Saturday, 23 June 2007

Moreish Carrot and Date Cake

* Moreish/morish (adj)
colloq. Said especially of a food: so tasty, delicious, etc that one wants to keep eating more of it.

When you mention "carrot cake" to Singaporeans, they will immediately think that you are referring to the fried savoury dish made of radish and eggs. So you can imagine my surprise when I discovered that there is a "sweet" version of carrot cake. My first encounter with this version was during my first visit to Australia more than a decade ago. It was love at first bite - so moist and not overly sweet.

I had a great handwritten recipe from a friend's mom, but in my many moves to different countries I've lost it. I've also lost touch with that friend, so there is no way I can recover that recipe. There are lots of carrot cake recipes out there but I find them too "heavy". Even carrot cakes at cafes tend to be too oily for my taste. When I saw
Freya's recipe for a low fat carrot cake, I had to make it right away. You can probably tell by now that I have problems following instructions, so of course I adapted the recipe. I wanted to try something a bit different so I used dates instead of sultanas, reduced the amount of oil, added walnuts and orange zest and used brown sugar in place of muscovado sugar.

The Verdict - The cake is wonderfully moist and with the right amount of sweetness. It's a keeper (even Quikong agreed). This cake tastes better when it has completely cooled and with some icing. It remains moist the next day. I actually think it tasted better the next morning (yes - I had cake for breakfast!).

You can find Freya's original carrot cake recipe here. She adapted it from Sue Lawrence's Book of Baking. Thank you, Freya!

Carrot and Date Cake

1/2 cup (125ml) vegetable oil

150g soft brown sugar

3 large eggs
150g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp freshly grounded nutmeg
250g carrots (unpeeled weight), topped, tailed and grated

100g dried dates, roughly chopped

25g walnuts, roughly chopped

grated zest of 1 orange

1 - Preheat Oven to 180°. Line a 7" baking tin with parch paper.

- Whisk together the sugar and oil and well mixed. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking well.

3 - Sift together the flour, spices, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder, then fold into the batter. Fold in the grated carrot, dates, walnuts and orange zest till well blended but be careful not to overmix.

4 - Pour into the prepared baking tin and bake for 40 minutes or a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool for five minutes in the tin, then turn out onto a cooling rack. Leave cake to cool completely before icing.

Simple Lemon-Orange Icing
Simply mix 100g of sifted icing sugar with 3 tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon and orange juice until smooth. Spread it over the cooled cake.

Friday, 22 June 2007

Savoury Two-Cheese Biscotti

I have been thinking hard about what I could make for Quikong's mom because she prefers savoury foods rather than sweet. Since I know that she loves cheese, I thought that this cheese biscotti would be the perfect treat for her. An added bonus is that it is only 83 calories each. That's great if you can stop at just one!

Tips: Be sure to use the best quality cheese you can get your hands on and use sun-dried tomatoes that are vacuum packed and not in oil. It is great on its own, with dips or chilli.

Two-Cheese Biscotti with Sun-dried Tomatoes
adapted from Cooking Light March 2005

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 oz fresh Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan) cheese, grated
3-4 sun-dried tomato halves, chopped finely
2 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp salt

freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup + 1 tbsp skim milk

2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

3 extra large eggs (min weight per egg 55grm)

Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 180°(350°). Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

Combine milk, oil, and eggs; stir with a whisk. Add milk mixture to flour mixture, stirring until well blended (dough will be dry and crumbly). Knead 8 times.

Divide dough in half. Shape each portion into an 8-inch-long roll. Place rolls, 6 inches apart, on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray; flatten to 1-inch thickness. Bake at 180°(350°) for 30 minutes. Remove from baking sheet and cool on a wire rack for 10 mins. Reduce oven temperature to 150°(325°).

