Saturday, October 31, 2009


Yes I'm guilty. I ate them.

Don't look at me like that.

They are yummy. They are crunchy.

They are holy darn dang cute too. Them little darlings.

Ring o ring o rosies..............
Pocketful of doggies
a woof woof a woof woof
They all got chomped down

So cute I could bite them.

And so I did.

Sonia made me do this. Sonia the Nasi Lemak Lover.

I was hesitant at first but she assured me that they were good. She said "....try! try!...never try never know!"

So now I know. I know I can eat cute little doggies no matter how imploringly they looked at me.

Wake up little doggies. Time for dinner........... dinner

Flavoured with Horlicks, a popular malt drink taken as a hot beverage in the UK and Asia, these doggies have apparently travelled around a number of blogs and enchanted many.

I'm honoured to have them grace mine.

Thank you doggies.

Eenie, Meennie and Mo................

I woof ya...........

The recipe.............

250 gm butter
30 gm castor sugar
1 egg yolk

250gm cake flour (Iused plain/all purpose)
40 gm cornflour
120 gm Horlicks
40 gm milk powder (I omitted this and made it up with horlicks instead)

Koko Krunch for the ears
Chocolate rice for the eyes
Chocolate chip for the noses

Preheat oven at 170 C

Sift flour and mix in the cornflour, horlicks and milk powder if you're using it. Stir to combine evenly.

Cream butter and sugar together until creamy. Add egg yolk and continue beating until the mixture is light and flufy.

Fold in the dry ingredients until you get a firm dough.

Pinch about 10m grams of dough and roll them into balls. Decorate into a cute doggie face.

Bake for about 10 minutes. Cool and store in an airtight tin.

Enjoy them.

How much is that doggie in the bottle?.................
The one with no waggely tail
How much is that doggie in the bottle?
I do hope that he is for sale......

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Something in the way it looked......that darkly wicked centre, that soft, translucent, pillowy surround, that whisper of chocolate dust....... something in the curious mingling of East and West...... that sticky gummy mochi dough, that creamy rich ganache.........or something in the way of suggestion......opulence, extravagance, self indulgence. Whatever it was that it moved me. To make some.

My debut in truffle world. But these are not just any truffes. The lovely blog of Divina's Sense and Serendipity was where I chanced upon these little gems. To suggest that something as basic and mundane as mochi from the pantry of an Asian kitchen could transcend into sublimity if married with something as luxurious as ganache was completely out of my league. Never in my sweetest hallucinations could I fabricate such chemistry. Until it has been dreamt up and tested by someone else.

A coward. That's all I am. But brave enough to step into someone else's sweet sensational flights of fancy. Like these Preciousnesses.

Mochi, mochiko, pulut or glutinous rice flour is a very common ingredient in Malaysian/South East Asian sweets. Mixed with coconut milk and/or pandan it makes a very soft and obliging dough in its raw form.

Often such a dough is constructed around a filling of sweetened coconut shreds such as these or cupped and sealed to hold a nib of palm sugar like these which are then steamed in quaint bamboo steamers or boiled until the dough turns beautifully gummy and translucent.

These are what we devour in between meals, in between doing, thinking and everything else.

Sometimes a mochi batter is tinted with different colours or shades by the juice of pandan (screwpine) leaves or artificial food colouring and then steamed in multi-coloured and layered cakes such as these.

Rice flour is gluten-free with a high starch content making the cake gummy, sticky and almost toffee like. Glutinous rice flour, pulut or mochi is the gummier and more starchy of the two.

The pleasure of eating such cakes is precisely in that very lovely chewiness.

So imagine biting into a truffle where first you encounter the bitter tinge of cocoa dust, then a soft, delicately sweet, chewy and gummy layer and finally its richly decadent and chocolatey centre. Like 3 civilizations' sweet inventions that have become one. Paradise I say.

Overall, the truffles weren't difficult to make at all although the handling of the cooked and steamed mochi dough can be a little tricky because it was very soft, stretchy, gummy, sticky and more often than not it had a tendency to spring back somewhat when stretched.

