Monday, 31 December 2012

salted coconut and baileys truffles

Merry Christmas to all and may you enjoy a blessed New Year! The coming of 2013 means an end to the cool date patterns (01/01/01 etc on to the last on 20/12/2012) until the next millennium, but hopes and aspirations are high for a good year ahead. Let 2013 be wonderful!

I have had a brief suspension of the baking ban over the holidays and was quite the gleeful one in the kitchen churning out edibles before this window slammed unceremoniously shut on my plans. Fortunately I managed to squeeze in a light chestnut cream meringue pie, raisin pie, brioche and butter pudding with raspberries, lebkuchen and the chocolates at hand before this happened. Copious photos have been taken, archived and ready to be posted in the weeks to come. Other cooking opportunities came by way of Christmas dinner, which was quite the greedy affair. I am pleased to say that brussel sprouts have at last found a place at our table in the form of sprouty bubble and squeak. Recipes coming soon!

In the meantime, the New Year is rapidly approaching and I feel I ought to sit down and think through some stereotypical resolutions. Certainly a healthy lifestyle is always desirable, and for me that means regulating my sleeping hours and ending my chronic snacking habit. Adding to my money pot is also pretty high on the list. However, and most importantly, I need to spend more time reading  the bible and also certain theological books out there written by terrific Apologetics. Ignorance is certainly not bliss but embarrassment when I cannot even soundly defend my faith. For shame!!!

Anyway, enough of the babbling, more on the photo. What you see are some post-Christmas dinner truffles I made consisting of a very soft coconut and baileys ganache coated in dark chocolate couverture (arrghh no, just realized I don't have a photo showing the inside of my truffles). The black sprinkles are volcanic salt that I bought years ago from Wholefoods and have been aching to use since. In my zeal, I sprinkled a little too much salt over. Given the salt content of the ganache, a singular grain, or perhaps two, would probably have sufficed. Further grief mounted when I accidentally splashed the greatest enemy of all, water, into the chocolate while tempering it. Besides that, the temperature of the chocolate ought to have been marginally higher for true chocolatey shine.

To anybody who feels like attempting this, please note that the ganache is very soft (these truffles need to sit in the fridge!), which is what resulted in my droopy rectangular shape. Soft melty ganaches are bad for achieving a cuboid with clean defined edges.  It did not help that I had no dipping forks either. This truffle would definitely be happier as a moulded chocolate. Next time, I intend to use only coconut cream in the ganache to bring out the (barely there) coconut flavor more, and to lower the cream to chocolate ratio. Nevertheless, I still think they were pretty good indeed, regardless of my bias and penchant for salty chocolate. They are my first attempt at truffles out of Le Cordon Bleu and feel a good last post for the year 2012. There is much to improve on and I shall enter the New Year full of thoroughly motivated.

For the (soft) ganache
200g dark chocolate couverture130g double cream
170g coconut cream
3-4g salt
20ml Baileys

  • Heat the coconut and double cream together with the salt.
  • Melt the dark chocolate over a bain marie.
  • When the temperature of the creams reaches around 65C, whisk into the melted chocolate over three incorporations. The chocolate should be far from setting, so you don't have to worry too much about aerating the ganache. Whisk in a circular motion in the centre of the bowl, and as the cream is incorporated and the chocolate turns glossy, slowly extend the radius of your stirring. Only when the first addition of cream is fully whisked in to you pour in the next.
  • Pour the ganache into a rectangular container lined with clingfilm and fridgerate (freezing would probably be a better option) to set.
  • Temper some more dark chocolate couverture.
  • Using a warm knife, slice the set ganache into rectangles, wiping the knife clean after each cut.
  • Dip the ganache into the tempered chocolate (reheat chocolate as necessary as the cold ganache does make it want to set), shake off excess chocolate and leave on a tray to set.
  • Before chocolate sets, sprinkle on a grain of salt (or any other flavouring).

This blog will be moving to a new, more appropriately named, domain soon:
Updates soon to come!

