Archive for the ‘Western’ Category

Putting to the Test

Two weeks ago, my 13-year old son was telling me about one of his school projects. Yes, they have lots, but that one in particular required my intervention.

Oh…? What could that be? Yep, I was curious 😀

I had hoped it was an easy one because I was really exhausted, mentally, with tons of unanticipated reports to accomplish at work with specified deadlines. The last thing I wanted was another ton of bricks on my shoulders.

That evening, my boy came up to me and said, “Mama, I need a recipe from you for my school project, indicating at least 10 points or steps to accomplish the final outcome

Huh? Is that it? I thought, that was an easy one.

I told my son to go search for THE recipe on my blog he thought would befit his school project. And by the way, to make the quest a lot simpler for him, I have 2 big binders of the printed hardcopies of every single post I have published on my blog since March 2010!

It was such a novel seeing my boy sitting on the couch, flipping through the pages of my posts. For some posts, he seemed to take a longer time browsing than another. I was quite sure he could find something in no time at all. He finished browsing the first binder and went through flipping the second binder. He stopped longer on some of the posts than another. Good. Getting warmer…

When he came to the last page, I was eager to know what his choice was.

But then I saw the grimace on his face, which transmitted a bleak message on my end. Hmmmm….. not looking good.

So, have you found anything? I asked

He frowned briefly, and went through the binders the second time round.

At that point, I was getting fidgety. He wanted a recipe (tried and tested) which he had loads to choose from, with step-by-step photos to boot. And he dared tell me there was nothing. Yes, NOTHING! Grrrrr… I suddenly felt a ton of red hot bricks landing on my shoulders!

THUMP! Thud!

Ouch!

I tried to speed up the quest process by choosing a recipe which involved a few steps. I asked him if the Ngo Hiang” (5-spice Sausage Rolls or Wonton recipe which required some tactics of folding or wrapping would be a good choice. Nope!

How about the Honeycomb Cake Nope!
Or any of the Rice Cooker Cakes? Nope!
Brazilian Cheese Bread? Maybe

Okay, at least we had a “maybe”

Then you tell me what you want, son. I retorted.

At that instant, he was kind of bookmarking one of my posts dated 25th November 2013!

This! He said, pointing to the photo of my Moist Beetroot Chocolate Cake or Brownie

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BUT… on condition that I used apples instead of beetroot! He said the ingredients must be local, as in 100% Belgian produce, and most importantly, that it’s something that he would enjoy devouring. In other words, my son had put me to the test, in a very scheming manner. Oh yes. *grin*

He wanted me to bake fresh brownies using apples, and not copy paste any of the published posts I had on my blog! And OMG, I had wanted to have a good rest that weekend not wanting to do anything, especially, in the kitchen, however, it was not meant to be. Alas! No rest for me. *sob*

Precious Belgian Project

When Venus Williams came to Antwerp, Belgium in 2002 for the Diamond Games, a professional women’s tennis tournament, she was asked this question, “What will you be bringing back from Belgium to the US?”

Lots of Belgian chocolates, of course (besides diamonds…)

Well, it’s not only Venus who had made that statement but that could easily come from any tourists, my family from Malaysia, included. When my younger sister and Mum came to visit us in 2010, she ended up being ‘overweight’ when she checked-in their luggage at the airport in Zaventem heading back to Malaysia. And guess what, she ended up paying Eur 350 for the excess weight which comprised the heavyweight bars after bars of Belgian chocolates! She could have left the chocolates behind with us, and I could have arranged for a separate shipment from BE to MY but she wanted to indulge in the Belgian choc bars immediately when touched down in MY and not wanting to wait for another month for the chocolates to arrive in Kuching. Okey-dokey. Crystal Clear! Understood! If my sister was crazy enough to pay Eur 350 for the excess weight, it shows how precious and indispensable Belgian chocolates are 😉

I made these brownies using one of Belgium’s purest and finest chocolates. The result was a dark, rich, chewy, bitter-sweet brownie.

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Ingredients

2 Haspengouw Jonagolds, finely grated
240g Galler Noir Profond 85% (Dark, bitter chocolate rich in cocoa!)
130g Solo butter
250g Candico organic cane sugar
3 eggs
8g Dr. Oetker Bourbon vanilla sugar
16g Dr. Oetker Backin baking powder
100g Anco self-raising flour
A pinch of salt

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For the detailed direction , please refer here.

