Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Butter Sugar Bun (牛油面包)



This is my 3rd bread in a week. I just checked my supplies, alas my bread flour is running low. It used to be 5 kilos, now only 200g left. This goes to show that either I am making many breads or I have wasted a lot of flour, LOL. Luckily the sugar and eggs don't get depleted as quickly as the flour, and that is the reason I am so much into this bread-baking than cake-making recently. 

Today I did another of Alex's bread again. Wow, now I am even on first-name-calling terms with him :) it is not as if he knows me personally but at least I know his sweet bread recipes like the back of my hand...hahaha. But I wonder, is it really necessary to make the dough 12 hours in advance like he always advocated in his book? Hmmph, I must do a science experiment. The experiment will probably go like this : make 12 batches of sweet bread dough, cool them overnight in the fridge, and take them out 1 hour apart from 1 hour later to 13 hours later, then knead each one of them according to the steps and bake them batch by batch, again 1 hour apart. Then ask a panel of blindfolded judges to taste the breads, and see if they observe any difference in taste and softness. Haha, I must be totally nuts to even think of this, who is going to knead non-stop by hand for 12 hours? And who is going to ensure that my hands are not sore, and my baby is not screaming, and my hubby is not complaining that I am neglecting him again. Yah man, bread-making is back-breaking hard work ok, now then you know. I have long realized that long ago, but I like hard work. :)

Ok, ignore what I just said, in case you decide that you gonna give up trying this recipe. The sweet bread dough starter doesn't require kneading for 12 hours, it only requires cooling in the fridge for 12 hours. I am just hallucinating. :)

Now, back to business. Today's bread of the day is *drums rolling* - Butter Sugar Bun or Sugar Butter Bun or (牛油面包). It is very easy, if you know how to make the sweet bread dough using Alex's recipe, then it is just a matter of poking some holes, piping the butter and sprinkling some sugar. Sounds easy huh? 



Adapted from Alex Goh's Magic Bread

INGREDIENTS
Adequate soft butter and fine sugar

METHOD
1. Prepare sweet bread dough in advance. Divide the dough into 80g each and mould it round. (The sweet bread dough is about 1.0 to 1.1 kg so it will make 12-13 buns of 80g each.)

2. Let it rest for 10 min (covered with greased clingwrap or damp tea towel and kept in warm enclosed place), then flatten it on a floured work surface. First use the palm of your hand to flatten the dough and drive out the air, then use a floured rolling pin to roll it into a round shape, about 1 cm thick.

3. Place the buns into a lined and greased pan, cover and let them proof for 45 min in a warm enclosed place or until doubled in size.

4. Egg wash the surface. First, use the fingertip to make small indentations over the dough, then pipe some soft butter using a piping bag/kit over the indentations, and finally sprinkle the top with sugar. 

5. Bake at 180C in the middle shelf of a preheated oven for 12 min. 
 

My suggestion : You may try piping the indentations with liquid honey (choose those honey bottles with a nozzle) and sprinkle the top with brown sugar. I made a couple of those honey and brown sugar buns, you can see them sitting below the butter-sugar ones. I must say I much prefer the honey option as it is less messy than piping soft butter, and tastes better too.

This post has been submitted to YeastSpotting.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Flemish Carrot Soup


I made this traditional flemish carrot soup last week but forgot to post it until today. The word Flemish, is related to the the word Flanders. Flemish people are people living in Flanders, the northern part of Belgium, whose native language is Dutch. In Wallonia, the southern part of Belgium, live the Walloons who speak only French. The capital Brussels, also the capital of Europe, is supposedly bilingual but is mainly francophone and a lot of expats speak English there. By the way, there is also a 60,000 strong German-speaking minority in Wallonia and the third official language is German. And Flemish students have to master 4 languages in school, the fourth language being English. Complicated, isnt it? 

Anyway, the language issue is very very sensitive in Belgium, a country which is still struggling to form a government since the elections in June 2010. So far, no solution is in sight, the 2 sides keep negotiating, talk and talk until the cows go home, but cannot come to an agreement on how they want to rule a country which is already splitted into 6 regional governments and 1 federal government. It is the umpteenth time that the government has broken down since 2007 due to the language divide and border divide. I wonder if they will really consider to split the country into north and south if the negotiations break down again. But what will happen to Brussels, the main crux of the issue is both sides want to have a share of the "crown jewel", that is the problem.

Anyway, let's not talk about politics. Autumn is already here, come enjoy a bowl of hot flemish carrot soup with me :)

Adapted from Everybody Eats Well in Belgium by Ruth Van Waerebeek

INGREDIENTS (serves 3 to 4)
3 tbsp unsalted butter
3 medium leeks, white and light green parts only,rinsed well and thinly sliced
(I used 5 minced garlic cloves in place of leeks)
1 large onion, sliced
1 litre chicken broth, preferably homemade 
3-4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch slices
1 large baking potato, peeled and cubed
1 tbsp fresh thyme of 1.5 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf (optional)
1 cup milk, plus additional if needed
salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
2 tbsp minced fresh parsley
croutons, flavoured with parsley and thyme

METHOD
1. Melt the butter in a heavy soup pot over medium heat. Add the leeks and onions and cook, stirring until softened but not browned, about 10 min.