I had flattened out the dough while it was still hot, as per Divina's instructions, right after taking it out of the pan. And it being quite a sticky lump a board well floured with extra mochi flour is definitely a must.

I had flattened and stretched it out by hand at first but later resorted to using a rolling pin, well floured, and it worked quite well giving a more even and smooth surface that would not have been possible if done by hand.

A pizza cutter is indispensible here. A pizza cutter where the blade has been put under a running tap and shaken to get rid of excess water. It cut beautifully with hardly any sticking at all. Let the cut dough rest to allow it to cool down for a bout 5 to 10 minutes before wrapping the balls of ganache in it.

With the infamous heat and humidity of the tropics ganache is not the ideal thing to be rolling around in the palms of your hands in the middle of the afternoon with the blazing sun to keep you company. Try making it in the morning or in the evening after dinner when its cooler.

Nothing could be simpler than making ganache apart from the eating of it. For truffles a firmer ganache is necessary with a larger proportion of chocolate to cream and a couple of knobs of butter. Divina's recipe is perfect.

After chilling them in the fridge it became a firm mass which I then scooped chunks off using 2 teaspoons and shaped them into rough 1/2 inch diameter balls (using the teaspoons). I chilled them again (overnight because I had made them after dinner) and the next morning I simply rolled the very hard, firm little devils around in my hands and they became perfect little rounds without melting or sticking to my palms much (because they were quite quite cold). I chilled them again while I rolled out the dough.

By the time the dough was cut and allowed to cool wrapping the ganache balls were quite easy. And where Divina had used pure cocoa powder to coat I used a combination of cocoa powder, cinnamon and some castor sugar to cut down on some the bitterness of the cocoa which my children did not quite like but which I, on the other hand, loved.

The recipe.........

The Ganache.....

250 gm chocolate
1/2 cup of heavy or double cream
2 T unsalted butter
2 T rum (optional) I did not use this
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cocoa for dusting

The mochi dough............
1 cup mochi or glutinous rice flour or pulut
1/4 cup raw sugar or white sugar (I used white)
2/3 cup water (Iused 1/2 cup) dependingon your flour quality

Making the ganache.....

Using a bread knife cut the chocolates into shreds or small pieces. Put into a medium bowl. Put in the butter and cut the butter into smallish pieces. Heat the cream in a small pot until it just comes to a boil and then immediately pour the cream over the chocolate and butter pieces stirring immediately with a whisk until the mixture is smooth and free of lumps. If you find it still a little lumpy and the mixture has cooled down so that you can't smoothen the mixture any further you can dissolve the lumps by placing the bowl over a pan of very hot water and stirring until the lumps disappear.

Place the ganache in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes until cold and firm.

Shaping the ganache........

Prepare a tray lined with parchment paper and the cocoa powder in a small bowl just in case you need it to prevent stickiness. Scoop out a teaspoonful of ganache at a time and shape into a rough round using the teaspoons. I did not use my hands at this point because I found it to be messy and sticky.

When at least 16 rounds have been made place the ganache rounds in the refrigerator again and let them chill and firm up for about 30 minutes or in my case I let them sit overnight. Once the balls have hardened take them out and roll them, one by one, between your palms until you get smooth balls. If you live in a cooler clime you may be able to roll them smooth in one step thus omitting the second refrigeration above.

Place the ganache balls in the refrigerator while you make the dough.

Making the mochi dough...........

Place the flour and sugar in a small pot. Add water while stirring with a whisk and mix until smooth. Place over a medium heat and keep stirring until the mixture cooks and becomes a very thick paste......(never for a moment take your eyes of this little mass because it thickens up VERY quickly)........ so thick that you find it hard to stir any furhter.

Take it off the heat and using a wet spatula scoop it out of the pot into a small heatproof bowl, place the bowl in a steamer, cover with a dishcloth and steam for at least 15 or 20 minutes until the dough becomes translucent.

Using a wet spatula again, scoop it out of the bowl onto a mochi floured surface. Flour the top of the dough as well and flatten out the dough with your hands first. Be careful because the dough will be hot. Use a rolling pin (floured well) and roll out the dough to a smooth sheet about 1/4 inch thick. Cut with a pizza cutter (wet the blade first) into 16 squares. Let the dough rest to cool for 5 to 10 minutes.