Because this was my son’s school project, I took more recent photos of the steps that used the requested ingredients.

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Here were some compulsory photos my son requested me to take showing the end product and a jonagold.

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The Final Piece of the Puzzle

When I have finished baking and letting the cake cooled for at least 3 hours before cutting the brownies in little rectangles, my part was done. The last piece of the jigsaw puzzle was for my son. After all, it was his school project. How he wanted to direct the grand finale was totally up to him. He was the Director. I was only the Actor.

Of course I was curious 😉

And here’s the final curtain…

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This was the result of what my 13-year old son had put together that same evening I baked those brownies. By the way, he took the photo of me grating the jonagolds ;-). He followed me around the kitchen closely and jotting down the ingredients and the steps all by himself! He transferred the scribbled notes and re-typed the entire manuscript on the computer. I was (and is) very proud of my son.

Good job, mama, BUT …. GREAT job, son!

Oh yes, I brought a few pieces of the brownies to work the next day. One of my colleagues commented that she had just experienced a culinary orgasm😊

Amongst all the colleagues’ remarks, I was especially looking forward to the comment of a particular colleague. He’s a fantastic baker. He has baked several birthday and anniversary cakes, complete with fondant decorations and up to 4-tier! And guess what? I got an email from him with the following feedback, “The brownies are so good. May I have the recipe?

I rest my case!

Because it’s February and someone commented that these brownies were a culinary orgasm and it’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow, I’m submitting this post to “My Treasured Recipes #5 – Chinese New Year Goodies/ Valentine’s Day (Jan/Feb 2015)” hosted by Miss B of Everybody Eats Well in Flanders and co-hosted by Charmaine of Mimi Bakery House

Because I have used 85% cocoa content per Galler bar multiply by 3, I’m linking this post to the February 2015 Little Thumbs Up with the theme “COCOA” organized by Zoe of Bake for Happy Kids and Doreen of my little favourite DIY and hosted by Grace of Life can be Simple.

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I’m also submitting this post to We Should Cocoa hosted by Katie of Recipe for Perfection. I thought the February theme “BROWNIES” was absolutely spot on!

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I’m also linking this tasty brownie recipe to Tasty Tuesdays by HonestMum

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Have a great weekend and Happy Valentine’s Day to all!

Here’s a story worth reading – The Story of St Valentine

Cheers!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Everywhere you go, you see glistening lights. What a pretty sight!

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We were in Cologne, Germany, recently for the annual Weihnachtsmarkt am Kölner Dom (Christmas Market at the Cologne Cathedral)

We have been to several Christmas Markets. They are quite similar everywhere in Central Europe. The decors, colours, the sweet smell of spices, waffles, pretzels, fried onions, dry roasted chestnuts and the crowd! 

It was amazingly crowded the weekend we were in Cologne. It was also the day when whole Belgium stood still. 15th Dec 2014 saw the country went on strike against the ruling government’s policy of austerity measures. Many low landers from Belgium took a day off as well as neighbouring Netherlands thronged at the Cologne Christmas Market that weekend. It was almost impossible to take decent pictures of the Christmas stalls without human beings stampeding in every nook and cranny. I managed to take a few with just the roofs 🙂

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It was such a pity with the immense crowd, we were struggling with our manoeuvres, elbow to elbow. We had been walking around the same stalls for the umpteenth time. My younger son said he preferred hanging around in the big Lego shop in the centre of Cologne. We did that! And wow, the price tags! Cha-Ching! Cha-Ching! Lol!

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A Glowing Christmas 

A German colleague once told me, “Never leave a German Christmas Market without trying the German Glühwein.” 

By the way, what is Glühwein?

Glühwein literally means “glow-wine”, from the hot irons once used in heating wine with mulling spices. The holy trinity of a traditional German mulled wine are cinnamon sticks, cloves and orange (juice and rind or zest). However, there are many variations of mulling spices used for making Glühwein today.

A few German friends I know swore to the “glow” in Glühwein as the addition of stronger liquor such as rum, whiskey or brandy. Whatever it meant, I never failed to “glow” within me when sipping the warm mulled wine :-). An excellent winter treat. 