2. Add the chicken broth, the water, carrots, potato, thyme, and bay leaf. Simmer, covered until the vege are very soft., 35 to 40 min. Remove from the heat and let cool a little. Discard the bay leaf.

3. Puree the soup in small batches in a blender or food processor. Return to the soup pot and stir in the milk (add a little more if the soup is too thick). Season with salt and pepper. Reheat the soup and serve sprinkled with minced parsley. Pass a bowl of freshly made croutons at the table.

Serves 4 to 6

You can substitute 1 bunch of scallions for the leeks.

For a delicious variation, leave out the leeks and cook 5 minced garlic cloves with the onions. Add 2 roasted, peeled and diced red bell peppers with the carrots. The result is a very vivid and intensely flavoured soup.

Note: The original recipe used 2 cups chicken broth and 4 cups of water to make a soup for 4 to 6 people. I have reduced the quantity to 3 or 4 cups of chicken broth for 3 to 4 persons. Similarly the original recipe called for 1.5 pounds of carrots but I used only 3 carrots. The rest of the ingredients were kept the same.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Pumpkin Mantou (金瓜馒头)


Yesterday was my first time making mantou (馒头) or chinese buns. I was doubting whether I should post such a ugly picture. Well, the purpose of this blog is not just to showcase how "well" I can cook or bake (note the inverted commas), it serves also to present some of my failures. Failures in baking, cooking or understanding instructions and of course taking pictures with my lousy camera. LOL. The failures shouldn't just go to the chickens or my stomach, but they also deserve some mentioning so that I will not repeat the same mistakes again.

Well, the pumpkin mantou were actually very nice in terms of taste, soft and chewy, but somehow I couldn't achieve a smooth skin surface. Blame it on my steaming skills. The skin surface of my mantou looked like some old wrinkly grandmother's buttocks. Ok, sorry, I don't mean to insult any grandmothers, cos eventually I would be old and would have wrinkly buttocks too, but you know what I mean.


It was my first time steaming buns. I didn't have a proper wok big enough to steam on a large scale, so I relied on my tiny little wok which I prepared as a steamer. I also put some buns in my Toshiba ricecooker for steaming, turned out the buns steamed better in my ricecooker than in my wok-turned-steamer. 

We ate the buns together with the Singapore Indian Curry that I cooked last night. In the end, the 9 small buns were finished between the two of us, husband and wife, and not to forget, His Majesty also had a bun to himself. 

So eventually it was still a success, if you don't mind the appearance of those wrinkly looking mantou. I would try making them plain the next time, and eat them with my Tau You Bah. :)

Recipe of Pumpkin Mantou is adapted from Jane's blog (in Chinese)

Singapore Indian Curry


I saw this on one of the chinese recipe magazines that my sister got for free in Singapore. I mean you have to buy it, it cost SGD5 or something but I think she got it for free. I am not sure if anybody has heard of it, it is called “色香味”。Anyway, there was an interesting recipe for "Indian Curry", contributed by a singaporean chinese lady married to a indian husband, and this recipe was from her mother-in-law. I have cooked chinese style or malay style curry chicken and beef rendang many times in Belgium, but I have never tried indian style curry before. So this recipe had been on my to-do list for quite some time, and I decided to give it a try yesterday. 

Judging from the recipe, it is supposed to be south indian curry, instead of north indian curry. The steps are not much different from how I would normally cook curry. Usually I would just add onions, shallots, garlic, ginger, curry powder, chopped chillies, coconut milk and meat, sometimes lemongrass and blue ginger to give that extra kick. But there are extra spices such as cloves, cinnamon stick, cardamons and curry leaves in this recipe. Quite interesting.

I especially got my cloves and cardamons from the thai supermarket in Antwerp Chinatown, just for cooking this curry.The cardamons gave the curry a special fragrance, it's hard to describe, you have to try it then you will know. 

I used beef stew meat because we had been eating chicken for a few days in a row. Although I would have to stew the beef for at least 1.5 hours, but no time was wasted as I quickly made some chinese buns or mantou (馒头) to go with the curry. The curry was of course a success, having cooked curry so many times I could close my eyes and do it, but the chinese mantou was a different story. I would talk about it in another post. :)

Recipe adapted from “色香味”

INGREDIENTS (for 3 persons)

4 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cinnamon stick (肉桂棒)
4 cloves (丁香)
4 cardamons (豆蔻)
2 big onions, julienned
3 shallots, julienned

1 thumb of ginger, pounded
6 cloves of garlic, pounded

2 tbsp curry powder/curry paste
1 tbsp chilli powder (optional)

600g chicken or beef, chopped into small pieces
2 medium potatoes, quartered
1 carrot, chopped into small pieces
1 can of coconut milk + enough water to cover surface *

2 curry leaves (I didn't have any)
2 medium tomatoes, quartered
salt to taste

METHOD
1. Heat oil in wok. Add cinnamon stick, cloves, cardamon, onions, shallots and saute til transparent.