Using a serrated knife, cut each roll diagonally into 12 (2/3-inch) slices. Place slices, cut sides down, on baking sheet. Bake at 150°(325°) for 10 -15 minutes (depends how crunchy prefer it to be). Turn biscotti over; bake an additional 10-15 minutes (biscotti will be slightly soft in center but will harden as they cool). Remove from baking sheet; cool completely on wire rack before storing in a airtight container.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Sugee by Mom

When I read about this month’s SHF theme which was about sweet cravings, my mom’s many desserts instantly come to mind. Sure, these days the dessert I would always go for at a restaurant is the molten chocolate cake. But I never crave stuff like that. Well, ok, maybe sometimes… When I do crave sweet stuff, it’s usually desserts from my childhood in Singapore which were almost always made by my mother. If you were to ask me what I crave most, I would not be able to settle on just one sweet treat because I have a long list. I literally go through one dessert at a time during the two weeks per year that I am back in Singapore. No kidding – my mom will ask me each day what I would like to eat for lunch and what I would like for dessert/afternoon tea. Dinner is usually spent catching up with old friends at my favourite restaurants. And mornings are spent with my sister at the gym, for obvious reasons.

As usual, I digress….For June’s SHF hosted by the Domestic Goddess, I have chosen to make this particular dessert because of practical reasons – it’s the only one that requires ingredients that I can find easily in Sydney. You will have to wait for my trip back to Singapore to see the other sweet treats I miss. One of the good things about starting this blog is that I feel extra motivated to attempt to write down my mom’s recipes. Is a pinch of something equivalent to 1/8 of a teaspoon or….? That’s a topic for another day.

My family calls this dessert “sugee”, which I now realise is actually just another name for semolina. This dessert is probably a variation of kabeesa, a Middle-Eastern porridge, which has been nicely described by Anna of Morsels & Musings. Mom usually makes sugee for afternoon tea and sometimes for dessert. I like it anytime of the day! It is also commonly served as a dessert at Muslim weddings in Singapore.

There are many variations of this dessert in Singapore. Some prefer it slightly watery, while others prefer to make it very thick. Some drizzle melted butter (or ghee) just before serving. This dessert can be served warm, at room temperature or cold.

This is my version of my mom’s recipe. She cooks by estimation as all great cooks do, so this is my best attempt at quantifying her recipe.

Mom’s Sugee
Serves 2

3 tbsp semolina*
2 tbsp ground almond (almond meal)
2 cups whole milk
2 tbsp sugar*
2 green cardamom pods, bruise pods and grind seeds finely
A small pinch of saffron threads
2 tbp sultanas
1 tsp rosewater

Garnish: toasted almond flakes, sultanas

Combine all of the ingredients, except for rosewater, in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to the lowest level and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove cardamom pods and stir in rosewater. Serve warm and garnish with almond flakes and sultanas.

* Vary the amount of semolina depending on how thick you prefer it to be. Sometimes my mom uses condensed milk instead of sugar.

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Zesty Torta di Ricotta

Torta di Ricotta is quite misunderstood outside of Italy. Is it a cake or a pie? Some people think of it as a baked cheesecake similar to an American-style cheesecake but made of ricotta instead of cream cheese. In fact, torta di ricotta is more like a pie that is typically eaten during Easter. If there are any Italians reading this, please correct me if I am wrong.

Like most traditional recipes, there are many variations of torta di ricotta. The one I have chosen is a cross between a Neapolitan recipe (adapted from Caròla Fra
ncesconi's La Cucina Napoletan) and a Sicilian recipe that I scribbled down a while back when I was watching a travelling gourmet show on the telly. I made my own candied lemon peel a few days ago and I think that it is so much better than using store bought ones.

