Tag Archives: recipe

Mini apple crumble

With an apple I will astonish Paris.
~ Paul Cezanne

It was pretty in the early cooking stages; less so as it neared completion. No creative turn of my camera could make it look good; I gave up after a few tries. Certainly it did not look promising by the time I removed it, cooked, from the oven. It also clung a little heavily to the pan, meaning it did not look cohesive or inviting on the plate. Only its very delicious smell gave me the courage to serve it (gulp) to my flatmate…

So why am I posting this? Keep it real, right? There are days on which everything goes swimmingly in the kitchen, and days on which everything is ugly and your hands feel cursed. But I’m not just posting this to show I’m human…

See, once we bit into it, I decided this deserves a second try sometime in the near future (perhaps with a lightly greased pan and a higher baking temperature – incorporated below). I like having a recipe for a small dessert around (most dessert recipes always feed more!). And, more importantly, we were both surprised by its golden crunchy crumble crust (dare I say, perfect!) and tender caramelised apple filling… mmm.

    Mini apple crumble
    Recipe adapted, with a few modifications, from Sew Happy Geek
    Ingredients:
    2 apples (I used Granny Smith)
    1 tbsp caster sugar
    1/2 cup plain flour
    45g butter, cubed
    1/3 cup sugar (I used a mixture of 2 parts caster sugar, 1 part muscovado sugar – just under 1/3 cup)
    1/2 cup rolled oats
    1 tsp cinnamon
    1/2 tsp ground ginger
    2 tbsp kahlua
    Cream or ice cream, to serve (optional)
    Method:
    Preheat the oven to 190°C*. Lightly grease an oven-proof baking dish.
    Peel and cube the apples, and place them in a small saucepan with 2 tablespoons of water and a tablespoon of sugar. Cook on low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, till they soften and are partially cooked.
    Meanwhile, rub the butter cubes into the flour with your fingers till it takes on the texture and look of breadcrumbs. Add in the cinnamon, ground ginger, sugar and oats, and mix well with a whisk or fork.
    Add the apples, any liquid in the saucepan and the kahlua to the bottom of the baking dish. Stir gently before spreading the apples out in an even layer.
    Sprinkle the oat mixture evenly over the apples, then place the dish in the oven to bake for approximately 40 minutes*, or until the top is cooked/golden and it all smells delicious! Let it cool for a few minutes, then serve with cream or ice cream, if desired.
    Yields 2-3 servings.

* The original recipe says to cook it at 180°C for 20 minutes. It emerged with a way undercooked crust for me after 20 minutes, so I increased the temperature to 190°C for a further 15 minutes, then 200°C for yet a further 10 minutes. I suspect 190°C is optimum crumble-baking temperature (based on a few quick Google comparisons too), and that a crumble takes more than 20 minutes to cook. Obviously you should also factor in your oven’s size and personality!

Mid-Autumn in Spring

The moon’s an arrant thief,
And her pale fire she snatches from the sun.
~ William Shakespeare

Spring is whizzing by in a blur of tulips, work and windy sunshine… and I nearly forgot all about Mid-Autumn / Mooncake Festival! Luckily, Jeremy didn’t – and him and Char prepared a delicious celebratory feast for us lucky folk last weekend :-)

It was a blustery blustery busy busy Saturday for me, so walking through the doors to see and smell ALL THIS was especially amazing!

Tofu with a sweet chilli marinade, deftly stacked into an inviting tower…

Mussels with melting cheese and bacon bits… mmmm!

Prawns, corn and greens tossed in a pretty stir-fry:

Jeremy’s version of san choy bau (生菜包) – traditionally made with chicken / pork mince and water chestnuts, with the cooked mince rolled up in fresh lettuce leaves immediately before consumption. Classy finger food :-) This (addictive!) version incorporated lamb mince, bamboo shoots, tinned baby corn, carrots, oyster sauce, and a host of other ingredients.

