Archive for the ‘The Spice Trail’ Category

Honestly speaking, I had always associated a vegan being Buddhist. Call me ignorant, but you will forgive me after reading the next paragraph *wink*

My first exposure of a full-fledged vegan meal was when I did not know I had a vegan meal at all! How ironic was that? Then again, it was eons ago. I was a little girl sitting at a big round table, surrounded by adults I could vaguely recollect their faces except for my late Dad and an aunt or two and an adopted cousin and her biological family. Everyone was speaking Henghua, and Mandarin and a smattering of Hokkien and Malay. I remembered eating a cold plate as starter and mains consisting of lo han chai, braised mushrooms with broccoli, yam basket with pieces of ‘meat’, slices of ‘meat’ in orange sauce that tasted like duck meat, whole fish with edible bones. All the dishes were intricately and artistically presented. I was not a good eater when I was a young girl growing up, but I remembered those dishes were simply sublime. Although the tastes seemed quite linear throughout, the textures were rather interesting: chewy, meaty, spongy, sweet, savoury, tangy, tasty; and yet there were no real meats, only mock meats! Yup, that was my first intro to a vegan meal, prepared for a group of people who were mostly Buddhist at the time.

>> Fast forward anno 2013, Belgium >>

On 5th June, 2013, the United Nations celebrated World Environment Day (WED). The company where I work, co-celebrated the year’s theme “Think. Eat. Save”.  A colleague who is a vegan was the best ambassador to present that year’s theme at one of the meetings.

And guess what? I was not being introduced, but more so, re-introduced to yet another full-fledged vegan lunch, albeit on a different level! I must say the vegan burger was a surprise discovery. I have written a post about it, here.

In case you are wondering, nope, my colleague is NOT a Buddhist. She became a vegan due to both dietary and ethical reasons.

Vegan is the New Black!

This phrase is inspired by the opening title of Netflix’s hit show Orange is the New Black. While the 2nd part of the phrase, “the new black” is very common in pop culture, the first part of the phrase, “Vegan”, is the suddenly trendy thing that is happening of late. If you don’t already know, being vegan is not at all a new thing. It was founded in 1944 !!

Loving the Loving Hut

Ever since I had my first bite of that vegan burger, I was on the lookout for that restaurant in Leuven. Loving Hut is a vegan restaurant chain with several outlets worldwide. I’m glad Leuven is one of them! I have brought my younger son there with me on several occasions and he likes the food there, so much so, that it becomes a domino effect. In turn he brought his friends to lunch there, too.

Here’re what I had with my son during one of our visits to Loving Hut. All organic and vegan burgers with vegan “bitterballen” and “calamares”

Awesome!



My favourite remains the refreshingly colourful and tasty, neptunus salad.



Oh by the way, it was at Loving Hut that I got to know of Dr RM, a Kerala born doctor in Ayurveda and yoga therapy. Although I have never been to any of her yoga classes, I have enjoyed a good Ayurvedic full body massage from her.

During one of the massage sessions with Dr RM, she mentioned about giving an Ayurvedic Vegan workshop (yes, she called it a workshop) when the weather was warmer. She sounded extremely enthusiastic about it and even sharing her plan with me. Lucky for her, I’m a good listener 🙂

And doubly lucky for her, I told her to count me in when the workshop day arrived, as I was game – for the food, in particular. Lol!

Workshop Day

28th May arrived. It was a lovely sunny day. I drove to Dr RM’s house where the workshop was. It was my first Vegan workshop, hence, I had not the clue what to expect.

Although I have been to Dr RM’s house on several occasions for the Ayurvedic massage, I have never been into her living room, let alone, her kitchen. It felt like walking into another dimension with our bare feet et al. The living room was unadorned and pure minimalistic, definitely not in a negative sense.

Yoga Before Vegan

We were a small group of 4 participants. Dr RM gave a brief explanation of yoga after which she recited a simple mantra to anchor our attention to our breathing while the calming and Zen meditation music was playing.

A-U-M!

We “woke up” with a pleasant serving of aromatic mug of freshly brewed warm Ayurvedic chai. We were in comfort zone, literally speaking.

Ready? Steady…. Cook!

For the next 2 hours or so, I took down mental notes of the vegan cooking process through the photos I captured from my iPhone.

My challenge? To replicate the Vegan lunch in the comfort of my own kitchen *wink*

Okay, just let your imagination run wild with you, with the following photos…

It was supposed to be an interactive cooking workshop but due to time constraint, it ended up with Dr RM preparing and cooking all the dishes herself!

She whipped up 4 vegan recipes while explaining the choice of ingredients used – Ayurvedic mung bean soup, Ayurvedic Chapatis or Rotis, Ayurvedic chutney and kheer or rice pudding with saffron, cardamom and cashew nuts.

What a Feast!

It was worth the wait. A simple, unadulterated vegan meal that’s fresher than FRESH! Couldn’t get any fresher than that.

What more can I say!

