Thursday, December 23, 2010


As the snowstorm rages outside our cottage, we're all huddled around the fireplace, watching the landscape turn powdery white, the trees' dark branches becoming thickly outlined with snow. I won't be posting recipes while on our winter break, but I hope to see you back again in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, have a wonderful holiday everyone!

Saturday, December 11, 2010


I finally did it! I bought a self-freezing ice cream machine, an upgrade from my ten year old machine that required a pre-frozen canister. A few weeks ago, I checked out the new kitchen supplies superstore close to my neighborhood. The place was so huge, well-stocked with absolutely everything, and displayed so tastefully that I just had to buy something for my already jam-packed kitchen. Did I really need one more appliance, one more gadget? (Do I really need that gorgeous bag, those beautiful pumps?) So when the store clerk said that there was only one Cuisinart machine left on stock, I knew that was a sign. Here's one nostalgic flavor recently churned from my appliance du jour, adapted from David Lebovitz's fanastic ice cream cookbook, The Perfect Scoop.

Orange Popsicle Ice Cream

1 cup sugar
grated zest of 2 oranges
1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice (from about 5 oranges)
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup full cream milk
1/4 cup thick cream
2 teaspoons Cointreau

Blend orange zest and sugar in a blender until very fine. Add orange juice, sour cream, milk, cream and Cointreau and blend until sugar is dissolved.

Chill the mixture in the freezer for about 2 hours, then freeze it in the ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions.

Makes about 1 liter.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Stir Fry

I think I've found my go-to stir fry sauce, which combines the sweet-salty-spicy triumvirate of tastes. I've used prawns and broccoli in this recipe, but the sauce is versatile enough for any combination of meat and vegetables or tofu.

As in western cooking, use a good quality of Chinese wine. I initially asked my grocer for the cheapest rice wine, and he looked at me with a frown. He gave me a bottle of wine called Hua Tiao Chiew, a 5 year vintage shao hsing from China. Splash it on steamed fish, he says, and you'll taste the difference. His grandmother kept herself able-bodied by drinking a shot of warm hua tiao chiew with sour plum. My grandfather preferred his daily bottle of beer (or two), happily singing Cielito Lindo every afternoon as we came home from school.

There isn't enough wine in the recipe to make you swoon, but the flavors certainly will.

Prawns and Broccoli in Black Bean Garlic Sauce
adapted from Chinese Cooking by Willie Mark

1 kilo fresh medium prawns, shelled and deveined
2 egg whites, whisked lightly
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons Chinese wine
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper

1 onion, largely diced
4 spring onions, diced
2-3 fresh green long chilies, minced
2 inch knob fresh ginger, peeled and minced
6 cloves garlic, minced

2 heads of broccoli, cut into florets and blanched

2 tablespoons black bean paste
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 cup chicken stock
sesame oil

Marinate the prawns in a bowl of egg whites, cornstarch, wine, salt and pepper, making sure all the prawns are coated evenly. Set aside to marinate for 30 minutes.

Pour about 1/2 cup of peanut or canola oil in a wok on high heat. Flash fry the prawns and remove from wok immediately when they just turn pink. Set aside.

Remove the excess oil from the wok and leave about 2 tablespoons to saute the onions, chilies, ginger and garlic on medium heat. When fragrant, pour in the bean paste, soy sauce and sugar. Mix well, increase the heat and add the prawns and the broccoli, stirring continuously. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Thicken the sauce with a cornstarch slurry. Sprinkle a few drops of sesame oil and serve.

Serves 6.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Still in the mood for prawns? I saved three pieces for Teenage Son who was home recuperating from surgery, and just scrounged around my pantry to make something quick and easy.

I mixed some Boursin garlic and herb cheese with softened butter and a squeeze of lime, spread this over the butterflied prawns and grilled them until brown, about 3 minutes.

Quite yummy if I may say so myself!

Sunday, November 21, 2010


This month Kulinarya Cooking Club celebrates its First Anniversary with a glimpse into one of the festive Filipino Christmas specialties called Relleno, which simply means a stuffing of any variety of meats, seafood, fish or vegetables.