Roast duck – bought, but made to look homemade ;-)

Of course – the necessary mooncake. I’ve heard that each one carries approximately 1,000 calories, but the truth is I am clueless about calories so I eat them even though 1,000 sounds like a lot. Growing up, I tried mooncakes with all sorts of crusts and fillings – yam, red bean, lotus paste, snow skin… they are different in each region of Asia and even now the sight of mooncakes makes me smile and intrigued to know what is inside.

This one hid within itself pandan and salted egg yolks. Pandan is a happy scent for me, don’t often get to inhale it now – and I loved this!

Mooncake on its own would have been sufficient for dessert, but out popped a second surprise – mango pudding, made from scratch! Creamy, rich and so mangoey, for lack of a better adjective! I asked Char for the recipe she used, which she kindly sent to me – see below :-)

    Ingredients:
    3 cups Alphonso mango pulp
    3 tbsp plain gelatin
    2/3 cup cold water plus 2/3 cup boiling water
    1 cup evaporated milk
    1 cup superfine sugar
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    Method:
    Place the gelatin into a bowl and stir in the cold water. Add in the boiling water and stir until the gelatin is thoroughly dissolved. Set aside to cool a few minutes.
    In a bowl, add sugar to the evaporated milk and stir until sugar is completely dissolved.
    Place the mango pulp into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the gelatin mixture, then add the sweetened evaporated milk and vanilla extract. Give everything a good stir, then pour into 8-9 custard cups or bowls (we used plastic cups, as shown in the picture above).
    Chill for at least 3 hours, or until set. Serve with a garnish of fresh fruit and evaporated milk poured gently over the top.
    Yields 8-9 servings.

Thank you Jeremy and Char, and happy Mid-Autumn Festival, everyone :-)

P.S. Somehow I’ve missed eight rounds of Sweet New Zealand! Grazie mille Alessandra for reminding me (incidentally, she is also the gracious host of this month’s Sweet NZ!). Don’t forget to send in your entry if you are a NZ food blogger and haven’t already…

Prawns with Orzo, Tomato, Spinach and Feta

Life is a combination of magic and pasta.
~ Federico Fellini

One of the nicest emails you can get whilst travelling and missing your kitchen is an invitation to sample recipes from a (then) soon to be released cookbook. Especially one with such yummy-sounding dishes as “Warm Salad of Lamb, Asparagus, Spring Onions and Pomegranate Seeds with Lentil and Black Olives” and “Rolled Baklava with Orange Syrup and Greek Yoghurt”… I had a hard time deciding what to ask for!

Ultimately, I decided to request for the recipe for the “Prawns with Orzo, Tomato, Spinach and Feta” (original recipe included below) since I like every ingredient in that title and had never cooked orzo before.

It was a pleasure to cook this dish, simple yet good-looking, fresh and full of wonderful smells. I used a deep wok and modified the recipe slightly to suit what we had in our pantry (less spinach than the recipe specified, and herbs from a tube as opposed to fresh) – and used more prawns as I couldn’t find larger ones at the supermarket. Though I am sure it would have tasted even better had I followed the recipe properly, I also like that the recipe is pretty versatile and forgiving!

We had it with a squeeze of balsamic glaze, both pretty on the plate and complementary to the dish (I recommend it). Three of us ate our fill last night and we had plenty left over, which incidentally made for a delicious lunch for me today!

    Ingredients:
    16-20 large prawns, peeled
    Salt and freshly ground pepper
    1 1⁄2 cups orzo
    2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    2 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped
    3 shallots, finely chopped
    9 spring onions, thickly sliced
    1⁄2 cup chicken stock
    5 large tomatoes, roughly chopped 1 cup passata
    200g crumbled feta cheese
    6 cups baby spinach leaves
    Small handful of torn fresh herbs such as dill, mint and parsley
    Extra virgin olive oil
    Method:
    Season prawns with salt and pepper.
    Cook orzo until done, toss in one tablespoon of oil and reserve.
    In a large heavy skillet heat the remaining tablespoon of oil. Add garlic and shallots and sauté for a minute. Add the spring onions and prawns, sear quickly, then remove prawns to reserved orzo. Add chicken stock, tomatoes and passata. Continue to reduce the liquid until mixture has thickened slightly. Season with salt and pepper.
    Return the orzo and prawns, half the feta, and the spinach back into the tomato sauce and toss to combine. As soon as the spinach has wilted, scatter over the remaining feta, fresh herbs and glaze with olive oil.