My Challenge…

After seeing Dr RM toiling away with the mixing, stirring, kneading and cooking, I thought, “nah, too time consuming!“, so I opted for the extreme alternative.

Yup, I turned to my Thermie for help 😉

With the mental notes in my head, I converted the drudgery of preparing the Ayurvedic vegan lunch into an expeditious culinary journey in the comfort of my own kitchen.

Vegan Sunday with a Twist


My Ayurvedic Chapatis

  • 1 kg potatoes (I used “Jazzy” creamy potatoes)
  • 750 g organic wheat “atta” flour (I used organic spelt flour plus extra for kneading)
  • 1.5 tsp nigella seeds
  • 40g chopped fresh coriander
  • 1-2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 tsp Himalayan rock salt


I boiled the potatoes (skin on) as per the BCB and peeled the skin when still warm but not hot. Then I set them aside to cool before mashing the potatoes to the texture I wanted. Then I added the flour bit by bit, nigella seeds, 1 Tbsp coconut oil and salt. I mixed the mixture until a dough is formed. I turned the dial to “knead” for 2 minutes, and added 1 Tbsp coconut oil if too dry, or more flour if still wet. The key here is trial and error and stop when you are happy with the consistency you want.

Next, I tipped the dough onto a floured bowl and leave the dough to rest for at least 30 minutes. After half an hour, I kneaded the dough again by hand on floured surface. For the amount of dough mixture, I was able to make 25 equal-sized balls. I flattened each ball with a floured rolling pin and rolled each ball into disc.


I used two green pans to speed the roti making process. Each pan was pre-heated and drizzled with a tiny bit of coconut oil on medium high heat. The Chapatis were cooked when they puffed in the centre. I just flipped the roti over to cook on both sides until little brown specks became visible. As you can see, my rotis were not of uniform sizes and form. I like it that way as it looked more home-style 😀

My Ayurvedic Chutney

  • 180 g raisins secs
  • 180 g raisins blanc
  • 200 g x 2 dates
  • A palmful of fresh mint leaves
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Himalayan rock salt


I soaked the raisins and dates in water overnight. With the amount of raisins and dates (water removed) and mint I dumped in the TM bowl, I made sure not to go above speed 5 to avoid the TM blades from getting stuck. You can continue by using a wooden spatula to free the area around the blades. Continue blending until you reached the desired texture. I prefer my chutney with a bit of texture.

For smoother puréed-like texture, blend in smaller batches.


Dates and raisins are sweet, so you know the drill. Pep it up with some freshly milled Himalayan rock salt and cayenne or paprika powder. Et voilà!

My Ayurvedic Soup

  • 400 g split mung beans
  • 1,500 g water plus 500 g water
  • 5 g turmeric powder
  • 5 g garlic (sorry, I can’t go without this herb!)
  • 80 g onion (ditto)
  • Ginger
  • Lemon juice from half a lemon
  • Himalayan rock salt, to taste
  • 25 g Coconut oil


Tempering

  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • Roughly chopped Spinach leaves
  • Coconut oil


Garnishing

  • Chopped coriander leaves
  • Crispy fried onions (optional)

Wash the mung beans in several changes of water until the water runs clear. Soak the mung beans for at least 4 hours or overnight


Mince the garlic, onion and ginger upto speed 5 for 3 seconds. Add coconut oil and sauté with turmeric powder for 3mins/ 120 C/ speed 1.

From the overnight-soaked mung beans, weigh 500g of the soaked beans and transfer to the TM bowl. Add 1,500g water. Cook for 20 mins/ 120 C/ R/ Spoon/ Half MC

After 10 minutes, watch out for the foams floating on the surface. Pause and remove the frothy surface. Reduce the temperature to 100C/ Half MC. Cook further until the mung beans are soft and tender. Transfer the soup to a bigger soup pot. Add 500 g water. Boil for another 5 minutes.

And of course, season to taste!

Prepare the tempering by heating some coconut oil and mustard seeds in a frying pan. As soon as the seeds start popping, add the cumin seeds and roughly chopped spinach leaves. Gently pour the tempered ingredients into the soup. Season to taste before serving. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and crispy fried onions (optional)


Our Vegan Lunch was ready to serve!

My Verdict?

I loved Dr RM’s Chapatis. Her rotis puffed up beautifully in the centre. She used plain wheat flour while I used organic Spelt flour. That could be the reason why my rotis did not puff too much and a bit more dense, too. The mixing and kneading in the TM were a breeze but it was the rolling out of the dough into discs and the waiting time to get the rotis cooked went by at annoying snail speed. With my boys popping in and out of the kitchen and incessantly asking “is the food ready yet?” didn’t help one bit at all 😦

I loved my Ayurvedic soup the most. Could it be the un-vegan ingredients of minced garlic, onion and crispy fried shallots that made the world of difference? That’s the Twist, I meant 😉

The guys in my household are not fan of beans and lentils, but surprisingly, they liked the soup.

To be honest, Dr RM’s soup was very bland. It could do with some pinches of extra salt but we were all too ravenous, and gulped all the soup down. Lol!

