Friday, November 29, 2013

Bulgogi / Korean Grilled Beef

I haven't been cooking korean dishes lately, it's been exactly a year since I made my first kimchi. I wanna make kimchi this winter, but I am either busy, sick or plain lazy to get started. But yesterday, I decided to make a korean dish which has been on my to-do-list for quite some time. 

So I asked dear hubby to go to the butcher to get some thinly sliced beef. As usual, I wasn't quite sure what they call it in Dutch or Flemish, I only knew it had to be beef sirloin or a prime cut of beef, and furthermore it had to be sliced very thinly. It took me quite some time to explain to my hubby what I wanted. In the end, we concurred that "rosbief" would be the correct description of what I needed for making bulgogi or korean grilled beef. Hubby came back from the charcuterie section of the supermart (strange but he didn't visit the slagerij) with a packet of what seemed to be paper-thin sliced beef that was cooked around the edges, complaining that it cost him a BOMB! Well, 29 euro per kilo or 17,50 euro for 600 grams was really quite expensive, in my opinion. He said this type of thinly sliced rosbief is usually what people in Belgium buy to put between their bread, and it is known to be expensive. What? Isn't it raw in the middle? I wouldn't eat raw beef with my sandwich, or raw horse meat. There are people who eat raw horse meat with their bread in Belgium. For me, it is like yucks, no way!

Anyway, here is how it looks like. In case any of my belgian or dutch friends wanna cook korean bulgogi for dinner, you know what to get from the slagerij. It is called "rosbief".

This korean bulgogi or korean grilled beef was actually quite easy to prepare. You need to marinate the meat well in advance, preferably overnight, but I only did it for 6 hours. I baked my beef spread out evenly in a big flat non-stick pan, and it only took me 4 to 5 min on medium-high heat. Since the beef slices were paper-thin, you shouldn't cook them for too long, otherwise the meat would be too tough and not juicy and succulent. I would say this is a fuss-free dinner for busy working mothers, since you can marinate the meat the night before and it will only take you 5 min to grill in a pan after you come back from work.

It was really good, thanks to the recipe from Aeri's Kitchen. Luckily my expensive rosbief didn't go to waste! I find the beef juicy and succulent, I could taste a tinge of sweetness from the sugar and pear juice, I could also taste the zingy flavour of onions and spring onions and the fragrance of the sesame oil and sesame seeds. Initially I thought 6 tbsp of soya sauce was too much and I wanted to cut it down, luckily I didn't. It was just nice, not too salty. I am definitely gonna try this over and over again.

This dish goes well with steamed white rice, but you can also put it between a baguette with some sliced tomatoes and lettuce (check out this bulgogi sandwich recipe). We had the bulgogi with thai rice, and a mixed salad with cherry tomatoes, a typical east-meets-west fusion-style dinner.

Recipe adapted from my favourite korean blogger, Aeri's Kitchen. Her recipes are very precise in terms of measurement, and I have never gone wrong following her recipes.

Main Ingredients
500g of thinly sliced beef (beef sirloin or any premium cut of beef)
1 large onion, sliced thinly
1 small carrot, chopped into matchstick size

6 tbsp light soya sauce
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp pear juice (I used juice extracted from 1/2 a pear, it was a western type of pear and not an asian pear as stated in her recipe. You can use apple too)
3 tbsp chinese cooking wine or sherry (or water if you cannot take alcohol)
3 tbsp spring onions, chopped
1.5 tbsp garlic, chopped
1 pinch of ginger powder (you can use fresh finely chopped ginger)
1 tbsp black sesame seeds
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp sesame oil

1. In a big bowl, mix the sliced beef, onions, carrots with the ingredients of the marinade and mix well. Marinate it preferably overnight, if not at least half a day. Cover the bowl with clingwrap and leave it to chill in the fridge until you are ready to cook.

2. Heat up a big non-stick pan to medium-high heat and drizzle 1-2 tbsp cooking oil, then add the marinated beef and spread it over a thin layer. Stir and toss the beef to make sure all sides are cooked well. Do not over-cook! It only took 4 to 5 min for my beef as they were sliced paper-thin. 

Note: I used 600g of sliced beef and the marinade did not seem to be enough, and I had to increase the marinade proportionately. So I think 500g of beef would be better for the amount of marinade stated above.

I am submitting this post to Aspiring Bakers #37 - Korean: The Feast of Hansik (Nov 2013), hosted by Grace of Life Can Be Simple.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

RCC #8 - Rice Cooker Zebra Cake or Marble Cake?