My version of the Glühwein included lemon rind, juice and honey instead of sugar plus the holy trinity of the mulling spices.

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For the red wine, I used Ruby Cabernet from South Africa because of its fruitful essence. To make Glühwein, the red wine is warmed at low heat (Note: Do NOT boil the wine). In a muslin cloth or tea bag, add the cinnamon sticks, star anise , cloves, and rinds of orange and lemon. Throw the mulling spice bag in the warmed wine. Add some honey and juices of orange and lemon to taste.

And that’s it!

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Unlike other Christmas Markets we have been to, the ones in Germany are quite exceptional. Instead of plastic cups, the Glühwein is served in festive mugs.

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These Glühwein mugs have become collective items, but for a price, of course. Eur 2.50 for the wine and another Eur 2.50 for the mug! Well, it’s Christmas and it only happens once a year! 

I am sharing this Christmas warmth to the following Cooking Challenges – my last one for this year 😉 

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

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My Treasured Recipes #4 – Ho Ho Ho It’s Christmas (Dec 2014) hosted by Miss B of Everybody Eats Well in Flanders and co-hosted by Charmaine of Mimi Bakery House

Cook and Celebrate: Christmas 2014 hosted by Yen from Eat your heart out, Diana from Domestic Goddess Wannabe and Zoe from Bake for Happy Kids

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And without much ado, I would like to take this opportunity to wish my family, friends and readers a very Merry Christmas!

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May the real message of Christmas fill your life with love, joy and peace. 

Best wishes to you and your family during this holiday season. 

 

God bless!
xxx

This is an extraordinary special dish and a special dish does not come by everyday. I made this dish on Sunday although it should have been served today, 9th December.

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Too Good To Be Forgotten 

It was 18 years ago today when this special tot became plus one mortal to earth’s population, however, I can tell you that this homo sapiens was not ready to come out into this world that soon. It was comfortably curling itself in its own world, called the ‘water bag’.

Was it going to be 1st Dec? 3rd Dec? 6th? 10th? 15th? I hadn’t the clue because it was all new to me. No contractions. No pain. Nothing. I could dribble a ball and do a slam dunk. No problem at all. And yet my OB/GYN confirmed full term and scheduled the planned date for delivery on 1st Dec. 

Hubby was anxious, or rather, nervous, because I showed no signs of labour. Then what?

Going back to my OB/GYN, she said, “Check in early on 9th Dec. The baby should be out.” Hubby checked me in at 8 am on 9th Dec… but the baby did NOT want to come out. The ‘gateway’ was too narrow and it was curling and snuggling comfortably really high up. And then a nurse came and I felt a sharp and piercing pain. She did something to open the ‘gateway’. I was in agony. It went on for hours on end. I was the loudest (literally speaking) patient on that floor, because the pain was just unbearable. I felt like I was dying. I was completely exhausted and worn-out. Poor hubby was nervy and on edge seeing me wailing in pain.

After a long and grueling 12 hours and 45 minutes on the ward, baby made the statistics – after an induced labour, ten hours of excruciating pain, one hour of epidural anaesthesia and the last one hour without – the little dude came at exactly 20:45CET! My firstborn 💙

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And that was the day when our lives changed completely. We were no longer two, but three and counting 😉 My second experience was an exact opposite. Baby could not wait to come out. You can read my experience here

A Birdy December 

Have you ever realised that the meat dish that is normally served on Christmas Day is usually a bird? Even the Christmas Carol, The Twelve Days of Christmas mentioned 7 different feathered friends. Oh by the way, if you had counted six, count again. It’s SEVEN – really!!

7 Swans a Swimming
6 Geese a Laying
5 Golden Rings
4 Calling Birds
3 French Hens
2 Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree

You must be wondering, 5 Golden Rings? Well, the 5 gold rings were not actually gold rings but they refer to the five golden rings of the ring-necked pheasants!

It’s December, so a bird on a plate is the best gift ever for a birthday boy.

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Last year, we had Baked Quails with Bacon Rashers in White Grapes Sauce – A Christmas Eve Special. On the request of the birthday boy, I bought some quails on Sunday. Instead of baking them, I braised the little birds.

