Friday, September 30, 2011

Onde Onde - My First Attempt

This is one of my favourite malay / nonya kuihs, it is called Onde Onde or Ondeh Ondeh. It is made of glutinous rice flour coated with shredded coconut and the filling is made of gula melaka or palm sugar.

Today was my first time making onde onde (pronounced as on-nay on-nay) and honestly speaking, it was much more difficult than I thought. There were some hiccups along the way and I only succeeded after throwing away the 1st two balls. I think my dough was a tad too moist such that the gula melaka filling became wet when in contact with the dough. As a result, the dough tore easily and the gula melaka filling oozed out for quite a few of them.

Some good lessons are learnt during the process. Well, first thing you must make sure that your palms are floured with glutinous rice flour before you start rolling them into balls. The dough should not stick to your palm, if it does, you need to rework it by adding more flour. I prefer to make them all into balls, before filling each one by one with the filling. Then you flatten each ball slightly and spoon 0.5 to 1 tsp of gula melaka filling into the dough, then pinch the corners of the dough together and seal it properly. Here is the tricky part: if you are too greedy and put in too much filling, sooner or later you will realise that the gula melaka filling will become wet due to contact with the dough, this causes the dough to thin out and tear and the filling will start to ooze out. So the trick is not to put in too much filling and just quickly roll it round using your palm which is slightly floured, dun try to be perfectionist and roll it around too much.

And the other important thing which I realised, if you leave your onde onde on the plate for too long while waiting for the water to boil, it gets stuck to the plate and since the weather was quite warm today, somehow the gula melaka filling began to leak out from the bottom of my onde onde...oh double whammy!!! So moral of the story is to quickly get a big pot of boiling water ready before you finish rolling the balls so that as soon as you are ready, you can quickly dump the balls into the boiling water. Once the balls start floating to the surface, you can quickly remove them using a slotted spoon and coat them generously in a plate of steamed shredded coconut.

I am not quite happy with my 1st attempt at making onde onde, so I am not going to post the recipe for now. I will probably try another recipe and see how it works out the next time. :)

再战蜜汁叉烧 Homemade Honey Char Siew (once again)

Char Siew, Char Siu, Cha Shao, 叉烧, chinese barbeque meat or chinese roast pork - whatever you call it, it's still the same thing. The last time I attempted this was nearly a year ago in Sep 2010. I made the laughable mistake of buying the wrong cut of meat and my char siew turned out to look like THIS. Dun laugh, the taste was very good to say the least, if you disregard how it looked like. I knew I have to use the right cut of meat this time, pork shoulder to be precise, so I grabbed the chance to buy 800g of pork shoulder from a slagerij in Antwerp Chinatown while I was there to top up my chinese cooking supplies earlier this week. Varkenschouder abstublieft!

800g of pork shoulder from the butcher costs 6.20 euro while a 600g packet of frozen ready-made char siew from the chinese supermart costs 8.80 euro. That works out to be very little savings after all, isn't it, especially when you still have to take into account transport costs. (I am not money-pinching though as a housewife you need to keep an eye on what are the best deals during grocery-shopping.) But the beautiful thing about marinating and roasting your own char siew pork is that.....there are no preservatives!!! You get to select your own cut of meat, and you determine whether you want it to be sweet or salty, tender or charred. Though I may never be able to achieve the standards of professionals, but I take pride in declaring that at least, I know what goes behind the making of char siew pork. You can't pull wool over my eyes :)

If you wish to try out the 2 different recipes which I used in making my own char siew, you can visit my previous post :)

再战蜜汁叉烧, 任务达成!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Orange Marmalade Roll - revisited

The weather in Belgium has been surprisingly good this week. It feels like summer again, warm and sunny, and you can hear birds chirping away. Though the days are getting shorter, still it is a good reprieve from the terribly wet and cold belgian summer that we have had this year. I thought I would make use of this last stretch of warm weather to make some bread. It is much easier and faster to leave the dough to rise outdoors which is why I much prefer to bake in summer than in winter.