Our Ayurvedic chutneys were on par. Hers was extremely smooth, more like purée and mine was more relish-y. I prefer my chutney with some texture, hence by not pulsing on high speed for too long was, for me, perfect. If you’re wondering if the chutney was too sweet because of the dates, well, it was on the sweet side but not overly sweet due to the overnight soaking. The slight tartness from the raisins and the cool and refreshing mint, Himalayan salt and cayenne or paprika powder balanced the flavour of the chutney quite flawlessly.

I asked the 3 participants what their favourite dish was. All 3 pointed to the Ayurvedic chutney and the Chapatis 😉

By the way, I did not replicate Dr RM’s dessert as that was my least favourite dish. Her rice pudding did not set in the fridge and it turned out pretty soupy. The flavours were alright.

Will I make these again? Yes! Without a doubt, but on a smaller scale. I will use plain atta flour for the Chapatis. The Ayurvedic soup will be on a future lunch menu. Bookmarked! I will make the Ayurvedic chutney 2 ways – puréed and relished and will add some chilli flakes and a squeeze of lemon juice for extra tartness.

If you have never had an Ayurvedic vegan meal before, you may consider trying this out and judge it for yourself.

I’m not a Vegan but I loved it, however, it’s not something I will eat everyday. Too many restrictions and it’s just not possible for me to abstain from a good bowl of kolo mee or char siu pao 😀

Oh by the way, Dr RM gave away a try-out sample pack of the Ayurvedic chai after the workshop.

I brewed it immediately when I got home.

Mmmmm…. yummy!

Zen….

This masala chai is a keeper 😉

Have a Blessed Sunday!

Cheers!

It is really amusing to observe a toddler’s reaction when eating a piece of tofu (soybean curd) for the first time.

His face changed and grimaced. “Yuck!” I remembered that was what my older son said when he first tasted tofu. He was 3 years old then. His younger brother said exactly the same thing at his age. Even worst. He spewed everything out, with a contorted face.

Okay, maybe they were the wrong audience to feed those white spongy, tasteless thingy, BUT… kids don’t lie. Remember? 😉

Masking the Curd

I must admit soybean curd on its own is downright bland. That’s why my Mum made us “like” eating tofu by masking and dressing it up when we were younger. She won, because we absolutely loved and still adore Mum’s stuffed fried tofu “tauhu sumbat” with either meat or veg filling. I’d love to replicate Mum’s tauhu sumbat here in Belgium, but deep fat frying of the curd is not what I would venture into in my own kitchen … as yet. I’m sure my boys will be bowled over by the stuffed tofu. Yes, 100% !

On the other hand, I’ve whipped up a much healthier version of steaming the tofu and made a glossy gravy of sesame oil, oyster sauce, garlic, ginger, cooking wine, salt and pepper to taste and corn flour as thickener to go with the once-upon-a-time bland tofu.

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Or simply a bowl of clean healthy soup with cubed tofu and meatballs. And by the way, I made those tofu from scratch! You can check out how I made the soymilk the ‘traditional’ way (no soymilk maker then) and transformed the milk into soybean curd by using s secret ingredient here.

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My boys have grown into teens now and their palates and cravings have also evolved over the years. They want more spices and flavour in the foods they eat. I’m glad for them because I’m a spicy person when it comes to eating, hence, it makes cooking a lot easier for me 😀

The best ‘mask’ yet for a tofu dish is the unbeatable Mapo Tofu dish. I have had these in many Chinese restaurants, and I have always loved the smooth tofu and the heat that comes with it, however, the “heat” is not as spicy as I would love it to be.

So I decided to make my own fiery Mapo Tofu.

Here you go!

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Who or What the hell is Mapo?

Mapo tofu bluntly means ‘pockmarked elderly lady’s soybean curd’. It doesn’t sound very flattering, but the origin of the story dated back to the late 19th Century in Chengdu, the Provincial Capital of Sichuan in SW China. There may be little variations to the details of the story being told, but here’s one I learnt from a Chinese lady who used to run a mini Asian store near where we lived. I told her I wanted to make an authentic platter of mapo tofu dish and I wanted to know of the special ingredients that went in the dish. She was very helpful and immediately told me that the Pi’xian doubanjiang is one of the compulsory ingredients in the dish. I bought a bag of the spicy Sichuan Pixian fermented broad bean paste.

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Then her eyes twinkled and she asked me if I knew why the dish is called Mapo Tofu. I love listening to stories and I was looking forward to her story 😀

Here’s what she told me, “Once a upon a time there was an elderly woman by the name of Mrs Chen. She is said to have pockmarks on her face. She ran an eatery, mainly selling vegetarian dishes, on a route travelled by porters who were carrying heavy loads. Many stopped at her stall for her food. One day, a hungry labourer who had no money to pay for his meal, stopped by at Mrs Chen’s food stall. He barter-traded with Mrs Chen his rapeseed oil (similar to canola oil) and some meat in exchange for lunch. She created and tossed what were available, and topped the tofu-minced meat with infused chilli oil, and THAT was when the Mapo Tofu was born”, as in “Ma” meaning pockmarks and “Po“, which is the first syllable of “popo” meaning an elderly woman or a grandma.