2. Add in pounded ingredients (ginger and garlic) and fry til fragrant. Add in curry powder/paste (and chilli powder if your curry powder/paste is not strong enough) and mix well.

3. Add a cup of water to the pan and stir well, to prevent the curry paste from sticking to the pan. Then add in the chicken cubes (or beef cubes), potatoes and carrots. Followed by the coconut milk. Throw in the curry leaves if you have any. Make sure the water + coconut milk is enough to cover the surface. Stir well and bring everything to a boil.

4. After boiling, quickly lower the fire,cover the pan, and let the curry simmer for at least 30 min (for curry chicken). If you are using beef stew meat to cook curry beef/beef rendang, it is recommended that you let the beef simmer for at least 1.5 hours for it to be really tender. During stewing, part of the liquid will be evaporated especially if you stew for 1-2 hours, so make sure there is more than sufficient water + coconut milk to cover the surface of the meat and vegetables, taking into account the evaporation. 

5. Just before serving, add in the cut tomatoes and let it cook for a further 5-10 min. It is better to add tomatoes towards the end, otherwise the tomatoes will be too soft and soggy, and you won't be able to see the tomatoes.

6. Finally remove from heat and serve the curry immediately with steamed white rice, or chinese mantou (馒头).

*Note: The reason why I never state the exact amount of liquid to add, is because you would have to adjust the curry to your taste. It also depends on how much meat and vegetables you are adding, and how long you are stewing the meat. As a rule of thumb, I add about 500ml of water and coconut milk in total, just enough to be 1 cm or so above the surface. Some people like it thick and spicy while others like it not so spicy. So always add a little water or coconut milk first, then check the taste, and if it is too spicy, top up with more water or coconut milk.

Ham and Cheese Bread


After my successful attempts at baking sandwich bread and sausage cheese bread last week, I decided to try a slightly more challenging recipe, more complicated in the sense that I would have to shape the dough in a certain way in order to make the ham and cheese bread. I did this last friday night, but was too busy during the weekend to upload the photos. The photos I took were not sharp as it was done at night and my kitchen was pretty dark. Moreover, it was technically challenging to shape the dough and take photos with one hand. It was kinda messy and my little fuji camera ended up full of flour and sticky dough after the photo-taking session, arrgghh!!! :(

Nevertheless, I managed to take the step-by-step photos of the dough-shaping exercise. Hopefully they will be useful for those who would like to try out this recipe. It is quite easy once you get the hang of it. It was my first time at shaping the dough and I was quite pleased with my progress at bread-making and dough-shaping. Every week I make some progress and maybe one day I can open my own bakery, hahaha.

But I wasn't really satisfied with my final product though. The buns had risen well but the mayonnaise topping made them look sticky and not so visually appealing, maybe I had piped too much??? 

On hind sight, maybe I shouldn't put mayo cos then the buns could not be kept for long and had to be eaten within a day. Luckily, I thought of a way of keeping the buns without the sticky mayo touching each other and making them soggy. I wrapped each of the buns in a separate aluminium foil and store them in the fridge for the next day. It is best to consume them as soon as possible, preferably within a day, even when kept in the fridge.

Recipe for Ham and Cheese Bread adapted from Alex Goh's Magic Bread

INGREDIENTS
slices of ham
grated cheddar cheese
spring onion or chives (diced)
mayonnaise

METHOD
1. Prepare sweet bread dough in advance. Divide the dough into 60g each and mould it round. ( I cut them into 80g each and made 12 buns in total.)

2. Let it rest for 10 min (covered with greased clingwrap or damp tea towel and kept in warm enclosed place), then flatten it on a floured work surface. First use the palm of your hand to flatten the dough and drive out the air, then use a floured rolling pin to roll it into a round shape.

3a. Place a slice of ham on top of the dough, roll it up as shown below.


3b. Fold it into half as shown below. Cut through the centre to 3/4 (do not cut til the end) using a pair of kitchen scissors.

Fold the rolled dough into half.
Turn the rolled dough around.
Make a cut about 3/4 through the dough.
3c. Open it up and press it down flat. This is how the final shape should look like. 


4. Place the buns into a lined and greased pan, cover and let them proof for 45 min in a warm enclosed place or until doubled in size.

5. Egg wash the surface. First, sprinkle some grated cheddar cheese and diced spring onion, then pipe some mayonnaise onto the bun (using a piping bag/kit).



6. Bake at 190C in the middle shelf of a preheated oven for 12-15 min.


This post has been submitted to YeastSpotting.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Delicious Cheddar Cheese Loaf


I bought some cheddar cheese, wanting to bake a ham and cheese bun, but ended up doing something else, as usual.

Actually I was pondering whether to bake a steamed cake or a cheddar cheese loaf, in the end I opted for the latter as I only had 4 eggs left which were just nice. This cheddar cheese loaf recipe had been sitting in a little notebook for a few months. It was a handwritten recipe penned by my dear cousin HC, who painstakingly jotted down many of her tried-and-tested favourite recipes when I visited her last Chinese New Year and asked her to share her baking recipes. She even drew a smiley face besides the recipe, to indicate that this recipe is very good and not to be missed.