Saturday, 22 December 2012

marlow circular route with Imperial SPAT

Not particularly Christmassy, but if you feel like having a family stroll in the rain over the coming holidays, this circular walk in the Chilterns is a suggestion. Conveniently located a mere hour from London by train, this light ramble takes you along the Thames to Temple Lock, past the historic Hembledon water mill to a well placed pub (lunchtime!), the Stag and Huntsman, and through Rassler and Davenport woods. The entire route can be found here.

The walk took us around 6 hrs to complete, just before yet another torrent from the sulky rainclouds that gathered above. Below are a few hurried photos I took on the trot. Weather conditions alternated between gloomy cloudiness, rain, and blinding sunniness. What a difference the lighting made to these quick snaps!

Duck looking on, at the foot of Marlow bridge. The walk begins!

In the very top photo, we are crossing one of many bridges spanning the Thames. This is the view atop one such bridge. Not long after we stumbled into a duck with her fluffy crowd of ducklings who quacked in dismay at our 'awwws' and promptly nudged her children into the water

Walking along the Thames: a tree clinging to the last of its leaves (we did this walk at the end of October); and the most awesome ice-cream boat nestled between its clinical white neighbours.
 Hembledon water mill! You can see a tiny bit of its whitewashed walls in the photo. There was a sudden turn in the weather during the mile long walk to the Stag and Huntsman from the mill hence the cow and rainbow photo. We made it to the pub just as raindrops began splattering on our heads.

The clouds are gone and sunlight is streaming upon us. Even a muddy field looks something spectacular with stagnant puddles reflecting the brilliant blue of the sky. The clear skies remained as we walked through Rassker wood.

This blog will be moving to a new, more appropriately named, domain soon:
Updates soon to come!

Friday, 14 December 2012


Christmas is nearing! My chemicals have arrived and things are starting to get manic. Suddenly lab hours are on the rise. But woes upon me, I forgot to make a fruit cake let alone a Christmas pudding and it is too late now. A two week maceration in alcohol simply does not cut the mustard. All is not lost however as I have a sneaky plan awaiting to unfold come dinner time on Christmas day.

Anyway, on a separate note and in keeping with my weekly post commitment here is a croissant I made while back in Malaysia.

Pain au chocolats are my dad's favourite viennoiserie but, as I could not get hold of my box of baking chocolate, I had to settle for these plain croissants. Being sat in Malaysia, fear of melted butter dripping from my dough led me to the normally avoided margerine tub. The croissants turned out pretty well though. Rolling out the dough in 30 something degree madness was not quite as fearsome as anticipated and the use of margerine removed the need for mid-folding fridge spells. Away from UK and from the local bakery where I normally purchase my yeast blocks, I had to use instant yeast (I am always slightly wary if these will revive or not), at no great detriment. However, it did take a good 3 hours for the yeast to do their thing and grow my croissants.

My final product was lovely, light and crispy at the expense of rich butteriness. I made sure to roll the dough out thick in the shaping to get my cheery plump shape. Perhaps it is a little too rotund for conventional standards but I like all things round and shall stick by it. Yes, I am also aware of my sneaky mistruth in the shaping of the croissant- given its margerine content, it ought to have been crescent shaped for a straight croissant indicates a lofty butter-only status. But, who would know better save the limited few who ate it?

This blog will be moving to a new, more appropriately named, domain soon:
Updates soon to come!

NB- Have just realised that I have been posting images of ridiculous sizes. No more! Compression is in order.

Friday, 7 December 2012

water caltrops and taros

This is a little out of date but I may as well post it.

The harvest of water caltrop and hairy golf ball sized taro also heralds the coming of mooncake festival. At home, we called the water caltrop bull horns (ngau kok/lin kok). A fter boiling (around 30 min), cracking the intimidating black husk reveals a powdery white kernel. The husk has a somewhat strange odor that would call to my mind the unattractive waft of steaming horse poo. Nobody else ever remarked on this association perhaps this is only true for me. Fortunately the smell doesnt translate to the meat which is very starchy and has a lovely woody/rooty taste. Personally, the delight of water caltrops lies as much in their novel appearance, rare annual appearance, and the battle to remove it, as it does in their tasting.