Not quite squares when I did it ...............

So I snipped the ends off a little..............

Making the truffles............

Place a ganache ball in the centre of the dough square, bring up the corners and pinch to seal. Roll in the palms of your hand to make it a smooth round.

Dip in pure cocoa powder or a combination of cocoa, cinnamon and sugar like I did. Place in paper cases. YUM. Enjoy.

PS : The combination of cinnamon and sugar and cocoa added a slightly sweeter edge to the truffles.

As decadent as it may look and sound, and it is, you may be pleasantly surprised that the truffles were not at all overly sweet. It was a sweetness that was subtle and delicate. So delicate that my second daughter who is not inclined to sweet foods actually loved it and asked for more. But it is decadent in its texture and feel.

Like the feeling of love inside of your heart :)

Monday, October 26, 2009


There shouldn't be a recipe for spring rolls unless you like it in a certain way. And I do.

I like it when the spring roll skin has been lined with lettuce leaves for prettiness, smeared with 3 kinds of sauces for piquant-ness, heaped with julienned vegetables for crispness, piled with fruit for sweetness, sprinkled with crushed peanuts for crunchiness and maximised with shards of prawn crackers for saltiness. And only then will my spring rolls be perfect, nice, fat and outrageous.

That's the way I like it..... uh huh

But there is some work to be done beforehand. Don't be scared......just a little slicing, shredding and some Aristotelian compartmentalizing. And maybe a little boiling.... Uh huh...

Sengkuang or turnip I like. But I like them cooked. And I like them sweet. Because that's what my favourite spring roll stall does. I know because I asked. The turnip is shredded and boiled in brown sugar syrup until the turnips become gentle and soft and sweet. As sweet and gentle as you like it to be.

The carrots and the cucumber are to be brilliantly julienned, the sunshiny pineapple is to be peeled and chopped into bitty bits, some roasted peanuts crushed with a little love and some prawn crackers (or potato crisps) fragmented into tintillating pink shards. That's the Nigella part.

The 3 sauces are to be ready on the work top with a teaspoon dipped in each. Hoisin sauce from your supermarket shelf, taucheo sauce (yellow bean sauce) from the same shelf and a cooked chilli paste either bought in a bottle or homemade from blended dried chillies and sauteed in some amount of oil with a wisp of sugar and salt. That's the saucy part.

The spring roll skin would behave if separated and peeled before hand and covered with a damp cloth to prevent drying.

And the lettuce leaves would be very happy if they were washed and patted dry very tenderly.

Get a spring roll skin to lay quietly on the board. Introduce the pretty lettuce to the spring roll skin and let them be together. Spoon tiny dollops each of the saucy sauces onto the lettuce leaves to add some excitement. Bring the sweet shredded turnips (drained of syrup), julienned carrots, julienned cucumber and pineapple bitty bits together in a heap of fun. Then add a dash of crushed peanuts and the shards of pink prawn crackers for some wickedness.

Bring your fingers together and rock and roll.

Have a great party!

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Flat aluminium lids of aluminium pots were what I felt like baking these cookies on.

They are old school, plucked out from a time long ago, when cars had fans fixed onto dash boards instead of air conditioners or when tropical mornings were so dewy and cool you had to wear a cardigan to school or when primary school teachers were still lovely and patient and occasionally brought lessons outside when the weather was good, with school children reading their readers in unison or when Chicken Little was part of a school text, and most probably with a huge Flame of the Forest quivering and casting shadow beams on the grassy ground just outside the classroom. And, perhaps too, when tiny giggly school girls were dressed in little white tunics with little crimson belts, looking like miniature nurses, at the Penang Primary Girl's School.

Penang and Malacca were where the Straits Chinese lived mostly and where they developed their unique Nyonya cuisine.

Florence Tan is one such person. A Nyonya from Malacca and so proud of it. Can you tell? Terribly excitable, effervescent, and bursting and bubbling with life, ceaselessly it seems, that I sometimes don't quite know whether to beat her or to join her.