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This recipe is adapted from Cooking Channel’s Braised Quails with Wild Mushrooms. I tweaked the recipe and improvised according to taste and available ingredients. Instead of white wine, I used Bourbon Whiskey. I excluded the mushrooms altogether as my sons are not fans of wild mushrooms. My recipe as follows –

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INGREDIENTS 

  • 6 quails, cleaned 
  • Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 
  • Some butter 
  • Olive oil 
  • 250 g bacon, cut into slivers 
  • 2 small onions, chopped 
  • 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour 
  • 2 caps Bourbon Whiskey (Jim Beam)
  • Water or stock broth 
  • A handful of fresh basil leaves 
  • 1 bay leaf 

DIRECTIONS 

1. Season the quails with salt, and pepper. Melt a knob of butter with a drop of olive oil in a casserole dish and brown the quails on all sides. As you can see, my casserole dish is quite small. The 5th and 6th birds were browned in a separate pan (I did not photograph).

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2. Remove the quails from the dish, and set aside. Add the bacon to the pan, brown it, and remove. Finally, fry the chopped onions until fragrant, adding a bit of olive oil, if needed.

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3. Stir the flour into the onions, and cook for one minute. It will get dry and lumpy at this stage. Deglaze the pan with a capful or two of the Bourbon Whiskey, stirring up the good bits at the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Return the onions, bacon and quails to the casserole dish. Pour over the stock and bay leaf, cover, and simmer until the quails are just cooked through, about 25 minutes. Toss in fresh basil leaves.

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4. When the quails are done, remove them from the cooking liquid and keep them warm. Make a gravy from the cooked liquid. Season to taste.

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If only you were here to see my son finished this plate. He licked his platter clean – literally speaking – and if only bones were edible, too 😜

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With Christmas round the corner, I am bringing this platter to the following Christmas Cooking Challenges –

My Treasured Recipes #4 – Ho Ho Ho It’s Christmas (Dec 2014) hosted by Miss B of Everybody Eats Well in Flanders and co-hosted by Charmaine of Mimi Bakery House

Cook and Celebrate: Christmas 2014 hosted by Yen from Eat your heart out, Diana from Domestic Goddess Wannabe and Zoe from Bake for Happy Kids

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I am also sharing this pre- Christmas story to readers following
Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking

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Nine months of anxiety, ten hours in agony but pride and joy forever. 

Happy birthday, Niels! 🎁🎉🎂 

And happy mid-week all! 

 

Cheers!

6th December is the feast day of Saint Nicholas. In Flanders (Belgium) and the Netherlands, Saint Nicholas is called Sinterklaas. In Belgium, children up to 12 years of age receive their gifts in the morning of 6th December, while kids in the Netherlands get their gifts from the De Goede Sint (The Good Saint) the night before (5th December), on condition that they have been good all year. It is believed that The Good Saint keeps record of the good and naughty behaviours of the children.

Does he not sound familiar to us? 😉

Yup, you better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why… but hey no… it’s not Santa Claus, but Sinterklaas came to town! 

By the way, the name Santa Claus is derived from the older Dutch name Sinte Klaas, because Saint Nicholas is the patron Saint of children.

Santa Claus is also known in both Belgium and the Netherlands, but he is known as Kerstman or Christmas man, ie not a Saint but just a good and jolly fat man who brings lots and lots of presents to kids all over the world on Christmas Day.

Here’s an animated version when Sinterklaas (the Saint) meets Santa Claus (the jolly fat man)

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Oh by the way, I have been good all year, too … because Sinterklaas visited us at work!

Yesterday morning, I received the following message in my inbox ….

Dear colleague,

Last night Saint Nicholas secretly visited our HUB. He has brought some candies for you because you have been good.

Enjoy!

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Here’s what I got from De Goede Sint 😊

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A must-have gift from Sinterklaas is a type of gingerbread biscuit, called Speculoos, or is it Speculaas? Lekker

So is it Speculoos or Speculaas?

According to Google translator, Speculaas is Dutch for Gingerbread. Incidentally, Speculoos is detected as a French word and is used by Wikipedia as the source word to define “Speculoos” in English. The definition of Speculoos by Wikepedia differs to the “arguments” between the Flemish-speaking Belgium and the Dutch from the Netherlands. 

