Friday, 19 November 2010

Sticky Apple Cake

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Several wrinkly deteriorating apples in my fridge and some luscious looking recipes online inspired me to make this. Dark, moist, fragrant, sweet and festively spiced with chewy chunks of soft fruit and the added bite of nuts- NOM NOM NOM.

Sticky Apple Cake
Makes one large-ish (about 13" x 9") rectangular pan's worth of oooey-gooey cake

Stir together and let soak for at least an hour:
150g sultanas
Generous glug of brandy

Melt 225g butter, then leave aside to cool.

Combine in a bowl and whisk with an electric mixer for a few minutes until thick and pale:
2 eggs
300g dark muscovado sugar
100g white granulated sugar

Add and fold until well-mixed:
The melted butter
The soaked sultanas
2 large green apples, cored and chopped
100g nuts, toasted and chopped (I used hazelnuts but use whatever you want)
250g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 tsp mixed spice
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Dash of ground nutmeg

Pour into a lined 13" x 9" rectangular baking tray and bake for about 1hr 15 mins at 160C (or 140C fan-assisted). Serve warm or at room temperature.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Rich Tomato Beef Stew

Cold weather calls for hearty comfort food, so here: a simple-to-cook pot of tender beefy goodness with a thick flavoursome gravy to warm you up this winter :) Double the recipe if you like and freeze for a later date- the beef keeps well and will only get tastier with time.

Bon appetit!

Rich Tomato Beef Stew
Serves 2-3

Sweat in a pan over low-medium heat until translucent:
1 onion, sliced into half rings
2 cloves garlic, minced

Add and stir for a few minutes until meat is browned:
600g stewing/braising beef, cut into chunks
2 bay leaves
Generous sprinkling of dried mixed herbs
2 dried chillies, crushed
Salt and black pepper

Stir in, cover and simmer on low heat for 2 hours until thickened:
1 large carrot, cut into chunks (or any vegetables/pulses you feel like using)
1 can (400g) chopped tomatoes
1 cup water
A good glug of milk

At the last minute, stir in 1 tsp wholegrain mustard and cook a couple more minutes.

Serve hot with rice, couscous or bread.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Kabocha Korokke (Japanese Pumpkin Croquettes)

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OK, so strictly speaking I can't call this recipe kabocha korroke as I didn't actually have any of those beautiful deep green Kabocha squashes (or Japanese pumpkins) on hand. Instead, I massacred poor Count Pumpkula instead- our Halloween pumpkin vampire which no longer had a purpose in life beyond October 31st.

The late Count Pumpkula, serving us well in life and in death. Or is that undeath?

The Kabocha squash you're meant to be using for this recipe

Kabocha squashes have an exceptional intense sweetness like a cross between sweet potato and butternut squash, so a few adjustments were necessary to get the far more watery, inferiorly flavoured regular pumpkin to taste the same. If you have a proper Kabocha on hand, the sieving step won't be necessary as it won't be that wet, and you can omit the sugar and flour in the mash.

Kabocha Korokke (Japanese Pumpkin Croquettes)
Makes about 10 small pieces

Cut half a small Kabocha pumpkin into small chunks- leave the skin on so you get pretty green bits in your croquettes. Boil for about 20 mins in salted water (or some people use chicken broth) until tender and cooked. Drain thoroughly, then mash and set aside to cool.
If using regular pumpkin instead of Kabocha, drain it again
once mashed by pressing through a fine sieve.

Finely chop half a small onion and fry for a few minutes in a bit of oil or butter over medium heat until translucent. Stir it into the mashed pumpkin along with:

2 tbsp light soy sauce
½ tsp salt
A generous dash of white pepper
1 tbsp flour (if using normal pumpkin)
1 tbsp sugar (if using normal pumpkin)

Place 1 cup flour, 1 extra large whisked egg and 1 ½ cups panko
(Japanese breadcrumbs) in 3 separate bowls.

Panko- lighter, flakier and crisper than normal breadcrumbs,
commonly found in Asian shops

Shape the pumpkin mash into croquette patties with two large spoons.

Dip each pattie in flour...