My cousin is a very good baker, her mini huat kueh and cookies are well-known throughout our extended family. She used to bake and bring along a box of homemade cookies whenever we went on overseas trips. I remember we used to munch on her cookies whenever we felt hungry on the plane or when the food in the hotel was not to our liking. Those were the days, how I missed those days...

Anyway, back to this cheddar cheese loaf. At first I thought the amount of sugar was too much, but after tasting the cake, I was glad I didn't cut down on the sugar. It wasn't too sweet, partly masked by the slightly salty flavour of the cheddar cheese.  This cake was really delicious, it was moist and rich and had a mild undertone of cheddar cheese. I especially liked the cheddar cheese bits scattered throughout the cake, they looked so nice and pretty.
I knew this would probably add a few inches to my expanding waistline, but I simply couldn't resist its heavenly taste. It was so addictive that both my hubby and I, plus my baby son kept on munching on the cake, piece after piece...

Thank you my dear cousin, for sharing with me such a wonderful recipe!

Handwritten recipe passed down by my cousin HC from Singapore.

INGREDIENTS A
250g butter
230g sugar

INGREDIENTS B
4 eggs

INGREDIENTS C
80g cheddar cheese (finely diced)

INGREDIENTS D
280g flour (sifted)
100ml milk
1 tsp baking powder

METHOD
1. Cream A until light and creamy.

2. Add B (one by one) and cream until light and smooth.

3. Add C and mix until well combined. (Note that the diced cheddar cheese will still remain as it is even after mixing, as it is quite hard.)

4. Lastly add D and mix until well incorporated. Add flour and milk alternately, starting and ending with flour, and use a spatula to fold carefully into the batter.

5. Pour into a greased loaf tin  (I used a 30 x 11 x 7 cm loaf tin) and bake at 180C for about 50 min, or until a skewer comes out clean.

6. Once baked, quickly invert the loaf tin on a wire rack and remove the cake. Set it aside and let it cool. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Spicy Crumbed Chicken with Mayonnaise


I saw this recipe on Kellog's recipe website some time ago and I had always wanted to try it out one day. The original recipe was called "Spicy Crumbed Chicken Strips with Zesty Lemon Dip". I used mayonnaise in place of plain yoghurt for the dip, and hence the title "Spicy Crumbed Chicken Strips with Mayonnaise". 

The ingredients are quite simple, and it is really easy to make the dish. A healthy and wholesome dish suitable for adults and kids, suitable as either finger food or main dish. My baby son simply loved it and kept asking for more!

Recipe adapted from here.

INGREDIENTS
600g chicken breast, skin removed, cut into 1 cm thick strips
1/3 cup plain flour
2 egg whites, beaten lightly
1.5 cups Kellog's cornflakes, crushed lightly
1 tbsp paprika powder
1-2 tsp hot chilli powder*
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
a pinch of salt to taste
cooking oil spray

*I used 1 tsp chilli powder as I thought it might be too spicy for the baby. But the taste was really not sharp nor tangy enough. Maybe I should use 2 tsp hot chilli powder for the next time.

Dip
3/4 cup mayonnaise or plain yoghurt, mix with 1 tsp lemon juice

METHOD
1. Preheat oven to moderately hot (200C).

2. Toss chicken in flour, shake away excess, and coat chicken in egg white. 

3. Combine Kellog's cornflakes, breadcrumbs, paprika powder, chilli powder and parsley together. Adjust the taste with a pinch of salt. Coat chicken in the combined mixture.

4. Place chicken in single layer in a slightly greased oven-proof dish. Cover and refrigerate for 15 min.

5. Spray chicken with cooking oil spray. Bake uncovered in the oven for 20 min or until chicken is thoroughly cooked. Meanwhile, prepare the dip in a small bowl.

6. Finally, serve chicken strips with mayo dip (suggestion: some canned peaches to go with this dish).

Smakelijk eten!

Really Good Sandwich Bread


I hate to say this in case anybody thinks I am singing my own praises, but the sandwich bread I baked last night was really good. Finger-licking-good. Soft on the inside yet crunchy at the crust, and no preservatives, and it still tastes good this morning, as good as freshly baked from the bakery. 

In my never-ending-quest for the best sandwich bread, I finally found the ultimate sandwich loaf recipe in Alex Goh's Magic Bread book, the book which I must have mentioned a thousand times, if not a hundred times in my blog during the past one month. Knowing how difficult it was to get this book delivered to Belgium (I bought it online, got it delivered to my mom's place in SG and asked a friend to pick it up and courier to BE), I left no stones unturned in making sure that I try out every recipe which is worth trying in the book.

