Archive for the ‘Tea Time Treats’ Category

Cauliflower and broccoli are both cruciferous vegetables, with very similar nutritional properties and health benefits. They are both low in fat and high in dietary fiber, water and vitamin C. While traditionally, we tend to differentiate cauliflower as white and broccoli as green in colours, it has not been the case anymore. There are few variants of cauliflower with garish-looking colours of orange, green and purple!

Erm… I think I’ll stick to my white head for now 🙂

  
 

In Quest for the Best Method

As far as I could remember, my Mum seldom bought cauliflower when I was a kid, as the veg only appeared in the vegetable markets or supermarkets once a year during the Chinese New Year season. The only way I knew cauliflower was cooked then was in stir-fries (mixed veg) the Chinese way. It’s usually a good stir-fry but amazingly, all the other vegetables (broccoli, baby corn, straw or oyster mushrooms, sugar snap peas and carrot) would be gone in a jiffy leaving some white florets behind on the plate, untouched. Kids’re not very fond of the crunchy texture and odd flavour of the cauliflower. That’s what I remembered when I was a child.

Now that I’m not a kid anymore, I re-visted my Mum’s kitchen and cooked up a quick mixed veg stir fry dish for my family. It looked appetisingly good, but amazingly, I went through a déjà vu experience. All the other veg were gone in no time at all but not the poor cauliflower florets! What’s wong??!!

Honestly speaking, my guys LOVE cauliflower, but it was the wrong execution. So, exit, the quick stir-fry method…for the time being, of course 😉

There are several ways to prepare cauliflower ~ oven-roasted, baked, grilled, fried, steamed, boiled and blended in soup or eaten raw. Cauliflower soup with a touch of garam masala has been a winner with my family. So also steamed cauliflower in bechemel sauce. Raw cauliflower is great in dips or in tabbouleh salad, perfect for the summer season.

By the way, with the temperature plummeting of late, something warm is very much desired in my home. My all-time favourite method to appease everyones’ appetite unanimously is oven-roasted cauliflower florets. It’s the easiest and trust me, the tastiest way to prepare a mundane and almost boring looking cauliflower…. from just plain white to something cheerfully exciting!

Like so!

  
 

The warmth of the spices amalgamated in the cauliflower florets with the charred bits were a joy to eat. One whole head of cauliflower was easily gone in one serving for my family of 4! Not a single floret left untouched …

  

 
This recipe is inspired by Erin Gleeson’s, The Forest Feast Cookbook, with my variation of spices, dried herbs and roasting duration. 

Ingredients

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut in florets

Spice-Herb Mix

  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp Herbes de Provence 
  • Freshly-milled black peppercorns 
  • Coarse sea salt, ground ~ to taste

4 Tbsp Olive Oil or any cooking oil

  
  

Method

  • Pre-heat the oven to 230 deg C
  • Mix the ground spice-herb mix  in a bowl and pour in a clean ziplock bag
  • Add the cauliflower florets in the bag of spice mix and shake the bag to coat the florets evenly
  • Place the spiced florets in a baking tray. Add cooking oil and stir to distribute the oil evenly over the spiced florets
  • Bake for 25 minutes
  • After 25 minutes, lower the temperature to 200 deg C and bake for a further 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Ready to serve

   
 

Bon appétit!

Cauliflower is typically an Autumn veg. For this, I’m linking this post to the following October blog-hop cooking events –

Lavender & Lovage’s Cooking with Herbs for Autumn 

  

October Tea Time Treats: Halloween and Bonfire Night Treats hosted by Lavender & Lovage and The Hedgecombers

 
Cook-Your-Books #27 @ Kitchen Flavours
   
Happy Mid-Week! 

Cheers

All soups are meant to be served piping hot, right? Wrong. There’s one exception to the rule – the mysteriously and extraordinarily special soup that must be consumed chilled or iced cold, even. 

This! 

 
A Blushing Moment to Remember Forever and Ever…

I only started to know about the existence of this cold soup in 1996, while dining in a Portuguese restaurant with my other half somewhere in Leuven. The dinner was something to remember as well. It was a “present” from hubby for my achieving A+ results in the Dutch language course. It was a cold Autumn night in October and we chanced upon a quaint looking Restaurant. We stepped inside and the friendly-looking waiter beckoned us to a table for two in a quiet corner near the warm radiator. What bliss!

While perusing the menu card, we both wanted to start with something truly mediterranean and warm. “Gaspacho” sounded immensely mediterranean and warm. (By the way, it’s Gaspacho in Portuguese and Gazpacho in Spanish. We happened to be in a Portuguese resto, hence, the “s” instead of “z“… )

And lo and behold… the soup was iced cold!!