When I saw a photograph of these cookies in her "Rahsia Masakan Nyonya"/ Secrets of Nyonya Cooking cookbook I knew at once that I wanted to make them. I loved the sight of the glowing amber of its egg yolk sheen that is typical of old world Asian cookies and the seemingly intricate and time consuming work involved.

But it was a few weeks and days before I dragged myself to my swivel kitchen stool that waited at the edge of the kitchen table. Then I lost myself in cookie world. Rolling, stamping, filling, crimping and clipping at miniature curry puff-like cookies.

In the end they looked divine and were worth every crimp.

However, I did not use the sesame seeds called for as part of the filling. I only used a mixture of crushed peanuts and castor sugar. Perhaps it would have tasted much better with the sesame seeds. But I was happy with my work and the way those cookies turned out.

Surprisingly the dough was very forgiving and easy to work with, hardly ever drying out, breaking or crumbling up. I had my doubts at first when I saw the number of eggs used in the recipe but finally I knew that it was those very eggs that gave the dough its flexibility and workability. The 1 or 2 hours I spent shaping the cookies were spent without the slightest frustration. In fact the ease of shaping and crimping each cookie, one after another, were like being besotted with gifts of sweet surprises all the way.

These cookies, however, should not be under baked, even the slightest, or the dough will be somewhat doughy and not very nice. But if baked well it will be pleasantly crisp with all the crunchy insides.

I made my cookies very, very tiny. About an inch in length. Simply because I liked the challenge. The ones in the recipe were at least 3 times larger with one and a half teaspoons of filling used in each. I, on the other hand, had only used a scant half a teaspoon of filling for each cookie.

The recipe..................

The Dough :

300 gm plain flour
a pinch of salt
150 gm butter
2 egg yolks
1 egg white
2 T iced cold water
1 egg, beaten for egg wash

The Filling :

90 gm roasted peanuts, crushed finely
45 gm roasted sesame seeds
50n gm granulated sugar or according to taste

Sift flour with salt into a bowl. Cut in the butter and using hands break it down until teh mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Mix the eggs and water with a fork in a small bowl. Pour it into teh flour mixture and bring them together until it becomes a smooth and soft dough. let the dough rise in a cool corner for 30 minutes.

Roll out the dough until 0.3 cm thick and cut out circles with a cookie cutter that is 7.5 cm in diameter.

Place 1 1/2 teaspoons of filling in the middle of the circle of dough and fold over like a turnover. Press the whole edge with your finger tips to seal. It will be a semi circle shape now. Then crimp (starting at one end) by pinching the edge with your thumb and forefinger thus flattening out the edge a little at that point and then folding the pinched bit over itself. Repeat the process until the whole semi circled edge is completely crimped.

Once the filling is sealed in and the cookie in a semi circle shape complete with the lovely crimped edge you then use the clipper to mark patterns on the surface. Clip or pinch the surface of the cookie with the clipper (thus making little ridges and grooves) parallel to each other until a row of ridges form from one end of the cookie to the other.

Then start the clipping all over again but on the next 'empty' part of the adjacent surface of the dough that hasn't been clipped yet, this time clipping at a slightly different angle from the first row thus making zig zag patterns.

The grooves will form naturally as you pinch or clip the surface with the fine toothed clipper making delicate patterns wherever you clip the dough.

Obviously all this is much easier done if your cookie is larger in size than the ones I had made.

Place the cookies on an ungreased baking tray ( I used non-stick baking paper) and then bake for 10 minutes WITHOUT EGG WASH. Take out after 10 minutes and brush the egg wash over the cookies and then bake another 10 or 15 minutes until the cookies are a beautiful deep golden amber.

By brushing the cookies with egg wash AFTER they have been baked for 10 minutes allows the pattern to remain embossed and stand out as opposed to being 'washed out' and buried if the cookies were egg washed from the beginning of baking.

Cool and store in an airtight container.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


What makes this dish unique from other egg dishes is that the egg is not just simply boiled and then thrown into a sambal or a sauce or a dip. It is boiled. Hard boiled. Peeled and then deep fried whole until the surface of the whole egg is golden brown and blistered.