The result is a crispy pie-like crust, a moist, lemony filling and a cake-like base. While it is an easy recipe to follow, I have to warn you that the dough is quite sticky and difficult to handle. I had to put it back in the fridge each time I rolled it out. But the result, I assure you, is worth it.
Zesty Torta di Ricotta

For the Dough:
1 ½ cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest, finely grated
¼ tsp pure vanilla extract
5 tbsp butter, melted

For the Filling:
12 oz fresh ricotta, drained
1/2 - 2/3 cup sugar
Finely grated zest of half an orange
2 egg yolks
3 oz candied lemon peels (see recipe below)*, finely minced
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

*or any candied citrus fruits like orange or grapefruit

1: Prepare the dough

Lightly whisk together eggs, lemon zest, juice and vanilla in a bowl. Sift flour, sugar and baking powder into a large mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour egg mixture into centre of the flour mixture. Gradually incorporate egg mixture into flour using a palate knife
until mixture is dry and crumbly. Gradually add melted butter until a soft, wet and smooth dough is formed. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface, flatten dough, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm.

2: In the meantime prepare the filling
Combine the drained ricotta with sugar, lemon juice, orange peel and vanilla. Whip the mixture with a fork until it is smooth and creamy. Use more or less sugar, depending on your preference. Lightly beat the yolks and work them into the mixture a bit at a time, and finally stir in the minced candied lemon peels.

3: Assembling the pie
Butter and flour three 4 ½ inch flan tins (or a 9 inch flan tin). Place
3/4 of the dough onto a lightly floured surface, place a sheet of plastic wrap over it and roll it to fit the three flan tins. It will be very sticky and fragile, so take care and sprinkle some flour over it or put it pack in the fridge if it gets too difficult to handle. Gently fold dough over rolling pin, then fit into each flan tin, letting a bit of dough hang over the edges. Spoon in the filling, spreading it evenly over the dough. Fold pastry edges over the ricotta filling. Roll out the remaining dough and cut into strips and arrange it in a lattice pattern over the filling.

4: Bake
Bake it in a moderate oven for about 45-50 mins or till golden. Let it cool and dust it with powdered/icing sugar.

Leftover ricotta filling?
Depending on the size of your flan tins, you may find that you have extra ricotta filling. Stir through some chopped bitter-sweet choc in the filling and pour it into a buttered ramekin. Bake it till it is golden (about 30 mins).

Candied Lemon Peels
(adapted from here)

3 organic lemons
½ cup water
½ cup sugar

Using a vegetable peeler, carefully remove the rind. Try to avoid the pith.

Put peel in saucepan and cover with water. Bring to boil, drain and rinse briefly under cold water. Blanch in same manner 2 more times. After third blanching, drain peels and rinse under cold water. Check that you should be able to see some colour through any pith. Otherwise, remove as much pith as possible. Set aside.

In the saucepan, bring to boil the water and sugar. Return the peels to the saucepan and simmer over low heat for about an hour. Drain peels and and immediately, without rinsing peel, transfer to large mixing bowl.

After fruit has candied, place about ½ cup sugar in bottom of a large mixing bowl. Add drained peels and toss to coat well. Shaking to remove excess sugar and arrange in layer on a cookie tray and place in a warm oven for 30 minutes to dry.

Remove from oven and leave at room temperature to finish drying. Peel will continue to become firmer and chewier over several days. When peel reaches desired texture, store in airtight container until ready to use.

This will be my contribution to the blogging event "Fresh Produce of the Month - Lemon" organised by Marta of An Italian in the US.

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Low(er) Fat Baking using Yogurt

I love cakes and muffins, especially for morning and afternoon tea. I usually have a fruit for my mid-morning break, but I like the idea that I have a yummy reward waiting for me after working hard all afternoon. This is also an important strategy because we tend to eat dinner quite late, so having a pre-planned (preferably ealthy) snack in the late afternoon prevents me from snacking on unhealthy stuff in the evening while I prepare dinner.

In recent months, I have been baking with yogurt as a strategy to lower the fat in cakes and muffins. While I love the taste and texture of cakes made with butter, these yogurt cake and muffins still won me over because they taste good in a different way - they are always moist, and the flavours of the ingredients (e.g. fruit) immediately satiates the palate. Quikong also likes them a lot and he doesn't usually like my low-fat baking. Iusually freeze half of what I bake for later snacking or a quick breakfast on the run.