What an interesting story!

Hot and Fiery and 7th Heaven!

According to Wikipedia, a true Mapo Tofu dish is powerfully spicy with both conventional “heat” spiciness and the characteristic “mala” (numbing spiciness) flavour of Sichuan cuisine. The characteristics considered to be the most defining of authentic Mapo Tofu dish must include the following seven specific adjectives:

1. numbing (from the Sichuan peppercorns)
2. spicy hot (from the dried chillies, chilli oil, chilli flakes, doubanjiang)
3. hot temperature (cooked on high heat)
4. fresh (from the fresh ingredients used – meat, spring onions, tofu, garlic, ginger)
5. tender and soft (from the tofu)
6. aromatic (from the stir-fried aromas of the spices)
7. flaky (melts in the mouth)

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As a bonus, I got this recipe from the friendly Chinese lady at the store. She only mentioned the ingredients used but not the measurements. Most unfortunately, she no longer works at the store and I have no clue where she is now, but I am very grateful for the recipe she had briefly shared with me.

Ingredients

Dried chillies (I used 4, cut in halves. Not for the faint-hearted. Be warned!)
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
Medium-firm soybean curd, cubed (I used 500 g)
Vegetable oil (again pure guestimate)
Minced meat (The choice of meat is yours. I used a mixture of pork-beef mince)
Fermented chilli broad bean paste (Sichuan Pixian doubanjiang) – I used 2 Tbsp
3 garlic cloves, finely diced (this one she mentioned)
Small knob fresh ginger, peeled and finely diced (“agak-agak”)
3 stalks spring onions, cut on the bias (yes, 3…)
Chilli-sesame oil (I used 2 Tbsp)
Chilli flakes (optional – depending on how hot you can take it!)
Salt and sugar (optional)

Cornflour Mixture
Chicken stock or water (this is pure guestimate!)
Light soy sauce
Chinese cooking wine (I used Shaoxing wine)
Cornflour

Note: For Vegetarian version, replace minced meat with water chestnuts, wood ear fungus or any vegetables of your choice.

Method

1. Dry roast/ toast the dry chillies and Sichuan peppercorns in a wok over a medium-high heat stirring continuously for a few seconds. Thereafter, I set aside 2 halves of the toasted dry chillies and transfer the rest to a pestle and mortar and grind finely. Let cool.

2. Prepare the cornflour mixture in a bowl by adding wine, light soy sauce and stock or water.

3. In a pan of water add the cubed soybean curd. Cover and bring to the boil. Drain. Set aside.

4. Add some oil in the wok over medium heat. Add 1 Tbsp of the ground toasted chilli and Sichuan peppercorns. Cook for a few seconds, stirring well up to the point where you see a thin wisp of smoke. Remove the peppercorns while retaining the oil in a small bowl.

5. In the same wok, add the minced meat. Stir fry for a couple of seconds over a medium- high heat.

6. Add the diced/ minced garlic and ginger. Continue stir-frying until fragrant.

7. Add the doubanjiang paste and the 2 halves of the toasted dry chillies. Stir-fry.

8. Pour in the cornflour mixture. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.

9. Add the cubed tofu, prepared chilli oil and chilli-sesame oil. At this stage, taste to check if salt or sugar is required. Bring to the boil and then immediately turn off the heat. Transfer to a serving plate

10. Finally, sprinkle the toasted ground peppercorns and garnish with spring onions.

Here’s my version of the famous Sichuan Mapo Tofu made by a Malaysian in Belgium 😀

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Enjoy!

Mapo Tofu is a very light yet tasty dish with the level of heat that can easily be adjusted to one’s preference. I’m linking this post to Bangers & Mash’s The Spice Trail with the theme “Temple Food

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With my chosen herb in this recipe, I am submitting this post to Lavender and Lovage’s Cooking with Herbs

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Mapo Tofu can be eaten anytime of the year. I don’t mind having this dish served at Chinese New Year lunch or dinner. For this, I’m submitting this post to “My Treasured Recipes #5 – Chinese New Year Goodies (Jan/Feb 2015)” hosted by Miss B of Everybody Eats Well in Flanders and co-hosted by Charmaine of Mimi Bakery House

I’m also sharing this post to Cook and Celebrate: Chinese New Year 2015 organised by Yen from Eat Your Heart Out, Diana from Domestic Goddess Wannabe and Zoe from Bake for Happy Kids.

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Tasty Tuesdays with HonestMum



Have a great weekend!

Cheers!

Baking – especially, bread – is not really my cup of tea, and yet I have baked this bread for the third time!

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When I baked this loaf for the first time, my sons urged me to bake it again the following day! Can you imagine that?

Well, I could totally understand 😉. Not only was the bread drop-dead gorgeous looking with the braids, it was immensely yummy with its wholesome filling.

And by the way, I have a secret to tell you, too.