...then in egg...

...then in panko breadcrumbs.

Deep fry a few croquettes at a time until brown and crisp, turning several times with a pair of long wooden chopsticks. Remove and drain on paper towels.

Let cool for a few minutes so you don't burn your tongue. Drizzle with a bit of fruity tonkatsu sauce if desired, then crunch away!

Friday, 22 October 2010

Choy Sum (Chinese Flowering Cabbage) with Garlic Oil and Oyster Sauce

Healthy instant fast-food: that's what this is.

So simple and quick that I think it barely qualifies as a recipe, this classic Chinese method of preparing leafy greens not only takes all of two minutes (20 seconds if you already have garlic oil on hand!) but provides pure unadulterated deliciousness in a prettily-coloured package bursting with nutrition, all with only three ingredients. Here, less is really much more :)

To non-Chinese speakers, choy sum is also known as "Chinese flowering cabbage" and typically features crunchy green stalks, thick green leaves and little yellow flowers. You may freely use pak choi/bok choy (similar to choy sum but with fatter whiter stalks), kai lan (Chinese broccoli/kale with thicker stems) or any other variety of leafy Chinese greens if preferred. My little Paint image below might help you distinguish them better than I can explain (pictures compiled from Google-no copyright infringement intended, sorry if they belong to anyone!):

Come to think of it, garlic oil and oyster sauce taste good on most vegetables so I wouldn't hesitate to drizzle them on Western broccoli or beans too. Who says instant meals can't be good for you!

Choy Sum with Garlic Oil & Oyster Sauce
Serves... well, about 2 I think? Quantities provided totally not set in stone :)

Finely mince 2 cloves garlic and stir-fry over medium heat in about 1 tbsp oil until golden brown and crisp. Dish out and set aside.

*If desired you can make a huge batch of this at one go, and store in a jar for future use. It's fragrant and so delicious as a simple drizzle on vegetables!

Trim the stems of 3-4 large bunches of choy sum, slice into two (for easier eating) and wash thoroughly. Bring a pot of water to boil and chuck your vegetables in to blanch for about 20 seconds (not minutes)- DO NOT OVERCOOK! The leaves should only be wilted ever so slightly, with their strong bright green hue still intact.

Drain completely, arrange on a plate and drizzle with oyster sauce (if you're vegetarian, you can find varieties made with mushroom extract) and garlic oil.

TA-DAA, DONE! :) Serve immediately with hot steamed rice.

*If preferred, feel free to steam for a few minutes instead of blanching- it takes a tad longer but preserves even more nutrients.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Penang Char Kuay Teow (Stir-Fried Flat Rice Noodles)

I initially blogged a version of this sinful Malaysian favourite, most famously from the island of Penang, back in April 2009. Since then, after some extensive R&D (by that I mean making Arivind my taste test guinea pig until he gives it the thumbs up) we have decided that you should ignore the old one and use This Perfected Recipe instead!

Truthfully the only change is that the seasoning has been tweaked to contain both dark and light soy sauce in 3:1 proportions, as well as a touch of sugar. The literal meaning of "char" in Chinese is to stir-fry briskly over high heat (in this case until it is actually "charred" as it means in English), so the crucial key to success still lies in a super hot smoking wok, a large open flame and a very quick hand. Sorry but it has to be a wok and it has to be a flame; an electric stove and a normal Tefal or any other frying pan just won't provide the essential smoky "wok hei" (the fragrance imparted by a hot wok)- trust me, I've tried. You must also:

a)Make sure all the individual ingredients are already sliced/ washed/ chopped/ prepped before you start any cooking, ready to be tossed in fast-and-furious style. Too slow and stuff will burn!

b)Ventilate- put your cooker hood on at full blast, open all your windows etc to avoid setting off your smoke alarm (which I've done several times).

c)Use fresh hor fun/kuay teow where possible. As they usually come quite stiff and stuck together, make sure to soak in boiling water first to loosen the strands (don't just try to pry them apart as they will break). If you only have dried noodles, use less as it expands once boiled and cook according to the packet instructions first.

d)Make sure to drain the soaked hor fun/kuay teow thoroughly. Wet noodles beget soggy char kuay teow that won't char!

e)Fry single portions at a time to get the right texture and ratio of noodles to the other ingredients.

f)Put aside any concerns about healthy eating- if you're on a diet, char kuay teow and it's tasty lardy deliciousness are NOT for you :)

g)Be prepared for your entire house to smell like a hawker centre. I'd recommend closing off your bedrooms/any other areas you'd like to protect.