The two tried and tested recipes I want to share are slight adaptations from recipes found 0n two food blogs:

Yogurt Muffins - I found this wonderful recipe from Anne. I've made this a dozen times now. I usually use extra large muffins pans (makes about 9 muffins). I have four varieties of the original recipe that I like a lot:

(1) Banana Maple Muffins (original recipe). My adaptation - I used raw sugar instead, mashed 4 bananas, and sometimes add chopped walnuts.

(2) Apple and Rhubarb Muffins. I omited the bananas, added a chopped granny smith apple and used rhubarb compote as a filling. (see Haalo's stewed rhubarb recipe but use only 2 tbspn of water).

(3) Banana Rhubarb Swirl mini cakes. I used the original recipe but swirled some rhubard compote through the cake.

(4) Wholemeal Banana Choc Muffin. I replaced half the flour with wholemeal flour, used half brown sugar, half raw sugar, mashed 4 bananas and added a handful of chopped bittersweet choc.

Yogurt Cake:

French Style Orange and Poppy Seed Yogurt Cake
- I used Mary's version of Molly's recipe. I added a pinch of salt and used 2 tbspn of poppy seeds. I also pierced the surface of the baked cake with a fork before pouring the lemon syrup over (done while cake is still warm).

Thanks Anne and Mary for posting the original recipes!

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Chinese Cabbage and Anchovy Stock

I knew that it was a risky move to give this post a heading like that. Two very unglamorous ingredients. They are so versatile and delicious yet under-appreciated. Before I go on to the recipe, bear with me while I introduce the stars of today's post.

Chinese Cabbage: This vegetable is related to the common cabbage and broccoli, and is of the same species as the common turnip. There are many kinds of Chinese Cabbages, that can be grouped based on size, shape, heading and non-heading. Wong Baak (Won Bok or Nappa; pictured) is the most “cabbage shaped” of the Chinese cabbages and is sometimes considered the boring cousin of the more popular bok choy. The tightly packed leaves of the Wong Baak are crinkly and lighter green than ordinary cabbage leaves. Sometimes, there appear to be tiny black spots on the leaves of Chinese cabbages. These are not signs of deterioration but occur naturally and are harmless. All Chinese cabbages have a milder, more delicate taste than green, red, or Savoy cabbages and are excellent for stir-frying and pickling (e.g. the spicy Korean fermented delicacy kimchi)

Anchovy stock: This is as common in Malay cooking (and probably most parts of Southeast Asia) as chicken stock is in Western cooking. In Malay cooking, anchovies (or ikan billis) are dried, rather than preserved in oil, which is more common in countries like Italy or Spain. There are many types of dried anchovies and they smell a bit strange if you are not used to it. At traditional fresh food markets in Singapore and Malaysia, it’s quite a common sight to see store vendors laying anchovies out in the sun to dry. Dried anchovies are used commonly as a soup base or for stir-fries. It is also deep-fried and served as a side accompaniment for this delicious coconut rice dish called “
nasi lemak”. You can also find anchovy stock granules which are more convenient to use. I like the Maggi brand because it has no MSG.

The Heart Healthy Meal

The combination of Chinese cabbage, zucchini and carrots in a clear anchovy stock is a meal that leaves me feeling healthy and fresh. I also usually add brown rice for a more substantial meal. The starch from the brown rice is also a natural thickener for the soup. This dish also brings out the best of the Chinese cabbage because I think it is more tasty and tender than the common cabbage, while being able to retain its crispness even in a soup dish such as this. This will be my contribution to this month's Heart of the Matter #4: Vegetables. Check out the round up of HotM #4 at the end of the month at Joanna's Food.