I revisited my orange marmalade roll recipe, one of the first few bread recipes which I attempted last year when I was still
very much a bread idiot. Not that I am an expert now, but I have at least made some progress in my bread-baking skills. I especially like the taste of the sweet marmalade jam coupled with savoury grated cheese. Enjoy it with a cup of hot earl grey tea on a warm autumn day in Belgium. Hmmm, lekker!!!

This post has been submitted to YeastSpotting.

Monday, September 26, 2011

SOS Piet Apple Cake

I believe everyone of us has an innate ability to be a foodie, a food critic, or a gourmet /connoisseur, but not everybody can be a teacher who knows how to correct the frequently made mistakes of amateur home cooks. 

SOS Piet is one of them, he is a very famous chef cum TV host who has his own cook show on belgian (flemish) television called SOS Piet, his real name being a bit tricky for my tongue, Piet Huysentruyt. He would go around saving damsels in distress (SOS!!!) in the kitchen (sometimes men too) with his trademark suitcase filled with cooking pans and ingredients. You can pose him any questions or problems about a particularly tricky dish and he sure knows how to solve it "instantly" with a click of his fingers on national TV.

Well, I watched his show a couple of times on TV and honestly I find his mannerisms very grappig (funny) and exaggerated, more like a comedian than an accomplished chef. But that's what sells on TV. He has a whole collection of cookbooks tied to his cook shows and also a whole series of cooking utensils and spices endorsed by him. I haven't bought any of his books or pans yet, but I tried one of his apple cake recipes recently. 

It was lovely and quite easy. The instructions in his recipe (in Dutch) were a bit strange in sequence, so I adapted it here and there. It is quite a healthy cake with lots of apples, not too high in butter and sugar content, just nice for my liking. My hubby likes it too, that's all that matters, cos if he doesn't like my cake, then I would have to finish it all by myself. Either that or my chickens would have a nice little tea-party all by themselves. ;)

3 to 4 apples (1 chopped in small blocks, 2 to 3 cut into thin slices for deco) 
100g raisins (soaked for 10 min in rum or sweet liquer of choice, I used Amaretto)
100g butter, softened at room temperature
300g plain flour, sifted
1 tsp baking soda/bicarbonate of soda
150g sugar
3 eggs
4 tbsp milk

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius.
2. Beat butter and sugar til light and creamy.
3. Add in eggs one by one and mix until well-blended. Followed by milk, raisins (drained of sweet liquer) and chopped apples.
4. Fold in the sifted flour mixture (plain flour and baking soda) with spatula.
5. Pour the batter into a lined and greased 8 inch (20cm) springform pan.
6. Line the apple slices on top of the batter and press them in slightly.
7. Bake at 180C for 40-45 min until done.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hokkien Pumpkin Rice (福建金瓜饭)

I cooked this Hokkien Pumpkin Rice on the same day that I made the Pumpkin Kaya Jam, but I only have the time to upload the fotos today. This is what I believe to be a very traditional hokkien household recipe just like cabbage rice. You will never see it served in any restaurants in Singapore or elsewhere, it is only served at home. Hokkien cuisine hails from the chinese province of Hokkien or Fujian in China. Some of the famous traditional dishes include for example, hokkien prawn mee, bak kut teh, kiam chye ark, popiah, ngoh hiang, pumpkin rice, cabbage rice and yam rice. Of all these dishes, I only know how to cook pumpkin rice, cabbage rice and to a certain extent, improvised bak kut teh. But that is good enough for me to relive the tastes of homecooked hokkien food.

The steps are really simple, and almost identical to my cabbage rice recipe.

INGREDIENTS (for 3-4 persons)
2 - 2.5 cups of uncooked rice, rinsed and drained
300 - 400g pumpkin, peeled, deseeded, chopped into 1-inch cubes
200g belly pork/streaky pork, thinly sliced
a handful of dried shrimps (soaked in water until soft, retain the water)
5 dried chinese mushrooms (thinly sliced, soaked until soft, retain the water)
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped 

1 tbsp light soya sauce
1 tbsp dark soya sauce
a pinch of salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat up a wok and stir-fry the belly pork til slightly browned. Set the belly pork aside, and retain the pork fat in the work.