 Speculoos or Speculaas – both terms are correct, but it’s the ingredients that went in the product that made the difference. The Dutch – as we all know with the history of the Spice Trade in Asia between the 15th and 17th centuries – battled a bloody conflict with Spain and England to gain control of the spice trade after the Portuguese. Erm…. who do you think won? Well, the winner is judged by the usage and consumption of spices in today’s kitchen, of course! 😉

I daresay the Dutch are more daring with their spices than the Belgians. The Dutch named their gingerbread, Speculaas, which includes the following spices: cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg and white pepper. On the other hand, the “shy-er” Belgians with their less daring palates can only take the cinnamon and a bit of ginger and caramalized sugar to form the crunchy biscuits they called, Speculoos. And there you have it, the difference between Speculoos and Speculaas

Stewed meat or stoofvlees is very popular or perhaps even the signature dish of Belgium. A classic Belgian meat stew is often cooked slowly over medium-low fire with a good glug of Belgian beer. I have cooked Flemish beef stew many times which I learnt from my late MIL. Over the years I have experimented cooking the dish by using different types of beer, which has got to be Belgian, of course😄 

Did you know that beers have colour? The colour is controlled by the malt that is used to brew it. Beer in Belgium varies from pale lager to lambic beer and Flemish red while generally beers are categorised as follows: White, blonde, amber, brown and black. The darker the colour, the bitter the taste. 

I have always used cubed beef stew meat, however, this time, I chose to use cubed Turkey meat by adding two very Belgian ingredients – speculoos and Maredsous 6 Blonde, an abbey beer. The number 6 represents the level of alcohol content, ie 6 %.

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Ingredients
(Adapted and improvised from a Colruyt recipe catalogue entitled Pork stew in Floreffe beer with my own method of preparation) 

• 1 kg pork stew (I used 2 kg cubed Turkey stew) 

• Onions, chopped (I used 4)
• Butter (to brown the meat) 

• Gingerbread cookies (I used 9 Speculoos cookies) 

• 1 Tbsp mustard (I used 2) 

• 1 Tbsp honey 

• 2 Tbsp flour or just enough to thicken the sauce 

• 33 cl Floreffe Blonde (I used 2 x 33cl Maredsous 6 Blonde) 

• 1 Tbsp vinegar (to taste) 

• Cloves (I used 6 cloves) 

• Thyme (I used a few sprigs of fresh thyme) 

• Bay leaf (I used 2) 

• Salt and pepper to taste

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Method (own)
1. Melt some butter to lightly brown the turkey meat. Sprinkle the flour and stir well.

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2. Add the chopped onions, cloves, mustard and honey.

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3. Crumble the Speculoos cookies. Stir well to combine the ingredients before pouring the beer along the edge of the stew. Throw in the fresh thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir well.

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4. Transfer the stew to the Slow Cooker. Switch the button to high for 1 hour and then to low for 2 hours. Thirty minutes before serving add the vinegar. You will know when the stew is ready when the sauce is no longer runny and the beer has completely evaporated and the sauce has slightly thickened. And the aroma! So Christmassy with the sweet smell of the spices whiffing passed my nostrils😜

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Note: To have even a richer tasting stew, let it cool before storing in the fridge until the next day. Heat the stew on auto for 45 minutes to 1 hour before serving. Add more vinegar if necessary.

Smakelijk!

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December may have 31 days, but to me, it’s the “shortest” month of the year due to the year end rush. And before we realised, it’s the New Year… Arghh!!!

Christmas is a time for giving and sharing. With Christmas in less than 3 weeks from now, I would like to share this recipe to the following Christmas themed blog-hop cooking challenges –

Janice Pattie’s Farmersgirl Kitchen’s December theme: Slow-Cooked Christmas

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

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My Treasured Recipes #4 – Ho Ho Ho It’s Christmas (Dec 2014) hosted by Miss B of Everybody Eats Well in Flanders and co-hosted by Charmaine of Mimi Bakery House

Cook and Celebrate: Christmas 2014 hosted by Yen from Eat your heart out, Diana from Domestic Goddess Wannabe and Zoe from Bake for Happy Kids

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Bangers & Mash’s December’s Spice Trail Cooking with All-spice (WITHDRAWN. For more information, see N.B)

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Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking

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Cook-Your-Books #19 hosted by Joyce of Kitchen Flavours

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Happy St Nicholas’ Day! Hope you have been good😄 

Cheers! 