The happiest thing in life is to have your kiddies surround you as you open the lid of the rice cooker, the moment of truth awaits all of us every time, imagine the feeling of excitement and trepidation! But I had to be on high alert, because my kiddies were pretty fast, in fact my boy was about to use the rice cooker spoon to scoop up the cake just like how he always sees me scooping up rice, and my girl wanted to touch the cake with her little hand. :p

Now what should I call this, a Rice Cooker Zebra Cake or a Rice Cooker Marble Cake? In any case, this is what I would consider a successful rice cooker cake. In terms of taste and texture, it is much much better than my very first rice cooker marble cake, although the steps are slightly more complicated, but it is worth all the effort. It is of course a completely different recipe than the previous one. I am glad to know that butter cakes (or marble cakes for that matter) can indeed be made successfully in a rice cooker, and they taste as good as those baked in an oven. In fact I feel that they retain the moisture much better. Further more, butter cakes baked in oven usually have a very high chance of cracking on top, but not so if you make them in a rice cooker, they will never crack! This is certainly one advantage of baking in a rice cooker! 

This time round, the base of my rice cooker cake didn't turn out to be as flawless as all my rice cooker cakes. It wasn't because I didn't unmould it properly. My rice cooker cakes don't need special skills to unmould. Well, read on and you will know.

I dunno how long I can keep making cakes in my little rice cooker, look at all the blemishes. I dun think it is a result of me making cakes in my rice cooker, I think it is just normal wear and tear, afterall it is already 5 years old. I can't remember when the first blemish appeared, but it just got bigger and bigger, and other blemishes quickly followed suit. 

My friend told me that a rice cooker salesman once advised her not to rinse and wash rice in the rice cooker itself but in a separate bowl, so that there will be less friction and scratching on the non-stick coat. But it is too late for me. I just have to do whatever I can to preserve its current state until I have the opportunity to buy a new one in Singapore, which is probably another year away. Whatever it is, this rice cooker will always occupy a special place in my heart. Why? Because it was a present given by my mother 5 years ago, part of my dowry gift actually.  It has always occupied prime real estate on my kitchen counter top, it has its moments of glory, it has seen better times than this, but it will never be forgotten even as it breathes its last breath. Oh, I am getting sentimental again. :(

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

FAQ - How to Make Cakes in a Rice Cooker

Ever since I started my journey in rice cooker baking a year ago in Oct 2012, I have received a lot of questions and feedback regarding my rice cooker cakes, and so I have decided to compile a list of FAQ (frequently asked questions) to help those who wish to learn how to make/bake/cook a cake in a rice cooker.

Honestly, I am not an expert on rice cookers and rice cooker baking, and I don't consider myself as one, since I only have experience in using one particular brand and model, but I have fiddled with my rice cooker frequent enough to know the tricks and pitfalls of rice cooker baking. What I write here is based on my own experience and feedback gathered from my readers. If you have other queries which you would like to be added, kindly leave a comment below and I will try my best to answer. All readers are welcome to chip in with their comments or suggestions if they have differing views or opinions. I hope this can be a forum for rice cooker lovers to share their experiences.

1) I don't have a rice cooker with "Baking/Cake" function, can I still "bake" a cake in my rice cooker?
Yes, of course you can. My rice cooker is without cake function, and all my rice cooker cake inventions are cooked using the "Cook" function. Most of the readers, who have succeeded in making my rice cooker cakes, used rice cookers without "Baking/Cake" function too.

2) My rice cooker is not the modern type of Japanese microcomputer fuzzy-logic rice cooker with multiple functions. It is the old-fashioned type with only 1 button, can I still use it?
If your rice cooker is not of the latest technology, does not have a non-stick pot and has only 1 button, it may still be possible. There are a few readers who have tried using very old rice cookers with 1 button and it worked for them. The only way to know is to try it out to see if it works, but you have to grease the inner pot well and watch closely to make sure it doesn't get burnt/charred. If need be, you may need to flip the cake over when the batter has hardened into a cake, to reduce the chances of the cake getting burnt/charred. (Note: it is pointless to email me to ask if a particular brand or model will work, because I frankly do not know.) [Update] : Pls pop over to this link to read my friend Nasifriet's solution to making RCC in her 19-year-old traditional rice cooker. She used "double protection", a layer of aluminium foil plus another layer of parchment paper on top, to make sure her cake doesn't get burnt.

