Thursday, February 28, 2013

Pasta with Smoked Salmon, Feta Cheese, Tomatoes and Cucumber


This is a absolutely delicious pasta, I have made it twice and I am gonna make it over and over again in the future. My hubby loves it and he was raving about it the other day when I prepared it, so I decide to make it again today so that I can take some pictures. 

The combination of smoked salmon and greek feta cheese (both salty), together with cherry tomatoes (sweet), cucumber (crunchy) and apple cider vinegar (sour) makes it a very wholesome and appetizing dish. Just look at the colours and you will know that it packs in a whole lot of vitamins and nutrients, isn't it? 

This is something you can easily prepare within 10 to 15 min, easy peasy. Really suitable for dinner after a long day's work since there is no need to fuss around in the kitchen. It just took me 8 min to cook the spirelli to al-dente and a couple of minutes more to chop up the rest of the ingredients to bite-size. You don't have to cook the veggies, just throw them in together with the feta cheese and smoked salmon, drizzle with the vinaigrette and voila, the pasta is ready!

This pasta is actually more suited as a cold dish in summer, but you can eat it all year round. In fact, I prepared it as a warm dish for dinner today. Well only the pasta is lukewarm, the rest of the ingredients are cold from the fridge. It was meant for 4 to 5 servings so there was a lot of leftover for tomorrow which I can choose to eat it cold from the fridge or warm it up in microwave for lunch.


Recipe adapted from Hof Van Eten (recipe in Dutch)

Ingredients
400g pasta, preferably spirelli or penne
250 - 300g smoked salmon
200g greek feta cheese
1 big cucumber
200g cherry tomatoes
some finely chopped fresh dille (optional)

* For the vinaigrette:
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar (original recipe used white wine vinegar)
3 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp white pepper


Method
1. Cook the pasta in a big pot of slightly salted boiling water for about 7 to 8 minutes or until al-dente. Then drain the boiling water, rinse the pasta under cold water and allow it to drain and cool in a colander.

2. Cut the smoked salmon, greek feta cheese and cucumber into small bite-size blocks.

3. Cut the cherry tomatoes into halves or quarters if they are large.

4. Put everything together (salmon, feta cheese, cucumber, tomatoes and pasta) and mix thoroughly.

5. To prepare the vinaigrette, simply mix about 3 tbsp olive oil and 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar with 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Then drizzle the vinaigrette onto the pasta and mix thoroughly. Finally sprinkle some fresh dille (optional) and we are ready to serve.

* Note : The quantity of olive oil and vinegar is just my estimate, you can adjust accordingly based on your own preference. I think that 1/4 tsp salt should be enough since the salmon and feta cheese already gave the pasta a salty flavour.



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I am submitting this dish to the Little Thumbs Up event (March: Tomatoes) organized by Mui Mui of my little favourite DIY at this link, and Zoe of Bake For Happy Kids

This dish was actually posted on 1 Mar (Singapore time), which happened to be 28 Feb night (belgian time). I have switched back to belgian timezone for my blog, without realising that I have caused the blog post to be shifted from 1 Mar to 28 Feb, haha! My blog used to be in Singapore timezone for a while for a baking bloghop event. :)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Korean Ginseng Chicken Soup / SamGyeTang (韩国人参鸡汤)


It seems like ages ever since I last updated my blog. I was bedridden for the past 2 weeks due to a terrible backache, I have never felt so miserable before in my life, never ever! Every single movement which I made would immediately trigger a string of excruciating pain in my lower back. It happened in the middle of our 1-week vacation in Switzerland during the CNY period. It was really unfortunate timing as I missed the whole fun of riding on the snow-sledge, making snowman and throwing snowballs with my 2 kiddies, what with the thick snow we had in beautiful Switzerland. Hubby had to entertain the kiddies most of the time since I could hardly stand or walk. I stayed indoors mostly, lying in bed watching the falling snow from the window. Such beautiful weather but such lousy luck. Notwithstanding the terrible ordeal I was going through, I only took one single dosage of painkiller. In fact I gobbled up 6 times the dosage of the children's painkiller which happened to the only painkiller I brought for the trip. It was an orangey yucky taste and not much of a relief for me! Poor me had to endure all the way till the end of our vacation, including the 9-hours long drive back home before I could see my house doctor the day after. 