N.B. I would like to apologise to Vanesther of Bangers & Mash for incorrectly linking this post to her December’s Spice Trail – cooking with Allspice. I had mistaken allspice to mixed spice (cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg). Allspice is a spice in its own right, completely different than mixed spice, which I must admit I did not use in this recipe. I have withdrawn my submission of this post to The Spice Trail Challenge for the month of December. Thanks, Vanesther, for pointing that out.

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!

Oh my! Have I been away THAT long?

I guess I have, looking at my last post dated 27th July! My blog must have gathered a film of dust. Lol!

Last month was an extraordinary special month as it coincided with my Mum’s and eldest sister’s visit. The last time my Mum was in Belgium was in 2010! Actually, that year we had wanted to head for Asia, but Mum came first 🙂

Again, our plan to visit Malaysia in 2012 was ‘shattered’ as we were moving house then. Lots of packing, un-packing, cleaning, decorating and what have you going on *sigh*. And the clock ticked … it has been 6 years since our last trip to Malaysia in 2008…. My sons have grown from inquisitive little imps to cool teenagers 😉 Their grandma could not even recognise them!

Instead of chanting the usual mantra of being bogged down busy, I’d rather look at my MIA in August different 😉

August has always been a good month – school break, less traffic on the roads, less rain than in July (typical Belgium weather, on the average)… and… Mumsie’s birthday falls in August!

Going Greek but not in Greece!

I am not sure how many times we have been there, but Zorba has been our favourite pick of restaurant reserved for very special occasions, for instance, Mum’s birthday!

Four years ago, Mum had a Belgian birthday but this year, we went Greek.

By the way, it was the first time for Mum eating in a Greek restaurant. I knew she would be over the moon with the renowned Greek appetizer or starter, Meze, as she loves her seafood – a lot!

1. Tzatziki_Mum's birthday_Zorba_r
The big smile on her face tells all 😀

It was at Zorba that I started to get hook on the white and refreshing dipping sauce. That was some 15 years ago! The sauce came with the huge Meze platter. I asked the waiter (he was Greek, of course) what it was and he said it was a typical Greek sauce, Tzatziki. He even told me the ingredients that went in the sauce!

There are many variations in preparing a good Tzatziki. I’ve prepared this dipping sauce many times already and have changed and modified the ingredients to our liking over the years.

Here’s my version of the Tzatziki I made recently.

2. Tzatziki_dip

 

Ingredients –

  • 1 medium cucumber, coarsely grated
  • 2 cloves garlic (or more if you like your Tzatziki more garlicky)
  • Strained yoghurt
  • Fresh dill, coarsely chopped
  • Some fresh mint for garnishing
  • Salt (I used coarse sea salt)
  • Lemon juice (optional)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (traditionally Greek olive oil is used)

3. Tzatziki_method
Method –

  1. Wash the cucumber and grate it coarsely (Note, I did not remove the skin or the seeds). Remove the excess water from the cucumber with a clean kitchen towel. Set aside.
  2. Traditionally, Greek yoghurt is used, but since I could not find it at the Supermarket near my place, I used a tub of plain yoghurt. You need to strain the yoghurt to remove the whey or excess liquid to get that thick and creamy result similar to Greek yoghurt or sour cream.
  3. Chop lots of fresh dill. You may want to use fresh mint or parsley or a combination of one or more herbs. We love our Tzatziki with lots of dill!
  4. Puree the garlic with some coarse sea salt. Salt acts as an abrasive as well as a food enhancer. Set aside.
  5. Either lemon juice or vinegar may be used, but the Greek waiter told me it’s optional as the yoghurt is quite tangy
  6. Assemble all the above ingredients in a clean bowl. Mix and combine.
  7. Drizzle with some olive oil and serve cold with grilled meats, gyros, tortilla wraps or as a dip. Garnish with some fresh mint and dill. Yum!

4. Tzatziki_with grilled meat5. Tzatziki_tortilla wrap_r6. Tzatziki_dip sauce

I’m linking this post to Lavender and Lovage’s Cooking with Herbs challenge for the month of September. I’ve used lots of fresh dill and a touch of fresh mint in this recipe which I thought befits the theme, “Indian Summer & Mediterranean” very well. Enjoy!