It is time-consuming to make a good Christmas relleno. I remember how my grandmother would start making Galantina, or stuffed Capon, 48 hours before our family Christmas Lunch. The kitchen would be a beehive of activity, from deboning the chickens to dicing the chorizo, olives, pimientos, chestnuts and whatever else went into the minced pork stuffing. After the chickens were stuffed, the cavities were sewn up neatly and wrapped tightly in muslin. These were then left to marinate in the fridge overnight, then steamed slowly the next morning, and left to cool before serving. It was so delicious!

I haven't had a good Galantina since my grandmother passed on years ago, so to this month's challenge, I bravely said Yes, I can do it! But my nostalgia for the Galantina of my childhood stopped at my attempt to debone the chicken. Granny made it look so easy, but after slicing my thumb and nicking my knuckes, and piercing through the all important chicken skin, I gave up.

So instead I made Camaron Rellenado, or Stuffed King Prawns.

Shell and devein 10 King Prawns, leaving the tail end. Butterfly the prawns and marinate in a teaspoon each of soy sauce and lime, plus 2 minced garlic cloves.

While that's marinating, prepare the stuffing by mixing 250 grams minced pork with garlic (1 or 2 cloves), 4 water chestnuts, 2 spring onions, half a carrot, all finely minced. Add one egg and half a teaspoon of salt, and mix thoroughly.

Take the butterflied prawns and spoon some stuffing on.

Wrap a rasher of bacon around the stuffed prawn and secure bacon end with a toothpick. Repeat with the rest of the prawns.

Heat a pan with enough oil to deep fry the prawns. Before frying, dip the bacon-wrapped prawns in a thin batter of one beaten egg and 2 tablespoons cornstarch. Deep fry until golden brown.

Serve with sweet and sour sauce (to which I added some diced pineapple and onion).

Check out Kulinarya Cooking Club members here.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

For Emily

My niece is probably my blog's youngest follower. Like all the kids in my extended family, she is a foodie. Here's a recipe for one of her requests, easy enough for a budding epicurean to make on her own.

Coconut Banana Muffins

170g softened butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon molasses (optional)
1 cup mashed very ripe bananas
(usually 3 bananas)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup dessicated coconut
(if you omit the coconut, increase flour measurement to 1 3/4 cups)

Preheat oven to 175 deg C. Beat all the ingredients together at high speed with an electric mixer. Line 18 muffin pans and fill with batter, about 3/4 full as the batter will rise while baking. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Food Fix

There's a Danish grocery that we go to whenever Husband or the Teenagers need their comfort food fix. In a drab and threadbare neighborhood of colorless food stalls and grey industrial supply shops, where cars battle with trucks for parking space, the trip to the grocery is quick. The baskets are soon filled with cheeses, freshly baked and very dense rye bread, crisp fried onions, pickles, chocolates, and sweets.

Christmas is now just around the corner, so the grocery was stocked with bars of nougat and marzipan, which we make into festive Danish petit fours called Nougat-Marzipan Broed. I made my own marzipan base from ground almond meal, icing sugar, and egg whites, inspired by Food and Style's Sienese Almond Cookies, and stuffed these with slices of Danish Soft Nougat, a rich, creamy confection made from Turkish hazelnuts and chocolate.

Nougat-Marzipan Petit Fours

1 3/4 cups almond flour
2 tablespoons white flour
3/4 cup icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
a pinch of salt
2 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Odense Bloed Nougat, cut into 1/4 inch squares

Preheat oven to 220 deg C. In a mixing bowl, blend almond flour, white flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. With an electric mixer, whisk egg whites and almond extract at high speed until peaks are firm. Add this mixture to the blended flour and fold in with a spatula until just mixed.

Transfer the dough to a piping bag and pipe into silicone moulds. Insert the nougat slices into the dough.