The Thais have a dish quite similar to this where the egg is also deep fried to a golden blister. And they call this Son-in-law eggs. And "it is interesting to speculate from the grins of the Thais that it has something to do with a mother in law who doesn't have a very high opinion of her son in law.!" (Excerpt from Thai Cooking by Jennifer Brennan).

Now, this was the very first dish that I cooked when I visited my daughter and son in law in the US a couple of years ago (without hub). In fact I cooked this dish quite regularly when I stayed with them. In fact I cooked it so regularly that I would be surprised if my son in law did have a very high opinion of me or of my cooking.

I did so because my daughter had a ready bottle of homemade ground dried chillie paste in the refrigerator. I did it because I could boil eggs blind folded. I did it because it was my chance to eat really spicy food for a month without having to cook a separate dish for hub. And I did it because eggs do not need to be chopped, minced, fiddled with or skinned. In fact it need not even be fried into a golden blister if the fancy does not strike you. It just needs to be boiled. Hard boiled that is.

Because what makes this dish really really lovely is the sambal. In fact to a South East Asian being what makes any dish really scrumptious is the sambal. Period.

You could throw anything into a sambal....deep fried chicken, prawns, deep fried fish, deep fried brinjals or eggplants, squid, thin slices of deep fried beef, deep fried tempe, deep fried crispy anchovies, deep fried anything and it's heaven sent and good to go.

All that is needed to complete the meal is a plate of white steaming and freshly cooked rice. A big white and pristine mound of it.

And the rest they say is.............burp.....oops ...scoosh me

The recipe...........................

5 eggs, boiled, cooled and skinned
2 medium red onions or 6 shallots, peeled and sliced
2 or 3 cloves garlic
6 fresh red chiilies, seeded if you prefer it mild, which defeats the whole purpose of a sambal by the way.
2 teaspoons of ready ground chillie paste in a bottle
1/2 inch piece of belacan or shrimp paste
1 teaspoon of tamarind paste mixed with 1/2 cup water and juice squeezed out

cooking oil

Dry the boiled and peeled eggs thoroughly. Heat up a wok and pour enough oil into it to deep fry the eggs. When the oil is hot drop the eggs in gently one at a time and deep fry them until the surface is blistered and golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and keep aside on a kitchen towel to drain of excess oil.

Pound the sliced onions or shallots, garlic together with the fresh large red chillies in a pestle and mortar until it becomes a coarse paste. Add the belacan and pound a little more. Keep aside.

Strain the tamarind juice and keep aside.

Take away some of the oil from the wok that was used for deep frying the eggs leaving about 4 tablespoons.

Heat up the oil again a little and then saute the pounded chillie and onion mixture. Add in the chillie paste almost immediately and saute until fragrant and the sambal turns a darker red and the oil rises to the top. Probably about 6 or 7 minutes. Pour in the tamamrind juice, add salt to taste and a pinch or two of sugar. Let it come ot a boil and then a slow simmer until the sauce is reduced to a wet, thick paste.

At this point you can throw in the eggs, whole, and mix to combine and cover the eggs completely with sambal of if you prefer slice the eggs in half and place on top of the sambal in a serving dish. Personally I would have preferred it the first way but because I wanted it to look a little pretty to be photographed I halved the eggs.


Monday, October 12, 2009


Fish balls have always intrigued me. I have always been skeptical of recipes which tell you to dump fish meat into a food processor and then to shape the processed paste into balls. And you're supposed to get fish balls.

Simply because I've heard stories and seen recipes where fish meat is chopped up on a board with a mean looking cleaver until it becomes mush, then pounded in a pestle and mortar and then given a good beating by a pair of biceps. All the rigmarole one has to go through for bouncy, springy fish balls that deliver you a good bite.

Then I think of commercially made fish balls and I wonder at all those biceps hard at work in the din of the factory? The sweat of highly able-armed persons mixed with grunts, thin, white cotton T-shirts clinging to bodies and sucking up the sweat? And then those wet and glistening arms dripping with sweat? The whole place dimly lit in a far flung humid and tropical corner of nowhere? Add mosquito infested for some drama. And a murderer skulking by? Gosh. It must be quite a sight. If indeed that is how they make fish balls for commerce.