Thank you, publicity team at The Second Black Dog Cottage Cookbook, for the chance to sample this winning recipe :-)

For more information on The Second Black Dog Cottage Cookbook, visit Phantom House Books or their Facebook page.

Easy flour tortillas

Humo[u]r is the great thing, the saving thing. The minute it crops up, all our irritations and resentments slip away and a sunny spirit takes their place.
~ Mark Twain

Occasionally, food items march through my mind unsummoned and uninvited. And, once in my mind, they simply refuse to depart until I make them (i.e. create them in the kitchen).

This morning, while getting a drink of water, my eyes fell on the tub of mole rojo paste from Jian. I thought about that meal with a big smile on my face.

Thereafter, though, thoughts of tortillas bloomed in my mind like happy wild mushrooms… no other thoughts could chase them away.

And so it was that I made tortillas today for the first time. Trusty Google led me to this recipe, and I was happy to discover that they are in fact so easy and quick to make!

While the balls of dough sat in their tea-towel-blanket-bliss, I cut onions, smashed garlic, blanched green beans, heated up black beans. I dissolved a spoonful of mole paste in chicken stock, added a few squares of dark chocolate for good measure, and tossed the sauce all over seared chicken cubes and a few prawns. I combined the cooked beans with diced onion and tomatoes. I preheated the oven to 50°C so it could keep everything warm.

The tortillas were all cooked in under five minutes, and happily emerged reasonably round and flat, given that I shaped them with my palms and fingers (we don’t have a rolling pin yet).

Still can’t adequately describe the taste of this mole rojo… smoky and elusive as ever.

Love the addition of creamy avocado and zesty lime…

Here are the beans…

And this is what Fran and I had for dinner tonight. What did you eat tonight?

Hope you all have a fantastic week ahead :-)

    Ingredients:
    1 1/2 cups flour
    3/4 tsp baking powder
    ~40g butter, at room temperature*
    2/3 cup hot water
    Method:
    Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl, and whisk till well combined. Add in the butter and hot water, then mix the dough with your hands.
    On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough by hand for around 5 minutes. Roll the dough out into a snake-shaped log and cut the dough into 6 equal portions. Shape each piece of dough into a round ball and cover with a tea towel. Let them sit for 20 minutes (this is a great window of time to cook the rest of your dinner).
    Place a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Do not grease the pan. Flatten each ball of dough into a nice large circle, with a rolling pin if you have one – otherwise just with your palms and fingers. Cook the tortillas one at a time, 20-30 seconds on each side. Your tortillas should have little brown spots on them.
    They taste best warm. I like stacking them on an ovenproof plate and leaving them in an oven at 50°C until everything is ready, so dinner arrives at the table warm.
    Yields 6 tortillas** – enough for 2-3 people.

* If the butter is fresh from the fridge, microwave it for approximately 20 seconds so that it’s still solid but closer to room temperature.

** The sky is the limit with toppings – minced meat, grated cheese, sour cream, smoky mole, spicy salsa, guacamole… in fact, given their similarity to roti prata, I think they would taste pretty good with a spicy Malaysian curry too.

Oeuf cocotte

One needs something to believe in, something for which one can have wholehearted enthusiasm.
~ Hannah Senesh

Once upon a time, I thought that making oeuf cocotte was fussy and “much work for little return”. Now, I make them occasionally and each time I am always surprised by how simple they are to prepare, how (deceptively) fancy they look and how comforting they are to eat.