Sprinkle icing sugar on top and bake in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the tops are lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool in the moulds for about 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Makes about 8 petit fours, which can be sliced into smaller portions to serve.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


There are some days where one thing seems to flow into another and before you know it, the day's over, and you just hadn't had time to think about the next meal. After a morning at a very busy doctor's office (the wait was so long, I was desperately reading classified ads after exhausting all the magazines), I spent my afternoon at a chocolate workshop where we learned the art of tempering, the meticulous process of melting chocolate to a specific temperature, to be used in our truffle making lesson. After a few hours of dipping ganache, nuts, candied orange peel, strawberries and pralines, I had 2 boxes of chocolate heaven to take home. But I didn't have dinner planned, and it was getting late. Thankfully the butcher was still open and I whizzed about, my impromptu shopping list spilling out from memory, to make one of the easiest, but truly delicious chicken dish taught to me years ago by an Italian lady from her kitchen in Hong Kong.

Chicken Fillets with Prosciutto and Parmesan

Take about 12 pieces of chicken fillet and season with salt and pepper. Fry them on medium low heat in a pan with olive oil and butter. Turn over when underside just turns opaque. Spread a thin layer of pesto on top of the fillets, then layer with prosciutto (or mortadella), then a slice of parmesan cheese (or gruyere). Pour heavy cream into the pan, enough to just cover the fillets. Cover and cook on low heat until cheese has melted. Serve with rice or pasta.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


This month's theme at Kulinarya Cooking Club is Suman. Traditionally, it is glutinous rice cooked in coconut cream, wrapped in either banana or coconut leaves, steamed and served with sugar on the side. (Check out the other blogs below for their delicious take on this popular Filipino snack.) My version is called Sumang Hubad, or Naked Suman, cooked without the banana leaves, using mini-cake molds instead. Glazed with salted caramel topping, these little sumans are a comforting snack on this rainy afternoon.

Sumang Hubad

2 cups glutinous rice
3 cups coconut milk
1 teaspoon salt
caramel topping, purchased or home-made

Preheat the oven to 180 deg C.

Wash the glutinous rice and drain well. Over medium heat, cook rice with coconut milk and salt in a heavy bottomed pot, stirring occasionally. Cook for about 20 minutes until the coconut cream is absorbed. Remove from heat and set aside.

In the meantime, drizzle about 1 tablespoon of caramel topping on each mold. Fill the mold with the partially cooked rice, pressing to fill the mold evenly. Cover with aluminum foil and place in a baking tray, pouring enough water in the tray to make a water bath (bain-marie).

Bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the rice is tender.

Let cool for a few minutes before removing from mold. Makes 12 mini-sumans.

Kulinarya was started by a group of Filipino foodies living in Sydney, who are passionate about the Filipino culture and its colourful cuisine.

Each month we will showcase a new dish along with their family recipes. By sharing these recipes, we hope you find the same passion and love for Filipino Food as we do.

The current members are:

Kath -
Trisha -
Trissa -
Olive -
Caroline -
Ninette -
Asha -
Malou -
Cherrie -
Acdee -
Valerie -
Sheryl -
Divina -
Annie -
Dahlia -
Joy -
Maribel -
Jen -
Pia -
Malaka -
Mimi -
Erika -
Kat -
Lala -
Selfie -
Connie Veneracion frm
Oggi from
Katrina Kostik from
Rochelle Ryan from

Friday, October 22, 2010


It was a hard-fought battle between the two favorite football teams. My sons' team was the defending champion, but unfortunately had been beaten by a wisely-coached rival. The ride home was heavy with unuttered frustrations, until Son #2 declared that HE'S HAD IT WITH FOOTBALL!, and would now BECOME A VEGETARIAN! (please don't ask me to explain the connection).

We'll see, I thought, knowing that I had prepared some duck breasts that the butcher had been raving about earlier that morning. My butcher usually sells these imported from France, and was thrilled to have found a local farmer that supplied him with fresh duck of the same high quality. After looking into my pantry, I thought of using some orange marmalade, balsamic vinegar, and marsala wine for a sweet and tangy glaze. True to the butcher's word, the duck was indeed juicy, tender and flavorful. Delicious enough to forget the vegetarian idea until the next football season!

Duck Breasts with Balsamic Orange Glaze

2 duck breasts
olive oil
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup marsala wine
2 shallots, minced
1 large garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper

Season duck breasts with salt and pepper. In a heavy-bottomed pan, heat olive oil and pan fry the duck, skin side down for 15 minutes under medium heat, until skin is golden brown.