Now, sandwich bread seems to be the most unexciting bread recipe that one should ever try, yet it is also the most challenging and daunting recipe for novice bakers like me. I took the challenge and spent practically half a day in the kitchen, dipped in flour. This recipe is neither the easiest nor the fastest way to make sandwich bread. I lost count of the number of hours spent proofing the bread, not to mention the 45 min spent in kneading the dough by machine and by hand. But everything is worth it, at least I got to eat my own hand-made sandwich bread and my arms got a good workout. ;p


While I was flinging the dough high up in the air and thumping it hard on the table, my 16 month old son was so amused that he started imitating my every movement. Babies are such incredible creatures, they know how to take advantage of the situation. Seeing that I was too busy in the kitchen to run after him, he started climbing chairs and fiddling with the plasma TV and putting his crocs sandal in the microwave. Argghhhh! How I wish I can let him have a hand in my bread making, but I know he will most likely be monkeying around, getting himself dipped in flour and messing up the already very messy kitchen. In order to show his involvement in my bread-making, he eventually left his dirty fingerprints on the rising dough while I was not looking.  

Back to my bread. This bread required 2 dough starters, which had to be made in advance and placed in the fridge for at least 12 hours as specified by the book. One was the "gelatinized dough" which required scalding the dough with boiling water. The other was the "overnight sponge dough". I made a small mistake of not reading the instructions carefully and hence omitting preparing the 2nd dough starter, luckily I realised just in time and quickly made one and cooled it in the fridge for 4 hours before using. I suppose you don't really have to cool it in the fridge for the full 12 hours, as long as you allow sufficient time for the dough to relax. Dough, like humans, needs to be relaxed in order to draw out its full potential. ;P

If you have a few hours to spare, why not try out this delicious sandwich bread. I hope you will enjoy baking and eating this bread as much as I do!


Recipe for Sandwich Bread adapted from Alex Goh's Magic Bread

INGREDIENTS A (gelatinized dough starter)
150g bread flour
105g boiling water

INGREDIENTS B
450g bread flour
20g milk powder
45g sugar
10g salt
9g instant yeast

INGREDIENTS C
285g cold water
120g overnight dough (overnight sponge dough starter)

INGREDIENTS D
60g butter

METHOD
1. Preparation of gelatinized dough: 150g bread flour, 105g boiling water. Add the boiling water into flour, mix until well-blended to form dough. Cover and set aside to cool. Keep inside the fridge for at least 12 hours. Preparation of overnight sponge dough: 100g bread flour, 60g water (room temp) and 1/4 tsp instant yeast. Mix water and yeast until well-blended. Let it proof for 30 min. Wrap it up and refrigerate overnight.

2. Mix B until well-blended. Add in C (cold water + overnight sponge dough) and knead to form rough dough. Add in A (gelatinized dough) and knead until well-blended.

3. Add in D and knead to form elastic dough. Let it proof for 60 min or until doubled in volume. (Check out the steps in my sweet bread dough recipe to see if the dough has achieved the right consistency. Remember to cover the dough with a greased clingwrap and put in a warm enclosed place, for eg an unheated oven with a bowl of boiling water inside.)

4. Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces and mould it round. Let it rest for 10 min (cover and place in a warm draft-free location).



5. Flatten the dough and roll it up like swiss roll. Let rest for 10 min (cover and place in a warm draft-free location). Repeat this process one more time and place 3 pieces of dough into a greased sandwich loaf tin (size 20 x 11 x 11 cm).

  

6. Let it proof for 50-60 min or until 80% full. Cover with the lid of the loaf tin. (Now I don't have a sandwich loaf tin with a lid, I only have a baking tin measuring 30x15x10 cm and another one measuring 30x10x7 cm. So I placed 4 doughs in the bigger tin and 2 doughs in the smaller one) 



7. Bake at 220C for 35 min. For a large loaf like this, bake at the bottom shelf of the oven about 2-3 cm above the oven base. Remove from loaf tin immediately after baking. (I baked both breads for 35 min exactly and here they are, my freshly baked sandwich loaves) 


Tip: If you want to maintain the freshness of the sandwich bread, why not do it the belgian way? Leave the bread uncut and place in a bread bag, secure it tightly by folding the opening a few times or taping with scotchtape. The sandwich bread will remain fresh and soft even the next day. If you want to be really "kiasu" (afraid to lose out) like me, you can offer the bread "double protection" by wrapping it up in aluminium foil and putting it in a bread bag. 

This post has been submitted to YeastSpotting.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Bloemencorso in Loenhout (12 Sep 2010)





We went to the Bloemencorso flower parade in Loenhout last Sunday (12 Sep). The Bloemencorso or flower parade is an annual event organized by Loenhout (a dutch-speaking village in Belgium which borders Netherlands), and has a long history dating back to the early 1950s. This was my third time attending the parade since 2008 but nevertheless I always look forward to this event and the huge and beautiful flower carriages which go on parade. This parade was first started on 31 August 1952 to celebrate the opening of the renewed road from Brecht to Loenhout and since then it has become an annual affair which attracts thousands of people both from Belgium and Netherlands.

The flower parade not only attracts loads of visitors to the small village of Loenhout, it also serves to keep the children of Loenhout busy during the summer holiday months of July and August as they would be fully occupied in the conceptual design, physical assembly of the metal frame as well as the labourious task of tacking the flowers onto the carriages. I went once to the assembly hall where people were working day and night the day before the event, and I was amazed at the unity and the caramaderie displayed by both adults and children. Some were sitting down quietly tacking the flowers, while others were busy climbing up the scaffolding and putting up the metal frames in place. And there were also others who helped serve coffee/tea and snacks to the people. It was a huge logistics exercise just to get enough flowers to fill the carriages. The flowers were mainly grown in the village itself but part of them were bought from neighbouring Netherlands to make up the shortfall.