Water caltrop is an odd crop indeed. There is little information I can unearth on it and wiki seems to provide the most information yet (in a broad overviewy sense). Besides general consumption and the fun of it, the water caltrop has seen use in India as a remedy for stomach issues and in poultices (I). Water caltrop starch can be found in supermarkets and is used in cooking to thicken soups and sauces. However, this is not made from water caltrop at all, but water chestnut starch (bad people are being confusing by mixing the two). More likely, you may unwittingly end up eating caltrop starch in ice cream- its substitution for cornstarch in ice cream 'improver' powders (2) results in a creamier and smoother product. Apart from its edible nature, an investigation into the properties of its starch suggests caltrop starch could be used for textile sizing, due to its viscosity being little affected by temperature over a large range, tests for which have already been performed confirming this (3).

My grandmother also used to make the most amazing toy out of water caltrops for us too. Many an hour used to be spent trying to core a caltrop and whittle down a chopstick to make a deadly spinning caltrop weapon. I meant to make one with this year's harvest but haven't had the time yet. For now my caltrops will wait in the freezer.

I am pretty sure most people know taros, what with the rage of taro flavoured puddings and taro bubble tea floating about the world, so I won't bother with giving them an introduction. Please note that these are taros not yam (I shall be posting a photo of a yam in a bit when I get around to typing out my recipe for a yam cake). Traditionally, we would boil the taros skin on, after which the skin slips off nicely leaving its steaming white flesh to be dunked in sugar and eaten. Winner!

(1) Badel, Powel, “Punjab Raw Materials,” 1868.
(2) Food, 6, 40 (1936)
(3) Shafee, Sarin, "Production of Starch from Water Caltrop," Ind. Eng. Chem., 1937, 29 (12), pp 1436-1438

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

gong chai paeng

How shocking! Despite my earlier profusions on minimizing blog neglect, I now face the sorry realization that it has been over two months since my last post. Doing a PhD entails quite a bit more work than I anticipated. It seems my brother and bf are very poor representations of the general post graduate populace. To be honest, I am still struggling with the 9 to 5 concept and that really, it is a job.

Anyway, I intended to post this at the start of the MidAutumn festival, sometimes called mooncake festival as it involved special cakes being made to be offered up to the moon goddess (it must be said that since man’s bouncing off the moon, this homage has grown noticeably less observed, but the tradition continues). Mooncakes are wonderful things. I am a stickler for the traditional lotus and red bean flavours, and at a stretch, partial to pandan lotus too, but that is the extent of my adventurism. The newer (very Japanese inspired it feels) flavours are all good and interesting but to me, a pale (^^) comparison to the original. I am not keen on snowskin mooncakes- a Japanese influence I actually feel unwelcome. The lovely baked skin of the mooncake is the best! So, no wonder then that Idecided to make gong chai paengs, which is basically a 'biscuit' that is the mooncake skin.

To make the gong chai paengs , I used little fish moulds (typical moulds are of dragons, carp or piggies), acquired during a trip back to my parents' hometown of TaiPing. There, I also met with a frankly amazing lady (family ties- back in the old days, families were a lot more complicated. This compound with size I think.) who taught me how to make pumpkin mantous (to be posted in the coming months). Below you see my edible aquarium pre-baked.

GONG CHAI PAENG (had some trouble reading the recipe, nor can I find its source, that I scribbled out while making these so possibly the flour proportion is off- shall be remaking them at some point to check)
600g golden syrup20g alkaline water
150ml peanut oil750g flour
  • Mix together the golden syrup, peanut oil, alkaline water, and a handful of flour. Leave to rest for half an hour.
  • Cut remaining flour in to form a dough, clingfilm and leave to rest for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight. We want as crumbly a paeng as possible.
  • Portion the dough so that each portion fills the mould (I needed 36g to fill up my fish moulds)*.
  • Dust the mould with flour and press the dough in.
  • Knock out the dough onto by thumping the mould (I did it on a cloth covered surface) on the sides of the mould and not on the face that constitutes the base of your gong chai paeng. I minimized flour usage by laying the moulded dough on clingfilm.
  • Allow dough to rest half and hour more before eggwashing and baking in an oven preheated to 200C for 15 min until golden brown.
*My dad, who was observing my toil, remarked that back in 'the old days' he would just pack as much dough into the mould as possible and slice off the excess. Possibly this will work for you and it is certainly much faster, however I found that I lost the edges of my fish as the dough stuck to the knife.