2. Add the chopped garlic and stir-fry until fragrant. 

3. Add the dried shrimps and chinese mushrooms (drained from the water) and stir-fry for 1 min until fragrant. 

4. Add the chopped pumpkin and pre-fried belly pork. Mix well. Let the pumpkin simmer for 3 min or so until soft. Season with light soya sauce, dark soya sauce and a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.

5. Finally add in the rice, stir well and make sure the rice is well-mixed with the other ingredients and well coated with the seasoning. Stir fry for 1 min or so.

6. Transfer everything into the rice cooker. Add 1 cup of water (water used for soaking the mushrooms or dried shrimps) for every 2 cups of rice. Press the COOK button on the rice cooker and wait for the rice to be cooked. Halfway through the cooking, open the rice cooker, and stir the rice and pumpkin for a while, to make sure the top and bottom parts are evenly cooked.

Note : Usually when cooking plain rice, I will add water until the rice is fully immersed and the water level is slightly above the rice. But for cooking pumpkin rice, you need not add too much water, otherwise the pumpkin will become mushy and the rice will become soggy. Based on my past experience, the ideal ratio should be 1 cup of water for every 2 cups of rice. It doesn't matter that the water level doesn't cover the rice completely because more moisture from the pumpkin will be released during cooking in the rice cooker. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Homemade Pumpkin Kaya Jam (金瓜咖椰)

Yesterday I was struggling with the huge pumpkin the whole afternoon, and later busy whipping up fried pumpkin rice and at the same time cooking and stirring my pumpkin kaya jam, that I didn't have much time to snap some pictures of the pumpkin kaya jam.

But here it is.

I love it much more than the not-so-successful kaya jam which I made for my Old-school Kaya Buns. This is creamier, smells and tastes of pumpkin and coconut, and took me much less time and effort. With the help of the custard powder, it was easier for the pumpkin kaya jam to thicken and set into a jam. And I didn't have to worry about lumpy bits. Of course, this also resulted in the bright orangey-yellow colour due to the addition of the custard powder. Which I may not be able to circumvent if I wanna make the pandan kaya jam which is supposed to be green in colour instead of orangey-yellow.)

So here is my adapted recipe for my pumpkin kaya jam. Note that there isn't a single egg in the recipe, so it is very suitable for vegetarians. :)

Recipe adapted from Fenying's 我的厨房笔记


500g pumpkin, steamed and mashed
300g coconut milk
180g brown sugar (I used cassonade graeffe from Belgium)
2 tbsp custard powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 pieces of pandan leaves (optional - I did not use any)

1. Peel the pumpkin, remove the seeds, cut it into thin slices, and steam it until cooked and softened. Mash it while still hot.

2. In a big bowl, add in coconut milk, sugar, custard powder and salt to the mashed pumpkin. Stir and mix evenly. Then strain everything using a sieve into another bowl.

3. In a non-stick pot, pour in the pumpkin kaya mixture and cook over low heat. Add in pandan leaves (optional). Cook and stir constantly until the mixture has thickened and set (about 15 min).

4. Remove the pandan leaves and allow the mixture to cool. Keep in sterilized glass jars and store in fridge.

Note : I realise that the pumpkin kaya jam is a bit too sweet for my liking, maybe bcos I am using the belgium cassonade sugar. In any case, please adjust the amount of sugar to your taste. The original amount of sugar stated was 200g brown sugar, I have used only 180g sugar but I think it can be reduced further.

It's Autumn and I am flooded with pumpkins!

It's Autumn. 1st thing you notice is that the weather is turning colder, days are getting shorter, and leaves are either turning yellow or dropping like crazy.

Last year, we enjoyed a modest harvest from our backyard, a total of 3 big pumpkins and 2 courgettes, not a bad start for a beginner. We didn't plant anything this year, except for beans, so nothing to show off. Thank god we didn't spend much effort this year cos the weather in Belgium was really freaky this summer. But we got a big pumpkin from somebody. The usual problem with pumpkins is - you dunno what you gonna do with it. It's really a love-hate relationship. When you have a recipe that requires a pumpkin and they are not in season, you have to set aside the recipe or make do with canned pumpkin. But when autumn comes and pumpkins are aplenty, then you wish you have never received a pumpkin as a cadeautje (present).