I was amazed at how easy it was to put this bread together, especially coming from someone who does not have a penchant for bread-making. And believe you me, even the braiding was not rocket science. In fact it was simple weaving. I must say I was enjoying myself and feeling proud with every end result😉 

Secret of Success 

I owe my good execution (ahem!) to a great and humble “teacher”. I stumbled upon her recipes on YouTube. She has a very pleasing and honest voice and sweet disposition that easily magnetised a multitude of viewers and subscribers to her channels. There’s something about her that you can trust, ie, by following her recipes, you would end up being happy with the outcome. I have referred to two of her other recipes and have not felt disappointed.

She’s not a professional baker. Far from it. She’s like me – a mother with two sons, residing abroad, believes in God, loves her family and friends and cooking. To me, comparing like for like is the secret of success.

Well, shifu Aeri Lee, I nicked your recipe!

It was so good that I just had to spread the word. 

I followed Aeri’s dough method to a T while tweaking her ingredients by adding freshly torn basils and fresh thyme. I have also adjusted her main ingredients part of the recipe with flavours and degree of piquancy that agreed to our palates.

I added carrots for additional colour and texture. We all know carrots are available year-round, but there are unusual varieties harvested in late summer to autumn. Baby carrots, for instance.

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Main ingredients
(Inspired by Aeri’s Kitchen, tweaked according to personal taste) 

Yields 2 Loaves 

Baking time: 20 minutes at 200 deg Celsius 

  • 500 g mix of minced pork and kalf 
  • 2 Fresh tomatoes, chopped 
  • 1 Onion (diced) 
  • 1 tsp thai hot chilli flakes (not in recipe – optional)
  • 2 Garlic cloves (minced) 
  • 1 Red chilli (finely chopped) 
  • 1 Green chilli ( finely chopped)
  • Coarse Sea Salt (to taste) 
  • Freshly milled Sarawak white peppercorns (to taste) 
  • 1 Carrot (diced – not in recipe) 
  • 2 cm piece grated ginger (not in recipe) 
  • Olive Oil
    Fresh Basil (not in recipe) 
  • Some shredded or any grated cheese (not powder form) 

The Minced Filling – Method 

(Note: I made the filling the night before and refrigerated it) 

1. Sauteé the diced onion, minced garlic and grated ginger until fragrant. 

2. Add the minced meat. Stir and mix to combine until the meat turned colour (from pink to slightly cooked). 

3. Then add the chopped tomatoes, diced carrots, chilli flakes, finely chopped fresh chillies. Stir-fry for a few minutes and then add some freshly milled Sarawak white peppercorns, salt to taste and freshly-torn basil leaves. 

Dough Ingredients – 

  • 3 1/4 Cups All Purpose Flour 
  • 1/2 Cup Water (luke warm) 
  • 1/2 Cup Milk (luke warm) 
  • 1 Tbsp Butter (room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp Sugar 
  • 2 1/4 tsp Active Yeast (1 package)
  • 1 tsp Salt
    1 Egg Yoke (for egg wash) 
  • Fresh Thyme (not in recipe)
  • Fresh Basil (not in recipe) 


The Dough – Method 

1. In a large bowl, pour in the milk, water and yeast. Set aside for 5 minutes 

2. Then add in the Self-raising flour, salt, sugar, butter, basil and thyme. Knead the dough. 

3. Lightly grease the bowl and place the kneaded dough in a warm place for at least one hour (or in the oven with just the light on)

For the step-by-step method of handling and weaving the dough please refer here

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With the temperature outside plummeting to single digit of late, a slice of the freshly baked chilli bread is just mesmeric. Mmmm….

And what’s great about this bread is you can concoct the filling to a vegetarian version with ratatouille. The next time I bake this bread, I will make a curry chicken filling. Can’t wait😍

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I am linking this post to the following blog-hop cooking challenges – 

My Treasured Recipes #3 – Taste of Autumn (Oct/Nov 2014) hosted by Miss B of Everybody Eats Well in Flanders and co-hosted by Charmaine of Mimi Bakery House 

Lavender and Lovage’s “Sugar & Spice (November and December Cooking with Herbs Challenge)”

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Bangers & Mash’s November’s Spice Trail – Peppercorns

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This post is linked to Tasty Tuesdays hosted by Le Coin de Mel!

  

Have a fantastic weekend! 

Cheers!

In my previous post, I wrote about making jam from a pumpkin (Slow-Cooked Zesty Pumpkin Jam). It was my first attempt in making any sort of jam. I was amazed by the outcome and promised myself that I would make it again, however, I’m afraid not this year as there are so many other things to do, create and cook in the pipeline😜

Waste not want not

Since my husband bought only one small pumpkin the other day, I did not want to waste anything out of it.