The freshly baked gong chai paeng will be crunchy! You shall need to leave them to sit around for around 3 days before they soften to their usual dense cakey texture. Mind however, I made these in Malaysia so the condition under which they went from biscuit to cake was a humid one. Also, mine were a little cracked- prevent this by spraying them with water before baking.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

durian profiteroles

Ho ho ho, even the durian gets to rear its smelly head in my blog.


I am limited to non-cake baking for foolishly forgetting to bring my cake rings with me back home. Despite the passable coffee and praline eclairs I made a while back, I am still slightly apprehensive with choux pastry thanks to the monster incident during my Basic Patisserie exam. So it was with bated breath that I watched these little fellows grow in a new strange oven. Happily, they puffed up nicely with their trademark cabbage wrinkles and were wonderfully spaced so they didn't impinge on their neighbour either, just.

The durian creme filling was made by dropping chunks of soft (!) durian flesh into a thick, added 20g more yolk than usual, creme patisserie after its knocking-back session on the electric mixer. This is a very plain profiterole. I could find no fondant here and I thought of dressing it up with a crown of salted spun sugar (we eat the durian with salty rice here) but it was just too humid and I got very sticky with melted sugar.

I used a lot of vanilla in the creme too. Vanilla and durian are good together. We always buy kampung durians ay home, and sometimes get a gem of a durian whose flesh is sweet and vanilla-y. Durian consumers will understand =P.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Singapore trip

Having begun, I may well add a little more on the subject of Singapore.

My bf and I arrived at the literally named Budget Terminal at Changi Airport on the dawn of the 55th Merdeka Day (Malaysian Independence Day). We spent the day pottering about Harbour Front and Sentosa Island before returning to the mainland for the evening. There, we were joined by the loveliest couple for dinner at Maxwell's hawker centre, followed by a stroll around Chinatown and Clarke Quay. The next day was spent with the same pleasant company; we tramped all around Marina Bay and tandemed along the beach front at East Coast park. It was a sorry moment when, 10 min of musing's worth after our parting, it all came tumbling down upon me that it would be the last time I would see my friend before she began her life with her fiance.

Please pray for their upcoming nuptials and may God bless them with a long and blissful life together.

Below are a few other photos taken during my brief sojourn:

look at bee number 2 landing

gloomy day at Sentosa Island and the only beach lifeform I could find

Here is some of the food we had. First is a pretty standard ice kacang with an interesting green tea jelly on top. The strange white coloured discs are kuih tutu (my first encounter with them). They may be had plain, with a peanut, or with a coconut filling. It took but a moment to make them- some type of flour was pressed into a shallow kuih tutu mould and the resulting mound flipped out onto some fabric and steamed for 2 minutes before being transferred to a slip of banana leaf. Next to it are some oyster fritters (?) purchased at Maxwell's foodcourt. Despite it featuring in a newspaper cutting, this turned out to be rather disappointing and oily mouthful. Beside that is the reason for my wanting to plod to Maxwell's: fish head beehoon. Pity I didn't also get to try the reknowned Tian Tian Hainanese chicken rice. Last is a good old popiah, the mankuang filling nicely softened and laced with a wonderful chilli sauce.

Sunday, 9 September 2012


Since a wonderful trip to Singapore where I enjoyed a blissful kopitiam breakfast of kaya toast and soft boiled eggs at one of many Ya Kun Kaya Toast coffeestalls, I have been imbibed with a vague yearning to make my own kaya. A prodding from my bf expounding the joys of this satisfying fare later and I set to work in the kitchen. The highly acclaimed kaya recipe from my mum's guardian turned out too sweet with a very sticky texture, as did another recipe apparently used in an actual kopitiam. Finally, it was a recipe off the internet that produced the desired taste and texture: not too sweet, smooth, the good taste of santan and the fragrance of pandan (also known as screwpine leaves).