I looked at hubby and he looked back. We were thinking the same thing. The chef forgot to heat the soup up! Hubby waved at the waiter and told him about our chilled soups. He smiled and politely replied, “Gazpacho is a soup made of raw vegetables and is always served cold”

Oooops!! *blush*

Henceforth, that one embarrassing episode became the locus of my unwavering search for the culinary meaning of Gazpacho.

The Quest of the Perfect Gazpacho

Looking back almost 20 years when I first had that cold soup on a cold, chilly October, I vowed only to have Gazpacho during hot summers. I’m so glad the guys in my household love the cold puréed salad soup. I have bought ready-bottled gazpacho in our local supermarket but it’s just not the same when it’s fresh and home-made from scratch!

After 2 decades, I found the best tasting Gazpacho is still the traditional, tomato-based Andalusian version. Other versions may include avocado’s, yellow squash, carrot or courgette, but they don’t fit the bill! As a saying goes, ‘first impressions are the most lasting“.

Here’s how I made my Gazpacho enjoyed by my family during the hot temps we had recently.

This recipe is inspired by Oil & Vinegar, with changes adapted given by the availabilty of ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 5 tomatoes, slit an ‘X’ at the bottom of each tomato
  • 1 red bell pepper or capsicum or paprika, cubed
  • 1 cucumber (I used 3/4 part, cubed and reserved 1/4 part, skinned and diced finely for garnishing)
  • 1 onion, cubed or roughly chopped
  • 2 pieces bread, crusts removed and roughly torn (sprayed and soaked with some balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar)
  • 1 dl wine (I used white wine, iso of red)
  • Cold drinking water (amount depends on how thick or thin you want your soup to be. Your call…)
  • Coarse sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly-milled black peppercorns, to taste

Make your own Garlic Oil –

Mix 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil with 2 fat cloves garlic, mashed with some coarse sea salt. Set aside

Garnish –

Skinned the 1/4 part cucumber and remove excess seeds, if any. Dice finely and refrigerate.

  
Method –

  1. Boil some water and steep the tomatoes for 20 to 25 seconds. Transfer to cold water and peel skin off the tomatoes. Once all done, cut the tomatoes in quarters and remove most of the seeds and roughly chop.
  2. Place all the chopped and cubed ingredients and the bread crumbs to a pot and purée or blend the mixture with an electric hand mixer
  3. As soon as you have reached the point where you’d say “Ah, that’s the texture I want“, then stop. It can be either chunky or smooth. I prefer the latter. Pour in the wine and season the soup to taste. Add more balsamic vinegar if you prefer your soup a bit more tangy (I don’t..)
  4. Add 2 Tbsp garlic oil and stir. Refrigerate for at least one hour
  5. Before serving, plate on individual bowl or any decorative glass and drizzle with the rest of the garlic oil and garnish with the cold diced cucumber

  

I served the soup as a starter – like tapas – with some Spanish bread sticks (Picos Camperos) and Bruschetta Italian herb mix dip. Muy buen!

   

  

Verdict:

If you love tomatoes, red paprikas, cucumbers, onions, garlics with a hint of “sour wine” (vinegar) and don’t mind at all sipping puréed salad cold, you will LOVE this soup! It’s a breeze to make and a blessing on a hot afternoon or warm evening. Simply refreshing and so light and healthy. I will definitely introduce this chilled soup to my family in Kuching real soon *wink*

Without much ado, I’m linking this “red” post to The Vegetable Palette ~ Glorious Reds, hosted by Shaheen of A2K ~ A Seasonal Veg Table

   

This refreshing soup makes great starter on any hot day and perfect when you’re having a BBQ. For this, I’m linking up to Tea Time Treats  with the July’s theme “BBQ Fodder’ hosted by Janie of The Hedgecombers  
 

 

Eat well, stay healthy, take care!

Cheers!

It was only quite recently that I found the perfect recipe for baby potatoes (‘Krielaardappelen” in Dutch), as far as the palates of my and my 3 guys are concerned. I will share the recipe in a later post, so stay tuned 😉

The fact that I had a 2kg bag of baby potatoes and a great recipe to boot for a perfect summer meal, I made sure the protein to complement the carbohydrate was right, too. I knew exactly what I wanted to cook for one of our Sunday lunches. On Saturday, I included on the shopping list, 5 pieces of Tournedos (nottornado“the destructive and violent rotating winds, please. LOL!), but small round pieces of lean cut of meat from the end portion of beef tenderloin. It is sometimes called, filet mignon.