Just chop up some of your favourite veges, herbs, bits of ham or anything you like to eat with eggs (and that will like being in the oven)… sometimes I like to first sear some tomatoes with a splash of balsamic vinegar and a bit of muscovado sugar.

Then dot the bottom of a few ramekins with butter, throw in your veges/ham/whatever, crack an egg on top and crown the lot with some cheese. Place the ramekins in a deep baking dish, and fill the baking dish with hot water till it comes halfway up the side of the ramekins.

Bake them for a few minutes, then serve as breakfast/lunch/a light start to dinner. Easy, huh? I think so too.

The recipe I include below documents the way I made it recently, but you can make delicious variations with ham, bacon, mushrooms… some recipes I have come across also use cream. This is a versatile dish that lends itself well to some experimentation!

    Oeuf cocotte
    Ingredients:
    1/4 onion, diced
    1 clove garlic, smashed and finely chopped
    3 tomatoes, cut into 4-8 small wedges
    Handful of cooking spinach, roughly chopped
    1 large pepper or capsicum
    3 eggs
    1 heaped tbsp feta cheese, diced
    1 tbsp parmesan shreds
    1 tbsp butter
    Olive oil
    1 tsp balsamic vinegar
    1 level tsp brown sugar
    Salt
    Pepper
    Method:
    Preheat oven to 200°C. Boil some water.
    Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a skillet set over a medium-high flame. Once the oil is warm, add in the onion – sauté till golden brown and fragrant, then throw in the garlic, capsicum and tomatoes, sugar, and balsamic vinegar. Stir for a minute or two, till you can see the skins on the tomatoes begin to collapse gently.
    Place a pat of butter at the bottom of each ramekin, and add in the spinach, cooked vegetables and feta cubes. Roughly level the surface of the vegetables, then crack an egg into each ramekin. Add a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper to taste.
    Put the ramekins into a deep baking tray and fill the baking tray with hot water till the water level reaches halfway up the side of the ramekins.
    Place the tray into the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes.
    Yields 3 servings.

Other yummies of late: (1) a particularly delicious chocolate fondue involving, I found out later, mascarpone added to the warm chocolate mix. Mmm! (2) a generous and very tasty chicken sandwich at Willow Glen in Gordonton. (3) my sweet brother’s “brownie cake” (midway between brownie and cake). Cute imagining him in the kitchen, probably looking very serious the whole time. (4) farmers’ market salad leaves. Crunch crunch crunch.

P.S. Happy Waitangi Day!

Wake up and smell the cookies

I love reality. I love the world. I love the smell of it. I love it.
~ Andrea Corr

Bake these soon, won’t you? Preferably in the black of night. With the brightest lights in your kitchen switched on – and no competing smells in your kitchen (i.e. well after dinner time). Eat some* till two in the morning. With company, so the blinding temptation to eat them all doesn’t engulf you and make you very ill indeed.

* Slip the remaining “some” into a container, and leave them in a safe place. Away from prying eyes, teeth and fingers.

Your oven will sing with maternal pride as the little balls of dough stretch and change and become ready for consumption. The cookies will lead you into a happy drunken stupor, as your eyelids take on the world-slicing powers of a kaleidoscope and show you tiny identical wedges of cookiecookiecookie.

Your nose may tell you it never wants to smell anything else ever again.

When at last sleep clutches at your eyelids and happy brain, you will find that you sink into a deep spell of sleep and the richest of dreams…

* And in the way the best dreams go (when you wake and wish it weren’t just a dream), you’ll find a hidden stash of cookies in the morning that smell just like the ones in your dreams. You can still dream your Sunday away.

Thanks Kath for the recipe! :-)

I’m also submitting this entry for Sweet New Zealand, hosted this month by Arfi at HomemadeS by Arfi. Click here to join in the Sweet NZ fun!

Prune and apricot clafoutis

We dance round in a ring and suppose,
While the secret sits in the middle and knows.
~ Robert Frost

It is my friend Jane who caused me to take a second look at prunes.