Some people quite like having lumpy bits in their kaya- it seems more authentically homemade, I guess. Myself, I prefer the silky smooth versions of this coconut custard. So, similar to the making of curds, I strained my eggs of the nasty egg white strands and cooked my kaya over a hot water (bubbling water in fact) bath, stirring continuously with a whisk. Possibly you don't need to use a whisk, as my father maintains in the old days they just used chopsticks for the stirring, but I rather not risk letting half and hour's work go into producing chunky kaya. I emphasize, half an hour's work and not a laborious hour and a half often moaned about. It doesn't take long. However, bear in mind that my water was at a rolling boil and I was using a whisk to compensate (I had to wear oven mitts to keep splash burns to a minimum)! The result is wonderful and lump-free.

The original recipe calls for 10 eggs, 400g castor sugar and the coconut milk of 2 coconut milk. This is all rather loose measurements, especially the coconut milk, so I've measured it all out. I also halved the recipe- this amount makes enough to fill a standard jam jar. No need to blend the pandan leaves and squeeze out the juices either, just drop the leaves in with everything else and it does the job, imparting good fragrance and also coloring the kaya a murky green.

KAYA (for 1* 350ml bottle)
250g beaten and strained eggs
200g castor sugar

175g coconut milk
2 pandan (screwpine) leaves

  • Wash and cut the pandan leaves into two. Cutting gives them a nice edge which holds better than when they are torn, otherwise bits of the leaves will fray during the whisking leaving you with bitty pieces of pandan in the kaya.
  • Stir the beaten and strained eggs (250g is the weight of the eggs after the straining), castor sugar and pandan leaves over a hot bath (rolling boil) with a whisk until the sugar has dissolved.
  • Stir in the coconut milk.
  • Continue stirring with the whisk until the kaya reaches a slightly-runnier-than-lava consistency, around half an hour. At the point at which the pandan leaves looks like it is about to begin disintegrating, discard them.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

omnomnom@Reunion, Bangsar Village

This is an apt-sounding restaurant to celebrate the first full day my bf spent in Malaysia following his safe arrival late the night before. XD

Reunion's claim to popularity is largely due to its offerings of Hokkien mee, siew yok and, to a lesser extent, char siew. As 'street food,' Hokkien mee (referring to the fried noodles in dark sauce here) rarely finds its way to restaurants, much less in as good a rendition as found at Reunion. Naturally all three featured on our menu that night, an explicit request being placed beforehand to ensure that a serving of the siew yok be reserved for us. It was a good thing too for even as our orders were placed, we heard the doleful sigh from a neighbouring table on learning that the kitchen was out of siew yok.

The dinner started well. We were promptly led to our table in a room reminiscent of open air coffee shops, what with the white tilings, though clearly of a more refined nature. Lovely private tables on the other side of the restaurant are available, sans this nostalgic feel, but such was not our draw. Following the placement of our orders, a side nibble of boiled peanuts and pickled lotus slices were placed in front of us. The peanuts were lovely and soft, swollen to gargentuous proportions, but I found the lotus a little too acidic from my liking.

Sadly, service then took a severe dip. A call had to be made for more teacups (only half the table had been provided them despite the order of tea for all) and once more on discovering one of the clear glass cups was cracked. Happily, 15 min later, the siew yok and char siew arrived. However, to the hunger diners, the lack of rice to accompany this side dish was rather aggravating. Several reminders later and we remained riceless. Even a firm stomp up to the front desk and complaint later, still no rice appeared. Tempers were well frayed by then and two of our diners had practically risen to their feet in indignation before the rice finally arrived, cold. The rice came 15-20 min after the meat and it was cold! It had clearly been sitting around since the pork was served, just never brought to us.

After that, the food leisurely trickled in. Chinese meal standards, it felt rather a long drawn meal, as we had no more than 1 or 2 side dishes at any one time due to their staggered arrival (except at the end of the meal when satiation had been reached).

Anyway, on a more pleasant subject: the food. Besides the three already mentioned, our order included: steamed tofu in two styles, steamed Patin with minced ginger and spring onions, stir fried kangkong with belachan, and bittergourd omelette. The vegetables are standard fare, I like that the bitter gourd was sliced fairly thin, but they weren't outstanding. It felt like good home cooking. I guess the same applies for the fish, even though for me, having been deprived of tropical fish for such a long long time, its wonderfully smooth flesh was rapture. The steamed tofu was good in an unexpected sort of way: it was more egg than tofu, and wonderfully delicate steamed egg at that. Lastly, the notorious fried Hokkien mee. It was good! The noodles weren't overly gummy or sticky while still nicely coated in a lovely thick sauce, and it came complete with pork liver, fried cubes of pork fat, and sambal belachan.