Happy cooking!

Penang Char Kuay Teow (Stir-Fried Flat Rice Noodles)
*Makes 2 medium servings*

  • Pre-preparation
Soak 300g fresh hor fun/kuay teow in boiling water until noodles are softened and separated (if using dried noodles, cook according to the packet instructions first). Drain until as dry as possible using a colander or sieve.

Stir together 3 tbsp dark soy sauce, 1 tbsp light soy sauce and 1/2 tbsp sugar in a small bowl to form the seasoning sauce and set aside.

Finely chop 2 cloves of garlic.

Peel, devein and wash 8-10 medium prawns.

Thinly slice about 75g fishcake and 1/2 a stick of lap cheong (Chinese sweet dried sausages) into 8-10 pieces each. Some people use char siew (barbecued pork) or shredded crab meat too- do whatever you fancy.

Slice the green part of 2 stalks of ku chye (Chinese chives) into short lengths (roughly 3cm). Or if you don't have any, use spring onions instead like I did.

Rinse 2 small handfuls of beansprouts. (Tip: once you've opened a pack of beansprouts, store them soaked in cold water in the fridge. For some reason they'll last a few days longer that way!)

Place 2 eggs, your white pepper, your salt and your jar of chilli oil with shrimp within easy reach.

I'm not a fan at all but if you're really hardcore/can even find them, scrub a handful of si hum (blood cockles) until clean, blanch them quickly in boiling water to open then deshell them.

You are now ready to "char"!
  • Frying the Char Kuay Teow
Heat 2 tbsp of oil (or lard for a more authentic albeit more detrimental version) in a large wok over high heat until smoking.

Throw in the rest of the ingredients in the following order and fry briskly:

Half the pre-chopped garlic (1 clove)
4-5 prawns
4-5 slices each of the fishcake, lap cheong or char siew
1 heaped tbsp chilli oil with shrimps- get lots of bits not just the oil, and be prepared to start coughing as everything smokes up! Most people use normal chilli paste/sambal but I really favour the added kick and depth of shrimpy chilli oil.
Half the drained hor fun/kuay teow (should be about a large handful)
2 tbsp of prepared soy sauce-sugar seasoning
Dash of white pepper
Dash of salt

Push the noodles to the sides of the wok and break 1 egg into the middle. Scramble quickly and toss to mix.

Chuck in a small handful of fresh beansprouts.

Throw in half the sliced Chinese chive/spring onion strips.

Give everything a good last few tosses, then dish out onto a plate. Repeat the entire process with the remaining ingredients.

Serve immediately.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Dark Chocolate Banana Fudge Cake

Moist and dense with a deliciously crusty top, this easy-peasy fudgey concoction features not only the classic pairing of chocolate and banana, but the added rustic bite of roughly chopped nuts.

If you prefer making it in brownie form, feel free to double the recipe and use a larger rectangular pan. Yummy served slightly warm on its own, or with a scoop of ice cream.

Dark Chocolate and Banana Fudge Cake
Makes a small 8" round cake

Melt together and let cool:
100g dark chocolate, chopped
100g butter
150g sugar

*I do this by microwaving at 20 second intervals, stirring in between- feel free to use the more traditional bain-marie/double boiler method if you prefer.

Stir in:
2 small eggs (or 1 large egg), beaten
1 ripe banana, mashed
A handful of nuts, roughly chopped (I like walnuts/pecans but use whatever you like)

Sift and fold in:
50g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp cocoa powder

Pour into an 8" round cake tin lined with greaseproof paper and bake at 160C fan-assisted (180C without) for about 30 mins or until firm.

Let cool until slightly warm before slicing.