I spent one hour yesterday afternoon cutting the 7+ kg orange monster with a not-so-sharp knife, dividing them into portions, sealing them in ziploc bags and shoving them into the fridge and freezer. Mission accomplished. Next target is to find enough pumpkin-related recipes to finish off those bags of pumpkins. Pumpkin rice, pumpkin kaya jam, chiffon cake, soup, you name it, I have it.

So last evening, I managed to finish off 1 kg of pumpkin (500g for my chinese pumpkin rice and another 500g for my pumpkin kaya jam). What a feat! I am so proud of myself. But that still leaves me with at least 5kg in the freezer. Brrrr...I think I am gonna turn orange or yellow for the next few weeks. 

真的要变成黄脸婆了! Oh, my face is already yellow enough!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Old-school Kaya Buns

I am still in a reminiscent mood. After baking some Old-school Coconut Buns last week, I decided to make some kaya buns following a different recipe for the bread dough. And I call them Old-school Kaya Buns bcos you can only find them in old-fashioned bakeries in Singapore.

I made the kaya (coconut egg jam) myself, using a fast-track play-cheat method via microwave. Most home-made kaya jams are made using the traditional way of slow-cooking and stirring in a bain-marie which takes 1-2 hours. But I was too lazy and impatient to stand beside the stove for 2 hours, so I opted for the fastest way of making kaya, which is not necessarily the best way. The resultant kaya jam was a bit lumpy and I had to blend it in a food blender to make the texture finer and smoother. If you are interested, the recipe is here, note that I reduced the amount of sugar to 220g which I still find it quite sweet. (Updated as of 21/09/11: here is a good recipe for the filling - my pumpkin kaya jam. Updated as of 26/09/13 - yet another very good recipe for pandan kaya - homemade kaya in 15 min.)

Anyway, back to my kaya buns. I made them using my tried-and-tested Sweet Bread Dough recipe. You have to prepare the dough starter 12 hours in advance or the night before. It is very easy if you have some basic experience of making bread, but it is not difficult even for a beginner, as this recipe was one of the recipes which I tried a year ago when I first started making breads. If you are kneading by hand, it will take you at least 40 min or so, and if you use a bread-machine, you would have to wait for 2 dough cycles (20 min x 2 for my machine), til the bread dough passes the membrane test and the poke-a-hole test as illustrated in my Sweet Bread Dough recipe.

The steps are quite simple, after the first proofing of 40 min to 1 hour (until doubled in size), divide the dough into 10 equal portions. Then take one portion, flatten it with the palm of your hand  or with a rolling pin into a small circle, and fill it with 2 teaspoonfuls of home-made or store-bought kaya jam. Then seal the buns properly by pinching the dough towards the bottom, mould them round, cover with greased clingwrap and let them rest (until doubled in size) for the second proofing. When the buns have finished proofing, brush them with some egg-wash and place them in a preheated oven at 180 degrees celsius for 12 to 15 min, or until they turn golden brown. 

This sweet bread dough is very versatile, you can stuff it with fillings such as kaya jam, coconut filling or red bean paste. Or you can stuff it with little pieces of hotdogs and make hotdog rolls out of it. The variations are limitless, just depending on how far your creativity can stretch. ;p

This post has been submitted to YeastSpotting.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival 中秋节快乐

Today is the Mid-Autumn Festival, also called Mooncake Festival or Lantern Festival, a festival traditionally celebrated by chinese people. I don't particularly love eating mooncakes, so I don't have any home-made mooncakes to show off (it's too much work anyway) but I loved carrying lanterns when I was young. I was hoping to buy some paper lanterns or some plastic battery-operated lanterns in Antwerp Chinatown for my little boy but unfortunately they don't seem to sell them. I only saw a few miserable boxes of mooncakes on sale. 

Today, being the 15th of the eighth lunar month of the chinese lunar calendar is also a date that parallels the autumnal equinox of the solar calendar, which means to say that the moon will be at its fullest and roundest. I don't think the weather in Belgium is gonna be good tonight, hopefully the clouds will clear so that we can watch out for the brightest and roundest moon for the whole of this year. I heard that Singapore is also experiencing some terrible haze today so I wonder if the Singapore folks will be able to view the moon tonight?