Cooking with Herbs

I’m also sharing this post to Beth Fish Reads’ Weekend Cooking

Weekend Cooking

 

Enjoy the rest of the week.

Cheers!

There must be something about Ireland or Irish that fascinates me quite a bit. In my previous post, here, I wrote briefly about watching one of the most spectacular shows I have ever watched live in years. It was none other than Riverdance – The International Irish Dancing Phenomenon, that made a breakthrough during an interval appearance at The 1994 Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin. Without a doubt, the success of Riverdance was by far the most commercially successful Eurovision ever.

And by the way, Ireland has the highest number of wins at the Eurovision Song Contest. A magnificent 7!

When Riverdance became 20 years old this year, they made their Anniversary Tour round the globe, which included performing at Brussels Expo. I was really glad that we could get 4 tickets for the show, albeit sitting on a high and distant balcony from the stage *grin*

In hindsight, I wished I had brought a pair of binoculars that evening. These blurry pictures remained forever in my archived picture folder.

1. Riverdance2 2. Riverdance1

I was completely blown away by the mesmeric sound of the unison rapid tapping of leg and foot movements. At some point of time, I felt like rushing down the balcony and climbing up the stage and joined the dance troupe. I bet I would be squashed like a fly in split second. LOL!

When Irish Eyes Are Smiling

Funny how this tune kept playing and re-playing in my head. I used to hear my late Dad singing this lighthearted song in his bass voice while plucking and strumming the guitar. My Mum would sing along in her angelic voice. Beautiful!

By the way, there’s not a hint of Irish blood in my family. Far from it!

Although the alma mater of my Dad, my grandfather and my great-grandfather was founded by the Mill Hill Missionaries of London, it was later that my brothers and I went to the same alma mater (St Joseph’s) that came under the principalship of the Lasallian Brothers from Ireland.

St Joseph’s School in Kuching is an all-boys school, with admission of girls only in the 6th Form. It is one of the most sought-after premier schools of Sarawak, acing in both academic and co-curricular activities. I believe it is the only school in Kuching that still carries the school motto in Latin “Ora et Labora” (Pray and Work).

Pray and work we did under the capable wings of the smiling eyes of the Irish La Salle Brothers. It has been a privilege to be a Josephian, and of course prior to that, a Teresian. You can read the full write-up of my alma mater of 11 years and 3 days, HERE

Feeling More(ir)ish

Feeling somewhat “Irish”, I decided to make this hybrid of bread, flatbread and scone- type bun, called “Boxty”. The word boxty is derived from the Gaelic word aran bocht ti, which means “poor house bread” by making use of the most famous Irish staple – the potato!

The main ingredients in a Boxty included boiled mashed potatoes, raw grated potatoes, flour, baking powder/soda, (butter)milk and salt. There are 3 different ways of preparing boxty, ie pan boxty (pancake/ flatbread-type), baked boxty (loaf or bun) and boiled boxty (dumplings). Recently, I made boxty in the oven, hence, baked boxty (bun-type).

A boxty dish is rather plain and bland; hence, I spiked mine with fresh herbs and aromatic salt. Lovely!

3. Boxty in the oven_closed up2r 

It’s a really easy recipe to follow. I could swear the chance of failure is almost ZERO. No proofing necessary. No stand or hand mixer necessary. Just mix all the ingredients and knead the dough briefly. That’s IT! It’s easy peasy and delightfully wholesome, tasty and moreish.

The recipe is adapted from the Dutch-translated cookbook called “100 recepten Brood” or in English, Bread – compilation of 100 recipes from Parragon Publishing (LoveFood), with my modification in blue. The name of the recipe is “Iers aardappelbrood” (Irish Potato Bread).