But I chose to brush those stories off as half truths since I was living in the 21st century. So I made fish balls. In my kitchen. In my food processor. Without biceps. No sweat.

I managed to make fish balls. Clean, full-flavoured and with enough bite to make me kind of happy. I squeezed one between my thumb and forefinger as I've seen some people do as a test for bounciness. It was there. Kind of. I bounced one into a bowl and it jumped right out. Need I say more?

It was bouncy enough for me. And had enough of a bite as far as I was concerned. And all without the lye water.That dreaded toxic substance used in commercial fish balls to add that ever sought after bounce and bite.

Terri from hunger hunger, my invaluable repository for Chinese cooking, guided me along. Bounciness, she says, is all in the fish, the whole fish and nothing but the fish. No lye water needed if you use the right kind of fish. And she named a few, well 3 to be precise.

1. The spotted mackeral
2. 'Tofu' fish with the yellow tail and
3. Yellow tail barracuda

The 'tofu' fish Terri says makes the smoothest and sweetest fish balls. Terri says she can never make fish balls as good as her maid, Vera, does. She wished me luck. I needed it.

So I went fishing and I got 3 'tofu' fish with yellow tails at the night market, all for 11 ringgit. Cheap! Cheap?

I had the surprised fish monger fillet them for me and all I did when I went home was to slice the fillet down the middle and sliced off the tiny spikes of bones that are embedded and that run down the middle. Then I scraped the flesh off the skin with a metal spoon. Easy. I made sure I cleaned the scales off thoroughly first of course.

A mackeral would have been a lot easier to deal with, I would imagine, but it would have cost me much more.

So that's the story of how I made fish balls. And from now on I hope to live happily ever after in my fish ball world.

The recipe......................uh oh... my son swallowed up half the fish balls before I could count them. But I think I got between 30 and 35 fish balls. It all depends on how small or big you make them of course.

The recipe.......................

300 gm fish meat of one of the 3 fish mentioned above
2 T ice cold water
1tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp oil
1 tsp cornflour

Place fish meat in a food processor and start to whizz.When the meat becomes a paste add in 1 tablespoon of cold water, reserving the other tablespoon in a bowl. Continue to process until the meat is a fine and smooth paste. Remove from the machine and place the fish paste in a medium bowl.

In the bowl with water add in the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine. Pour this mixture into the fish paste and using a fork stir vigorously until the two combine and come together into a firm and shiny mass.

Place in the freezer for about 10 or 15 minutes.

Using 2 teaspoons pick up a blob of the paste and shape by moving the blob from one teaspoon to the other until it is compact and smooth. (you could grab a whole mass of the paste in the palm of your hand, make a fist, squeeze and release a blob through your thumb and forefinger and scoop off the blob with a spoon).

Place the shaped fish balls in a bowl of water and ice or just on a medium stainless steel tray in one layer. Carry on until the paste is finished. If you used iced water you can skip the 'place in the freezer for 15 minutes'. Place in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Take out the raw fish balls and drop them in one at a time until the bottom of the pot is covered with a layer of fish balls. Do not let water to boil vigorously....only a gentle simmer until the balls float to the surface by which time you can scoop them of with a spider web. Do the same for the rest of the raw fish balls.

Done. Let cool. Use for a noodle soup like here or in stir fried noodles, rice etc.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Olive oil. Grapes. Olive oil. 5 eggs. Olive oil. Grapes? Seedless? Olive oil?

Never have I been so hesitant to make a cake until I watched French Food at Home and scribbled down this olive oil cake recipe. It sounded strange to make a cake from a very strong flavoured oil and even more so to drop whole grapes into the batter and make them pretend to be olives?!?

But it looked good. So when Laura Calda flashed her little winsome smile and cocked her head at me telling me how good it was I told her I might give it a try. But it was weeks before I finally made it.

However, instead of buying seedless grapes I had bought grapes with seeds in instead (silly me). That set the whole venture back by 2 whole days as I sat debating with myself. Shall I or shall I not go get seedless grapes? Or shall I use the grapes with seeds? Shall I or shall I not go get seedless grapes? Small mind, Big decisions.