She made a marvellous stovetop lamb tagine once, and from then on I no longer regarded prunes as ugly things prescribed to people battling with constipation. No… despite their dull appearance, they shone in that dish. They were rich and mysterious, exotic and strangely exciting. Sticky-sweet and tinged with a faint liqueur-like flavour. In my imagination they are a little like intoxicated summer fruits waltzing in winter coats.

Incidentally, Jane is also the girl who introduced me to the world of tagines long before I visited Morocco (and in my memory, her tagines rival the ones I tasted there). She didn’t have a tagine pot, but she made beautiful tagines just in a deep saucepan on an electric stove…

Mmmm… I can still remember my first taste of that delicious prune and spice-flavoured lamb. The meat fell gently off the bone with minimal coercion, the moist prunes collapsed clumsily and sweetly as soon as they passed from the fork to my mouth, and everything tasted of love and distant lands.

Somehow, prunes haven’t made their way to my kitchen very much. I’ve eaten them in restaurants once or twice (with duck), and I’ve taken them to work as snack food on occasion, but I can’t remember the last time I cooked with them at home. I guess I also regard them as one of those things that people can have Strong Feelings about, and thus omit them when cooking with/for others (this group of evocative food includes mushrooms, offal, lentils, red bean and eggplants – some of my friends’ faces seem to nearly change colour when I even mention those things).

So recently the prunes called out to me from their home in the baking aisle in the supermarket, and I bought a pack of them without knowing what I was going to do with them. As it is, I cooked them with lamb chops the other night and enjoyed that (though I still prefer Jane’s lamb!) – and I had a faint idea of making something sweet with them…

This morning, I woke up wanting to make something for my friend E but unsure of what to make. Various pruney ideas paraded through my mind, but nothing seemed right… till I chanced upon Molly Wizenberg’s recipe for black plum clafoutis. I hadn’t tried clafoutis before, but I was inspired reading this and so my prune and apricot clafoutis experiment came to be.

Verdict: I’ll make clafoutis again, but I won’t make it exactly this way again. E seemed to like it, but I liked the “clafoutis” part of it (somewhere in between custard/milk tart/a soufflé) better than the prunes and apricots in it, as the fruits were still more chewy than tender. I think it would work brilliantly with fresh fruit, or if I had soaked the prunes and apricots for longer. Might try soaking dried fruit overnight next time!

    Prune and apricot clafoutis
    Inspired by Orangette
    Ingredients:
    olive oil or butter, for greasing
    1 cup prunes (or use other fruit)
    1 cup dried apricots (or use other fruit)
    juice of half a lemon
    1 cup dessert wine or brandy (I used a dessert wine – thanks Jono for this!)
    1/4 cup + 1 tbsp caster sugar
    pinch of salt
    3 eggs
    1 tbsp vanilla
    1 cup milk
    1/2 cup flour
    icing sugar
    Method:
    Place the apricots and prunes in a small bowl and pour the lemon juice and wine over them. Cover the bowl with cling film and refrigerate for 40 minutes (I think it would be better if you soaked them for longer though! See note above).
    Preheat the oven to 170°C. Lightly grease a 9-inch pie dish with olive oil or butter. Set aside.
    In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and the sugar until the mixture turns pale yellow (approximately 1 minute). Then add in the vanilla, salt and milk, and whisk further to combine. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture with your fingers and continue to whisk till you have a smooth batter.
    Using a slotted spoon, take out the prunes and apricots from the wine and arrange them in a single layer in the bottom of the pie dish. Pour the batter over gently and evenly across the fruits. Do not stir.
    Bake the clafoutis for around 45 minutes or until puffed and golden around the edges. Then remove the clafoutis from the oven, and allow it to cool for at least 20 minutes. Dust with icing sugar just before serving.

I’m also submitting this entry for Sweet New Zealand, hosted this month by Arfi at HomemadeS by Arfi. Click here to join in the Sweet NZ fun!