Wong Baak, Zucchini and Carrot in Anchovy Stock
Serves two

8 Wong Baak leaves, chopped
1 medium carrot, diced
1 zucchini, diced
1/2 cup brown rice
chopped scallions (spring onion) or chives, to garnish
Anchovy stock

For the anchovy stock:
10 dried anchovies, soaked in some hot water and roughly pounded with 2 cloves of garlic in a mortar and pestle
2 heaped tspn of anchovy stock granules and 2 minced cloves of garlic thrown into boiling water

Prepare the anchovy stock using 3 cups of water.
Add brown rice and carrots to the stock and simmer till the brown rice is tender. Add more hot water if needed.
Add the cabbage and zucchini. Be careful not to overcook them since they do not require much cooking.
Serve immediately, garnished with some chopped scallions or chives.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Child-Approved Choc Chip Cookies

Since lemon cheesecakes are not always "child friendly", I wanted to bake something else for Quikong's 3 ½ year old niece, J, who was going to be at the birthday party last Saturday night. I decided to make the classic choc chip cookies.

I'm pleased to reported that these cookies got J's approval. It also got two thumbs up from Quikong, who said that "these are seriously good". This is a big deal because he can be quite a harsh critic of my baking and cooking. I thought the cookies were a little sweet for me. It's probably because I prefer to use dark choc in my cookies and I used milk choc for these ones since kids tend to prefer plain/milk choc bits. The texture is perfect though - crispy on the outside but slightly chewy towards the middle.

I placed the cookies in this pretty plastic Chinese take-away box (4 for $2) and it was cute to see J carrying the box around. I bought the little blue dinosaur for J's adorable little 2 months old brother, W.

"Child-Approved" Choc Chip Cookies
from Bill Granger's Sydney Food

125g unsalted butter, softened
1 ¼ cups brown sugar, tightly packed
1 tspn vanilla essence

1 egg, lightly beaten
1 ½ cups plain flour
a pinch of salt
1 ½ cups chocolate bits/chips

Preheat oven to 180
°C. Place butter and sugar in a bowl and beat until light and creamy. Add vanilla and egg and stir to combine. Stir in the sifted flour, baking powder and salt till just combined. Fold through chocolate chips.

Place spoonfuls of cookie mixture on a greased and lined baking tray, allowing room for spreading. Cook for 15-20 minutes, until they turn pale gold (tip: DO NOT bake longer than that, unless you want very crispy cookies).

Allow to cool for 5 minutes on the tray before transferring cookies on a wire rack to cool further.

Makes about 24 cookies

TIP: I froze half of the cookie dough for another time. Roll the dough into a log and keep in a plastic wrap and foil in the freezer. To bake, thaw slightly and slice into 1 cm think before baking.

Monday, 11 June 2007

Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni with Pumpkin Tomato Sauce

I love spinach and ricotta cannelloni but I find the ones typically served at restuarants are too rich for me. I decided to make my own using low-fat ricotta cheese as well as some chopped walnuts for some added texture. For a change, I also added mashed pumkin in the tomato sauce.

This will be my submission for this week's Pasta Presto Night hosted by Ruth.

Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni with Pumpkin Tomato Sauce
Serves 2

8 instant dried cannelloni tubes
120g frozen spinach, cooked in the microwave
200g low-fat ricotta cheese
handful of chopped walnuts
freshly ground nutmeg
salt & pepper

1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small can of diced tomato
2 tbsp tomato paste
a pinch of dried herb (e.g. oregano, basil, sage)
250g butternut pumpkin, steamed
salt & pepper

To serve:
Grated parmesan
Chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 180°C. Lightly coat an ovenproof dish with olive oil .

The sauce: Sauté the garlic and onion in a little olive oil till golden and translucent. Add the can of tomatoes, tomato paste and herb. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Purée the sauce together with the cooked pumpkin till smooth and season. Set aside.