But if you only knew how hot it has been here...which is'll know why I hesitate even to put my foot beyond the door. It's so hot I thought I felt my brain fizzle.

That's why on most days I spend a lot of my time debating on non-issues as the rest of the world hurtles by. Obama gets a Nobel Peace Prize, Padang folks struggle to resume life, Thinkers think, a naval ship gets a short circuit and burns up/down, MCA has a leadership issue while my mind tinkers feebly.

Finally I pulled the bag of grapes out from the refrigerator the way Nigella pulls things out from hers. With a cunning look.

Let there be seeds. They'll just have to pick at them, meaning the people who are going to eat the cake. And so the olive oil cake, with the grapes pretending to be olives, was born.

Let there be seeds.

The cake was indeed good. It was very moist and light with a delicate scent of oranges and lemons. The grapes as it turned out did not look like olives after all. As it baked, the grapes lost some of their colour and turned out looking slightly sickly.

And no wonder Laura had suggested that some of the grapes be dropped into the batter half way through the baking. Which I did.

But when I turned the cake out and cut it, I began to wonder where the grapes had all gone. I could swear I put quite a fair bit in. At least 10 of them. But one thing was for sure. They all sank to the bottom. Well they were all pretty big and heavy so perhaps I should have used smaller ones.

But, nevertheless, the cake was really lovely..... and did I say that it was moist and light with a wonderful citrus flavour?

And the fact that it had olive oil in it made me feel better than if there had been butter. Better than butter. Almost.

The recipe...................

3/4 cup olive oil (I used extra virgin)
3/4 cup castor sugar
1 cup flour
5 eggs, separated
zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
some red grapes (I used about 10 or 12)

Preheat oven 350 or 180. Prepare a 9 inch or 8 inch spring form pan, greased and floured.

Beat yolks and sugar until light. Add the zests and then the flour. Mix in the flour until there are no lumps. Add olive oil and stir until well combined to a smooth batter.

Beat egg whites with a whisk until soft peaks form.

Fold in the egg whites into the flour-egg yolk mixture, a little at first, to loosen the mixture. Then add in the rest of the egg whites and fold in with a spatula gently so that not too much air is lost.

Pour batter into prepared pan and drop in half of the red grapes and halfway through baking drop in the rest of the grapes. Bake from the beginning for 35 or 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

As soon as the cake comes out of the oven brush it with olive oil and sprinkle some brown sugar on top. Let the cake rest for about 10 minutes before turning out. Serve.

Friday, October 9, 2009


Nothing like a good wholesome chicken stock to make a good soup with. So with 3 chicken carcasses that I roasted in the oven until they browned, 1 large onion, 1 head of garlic, a carrot and 2 celery stalks cut into chunks, some water and a large pot I came up with about 5 cups of lovely golden clear broth that was full of flavour.

Then I made this simple noodle soup the next day.

I might also mention that I made the fish balls too but since I avoided using lye water as one of the ingredients, because lye water is toxic, my fish balls, although full of flavour, were lacking in the bounce department. But it didn't matter to me as long as everything was homemade and safe. And good.

Making up the soup the next day was a breeze because there cannot be anything easier than making a clear noodle soup. It is simple, pure and refreshing yet so full of flavour.

The recipe...............for 2 or 3 persons.

Enough rice vermicelli for 2 or 3 people, soaked in just boiled water until softened and drained in a colander. Keep aside.

2 garlic cloves
2 spring onions, white part sliced
3 cups of good chicken stock, preferably homemade
6 or 7 large prawns
10 or 12 fishballs
some bak choy, washed and seperated
2 T cooking oil
a dash of soy sauce
salt and pepper

Heat up the oil in a medium pot. Saute the garlic and spring onions until fragrant and soft. Add the prawns and fish balls and stir to cook through. It will probably take about 2 to 3 minutes. Add in hot stock and bring the soup to a boil and then simmer . Add the bak choy and simmer only until the bak choy is a lovely bright green. Taste for seasoning and adjust if neccesary. Done.

Serve : Put a serving of the rice noodles in individual bowls and por the hot soup over it to cover the noodles. Top with prawns and fish balls and a few stalks of bak choy in each bowl.


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