If you would like to know more about the Bloemencorso flower parade held in Loenhout each year, here is the link :
 
http://www.bloemencorsoloenhout.be/

The Bloemencorso in Loenhout always takes place on the 2nd Sunday of September each year. The neighbouring village, Zundert in Netherlands, also has a similar flower parade but on a bigger scale, which takes place on the 1st Sunday of September every year. 

http://new.bloemencorsozundert.nl/

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Homemade Honey Char Siew (蜜汁叉烧) - Experimenting with 2 Recipes


I was running low on my chinese cooking supplies recently. No more rice wine (绍兴酒), no more chinese sausages (腊肠), no more dried shrimps (虾米),  no more dried shiitake mushrooms (香菇). I thought of making fried rice but I had none of the above ingredients in store. In order to replenish those supplies, I would have to make a trip down to Antwerp Chinatown and it is so troublesome to find parking space there. Not to mention that area is generally not safe and full of shady characters especially after nightfall, not the chinese businessmen who earn a decent living there nor decent shoppers like me, but some strange marginalized people who roam the streets and bum around doing nothing.


Anyway, yesterday my FIL said he would be going to Makro in Wijnegem, the biggest supermarket in the region (but still considered small by Singapore standards), so I quickly jumped at the chance and asked him to get me some dried shiitake mushrooms and some streaky pork, or what they called varken buikspek here. I wanted ongezouten buikspek (unsalted fatty pork stomach). My requirements were quite specific, it had to be unsmoked and unsalted for making char siew (叉烧). Armed with the newly bought shitake mushrooms, though still lacking in dried shrimps, I thought I could whip up some fried rice with some homemade char siew tomorrow. Sounded like a good plan.

So I set about cleaning the streaky pork. 0.79kg for 4.3 euro. Not a bad deal. Considering a plate of plain fried rice without char siew costs 10 euro here. So a plate of char siew rice would have set me back by 12-15 euro or so. Talk about daylight robbery! Imagine a plate of char siew rice here costs at least 5 times as much as that in Singapore! And I have to specially drive to Antwerp to enjoy it. What the heck. Here is 4 euro worth of fatty pork and I can replicate a dish of homemade char siew for 3 persons. No actually, I only intended to use half of it for making the char siew and the other half would be reserved for making tau you bah (braised pork with soya sauce) later this week. So my homemade char siew effectively cost only 2 euro for 3 persons. Hahaha, I smiled to myself for being such a shrewd housewife. :)

I looked around my stack of recipes and I happened to have 2 different char siew recipes on hand. Why not make an experiment of it, it would be quite fun, I thought. So I divided the fatty pork into 2 portions and marinated them using the 2 recipes. Kill 2 birds with one stone. Or rather kill 2 "pigs" with 1 stone?

Here are the ingredients and steps on how to make char siew (or char siu/roast pork) at home.

Recipe 1
(Adapted from Violet Fenying's recipe which has ceased to exist since Mar 10)

Ingredients A
500g pork (cut into long strips)
1 tbsp red wine residue - I didnt use any

Ingredients B (chopped)
2 slices ginger
3 shallots
3 cloves garlic

Ingredients C (seasoning sauce)
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp hua tiao jiu (chinese rice wine)
3 tbsp char siew sauce or hoisin sauce

Ingredients D
3 tbsp honey

Method
1. Wash pork and prick some holes with a fork.
2. Spread pork evenly with red wine residue (I skipped this step).
3. Add Ingredients B, mix well.
4. Add Ingredients C, mix well.
5. Place it in fridge, marinate for 3-4 hours.
6. Place pork on the rack, bake in a pre-heated oven at 210°C for 15 min
7. Turn pork over, bake for another 10 min.
8. Remove pork, spread evenly with honey, and GRILL (turn oven temp to highest or set to grill mode) for another 5 min.

To reduce cleaning up, I would recommend that the pork be placed on a small wire rack which is placed on top of a rectangular pan lined with aluminium foil. This pan is then placed on the rack in the oven during baking. I think it is easier to take in and out of the oven using this setup and it is also much easier to clean.

Varken Buikspek or fatty pork from the stomach
Marinated pork from recipe 1 on the left and recipe 2 on the right.

Recipe 2 
(Adapted from Lily Ng's recipe)

Ingredients
500g pork - cut into strips

Seasonings
2½ tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp soya sauce
1/4 -1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp Mui Kai Lo or chinese rice wine
1/2 tsp 5-spice powder
1/4 tsp salt
dash of pepper

Method
(For simplicity, I use the same steps in recipe 1 to grill the pork in recipe 2, as there is not much difference in the steps).

Homemade char siew fresh from the oven
So what was the verdict? After cutting the 2 batches of char siew, I accidently mixed them all up when I tried to arrange them together on the same plate. Luckily I realised it just in time before I got them totally mixed up, and managed to take a bite of 1 piece of char siew from each batch.