The bright orange colour of the pumpkin was amazing. The pumpkin was sold by its French name, potimarron but on the catalogues at our local supermarkets, the pumpkin was called by its Dutch name, “kastanjepompoen” (chestnut pumpkin). This is so because inside the tough outer skin is a firm flesh that provides a very sweet, delicate and almost chestnut-like flavour

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After cutting the pumpkin in two halves, I knew immediately what I wanted to do with the seeds! Anyway, I LOVE all kinds of seeds – pumpkin, sunflower, watermelon, flax, chia, etcetera. I have listed pumpkin seeds, among others, commonly known back in my birthplace as “kwa chee“, as one of my favourite snacks at Chinese New Year. You can read all about it here. I could snack on a packet of these seeds on my own. Yup, they are SO addictive. 😊

Now, instead of snacking on store-bought seeds, what if I home-roast those seeds in my very own kitchen?

Well, I did just that😜

Did I not say, waste not want not?

I’m always excited and eager to learn new things. I searched the net and YouTube and found one rather easy and practical method from Clean & Delicious by Dani Spies. I followed her method in cleaning and drying the seeds, but did not leave overnight to dry the seeds.

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Then instead of using just olive oil and salt, I included some of my favourite spices – ground cinnamon, brown sugar, freshly milled black peppercorns and chilli flakes.

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The end result was scrumptious. Sweet, fragrant, salty with a mild hint of heat from the chilli flakes and warmth from the freshly milled black peppercorns

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By the way, the seeds were roasted in the oven at 160 degrees Celsius for 10 to 12 minutes. The timing depends solely on the type of oven you own.

Et voilà!

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I am linking this post to My Treasured Recipes #3 – Taste of Autumn (Oct/Nov 2014) hosted by Miss B of Everybody Eats Well in Flanders and co-hosted by Charmaine of Mimi Bakery House

And without much ado, I’m also linking this cinnamon-sugar-chilli-pepper mix flavour to Lavender and Lovage’s “Sugar & Spice (November and December Cooking with Herbs Challenge)”

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It has been a while since I last linked to Vanesther’s blog Bangers & Mash, hence I thought this post would do justice to her collection of Spice Trail. I’m linking this post to November’s Spice Trail – Peppercorns

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Sugar and Spice and everything nice. That’s what girls are made of😉

Enjoy the rest of the week!

Cheers!

If One’s a wanderer, Two’s a company, Three’s a crowd, what’s Four?

Too many?

Not allowed?

A party?

Well, I think I would go for Fantastic … as in Fantastic Four?

Nope, it’s not what you think!

Let’s just say that I’m wandering into my 4th fantastically crowded company 😉 Does it make sense?

I meant I was into my 4th Rice Cooker Cake *wink*

That’s correct! I made my Fantastic fourth as a request by my younger son WEEKS ago but I was up to my ears in work and then I had guests over for lunch and then I fell and took a week MC from work and then I had a molar surgically removed! Whew! Loads of mishaps and calamities the past weeks *sigh*

If you have read my 3rd attempt in cooking cakes in a Rice Cooker, my son was asking if Rice Cooker Cakes would be part of our weekly menu. Can you imagine that? LOL!

After discovering a way to outsmart my traditional 19-year old single-button National Rice Cooker, my third attempt was the litmus test. By following that method, I was more confident to move on further and even started ‘coaching’ interested newcomers 😉

Eureka!

By not going out too much of the box yet, I stuck to the basic ingredients of a sponge cake which I made in my 3rd attempt. Instead of using the green pandan paste, I used one fresh lemon, called Eureka Lemon. Yes, Eureka!

1. Eureka Lemon_closed up1 

Eureka Lemon is available all-year round. This is the most common lemon type sold in supermarkets. Since I had 4 lemons in my basket that day, giving up one was definitely very easy. It was better to consume the fruit when still very fresh than leaving it to rot unconsumed, right?

Right!

Here’s the end result of the cake I made recently.

2. closed up3 

For the ingredients and method, you may want to refer to my previous post here.   Instead of adding 1½ teaspoons of pandan extract or paste, I used the zest or grated rind of one fresh Eureka Lemon plus 2 Tbsp of the lemon juice. I also added one small packet of 8 grams Dr.Oetker pure Bourbon vanilla sugar.

3. RCC Lemon Sponge_collage_lemon zest 

If you are wondering, no, the cake was not sour – on the contrary – it was less sweet, yes!

It was perfect as far my taste bud is concerned. We all loved the moist lemon sponge cake and my sons were fighting to get the last wedged pieces. LOL!

Here’s another snapshot of the amazingly tasty cake cooked in my humble rice cooker.

4. closed up4 

A wee bit longer …

I noted the start time was 6.30 pm. Five minutes later, the Rice Cooker automatically shifted to the “Keep Warm” mode. I left the Rice Cooker alone, without pressing “Cooking”.

At 6.45 pm, I pressed “Cooking”. Two minutes later, the button switched to warming mode which I left it that way for the next 10 minutes.

At 6.55 pm, I pressed the “Cooking” mode for the 3rd time. One minute later, the button switched back to “Keep Warm”.

At 7.00 pm, I opened the lid of the Rice Cooker. The cake batter was not quite set yet, hence I pressed the “Cooking” mode for the 4th time.