The filling: Place the ricotta in a large bowl. Use a fork to mash until smooth. Add the spinach, nutmeg (to taste), chopped walnuts and stir until well combined. Season with salt and pepper. Use a teaspoon to spoon the mixture evenly among the cannelloni tubes. Alternatively, spoon the ricotta mixture into a piping bag and pipe the mixture into the cannelloni tubes.

To assemble: Spoon half of the sauce over the base of the prepared dish. Arrange the cannelloni tubes, in a single layer, over the sauce. Spoon over the remaining sauce over the cannelloni tubes.

Bake: Cover loosely with foil and bake in oven for 40 minutes or until the cannelloni is tender.

To serve:
Sprinkle grated parmesan and some walnuts over the cannelloni

Saturday, 9 June 2007

Best Ever Baked Cheesecake

Yes, that is a pretty bold statement to make. But i can't help it. This cheesecake recipe is so good - creamy, fluffy, yet not "heavy" It is good even when I've made it with low-fat cream cheese and low-fat sour cream. My family is crazy about cheesecakes so I've tried many recipes and so far this has been the favourite and I frequently get requests from friends to make this cheesecake for parties. Of course it helps that this recipe is from Tyler from Food 911. I used to rush home from classes when I was studying in Michigan, just so I could see Tyler in action. The Food Network was one of my favourite channels then :-)

I've done many versions of this for e.g. using blueberries, oreo cookies, espresso, marbled. I've also made a plain cheesecake but varied the biscuit crust/base e.g. using oreo, choc chip, or gingernut cookies. (Tip: You will need to crush 18-20 cookies with roughly 1 metled tbspn of butter).

I made this cheesecake for Quikong's sister's birthday dinner tonite. She likes simple cheesecakes like lemon cheesecake. So, I decided to make a lemon cheesecake but to make it more interesting, I used Arnott's Kingston biscuits for the crust because Quikong and his brother loves these biscuits and I hope that his sister does too. Then I had to really think hard about how i could make this cheesecake more special because it looked too boring for an occasion such as birthday. Looking through my supplies, I got excited when I saw the kumquats that I bought a few days ago with the intention of making preserves.

For the Lemon Cheesecake:
- See this Crack Proof Cheesecake recipe by Tyler
- I followed Tyler's instructions exactly, but added in the juice of half a lemon together with the sour cream
- For the crust, I used a packet of Kingston biscuits crushed with 1 tbspn melted unsalted butter

And the
piece de la resistance...
Caramelised Kumquat Glaze

10 oz kumquats
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
pinch of salt
2 tbspn lime juice (optional)

Slice kumquat about 1/4 cm in width, remove any seeds. Over medium heat, boil sugar and water till sugar dissolves and liquid thickens. Lower heat and add kumquat slices. Stir kumquats occasionally and cook for about 15-20 minutes (till kumquat rind becomes tender). Carefully coat the top of cheesecake immediately. I didn't use all of it for the cheesecake, so I added some rasberries to the remainder and will use it on my toast tomorrow (yummm).

Friday, 8 June 2007

Hot Stuff - Chickpea and Spinach Curry

Brrr..... it's such a cold, wet and windy day in Sydney. Fortunately, I am able to work from home today. Funny thing about winter is that I don't feel like exercising as much but I feel hungry all the time. Not such a good combination for the waistline....That's when a recipe like this comes in handy because it can satisfy my craving for wholesome food without the guilt and it's perfect for a cold day like today. Plus, since Quikong is not home for lunch, I can make it EXTRA spicy. This will also be my first submission for the Weekend Herb Blogging which was created by Kalyn, and hosted by Ulrike this week. Susan reminded me of how lucky I am that Quikong has planted a herb garden for me. So I have decided to blog about each herb from the garden, one at a time. I think that Quikong will actually appreciate this because it means that I will stop hassling him about "which one is the oregano again?". My excuse for not recognising the herbs is that I've only used dried forms of some herbs (e.g. thyme). Plus, I am used to calling herbs by their local names back in Singapore.