So what was my conclusion? I thought that recipe 1 from Fenying was saltier whereas recipe 2 from Lily Ng was sweeter. Once they were served on the dining table however, you could hardly tell the taste of one from another. They looked the same in terms of colour and there was just a miniscule difference in terms of sweetness and saltiness. In terms of presentation, my homemade char siew didn't really look like the ones served back home in Singapore although the taste was authentic enough. I blamed it on the cut of the meat I had, the thickness of the fatty pork was too thin, and there was nothing I could do about it. In fact I couldn't slice along the cross-section of the char siew, I had to cut them along the strip at every 1 inch interval. That explained why my char siew looked a bit different from the norm. :P

All in all, this was a good experiment for my honey char siew (蜜汁叉烧). The 400g of char siew were quickly gobbled up between me and my hubby. Even His Majesty (my baby son) nodded approvingly and even requested for more when I asked him if it was good. 好吃! Lekker! :)


Updated on 30/09/11 - my succesful attempt on homemade char siew 
- 再战蜜汁叉烧 Homemade Honey Char Siew (once again)

Almond Raisin Bread


Yesterday I decided to bake the sweet bread dough again cos I realised I probably didn't do it entirely right the first time for my sausage cheese bread.

The last time I made the sweet bread dough I made it without a full understanding of how it works. So I went back to the Magic Bread book by Alex Goh and read in his preface that his book primarily focussed on "gelatinized dough". According to him, "gelatinized dough" (烫种面包) or scalded dough was first introduced by japanese chefs, and the texture is soft and springy which is well-liked by Asians. Well, that was the only thing he said about the sweet bread dough, nothing about the rationale behind scalding and chilling the bread dough overnight.

Then I read in Corner Cafe's post that resting and especially chilling the dough overnight apparently helps to make the dough stronger and more extensible, and hence easier to stretch and form into different kinds of shapes. I also read in HappyHomeBaker's post that scalding the dough with boiling water increases the water-binding capacity of the dough, so that less moisture is lost during and after baking.

So much about bread science. It's mind boggling once you delve into the details. Let's leave the bread science to the professional bakers. Amateur bakers like me, should only worry about how easy to bake the bread and how good it tastes, isn't it?

Adapted from Alex Goh's Magic Bread

INGREDIENTS
Prepare 400g of sweet bread dough

TOPPING
adequate flaked almonds

ALMOND FILLINGS
50g butter
50g sugar
60g eggs (1 large egg)
1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
100g ground almonds
100g raisins


METHOD
1. Prepare 400g of sweet bread dough and mould the dough round.

2. Let it rest for 10 min. Roll it thin into a 35x23 cm rectangular shape.

3. Spread almond fillings and sprinkle raisins on top. Roll it up like swiss roll.
(I made the mistake of adding the raisins and mixing it into the almond filling instead of sprinkling them on top. Luckily it was still relatively easy to spread the filling on the dough and the bread still turned out good, thank goodness).
 

4. Cut the dough into 10 pieces. Place them side by side into a 20cm round mould (greased and lined with greaseproof paper). Let it proof for 45 min to 1 hour (cover with greased clingwrap and place in a warm enclosed place).

5. Egg wash and sprinkle with some flaked almonds on top.


6. Bake at 175C in the lower shelf of the oven for 25-30 min.


Note: I baked the bread late at night, and after cooling it down, kept it in a bread bag (the paper bag which we got whenever we buy bread from the local bakery). You should fold the opening of the bag a few times or tape it with scotchtape and make sure it is airtight. This will keep the bread fresh for the next day. Then you just have to warm up the bread in the oven at 60-80 degrees the next day and the bread will taste as good as fresh.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

AB InBev in Trouble - Leffe Yeast Used For Stella Artois Beer

I didn't do my beer-spotting last weekend (as usual I was lazy) but I thought I would blog about a piece of interesting news which I heard over the belgian news about a famous belgian beer, Stella Artois.

Apparently this news dated 8 Sep 2010, managed to escape the headlines of the major newspapers around the world, but it's still of journalistic value, at least to the beer-drinkers. Wait til you hear it, it is quite ridiculous.....

AB InBev, one of the world's biggest breweries with 25% of the global market share, apparently mixed up the yeast of Stella Artois with that of Leffe (abbey beer) in its brewery based in Leuven, Belgium. As a result, thousands of liters of beer have to be destroyed. (Click here for the news in dutch)

According to the belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws, the embarrassing gaffe only came to light when a number of customers complained that their Stella Artois beer had a very sour taste. The laboratory in Leuven where AB InBev is based, also noticed that there was something wrong about the taste of the Stella Artois beer. Results of an investigation showed that there were a few pipes (with remains of the Leffe yeast) which were not cleaned properly before they were used for the fermentation of the Stella Artois beer.

As a result of this serious production error, AB InBev had to call back 850,000 pints of Stella Artois beer now. In addition, 9800 hectorliter (1 hl = 100 liters) of Stella beer have already been shipped to North America before the recall could be made. 