The food was excellent and comparable to true kopitiam grub, just set in more comfortable surroundings but with service (perhaps only for today, perhaps only for us) enough to have you reeling.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

sweet potato kuih

This is the first of the kuihs that I made at home. It comes from a tried and tested recipe found years ago in an Agnes Chang cookbook: 'Delightful Snacks and Dim Sum' - a source of far more reliable recipes than those offered by Amy Beh whose recipes often call for pinches of the oddest ingredients not normally used in traditional kuihs. This recipe only called for a minimal 4 ingredients (I don't think salt and the coating of coconut flesh counts) and a basic method of mixing everything together and steaming, which all looked a very promising and gentle introduction to kuihs. Ondeh-ondeh is another such kuih that one must try very hard in order to get wrong and shall probably feature in the days to come.

These kuihs steam themselves into a wonderful vibrant orange colour. I've included a picture of the kuih in its pre-coconut state. No colouring was used, it all comes naturally from the sweet potato- imagine how awesome it would look if I used a purple Japanese variety. They are soft and springy, aren't as oily as kuihs are wont to be from their prodigious use of coconut milk, and taste wonderful. My only niggle is that I wish I had made them smaller so I have a greater surface area (per unit volume) onto which to stick on more coconut meat.

A note on tapioca flour: it gives a nice bounciness to things even if the resulting kuih isn't quite as resilient to determined mastication as when glutinous rice flour is used.

(Yays, I have unearthed my stock of Japanese tableware!!!)

Friday, 24 August 2012

kingston food festival 2012

It has been a goodly time since my last post so I thought I would put up some photos of the Kingston Food Festival that I attended during my last week in UK (woefully I missed the bigger and more awesome Battersea Park Food Festival despite already procuring the tickets for it). This does not mean I haven't been baking at home, although in this case it would be cooking as Nyonya kuihs tend to be steamed to chewy perfection. However, I am saving those up for when I return to UK and am buckling under the toils of an academic life.

Anyway, the Kingston Food Festival is an annual event lasting an entire week of Summer. This year saw restaurants flaunting promotions, a food trail (basically you plod along the 'trail' munching samples from various establishments), a cocktail competition, cooking demonstrations, tasting sessions, a massive market as well as an English beer, cider and wine festival. The weather was wonderful and I had a good time sampling the food and peering at stalls with my bf. There was an awesome fellow selling a multitude of different herbs, and a similar compatriot dealing with chilli's with the oddest names such as 'sweet wrinkled old man.' Needless to say I couldn't help myself purchasing a purple variation (called 'purple rain').

I also happened to taste the best falafels ever- the humble product of the 'Authentic Falafels' stall. Its exterior was a lovely golden brown with a crispiness unparalleled and inside it was delicate, achieving the optimal balance between overly dry crumbliness and soggy dense compression. I could also really taste the chickpeas (there have been a few disappointing occasions of flavourless falafels)! The falafels of my wrap happened also to be freshly fried, which truly incurred dreamy contentment.

The falafels were to me the crowning glory of the market, but I've also included photos of other foods. The chocolate twizzle that enticed us with its giant proportions (what you see in the background is a wooden bench it was placed upon) sadly turned out to be one of many awful factory churned specimens. Of more interest was the spiced rice and stew, handed to us by supporters of the 'African Positive Outlook' who also explained to us the vital role spice, or more specifically cloves, played in the African liberation. The Tuscan sausage with beautifully caramelised onions in ciabatta (the big photo) was a contribution from my bf who appallingly ignored other local offerings for Carluccio's.

Speaking of my bf, excitement is abrew for tonight he touches down in Malaysia, and shall be greeted by an exuberant figure waving a 21-day itinerary, meticulously planned out so the best of Malaysia may be experienced! For a while, this will soon become very much of a traveller's blog and extremely handy if you are contemplating a trip to Malaysia.

Anyway, here is a random idyllic picture of pretty Kingston, taken as we fed the swans doughy lumps of the chocolate twist.