At 7.15 pm, the first smell of the lovely sweet lemony aroma of the cake whizzed past my nostrils. At this juncture, I took the wire rack and flipped the cake from bottom up to top down. I wanted a golden crust on both sides of the cake 🙂

I pressed the “Cooking” mode for the last time. At exactly 7.20 pm, I turned the cake the right side up on the wire rack to cool. DONE!

Conclusion: 10 minutes on “Cooking mode” with 5 presses, and 40 minutes on “Keep Warm” mode. Total time: 50 minutes

Oh by the way, this cake took a slightly longer time to cook than the Pandan Sponge Cake because the lemon sponge batter was wetter or more moist than the pandan sponge batter. The slightly longer wait was worth the wait. The cake had a lovely light, spongy texture. We loved it!

5. RCC Lemon Sponge_closed up3

6. RCC Lemon Sponge_Wedge2

Miss B, I finally got down to posting this recipe! It’s a wee bit late but still within timeline, hence, I’m submitting this post to your Rice Cooker Cake Challenge #2 – What Else Can a Rice Cooker Do?, hosted by yourself, Miss B of Everybody Eats Well In Flanders.

With May slowly trailing to the tail end, I’m squeezing this post to “Wow, Vanilla” May’s Spice Trail, hosted by Solange Berchemin of Pebble Soup and Bangers ‘n Mash. I have used Dr.Oetker’s pure BourbonVanilla Sugar as part of the recipe.

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The Eureka Lemon is available all year round. Since Spring is one of the 4 seasons, I’m ‘springing’ in with this entry to Four Seasons Food May Challenge: Celebrating Spring hosted by Delicieux and Eat Your Veg

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Have a great week ahead … and it’s back to the grind for me …. YIKES!

Cheers!

I was feeling rather sluggish and lethargic of late. With the back-to-back meetings at work, it did not help at all. I had to miss a proper lunch and ended up getting the last piece of a super teeny-weeny, mini piccolo sandwich from our sandwich vending machine.

My stomach rumbled and my head spun like a spinning top. I felt as if someone had drilled a crowbar through the skull of my head and my eyeballs felt like they were popping out of their sockets. The pain was excruciating, and driving home from work with the glaring sunlight was no fun.

Not the first time

That was not the first time. I have had many bouts of severe headaches or migraine and I have found a way to ease the pain, at least it worked for me.

By not eating anything would aggravate or even trigger the pain and I am not a person who likes to pop over-the-counter painkillers.

Quick Fix

I had a Russian colleague who told me that coca cola worked for her. I did try her method. It was really only temporary. Anyway, I’m not into all these fizzy or carbonated beverages, hence, I eliminated that method. What I did was buy some sweet potatoes – the bright orange-fleshed ones. Purple-fleshed potatoes would be even better but I never had the chance to find those in our stores yet.

Because I wanted a quick fix, I resorted to microwaving the sweet potato, making a few pricks on the potato with a fork, and then placed it on an absorbent paper. I microwaved the sweet potato for a few minutes until the potato became softer when pressed lightly with the back of the fork. Then I would cut the potato in half lengthways and that’s it, just eat the potato right out from the shell, with a spoon, of course!

A Notch Above

That evening, I wanted something different, something more special than the ordinary, and something that could titillate my palate and calm my pain. I found just the answer! I was bowled over by the vibrant orange colour of the salad, simply called, Sweet Potato Salsa.

1. Sweet Potator Salsa_closed up1 

This is a Mexican salad, very colourful with its natural sweetness and above all, refreshing. All ingredients used are fresh, fresh and fresh.

2. Sweet Potato Salsa_collage 

The recipe is based on Julia Canning’s The Salad Bible. I have indicated my comments in blue font comparing with the author’s recipe.

Ingredients –

  • 675 g sweet potatoes, peeled & finely diced (I used 3 medium sized orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, peeled and then cut in big chunks of 3 cm)
  • Juice of 1 small orange (I squeezed the juice of ½ + ¼ of the normal size orange, or according to taste)
  • 1 tsp dried crushed jalapeños, or chilli flakes (I could not find fresh or dried jalapeños, hence I used fresh cayenne pepper, deseeded)
  • 4 small spring onion, finely chopped (I used 3 medium sized spring onions)
  • Salt to taste (I did not use)
  • Juice of 1 small lime (I used half in the salsa and half for garnishing)

 3. Sweet Potato Salsa_sweet potatoes 

Method –

  1. Boil sweet potatoes in water to cover over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes or just until soft. ( I steamed my chunkily cut sweet potatoes in a microwavable steam basket for 7 minutes on 600W)
  2. Drain sweet potatoes well using a colander and return the sweet potatoes to saucepan and place back on burner with the heat turned off to dry out. ( Since I steamed my sweet potatoes, this step was completely omitted)
  3. Place in a bowl and allow to cool. (While my sweet potatoes were cooling down, I diced them up)
  4. Combine orange juice, jalapeños, spring onions. Set aside
  5. Mix gently with the diced sweet potatoes until well coated. Chill for at least 1 hour
  6. Add salt to taste and lime juice for a fresher taste (I did not use salt. I squeezed the juice of half a lime)
  7. Allow to stand for at least 1 hour longer before serving (I skipped this step as I was too hungry to wait for another hour. Furthermore, I made this salsa in the evening after coming home from work and I did not intend to have a supper!)

