finger food like nibbles. They puff up and expands during baking, hence there is no need to use a whole package of dough at one time. For this recipe, I only had 1/3 of the puff pastry dough left and rolled it out to a measurement of 8"x 9" and piled in the filling ingredients to fill half of the rectangle lengthwise. These savory pastries are best eaten as soon as they exit the oven.

Puff Pastry; Egg wash; Grated cheddar cheese; Blanched Peas & corn; Ham Slices; Boiled Quail Egg (for garnish only)

. Roll out puff pastry to desired size. Apply Egg wash and sprinkle in the ingredients except the Quail egg on half of the dough.
. Preheat oven to 400F.
. Roll up the dough with the filling into a log, pinching the seams to enclose tightly. Cut the log into 1 &1/2 inches pieces. Lay each with cut side up onto baking sheet, at least 2 inches apart. Sprinkle with more grated cheese and insert Quail egg slices into each. Apply egg wash over the top and sides lightly.
.  Bake for 20 mins. Remove and serve hot/warm.