The doctor's diagnosis proved my hubby right. He was shocked that I managed to sit through the 9-hours drive back home. It was indeed what we called "Hernia" in Dutch or "slipped disc" in English, basically a nerve has been pressed somewhere along the spine in my lower back, and I think this was even more painful than my recovery after childbirth. It was definitely not a good way of starting the Chinese New Year for me. :S

Anyway, enough of complaining. I finally made some progress after I started on the medication prescribed by my doctor. Today, I even mustered enough strength to cook some Korean Ginseng Chicken Soup for myself. I happened to see a packet of Chinese Chang Bai Shan ginseng (长白山人参) during my post-CNY trip to the chinese groceries store yesterday, and this Korean Ginseng Chicken Soup recipe immediately came to mind.  A nourishing soup which I really deserve after 2 long weeks of physical, mental and emotional torment. 


My ginseng cost only 2,50 euro, what a steal! 

This chicken soup is called SamGyeTang or 삼계탕 in Korean. I know nuts about the Korean language, so I can't advise you how to read or write Korean. All I know is, this is a very famous dish in Korea, I had personally tasted it once in a restaurant that was well-known for ginseng chicken soup when I was in Seoul 10 years ago. Contrary to what you may think, it is not that difficult to make this soup, you just need to get hold of some ginseng, and chicken of course, and not to forget, red dates and garlic. :)

Instead of using 1 cornish hen, I used 3 fat chicken drumsticks with skin, which were about 750g in total. With that, I skipped the part on stuffing the chicken stomach cavity with garlic, dates and glutinous rice since there was no chicken to stuff. Besides, I reduced the salt from 1.25 tsp to 1 tsp. Even with 1 tsp I find it a little too salty for me, could have reduced further to 3/4 tsp. And I also added 2 pieces of dried scallops to give the soup a sweeter flavour. Other than that, I followed the rest of the recipe quite religiously. One thing though, I wish I had added a little more water or reduced the simmering time as my chicken soup was a little too thick for my liking. Maybe my drumsticks were too huge or the cup size was too small? And one word of warning, don't ever use a stainless steel pot to simmer a soup like this or you will end up having a hard time scraping the burnt bottom when it's time to wash up. How I wish I have a crockpot or a claypot for this purpose!  

Recipe adapted from Aeri's Kitchen, for 1 serving.

Ingredients
3 chicken drumsticks with skin intact
1/3 cup of glutinous rice (also called sweet rice)
5 cups water
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
6 chinese red dates 
1 piece of korean or chinese ginseng (need to soak overnight if it is dried ginseng)
2 dried scallops
3/4 to 1 tsp fine sea salt
a handful of chopped spring onions (also called scallions or green onions)

Method
1. Soak the glutinous rice for 2 hours in advance. After 2 hours, rinse the glutinous rice twice, drain and set aside.

2. Add 5 cups of water into a big pot with non-stick bottom, then add 2 or 3 chicken drumsticks, 1/3 cup glutinous rice, 6 cloves garlic, 6 dates, and 1 piece of ginseng. Cook for 30 minutes on HIGH heat.

3. During the 30 min, Turn the chicken drumsticks occasionally so that they get cooked evenly. 

4. After 30 min, add salt to flavour. I suggest first adding 1/2 tsp, taste if it is salty enough, then slowly increase to 3/4 to 1 tsp. 

5. Then reduce heat to MEDIUM, and continue to simmer for 1 hour. The soup is ready when the chicken meat falls off readily from the bones.

6. Sprinkle some chopped spring onions on top before serving.



I am submitting my post to Aspiring Bakers #28: Chicken Feast hosted by SSB of Small Small Baker.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Happy Snake Year!

祝大家蛇年步步高升,岁岁平安,年年有余,身体健康,万事如意!
最重要的是读书和工作时不要吃蛇!
Wishing everybody a happy and prosperous Chinese New Year! 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Cranberry Cornflakes Cookies

Yet another batch of CNY cookies. This is not the traditional type, but something interesting I saw from blog-hopping. I told you in my previous post I still have leftover dried cranberries, so I searched through the baking blogs in my Google Reader and ended up on HHB's blog post. HHB's Cranberry Cornflakes Cookies looked very enticing, so I decided to combine the leftover dried cranberries with the half-opened bag of cornflakes to make these lovely cookies.