To me, curry is not complete without some coriander (or cilantro) thrown. My grandmother and mom used to add in extra coriander in their curries just for me. We don't tend to chop the leaves but throw them in stalks and all (with roots removed). All parts of the coriander is edible (including the roots). However, the fresh leaves and dried seeds are the most commonly used parts for cooking. You can learn more about coriander here.

(Hot) Chickpea and Spinach Curry

1 tspn oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 heaped tbspn of "special" curry powder*
1 tspn brown sugar
1 can chickpea, drained
1 can diced tomatoes
1 large carrot, diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
250g frozen spinach
as many chopped dried or fresh chillies as you like :-)
Salt flakes
Some hot water or vegetable stock
A bunch of coriander, roots removed

Over medium heat, fry the garlic and onion in the oil in a non-stick pot till soft and slightly golden. Add curry powder and continue to stir everything around till the spices have released their fragrance (about 5 minutes). Add all other ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmer till carrots are tender. Add enough hot water/stock for the desired consistency. Season with salt. Throw in the coriander at the very last, just before serving.

Serve with:
- Brown rice, basmati rice or naan.
- Pappadams (pictured in the background of the photo)
- Yougurt

* Try to use better quality curry powder from a specialty shop(not commercial brands). My mom sent me a packet of curry powder from Singapore and it is a blend of the following ingredients: Coriander seeds, cumin, tumeric, fennel seeds, chilli, cinnamon, cardamom, star anise and cloves.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Orechiette With Grilled Vegetables, Feta and Roasted Garlic Pesto

Believe it or not, I don't just eat desserts and cakes. But I do seem to blog much more about desserts and cakes so I thought I should balance things out a bit. This is a pasta dish that is simple to throw together because the oven does most of the work. I served the pasta with Janet's soft breadsticks, which were so quick and easy to make (thanks, Janet!).

Making your own pesto is worth the time because the freshness of the basil comes through. Fortunately, Quikong started a herb garden for me. This way, we always have a fresh supply of basil, which we use quite often in our cooking. I've used walnuts instead of pinenuts in the pesto for a change, and I was pleased with the result.

I enjoyed this so much that I will submit it to Ruth at Once Upon a Feast, who started the weekly food blogging event, Presto Pasta Nights.

Orechiette With Grilled Vegetables, Feta and Roasted Garlic Pesto

Fresh Orechiette

Vegetables suitable for grilling/roasting (e.g. pumpkin, eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers)

Roasted garlic pesto (recipe below)

Feta Cheese, cubed

To serve:

Roasted balsamic red onion (recipe below)

Feta Cheese, crumbled

Walnuts, chopped


Brush/spray sliced vegetables with a little olive oil to prevent them from drying out. Grill or roast vegetables till they are tender.


When the vegetables are almost ready, cook the pasta until it is al dente.


To assemble: Firstly, toss the drained pasta with the feta and pesto. Secondly, add the vegetables and take care not to stir too much because the pumpkin might get mushy.


Serve pasta topped with the quartered balsamic red onion, chopped walnuts, extra crumbed feta cheese and a few basil leaves.

Roasted Garlic Pesto
(Serves 4)

2 cups fresh basil

¼ cup walnuts, lightly toasted

½ cup freshly grated parmesan

1 head of roasted garlic

Place all ingredients, except oil, in a mortar and pound it till it forms a smooth paste. You can use a food processor of course but be careful not to overprocess (the basil will get bruised). Slowly add the oil until it is well combined. This can be stored up to a week in the fridge. You can replace walnuts with toasted pine nuts and omit the garlic for a more traditional pesto.