Hmmn...this would cause AB InBev a hell lot of money. Talk about job cuts. They tried to cut costs a few months ago, and see what has happened to them. Now you know why I stopped my beer-spotting for a few weeks, I don't want to drink sour belgian beer, hahaha.
 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Pasta with Spinach and Oyster Mushrooms (Revisited)

Pictures sometimes don't do justice to how good the dish tastes, especially badly taken pictures. I was browsing through my food blog and I saw one picture which was so badly taken that I would be surprised if it would actually tempt any reader to attempt that recipe.

Yes, I am refering to the picture for this recipe. It didn't look appetizing, did it?

How about these 2 new pictures then?


I certainly hope the above new pictures will do justice to this otherwise simple but yet delicious pasta dish, which is a regular on our dining table. :)

Noodles with Special Meat Sauce (Zha Jiang Mian 炸酱面)

 炸酱面 (Zha Jiang Mian) is a typical northern chinese cuisine which was made popular in Singapore in recent years due to the new influx of Chinese immigrants from mainland China. The "native" Chinese (3rd and 4th generation) living in Singapore are mostly descendents of immigrants from the southern provinces of China, such as Hokkien, Teochew, Hainanese, Cantonese & Hakka people. As such, the prevalent Chinese cuisine are mostly rice dishes with strong Malay and Indian culinary influences, unlike Chinese from the northern provinces who grew up on noodles and buns. My memories of noodles cooked the Singapore Chinese style are mostly wanton noodles, fishball noodles, charsiew noodles, fried hokkien mee, and laksa etc. However I have tasted  炸酱面 (Zha Jiang Mian) before while I was still in Singapore and it was quite to my liking although I have never figured out how to make it.

So last Sunday, I tried to replicate this  炸酱面 (Zha Jiang Mian) recipe and I was quite pleased with the results, given that it was my first try. On hindsight though, I would try to use spring onions instead of shallots to marinate the minced meat in future, and cut down on the amount of water so as to make the gravy thicker. I would also try to go easy with the amount of shallots and garlic as too much shallots and garlic may cause flatulence and bad breath, and that will inevitably cause a lot of embarassment. Imagine talking to others with bad breath and farting at the same time. :)

I whipped up the Zha Jiang Mian and paired it with stir-fry cauliflowers and carrots.



Recipe adapted from Violet Fenying's blog (which has ceased to exist since Mar 2010)

Ingredient A (for 3 persons)
500g minced pork

Ingredient B
3 tbsp water
1 tsp sesame oil
¼ tsp pepper
1 tbsp corn flour

Ingredient C
5 stalks spring onions OR 3 shallots (chopped)
2 cloves garlic (chopped)

Ingredient D (remove skin, chopped)
3 shallots
2 cloves garlic

Seasoning (mix well)
400 ml water
1 tbsp sesame oil
¼ tsp dark soya sauce
3 tbsp hoisin sauce (Lee Kum Kee brand)
3 - 4 tbsp black bean paste (Lee Kum Kee brand)

Ingredient E (mix well)
1 tbsp corn flour
2 tbsp water

Noodles
400g egg noodles or spaghetti

Other Ingredients *
1 cucumber (cut into 4, shredded)
1 carrot (cut into 4, shredded)
2 red chillies (remove seeds, cut into strips)
50g fried white sesame seeds

* you can add them if you wish but I skipped them 

Method
1. Combine Ingredient A with Ingredient B.
2. Add Ingredient C, marinate for 20 min.

3. Heat up wok with oil, fry Ingredient D till fragrant.

4. Add in marinated minced pork, fry till fragrant.

5. Stir in seasoning sauce, bring to a boil.

6. Add Ingredient E to thicken the gravy, turn off the heat.

7. Cook pasta in pot of boiling water til al dente.

8. Pour in the seasoning sauce, top up with other ingredients* and serve while hot.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sausage Cheese Bread


This was the first time that I made such savoury bread. The result was surprisingly good, thanks to Alex Goh's sweet bread dough recipe. I took a bite of the bread while it was still piping hot from the oven and the verdict was simply delicious : it was soft, with a sweet undertone, plus a savoury taste of sausages and cheese. And the smell of fresh herbs was quite evident too. On hindsight, I should have put in more sausages, more fresh herbs and used cheddar cheese instead of parmesan cheese. Nevermind, I will do it the next time. This recipe will definitely be a keeper!



Adapted from Alex Goh's Magic Bread

INGREDIENTS (makes 13-14 pieces)
1 can of sausages
some fresh rosemary
some fresh thyme
some grated cheddar cheese*
1 beaten egg + 1 tbsp water (egg-wash)

* I used parmesan cheese instead as I don't have cheddar cheese.

METHOD
1. Divide the sweet bread dough into 70g each and mould it into round shape.

2. Let it rest for 10 min, and then roll it flat.

3. Place into a greased pan and let it proof for 45 min.

4. Cut the sausages into small pieces about 4mm thick. Brush the surface with egg-wash and place the sausage slices, rosemary, thyme and grated cheese over the dough.

5. Bake at 190C for 12-15 min in the middle shelve of the oven. 

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