Indeed, as what she said, the steps were very straightforward and the end result was fantastic! The cookies were crunchy due to the baked cornflakes and yet sweet, tangy and chewy due to the dried cranberries. You can replace cranberries with raisins or sultanas and they will be just as fantastic. I like to think of this as a healthy cookie, since it contains both cornflakes and cranberries, hence very suitable for small kids. In fact, my toddler was crunching non-stop on these cookies. Thanks to HHB, this recipe is a keeper, I love it and I am gonna make them again for myself and my kiddies. :)

I didn't use any mini paperliners since I didn't have any of that size so I just placed these cookies on baking paper and off they went into the oven. Oh, I actually made about 50 cookies in total, each about 8 to 10 grams in weight. Yes, I actually shaped and weighed each and every cookie. You see, I am always very precise when it comes to baking. But truth be told, I found 7 grams too small and I thought it was pretty difficult to stick to 8 grams each time, as the cornflakes and cranberries would stick to the dough, so my cookies range from 8 to 10 grams each. Not to worry, the dough was pretty easy to handle. 


Recipe source : Adapted from Happy Home Baker, makes 50 cookies of 8 to 10g each.

Ingredients
120g unsalted butter, cut into cubes @room temp
pinch of salt
50g icing sugar, sifted
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
135g plain flour, sifted
30g corn flour, sifted
100g plain corn flakes, coarsely crushed
80g dried cranberries, cut into smaller pieces

Method
1. Place the cornflakes in a plastic bag and crush them slightly and set aside. Do not crush until too fine. Cut dried cranberries into small pieces and set aside

2. Place the unsalted butter and a pinch of salt in a mixing bowl. Add in sifted icing sugar and beat using a electric whisk until the mixture turns pale yellow. You may also use a manual whisk, wooden spoon or spatula.

3. Add in the beaten egg yolks and whisk until well-combined.

4. Using a spatula, fold in the sifted plain flour and corn flour into the mixture until it it is well-combined.

5. Add in crushed cornflakes and cut dried cranberries and mix well with wooden spoon or spatula.

6. Measure 8 to 10 grams of dough, roughly shape each piece into a small ball and place the cookies evenly spaced on a greased baking paper on the baking tray. You may also place each cookie into a mini paper liner. Note the cookies did not expand much during baking and I managed to squeeze all 50 of them in one tray.

7. Bake them in a preheated oven at 140 degrees celsius and bake for 25 min until light brown. Do check the cookies at 20 min to prevent over-browning.

8. When the cookies are baked, remove from oven and leave them to cool completely on a cooling rack, before packing them in an air-tight container.

According to HHB, the cornflakes may taste a little chewy/soft when they are still warm but they will turn crispy upon cooling => This is indeed true, I tried them when they were still warm and they tasted more chewy and soft but they became crispy and crunchy upon cooling. :)

 
I am submitting this post to Chinese New Year Delights 2013 hosted by Sonia aka Nasi Lemak Lover.



Tuesday, February 5, 2013

CNY Coconut Cookies with Dried Cranberries


I have a packet of dried cranberries which I bought from ALDI at the spur of the moment and now sitting lonely in the pantry and yet another bag of dessicated coconut from Colruyt which has also been squatting in my pantry for quite some time. I was trying to find a recipe that uses both ingredients while searching through my recipe blogs via Google Reader and I happened to chance upon Corner Cafe's CNY Coconut Cookie recipe. He used dessicated coconut and glace cherries but I swopped glace cherries with dried cranberries. Dessicated coconut and dried cranberries don't look like they are a match in heaven, but in fact they are! Wait till you try this recipe. :)

This is a lovely recipe, the coconut cookies with dried cranberries do keep well for at least a week or two if you keep them in air-tight containers. In fact, they still taste as fresh after 10 days and there are no signs of rancid butter smell as with some other cookies.

I am glad that I have mastered yet another good recipe for CNY. I baked so many cookies this week that I really have to watch my bourgeoning waistline even before CNY arrives, hehehe.


I am submitting this post to Chinese New Year Delights 2013 hosted by Sonia aka Nasi Lemak Lover.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Melt-in-the-Mouth Pineapple Tarts !!!