Balsamic-Roasted Red Onions
From Donna Hay's "Off the shelf: Cooking from the pantry

4 red onions

Balsamic vinegar


Olive oil

Place 4 halved red onions, cut side up, on a lined baking tray. Loosen the onion layers with your fingers. Sprinkle with balsamic vinegar so that it gets between the onion layers. Sprinkle with sugar (I used brown sugar) and a little olive oil. Cover and bake in a preheated oven at 160 degrees C for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and bake a further 20 minutes or until slightly caramelised & golden. (these are yummy as a pizza topping).

Sunday, 3 June 2007

Topsy-Turvy Cinnamon Cake with Caramelised Pineapple

top·sy-tur·vy (tŏp'sē-tûr'vē) :
With the top downward and the bottom up; upside-down.

Ever since I won the charity cake auction for the caramelised upside-down banana cake last month, I have been obsessed about making it myself. But when I had a very ripe pineapple sitting in the fruit basket, I decided to use the pineapple instead.

Pineapple was one of my favourite fruits as a kid and we ate and cooked with fresh pineapple all year round in Singapore. For festive occasions, my mom makes the BEST bite-sized pineapple tarts. They are a labour of love not just because of the size (imagine trying to fill tiny tart shells without messing up & also decorate the top with extra short crust pastry!) but also because the pineapple filling has to be cooked on the stove top for hours (to thicken the filling and get a caramelised flavour). My wonderful mom always has a container of these tarts freshly baked for me whenever I return to Singapore.

Anyway, I digress...To recreate the taste of my mom's pineapple tart filling, I decided to use caramelised pineapple for my upside-down cake.

(own creation)

50g unsalted butter
half of a large ripe pineapple, rind and core removed, then cut into 1cm slices
1/4 cup golden syrup
1/2 cup caster sugar (or less if pineapple is very ripe)
1 tbspn lemon juice
1 tspn vanilla essence

To make the "topping":
Place the butter in a non-stick pan over medium heat and melt. Add pineapple and lemon juice into the pan. Cook the pineapples till it is slightly tender, stirring craefully.

Add golden syrup, sugar and vanilla essence and cook till pineapple is tender.

Remove pineapples carefully with a slotted spoon and arrange in the bottom of a greased 23cm spring-form cake tin. (The juices tend to leak from my tin, so I line it with foil)

Increase heat and boil remaining liquid in the pan for 5 minutes or more until a rich caramel forms. DO NOT be tempted to tasted the caramel at this stage because it is VERY HOT.

Pour caramel over the pineapples in the base of the tin.

Cinnamon Cake
(from "Sydney Food" by Bill Granger)

1oog unsalted butter, softened
1 cup caster sugar
4 eggs, seperated, room temperature
1 tspn vanilla essence
1 1/4 cp plain flour
2 tspn baking powder
a pinch of salt
1 tspn ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 180 degress C (350 degrees F).

Place butter and sugar in a bowl and cream til light and fluffy.

Add vanilla and egg yolks one at a time, beating after each addition.

Gently fold in the sifted flour, baking powder, salt and cinammon. The cake mixture will be quite stiff and dry.

In a small, clean, dry bowl, beat egg whites until stiff.

Gently fold egg whites through the cake mixture with a large metal spoon.

Spoon the batter evenly over the pinapples and caramel. Smooth with a spatula.

Bake for 50 minutes or until a skwer inserted to the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Remove the cake from the oven and leave in the tin for 5 minutes. Remove the sides from the cake tin and place a large serving plate on top of the cake. Turn cake over onto serving plate. Remove foil (if used) and base.

Serve warm, with pouring cream if desired.

Tasting notes:The cake was also delicious at room temperature the next day.
Quikong liked it as much as I did, even though he was initially disappointed that I didn't make the banana version.
Verdict: This recipe is a keeper. Next time, I will try making it with caramelised bananas, pears or apples (that was Bill's original recipe).


Saturday, 2 June 2007

Food Photo Riddle #1

Can you guess what is the main ingredient that I will be using for my cake.....

Do you need another clue?

That was too easy, huh.....

But can you answer this Photo Food Riddle:

What kind of cake will I be baking today?