3) The "Cook" mode has switched to "Keep Warm" mode after 15 min and I tried to place a small piece of cardboard at the "Cook" switch to force it to remain in "Cook" mode. After another 10 min, I noticed a burning smell coming from my rice cooker.
For some rice cookers, you may have to wait for a few min before you can re-press the "Cook" button, if not you may risk breaking the rice cooker. Every time the "Cook" mode switches to "Keep Warm" mode, press "Cancel", try waiting for 5 min and then re-press "Cook" again. For one reader, it even took her 2 hours as she had to wait each time for the cooker to restart. But if you have tried the above, and your rice cooker cake still turns out charred or burnt, then maybe your rice cooker is not suitable for making cakes.

4) My rice cooker has a "Baking/Cake" function, how long would it take for such a rice cooker?
It depends on the brand, model and capacity. Most of the time, the "Baking/Cake" function allows the cake to be cooked slightly faster than the regular "Cook" function. Most of my rice cooker recipes are 1 hour recipes based using "Cook" function on a 5.5-cup cooker, so it may take less than 1 hour if you are using the "Baking/Cake" function in a 5.5-cup cooker, but not always. Some readers with such rice cookers of the same capacity reported taking 1 hour, while some others took 45 to 50 min, it really depends. Remember the stated 1 hour timing varies depending on brand, model and capacity, it is to be taken as a guideline and not meant to be blindly followed.

5) What is the brand, model and capacity of your rice cooker?
The brand is Toshiba, model RC10L-MI, 5.5 cup capacity, purchased in 2008 in Singapore. It has functions such as "Cook", "Quick Cook", "Keep Warm", "Timer", "Congee", "Steam" and "Soup", but I only use the "Cook" function for making cakes. (I am not a paid ambassador of Toshiba rice cookers, I happen to use Toshiba because it is the rice cooker that I have at the moment.)

6) What would you recommend as the easiest cake to make for a 1st-timer? I do not own a cake-mixer and I have never ever baked a cake.
I would recommend RCC #4 - Steamed Moist Banana Cake, followed by RCC #6 - Moist Chocolate Cake, these are cakes which do not require the use of cake-mixer, and both cakes have a steamer recipe too in case you want to use a steamer or wok. Baking experience is preferred but not required for these 2 starter cakes. After you have mastered these 2 recipes, you can proceed to other recipes such as matcha green tea cake, butter cake and japanese kasutera cake.

7) Why are your rice cooker recipes always based on a 1 hour time period? 
My 1st 2 rice cooker cakes were taken from a rice cooker manual and are meant to be cooked within 1 hour, the 1st one was not successfully cooked within 1 hour, while it was difficult to replicate success for the 2nd one. For my subsequent cake recipes, they were adapted from successful steamed or baked cake recipes in my blog. I went to great lengths to specially calculate the quantity of ingredients so that they did not exceed the amount of ingredients as stated in my 1st 2 RCC recipes, so that they can be successfully cooked within 1 hour in my 5.5-cup Toshiba rice cooker. 

8) What if I have a rice cooker with a 8-cup or 10-cup capacity? 
If you have a 8-cup or 10-cup rice cooker, since the base of the pot will have a larger surface area, hence your cooking time may be shorter and your cake may end up flatter. Since rice cookers vary in brand, capacity and technology, always test out your rice cooker with a tried-and-tested recipe to estimate the time required for your rice cooker, and use it as a benchmark for other recipes with similar amount of batter.

9) I made a cake successfully using a 10-cup rice cooker, it took less than 1 hour, the taste was good but it was very flat, what should I do?
Try increasing all the ingredients proportionately, say by 25% to 50%, to achieve a bigger and taller cake, of course the time taken will be longer too. All the rice cooker recipes in my blog are based on 5.5-cup capacity. There was a lady who doubled the quantity to make the banana cake in her 10-cup capacity Toshiba rice cooker with baking function and it took her 1 hour 30 min.

10) How do I know if my cake is cooked, can I open and peep, will the cake collapse?
If the cake is not a sponge cake or chiffon cake, opening the rice cooker should not cause the cake to collapse, but if you open it too often, it may affect the cooking time and will cause condensation to fall back on the cake. If you are unsure about how your cake would turn out or how long it would take, I would suggest opening the rice cooker to check at about 5 to 10 min before the suggested time is up. Then finally, when the time is up, you can use your finger to press slightly on the surface to see if it is wet or firm, and then use a toothpick to check if the cake is well done. I know when the cake is cooked when I can smell the aroma wafting from the rice cooker before the time is up.

11) Why does the top of the rice cooker cake look like a moon-crater? How do I make it look more presentable? 
This is a typical feature of a rice cooker cake. The bottom of the cake,however,  is very beautiful and crusty. For presentation, I always turn it upside down with the crusty bottom facing up. 