3x. Irish Farls_recipe book 

Ingredients-

(Makes 4 medium-sized buns)

  • 7 floury potatoes (about 800g) – I used the Boni Selection Kook-aardappelen “bloemig”(meaning floury, NOT waxy. I used 8 potatoes.
  • 2 Tbsp salted butter (I used Solo, Bakken en Braden slightly salted butter, about 50g)
  • 150 ml milk
  • 2 tsp salt (I used 1 tsp of coarse sea salt, pounded finely with pestle and mortar and 1 tsp of Sel fin de Camargue aux Herbes)
  • ½ tsp pepper ( I used black pepper, about 20 turns of the pepper mill)
  • 1 ½ tsp dill or caraway seeds (I used one bunch of fresh chopped dill)
  • 400 g plain flour, plus extra for rolling out and dusting
  • 5 tsp baking powder (about 20g)

Preparation –

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 190 deg C. Peel 4 of the potatoes and cut into similar sizes. Instead of boiling the potatoes, I steamed the potatoes in the microwavable steaming basket for 9 minutes on 600W. Add the butter and mash the potatoes to a smooth puree.
  2. Peel the remaining potatoes and grate coarsely. Put the grated potatoes into a clean piece of muslin and squeeze out as much liquid or moisture as possible. Transfer the grated potatoes into a large bowl, adding the milk, fresh chopped dill, salt, freshly milled black pepper and the mashed potatoes. Mix to combine all the ingredients.
  3. Sift the flour and baking powder over the potato mixture. Mix to a smooth dough. If necessary, add a little more flour. For me, 400 g was perfect.
  4. Now, knead the dough lightly into a flattish round and divide the dough into “farls”, another Gaelic word meaning four quarters. Shape each quarter into a ball, and flatten to a thick-ish round and score or mark the top of the bun with a knife into 4 quarters, or a cross.
  5. Place the buns on a baking tray lined with baking or parchment paper. Bake for 40 minutes, or until well risen and golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack.

 4. Boxty in the oven_mashed + grated potatoes_r

5. Boxty in the oven_mixed ingredients_r

6. Boxty in the oven_divide into 4_farls_r

7. Boxty in the oven_baked + cooling rack_r

I must warn you that these baked boxties were quite dense and literally speaking, heavier (weight-wise) than a normal bun or bread. Boxty is quite versatile and can be served any way you want. I had my baked boxty served with a plate of homemade Salad Niçoise. YUMMY!

8. Boxty in the oven_bun served with salad_r

9. Boxty in the oven_bun served with salad2_r

Boxty is listed as one of the notable Irish cuisines that it has inspired folk rhymes. The one below is dedicated to all the single ladies out there *wink*

Boxty on the griddle,
Boxty in the pan,
If you can’t bake boxty
Sure you’ll never get a man.

LOL!

In my humble opinion, this great and simple dish is not only for single ladies, but also for young bachelors and an excellent dish for students and families on a frugal budget.

10. Boxty in the oven_closed up_r

11. Boxty in the oven_stack of baked buns_r

12. Boxty in the oven_cross-section of bun_r

Because potato is the main ingredient in this dish, I will definitely link this post to Little Thumbs Up (July 2014 Event: POTATO), organised by Zoe of Bake for Happy Kids and Doreen or Mui Mui as she’s fondly called of My Little Favourite DIY. The July LTU is hosted by Jasline of Foodie Baker.

Little Thumbs Up

Boxty in the oven or the Irish Potato Bread is adapted from a little cookbook about bread making from all over the world. I would like to share a little bit of Irish with Joyce from Kitchen Flavours and everyone else who feels like having a boxty for breakfast, lunch, dinner or supper or just about any time of the day at Cook-Your-Books #14

Cook Your Books

These baked boxties are great with just about anything. I had mine with a plate of homemade Salad Niçoise. Perfect! You may want your boxty alongside a bowl of soup, as a snack or to pack in a picnic. The sky’s the limit! For this, I’m linking this post to Four Seasons Food hosted by Delicieux and Eat Your Veg. The July theme is Four Seasons Food goes Al Fresco, so hop along and check out the post  HERE 

FSF

I’ve not been linking to Beth Fish Reads’Weekend Cooking for quite a while. The last time I wanted to link a post to Beth’s blog, Mister Linky’s Magical Widgets was closed. Anyway, I have not been posting like a bullet train, but more so, a locomotive. Slowly but surely J. Do check out Beth Fish Read’s blog here

Weekend Cooking

Since I have used fresh herbs in this boxty recipe, I’m also linking this post to Lavender and Lovage’s Cooking with Herbs July Challenge

Cooking with Herbs