In my fridge were a stack of uncooked rashers of streaky pork belly bacon ready to be used to wrap the tournedos

Hubby went shopping, but – alas – he came home with something else, escalope de veau or kalfslapjes or veal cutlets/ filets! No tournedos! No filet mignon! Yikes! What to do next??!!

Plan B – A Challenge!

Okay, no tournedos or filet mignon. No worries! I eyeballed my kitchen cupboards and fridge to double and triple check what ingredients I had in order to come up with a decent meal, completely unplanned at the eleventh hour!

My brain was gear-wheeling for the right mix and match of the available ingredients. For Heaven’s sake, its Summer and my summer chord was harping this tune for me. And here, folks, was the result!

  
This was probably one of my most perfectly executed dishes, and I loved every single moment assembling this dish together *big smile*

Ingredients

  • 5 pieces escalope de veau or kalfslapes (Note an escalope is a piece of boneless meat, usually veal, that has been thinned out)
  • 20 rashers of streaky bacon
  • 10 green asparagus, par-boiled
  • Some cooking oil
  • Some water
  • Fleur de Sel and freshly milled black peppercorns, to taste

For the filling –

  • Some fresh Rosemary, finely chopped
  • Emmentaler Cheese, finely chopped (I used Emmentaler since that was the only cheese I had that day. You may want to use any of your favourite cheeses but not the strong types)
  • Freshly-milled black peppercorns

Kitchen “gadgets” 

  1.  A pan
  2. Electrical grill-teppanyaki-hot plate 
  3. Some Toothpicks

How to assemble

  
  

  1. Prepare the cheesy-herby filling and scoop a tablespoon of the filling to each escalope.
  2. Roll the escalope tightly and neatly, making sure the filling remains intact
  3. Lay 4 rashers of bacon under each escalope and place 2 par-cooked green asparagus on top of the rolled escalope
  4. Roll the bacon around the escalope and asparagus neatly and tightly. Seal with some toothpicks. Do all 5.
  5. Place each bundle of bacon-wrapped escalope to a slightly greased electric grill-teppanyaki-hot plate to brown and sear the outer layer (Note, at this point, the meat is not fully cooked)
  6. To cook the escalope further, transfer the rolled meats to a pan, with a little cooking oil. Add some water and season to taste. (Note the “seasoned water” will transform into a nice gravy)
  7. Before serving, I transferred the bundle to the grill which enhanced the BBQ-flavour
  8. Serve the escalope with your favourite carbs and greens. 

  
  
Notes: The thinned out escalopes cooked really fast and retained quite a bit of moisture. Beware of the seasoning! Make sure not to exaggerate too much on strong herbs and spices when cooking veal steaks because veal has a very mild flavour. This unplanned dish turned out to be a keeper!  It had very interesting flavours – the mild escalope sandwiched between the smokiness and saltiness from the bacon and a light herby flavour of the rosemary and creamy Emmentaler as you cut through the piece. Mmmmm…. Simply divine!

Oh by the way, I would like to thank Jasline @Foodie Baker for nominating me with “The Versatile Blogger Award” which I’m proud to keep and share the badge on my blog 🙂

Do hop over at Jasline’s blog. She has an amazingly neat blog. Love her step by step instructions and her photography skills. Well done, Jasline! 
 

I’m linking this post over at  Cooking with Herbs for July: BBQ with Rosemary and Thyme, hosted by Karen of Lavender & Lovage

  
 

This post is also linked to Tea Time Treats with the July’s theme “BBQ Fodder’ hosted by Janie of The Hedgecombers 

 

I’m also linking this post over at #CookBlogShare, hosted for the last time by Lucy at  Supergolden Bakes

 

  
Have a fantastic weekend!

Cheers!

 

I must confess that I was a hopeless, pathetic cook when I moved to Belgium permanently in 1995. I was a nervous wreck in the kitchen not knowing how to start…. until I watched Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook which was aired on BBC1 on weekday mornings. To be honest, I could relate myself to one of the categories of “useless” cooks, “Can’t Cook!” *blush*

One of my utterly useless kitchen disasters was baking a swiss roll cake for the first time that turned out leather-hard and completely un-rollable. It was meant to be a surprise for hubby’s birthday, but alas, hubby didn’t get to see a rolled cake because it went in the dustbin! And then I wanted to slow cook a pigeon which I got from my late MIL. The pigeon was freshly hunted when I first got it, but I froze the bird when I got home. Well, that’s OK because I was not in a hurry to make a meal out of the bird then. When I finally wanted a bird meal, I took the pigeon out from the freezer and dumped it in the slow cooker and filled the cooker with water that literally drowned the bird! No matter how long I cooked the bird, it remained hard rock frozen! So in went the bird in the bin!