Anyway, before I forget, let me wish everybody a Happy Mid-Autumn Festival! 中秋节快乐!

Bloemencorso Loenhout 2011 (11 September 2011)

Bloemencorso Loenhout 2011, a set on Flickr.

We went to the Bloemencorso yesterday, the annual flower parade held in Loenhout every second sunday of September. Unfortunately the weather was not as good as Saturday where the temperature soared to 25 degrees celsius or higher. When I look at my photos taken for last year's bloemencorso, the weather seemed to be much better, at least you can catch a glimpse of blue sky with clouds, not like the grey and overcast sky this year.

This year's parade was supposed to start at 2pm, but it started a bit later, since it started to drizzle lightly. The audience all came prepared with raincoats and umbrellas, luckily the rain didn't last for long. It disappeared quickly, and only started to drizzle again when the last flower-carriage appeared. So in a way, we were still lucky with the weather. :)

I didn't manage to squeeze myself into a good position to snap any shots of the kinderwagons. It was really a pity, cos you get to see toddlers and primary school children proudly parading with their cute painted faces and elaborate costumes, and pushing their little flower carriages along. But once I managed to settle myself in a comfortable corner, I took a few photos of the juniorwagons, not all of them, and a series of photos of volwassenenwagons (adult flower carriages).  How I wish the weather could be better, as the photos turn out to be quite dark due to the overcast sky, even though I had tried my best to adjust the aperture and settings of my SLR camera.

For more information on Bloemencorso in Loenhout, you can visit their official website or my previous post

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Vlaamse Stoverij met Westmalle Tripel

Yesterday I cooked Vlaamse Stoverij again. It's been quite some time since I last cooked this dish, as our little boy has been eating dinner together with us since he started on solid foods and I have to be careful with cooking dishes that contain spices or alcohol, just in case he has any allergies that we are not aware of.

I remembered the last time I cooked this beef stew, I used Maredsous Tripel. And my hubby was complaining then, that we should support the local economy and the local trappist beer. So this time round, I am using a trappist beer called Westmalle Tripel, which always stands in a big crate of 24 in our garage. We live quite near the Trappist Abbey and Cafe Trappisten in Westmalle, so whoever visits our humble abode will invariably be served a glass of Westmalle Tripel or Dubbel, to support the local economy. ;)

Flemish Beef Stew or Vlaamse Stoverij (also called Stoofvlees or Vlaamsekarbonade in Flanders and Carbonade Flamande in Wallonia) is really a traditional yet simple flemish cuisine which you hardly get to eat outside Belgium. It is not difficult after all, the basic ingredients are just beef, beer, onions, salt, pepper, thyme, laurier leaves. Honestly what makes flemish beef stew so special, is the beer! SOS Piet Huysentruyt's recipe uses Grimbergen and Rodenbach, but my recipe from Ruth Van Waerebeek uses a Westmalle Tripel, plus some cider vinegar and rode bessengelei to mask the bitter taste of the Westmalle Tripel beer. In effect it achieves the same results as adding Rodenbach which is a bit sweet in nature.

I also added some chopped carrots and beans on top to serve as vegetables, but this is rarely done in restaurants (see here). I have checked a few recipes here and there, and confirm that the basic steps and ingredients are more or less the same as those in my previous recipe.

Now, if you live outside Belgium and don't have access to good belgian beer, what would be the alternative then? I would really like to hear from folks who use other beers to make this beef stew. I can imagine readers from Singapore or Malaysia using the most commonly-found beers such as Tiger, Anchor, ABC, Heineken, Carlsberg, or even Guiness Stout. Honestly speaking, draft beers and stout beers are not ideal, you have to use a brown ale or strong dark beer. But as in all home-style cooking, you may not have all the authentic ingredients on hand and you have to make do with whatever is available in your kitchen, right? Why visit belgian restaurants such as Oosters or Brussels Sprouts in Singapore when you can cook up something so simple at home? By the way, I just checked their websites, they don't serve flemish beef stew. Actually I don't blame them, they will probably go bankrupt if they use belgian beer in their dishes, considering that a bottle of Westmalle Tripel will set you back by at least SGD 22 bucks or 13 euro!!! :)

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