12) What are the advantages of making cakes in rice cookers? Are all cakes suitable for making in a rice cooker?
Many households in Asia do not own an oven, especially in Japan where kitchens are very tiny. If you are a student living in a dorm, or if you are studying/working overseas, you may only have a rice cooker instead of an oven at your disposal  in your appartment. Or if you are a novice baker and haven't set your mind yet on buying an oven. Or if you are on holiday travelling in a camper and a rice cooker is the only thing you bring along but you would like to make a cake for somebody's birthday. 

Making cakes in rice cookers can be very easy and fuss-free once
a) you have established that your rice cooker is capable of making cakes;
b) you have mastered one or two tried-and-tested recipes;
c) you know your rice cooker well enough such as how much time is required and how to adjust the recipe to suit the capacity of your rice cooker; 

It is easy to wash up, you don't have to buy additional baking tins, you don't have to preheat, you don't have to adjust the temperature, just keep an eye on the timing will do. However, not all cakes can be made in a rice cooker. Usually steamed cake recipes can easily be converted to rice cooker recipes after proportionately adjusting the amount of ingredients, since rice cookers make use of the basic principles of steaming just like steamers (more advanced rice cookers use either fuzzy logic or induction heat). But the same cannot be said of other cakes such as butter cakes, sponge cakes and chiffon cakes, which have to be thoroughly tested and the amount of ingredients suitably adjusted. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Last Garden Update for 2013

Too many backlogs, too little time and too much lethargy, that's the current problem I have.

This photo was taken on 2 September, the day I harvested my spaanse pepers or spanish green chillies. I got a total of over 50 green chillies, and I got my boy to pose them for me. The last time I blogged about them was in July 2013.

Not knowing what to do with so many chillies, I packed some in a package and mailed them to my blogger friend, Nasifriet, who stays about an hour's drive from my place, and she made very good use of it. She made a therapeutic pandan chicken curry out of it. And for the rest, I brought them to Singapore (I was surprised that they could last 3 to 4 weeks in the fridge), and gave them to my Aunty who used them to make some really spicy chilli paste. :)

As for my pumpkins, unfortunately there wasn't a good fairytale ending to them. They were harvested while I was away in Singapore, having unfortunatly succumbed to the cold belgian frost in October. Due to insufficient sunlight (my pumpkin plot was in the shade most of the time) and too much rain, they really suffered from stunted growth, and many were devoured by garden pests such as slugs even before they would step into adulthood. :(  

I will see if I can snap some pictures later to show you how small they have grown. Next year, I really must pick a sunny spot in order not to suffer the same heartache as this year! :)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Failed Experiment - Apple Cake in Rice Cooker

Hi Hi,

I am back, after a LONG absence of 5 weeks. I was in Singapore for 3 weeks, came back 2 weeks ago on 27 October just in time for the 1 week autumn school vacation, took me 1 week to unpack and settle down, and before I knew it, I was down with flu for another week.

So today, I finally decided to shake off my lethargy and restart my engine on baking again. Quite a few readers have asked me to post more rice cooker cake recipes for them to try. In fact, I have been poring through quite a few recipes I found on the internet. But honestly speaking, it is not easy to get a cake to work in the rice cooker. If you think baking in a rice cooker is easy, think again. More often than not, it is a lot of trial and error. So is it by pure stroke of luck or ingenuity that I could get my rice cooker cakes #2 to #7 to work (with the exception of my very first cake) the first time round? Haha :)

Anyway, let me show you a picture of the very small rice cooker apple cake which I attempted today. 

When I first saw the picture of the cake on internet, I was immediately attracted to it. But the amount of ingredients kept me baffled; so much milk, so much flour, just one egg and so little sugar. I should be warned but I decided to give it a try anyway.

Looks good on the outside? It didn't have the typical brown crust of all my rice cooker cakes. The inside was revealing...

Dense, soggy, and pudding-like. Let's take a look at the top of the cake then.

Equally shocking. It looked uncooked. It was a disappointing cake that took me a full hour and yet ended up uncooked. I don't think it will be cooked even if I extend the cooking time by another 30 min. It just couldn't make the cut as my RCC #8. Tastewise, it was not sweet at all. Luckily I didn't have to chuck it in the bin because somehow my kiddies liked it and finished half the cake. Maybe they were famished?

This will go down in my baking history as my 2nd (or maybe even 3rd) unsuccessful rice cooker cakes. Hmmn, maybe I should go and dig out pictures of the previous failed rice cooker cakes and publish them too.

Needless to say, I won't publish the recipe link. Maybe it worked for the original blogger, but not for me. :)

辛苦你了,小白! It has been a long day for you!

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