There was no such thing as internet then. Or maybe there was, but I did not own a PC, and smartphones were unheard of then. Luckily, there were several “ancient” ways to refer to recipes, id est, recipe books, magazines, my prized helpline – Mummy dearest – and of course the multitude of cookery channels on the telly!

Being a newbie in a non-English speaking country, BBC was a big relief for me, because (1) BBC1 had loads of back-to-back cookery programs and (2) the programs were in English!! Yay!!

Ready, Steady, Cook!

Strange, but true, I first saw James Martin, one of the Chefs on Ready Steady Cook, prepared this ancient Chinese technique of smoking chicken in a wok in 20 minutes! He used only 3 ingredients – uncooked rice, sugar and tea – as the smoking mix.

>>> Fast forward 

Thanks to RSC, I have done several tea-smokings in my kitchen, in the meantime, and have experimented with different spices, herbs and proteins : tea-smoked salmon, duck, chicken and turkey.   

Here’s one I made recently, tea-smoked chicken thighs with Asian ingredients.

  You need –

  • 1 kg chicken thighs/ cutlets, skinned
  • 3 Stalks Spring Onions
  • Root Ginger, sliced (skin on)
  • 1/2 cup Hua Diao Rice Wine
  • Mushroom Soy Sauce
  • Salt to taste
  • Sesame oil

Marinate the chicken overnight in a ziplock bag.  

For glazing – 

  • Water
  • Honey

 

The next day, boil 500 ml water in an electric kettle. Remove the marinated chicken on a plate. Add the marinade in a pan and pour in boiling water. Cook the gravy until simmering hot. Add the chicken pieces in the pan. Boil the broth with the chicken until bubbling hot. Season to taste. Total cooking time should be at least 30 minutes. Remove the chicken pieces and transfer them to a colander to release any excess liquid. 

Glaze the chicken pieces with the honey water. 

Next prepare the tea-smoked ingredients –

  • 1/2 cup uncooked fragrant rice 
  • 1/4 cup mixture of light brown and palm sugars (or the less expensive white sugar works well, too)
  • 6 sachets of Jasmine tea with petals (as a matter of fact, any type of loose tea leaves will do)
  • 1/2 Tbsp Sichuan peppercorns 
  • 1 Tbsp Coriander Seeds
  • 4 dried chillies
  • Rind of 1 lemon
  • Heavy-duty aluminium foil 

  

Toss and mix the ingredients on a heavy-duty aluminium foil.

 

Add rinds of one lemon and place the aluminium foil in a wok. A wire rack is suspended above the tea-smoked mix.  

Heat the wok on medium to high heat, covered, until a few wisps of smoke escape from the lid. Then transfer the honey-glazed chicken pieces on the wire rack.   

Keep smoking the chicken for 45 minutes to 1 hour  (Note: I have an induction stove-top, hence  the longer smoking time

Ta-da! 

 Serve the tea-smoked chicken with home-made pickled red onion and some salad leaves. Yums!

   

My 100% home-made summer platter of tea-smoked chicken with pasta, pickled red onion, chunky guacamole and salad leaves

  
 

Verdict: As this is an indoor cooking (with an outdoor mindset), always pre-cook and season your proteins before smoking (or steaming) them. I found  marinating the meat overnight makes the meat more flavourful. The tea-smoking method is not a cooking method but is simply a technique to infuse the proteins to another level of imbued fragrance of smokiness.  It is important not to pre-smoke too long as the final result will be shamefully bitter, literally speaking. 

The selections of spices and herbs are just endless. For instance, Duck goes well with star anise, lemon and orange zests and five-spiced powder.  Salmon goes well with dhill, mixed peppercorns and lemon rind, Lamb with rosemary and thyme, and etcetera.  The sky is the limit and of course, most importantly, think out of the box and get out of your comfort zone and enjoy! And by the way, I’m learning all the time 😉

With “TEA” as the oddball and key ingredient in this recipe, I’m hopping over to the blog-hop event at Little Thumbs Up (July 2015 theme: TEA) organised by Zoe of Bake for Happy Kids and Doreen of my little favourite DIY, and hosted by Cheryl of Baking Taitai

   

I’m also sharing this post over at Cooking with Herbs for July: BBQ, hosted by Karen of Lavender & Lovage

With Summer in mind, this indoor smoking technique with an outdoor mindset, is perfect for the July Tea Time Treats with the theme “BBQ Fodder“, hosted by Janie of The Hedgecombers

    
It is with deep regret to have learnt that this is the last time Lucy at Supergolden Bakes will be hosting one of the coolest and most flexible blog-hop challenges. I wish her all the best and success in her new job. Congratulations, Lucy. I have enjoyed reading her blog and have drooled over her most amazing bakes! Without much ado, I’m linking this post at  #CookBlogShare 

 

    “Funny when we‘re not there, they miss us. When we are there, they kinda close their eyes and pretend or think we are invisible.  When we are eventually there and as time goes by, we age quite rapidly. We actually black-out quite easily, too”.