According to the author, the salsa will keep in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days (For me, my bowl of salsa was gone the same evening I made it!)

4. Sweet Potato Salsa_ingredients

5. Sweet Potato Salsa_closed up2

By the way, my headaches were gone and I slept like a baby that evening. Sweet potatoes work for me all the time and they are – without a doubt – my sweet remedy 🙂

I am dedicating my Sweet Potato Salsa recipe to the following blog-hop events –

1)      Vanesther’s Bangers & Mash’s Mexican Month on The Spice Trail

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2)      Cook-Your-Books #11 hosted by Joyce from Kitchen Flavours

Cook Your Books

3)      Javelin Warrior’s Cookin w/ Luv’s Made with Love Mondays: Week 21st April

Made with Love Mondays

4)      Little Thumbs up with the April 2014 theme using “ORANGEas the main ingredient organised by Doreen from my little favourite DIY and Zoe from Bake for Happy Kids, hosted by Ann from Anncoo Journal at this post.

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What’s new and beneficial about Sweet Potatoes?

Please check the link here

 

 

Enjoy the rest of the week.

Cheers!

Avocados are definitely in season, especially the Hass avocados with their black, bumpy and pebbled skin. They are often sold ready-to-eat, and that’s how I usually buy my avocados.  Don’t be put off by the colour of the skin because the flesh has a nice smooth texture coupled with its nutty flavour. 

Guacamole_avocados

And counting …

I have lost track of the number of times I have transformed from the once-upon-a-time much loathed and boring fruit in my household to one of the most commendable and sought-after starter in recent years.

Guacamole_closed up

Guacamole_starters

Gosh!  It’s amazing that almost exactly two years ago, I posted Guacamole with a twist. It never failed to put a smile on my face each time I read the story.  I hope you will enjoy reading the story – yet again –  and the trick I used to transform the palates of my then very young boys 😉

Muchas Gracias!

We have to thank the Aztec ethnics of Mexico for introducing this simple yet magnificent dish!

Guacamole is an avocado-based mousse (sauce). The name is derived from two Aztec Nahuatl words, “ahuacatl” (fruit of the avocado tree) and “molli” (sauce).  It is traditionally made by mashing ripe avocados with pestle and mortar with course sea salt.

With the evolvement of time, wealth and technology, the recipe introduced new ingredients such as tomato, onion, garlic, juice of lemon or lime, chili and coriander leaves. One ingredient that I do not understand why it should be added in a homemade guacamole is the mayonnaise or sour cream (one or the other)!

By the way, the guacamole has become one of the best known dips/condiments to go with corn chips (tortilla chips) and is available in all Tex-Mex eateries. In places where avocados are expensive, guacamole is considered a delicacy.

Making avocados child-friendly

Avocados ranked one of the tops on the “hate list” for children. It must be because of the bland taste and mushy texture. When I cut a slice of raw avocado and gave it to my sons for the first time, they said it was disgusting!

I was promptly challenged by their action.  My sons have put me to the test, without them knowing it.  The day they spitted out the freshly cut slice of avocado was the day I converted my boys!

Here’s how I did it.

Ingredients –

4 ripe avocados (I used the Hass ready-to-eat avocados)

Grated garlic (1 tsp or more if you like garlic)

Very finely chopped onion (1 tsp)

Very finely diced tomato (halved and deseeded)

Plenty of chopped fresh coriander (leave some whole leaves for garnishing later)

Juice of 1 lemon (or lime) or more to taste

Course sea salt (I ground these and added to the rest to taste)

Freshly milled black pepper

Small amount of chicken stock cube (not too much, please!)

Peeled pre-boiled grey shrimps

8 lightly sautéed or boiled tiger prawns (for garnishing)

Preparation –

Assemble all the ingredients together, except for the tiger prawns and some whole coriander leaves.

Mash the mixture with a fork.  Do not over-mash and please do not forget to check the balance of taste and flavour to your liking.

The trick to keep your guacamole green

Once avocados are cut and exposed to air, they discolour rather quickly.  Although the taste remains constant, the discoloured guacamole may not look too appetizing. One of the tricks I learnt to keep the guacamole green is by putting the seed of the avocado in the guacamole-mix. The lemon or lime juice also helps in avoiding the colour change.

Here’s my version of the guacamole, prepared as a starter.  No corn chips, but topped up with lightly sautéed tiger prawn. It has become a winner with my guys. I have fully converted my boys, on the same day they spewed the avocado piece. My younger son was then 3 years old!

Yes!  The thrill of victory! 😀

I’m definitely submitting this post to Bangers & Mash’s Mexican Month on The Spice Trail hosted by Vanesther Rees.

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A blessed week everyone!

 

Cheers!