I have wanted to make my own pineapple tarts ever since I finished eating the box of pineapple tarts that I brought back from Singapore on 16 Jan. I didn't have the opportunity to bake pineapple tarts in Singapore because there is no oven in my mum's kitchen, moreover I was very tied up with looking after 2 hyperactive kids and meeting up with friends. Then just after returning to Belgium, I read about SSB's Charity Bake Sale on her blog, since it was for a good cause (she was gonna donate 1 dollar to the Singapore Buddhist Free Clinic for every bottle of cookies sold) so I decided to buy a few bottles of pineapple tarts and support her, from a distance. Yes, a very far distance of about 10,500 km. The bottles of pineapple tarts would not be shipped to Belgium. No, that would have cost me a bomb! They are meant for my family in Singapore.


So I ordered the pineapple tarts from her but I couldn't taste them. What a pity, I could only drool from a distance of 10,500 km. What to do? I would have to bake my own. How else can I share the joy of eating homemade pineapple tarts with my family? By baking the tarts using the same recipe as SSB!


Thanks to SSB for sharing her golden pillow pineapple tarts. It was a godsend! If you wanna see how my previous pineapple tarts looked like 2 years ago when I was still a rookie in baking, look no further than here. That would give you an idea how clueless (or how greedy) I was in baking pineapple tarts.

What I like about this recipe is that the pastry is really easy to knead, the dough is very pliable and forgiving, and the pineapple balls can easily be pinched in and sealed up with the dough without the dough breaking. You don't need to chill the dough in the fridge, neither do you need to flour your hands, and the dough is not oily at all to handle. What's more, it produces crunchy on the outside yet melt-in-the-mouth type of pineapple tarts. I absolutely love this type of tarts, although it takes more effort and time than the other type of tarts with the exposed filling, but it is well worth the effort. This recipe is a keeper for me!


Recipe adapted from Small Small Baker
 
Ingredients for pastry (makes 50)
220g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract (I used vanilla essence)
2 egg yolks
375g plain flour 
2 tbsp corn flour
1/4 tsp salt
50g icing sugar 
1 egg yolk, diluted with few drops of water, for egg wash
 
Ingredients for pineapple filling (makes 50)
500g pineapple paste, rolled into little balls of 10 grams each. (I used the Red Man brand of ready-made pineapple paste bought from Phoon Huat in Singapore. I find it not too sweet, and reasonably cheap. Store-bought fillings are not that bad after all. )

Method
1. Sieve plain flour, corn flour, salt and icing sugar into a big bowl.
 
2. Beat butter in a mixer until it turns light in color and fluffy. Add in pure vanilla extract, mix well.
 
3. Add in egg yolks slowly until well combined.
 
4. Slowly beat in the flour mixture until just combined. I first used the mixer, followed by a spatula, and finally I used my hand to knead it for a few minutes until the dough comes together. Do not over-knead.
 
5a. Roll the dough into small rounds of 12 grams each. I weighed the total amount of dough and it was about 615 grams, so divided by 12, that would give me 50 balls of dough.

5b. Flatten the dough with your hands and make sure it is big enough to cover the pineapple filling. The sides of the dough have to be thinner than the centre. Pinch in the pineapple filling, seal the dough properly and roll it round with your hands. This dough is very forgiving and very easy to work with so there is no need to flour your palms. (Note: the pineapple ball was 10 grams each and about 1 inch in diameter, whereas the dough was 12 grams each and about 2.5 inch to 3 inches wide in diameter.)

6. Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees celsius in the upper 1/3 of the oven for 10 to 15 minutes or till golden brown. Take them out after 5 minutes and brush with egg wash before returning them to the oven again to continue baking.

7. When they are baked and cooled down, keep them in air-tight containers. All 50 tarts were finished over one weekend, so don't ask me how long they can keep! :p 


I am submitting this post to Chinese New Year Delights 2013 hosted by Sonia aka Nasi Lemak Lover.

This post is also linked to the event, Little Thumbs up organised by Doreen from my little favourite DIY and Zoe, Bake for Happy Kids, hosted by Zoe at this link.

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PS: I received an email from a reader Linda on 5 Oct 2013, with a foto of the pineapple tarts she baked using this recipe. Coincidentally, I also made some pineapple tarts on 3 Oct to bring back to my family in Singapore but that batch of pineapple tarts (being the 2nd time I tried out this recipe) was not as good due to a possible mistake in weighing the icing sugar as my baking scale was flickering due to low battery. I was wondering what went wrong, but thanks to Linda, my confidence in this recipe was re-affirmed ! 


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