    Now, who or what are “we“, and please be specific, I asked my 2 boys.

    A cat?

    Nope! I wondered why a cat…

    Light (bulb)?

    Nope!

    Fruit?

    Erm…Nope!

    Boys: Okay, we give up, Mum!

    Mum: Well, it’s none other than those sweet yellow curvy thingy called Bananas, my boys… LOL!

    Both my sons re-read the riddle that I invented and slowly nodded their heads with approval.

    Boys: Yeah, you’re right Mum. No wonder you spared the lives of the bananas from being thrased and put them to good use for the umpteenth time! *LOL*

    Mum: *Grin*

    Banana Makeover!

    I had 3 ripe bananas in my kitchen, dangling from the banana hanger, screaming out for a complete makeover! Actually, I had a few things in my mind with those bananas.

    Initially, I was thinking of making banana fritters. It has been a long time since I had my last banana fritter in Kuching back in 2008!  After looking at all angles, I scrapped the idea of making banana fritters as they consumed too much cooking oil for frying and furthermore, I don’t own a fryolater.

    Then I was thinking of baking a banana bread or cake. Nah! I’ve baked too many banana cakes already and have posted my downfalls and victories in these posts here, here,  here and here.

    And then, I was toying with the idea of making banana chiffon cake. Not too long ago, a colleague brought his home-baked banana chiffon cake to work and shared a few wedges with me. Boy…I was bowled over! Simply scrummy, that I finally bought myself a chiffon cake pan! Did I bake a chiffon cake? Nah! Not now. That’ll come, for sure 😉

    By the way, since it was Father’s Day recently, I thought of making something small with some extra goodness, and here’s the result! These little gems required no electric stand mixer. Only my working hand, a fork, a rubber spatula and 2 bowls (one big and one medium-sized), plus of course the measuring cups and spoons and the ingredients!

    I have adapted the recipe from JoyOfBaking.com, which I have posted here, by including a few of my own touches.

    Instead of using granulated white sugar, I opted for 1 Cup of soft light brown sugar (Cassonade Graeffe) and 1/2 tsp baking soda iso 1/4 tsp. I added 1 Tbsp caramel sauce as brown sugars are less sweet than the white granulated ones. To make the muffins a bit more special, I added 3/4 Cup Country Crisp with crunchy Chunky Nuts (wholegrain cereals, oat and barley flakes, dessiccated coconut, flaked almonds, chopped nuts – Brazil, pecan and roasted hazelnuts) and 1/4 Cup chopped pistachios.

    The method of making Quick Bread or Banana bread is such a breeze. Mix all the wet ingredients in a smaller bowl and mix all the dry ingredients in a bigger bowl. Add the wet to the dry and the chemistry begins! Fold very lightly until all white speckles of flour are no longer visible. Do not over stir unless you want hard rock muffins!   

    Line a 12-hole muffin pan with paper muffin cups and fill each muffin cup 3/4 full.  Bake in the pre-heated oven at 177 deg C for a perfect muffin texture at 23 minutes! Please check your type of oven. It can be anywhere between 20 – 25 deg C. My oven usually takes the middle-of-the-road path 😉

    Verdict: These muffins were a joy to bite into when still warm. They were really light and the sweet banana flavour with the warm hint of cinnamon and the goodness from the nuts and crisps came through perfectly. I must confess that the nuts were not crunchy any more but you’ll definitely know their presence as they gave a nice bite and texture to an otherwise mundane-looking muffin. My boys loved the muffins and it’s the surest way to enjoy “black-out” bananas! And by the way, the muffins tasted absolutely divine the day after. Perfect in my dessert box 😉

    These were simple muffins but made with love and packed with extra goodness. I’m quite certain they will make a nice treat over at Tea Time Treats hosted by Karen from Lavender & Lovage and co-hosted by Jane from The Hedgecombers with the June theme “Muffins, Fairy Cakes and Cupcakes

     

     
    I’m also linking this post to Tasty Tuesdays hosted by HonestMum  

    Before this week ends, I’m linking up to #Recipe of the Week 20-26 June hosted by A Mummy Too

    Enjoy the rest of the week!

    Cheers!