Turn over and continue pan frying for another 5 minutes for medium doneness, 10 minutes for well done. Remove and let the duck rest on the side.

Remove excess oil from pan and leave about 1 tablespoon in. Saute the shallots and garlic until translucent, then pour in chicken stock, marmalade, balsamic vinegar and marsala wine. Stir well and reduce until the glaze is thick and syrupy. Season to taste.

Slice the duck breasts and spoon the glaze over the crisp skin.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Recipes Lost and Found

In this digital age, our generation reveals itself when we still collect newspaper clippings and file them in a folder. I have such a folder sitting on my kitchen bookshelf, filled with recipes in greying newsprint, having caught my interest at one point, waiting to be tested, but mostly ignored in favor of brighter food magazines and cookbooks.

These days we scan through information at warped speed, getting to the point in nanoseconds with a series of rapid clicks. I found this recipe the old fashioned way, leafing through the pages of my folder, straightening the folded edges, reading each clipping to find my culinary inspiration for the day.

I thought I would challenge my aversion to baking once more, and this recipe from The Straits Times October 2007 issue looked simple enough. It involves boiling and pureeing oranges and does not use any butter, but a lot of eggs and two kinds of flour. This zesty cake is as yellow as the afternoon sun! Serve with a bowl of cream cheese frosting on the side.

Orange Cake

3 fresh oranges, medium sized
230g granulated sugar
6 eggs
140g cake flour
100g ground almond flour
1 heaped tsp baking powder

Preheat the oven to 180 deg C.

Boil the washed oranges in a pot of water for about 20 minutes. Drain and cool. When cooled, slice oranges into quarters, remove seeds, and puree in a blender, unpeeled.

Beat the eggs, adding the sugar a little at a time, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Sift in the flour and baking powder into the mixing bowl, add the almond flour and fold gently. Mix in the orange puree and fold until blended.

Lightly grease a cake tin and pour in the batter. You may need 2 tins depending on its size. Bake in the oven for about 1 hour, testing for doneness by inserting a skewer. If batter clings to the skewer, bake for a little longer and continue testing until the skewer comes out clean.

Dust top with icing sugar, or serve with your favorite frosting.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Little India

Which shop should I enter, I wonder, as I walk down Little India's streets in search of the ingredients I needed for a new recipe. I spot a stall where a little granny, in her bright pink sari, hovers over a large basket of dark purple eggplant, just delivered by the Chinese lorry driver. The granny furiously picks through the heap, and soon enough a crowd of market-goers, including me, were joining in. A young lady catches me with an eggplant in hand and teaches me to discard the ones with tiny holes. This is the place, I thought, and entered the adjoining spice shop with my basket of veggies and my grocery list. There were rows and rows of herbs and spices, black lentils, yellow lentils, flours from wheat to chickpeas, and mounds of fresh curry leaves and cilantro. I was overwhelmed. I didn't know where to begin, so I showed the shopkeeper my list and asked him to help me. With a little smile, he went from shelf to shelf, dropping into my basket the cumin seeds, chili powder, garam masala, mustard seeds and chickpea flour I needed. After paying for all this, the shopkeeper reminds me to pass by the huge trough filled with curry leaves and cilantro, and take as much as I needed, no charge to his customers.

In the spirit of the Commonwealth Games going on in Delhi, the October issue of Food and Travel (UK) magazine featured a luscious feast. This is one of the many tempting recipes I have adapted, tucking into my spice basket from Little India.

Aubergines (Eggplant) in Yoghurt
serves 4-6 people

300g eggplant, washed and dried
125g besan or gram flour
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/4 tsp chili powder
oil for frying
300g plain yoghurt
1/4 tsp paprika or cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp cumin powder
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
2 sprigs of curry leaves, stems removed
(or you can use mint leaves)
lemon or lime

Slice the eggplant 1.5cm thick, place in a colander and generously sprinkle some salt to draw out the bitterness.

In the meantime, mix the flour, garlic, chili powder and 1/4 tsp salt in a bowl. Add enough cold water to make a thin tempura-like batter.

Dry the eggplant slices on kitchen towels and heat oil in a frying pan. Dip each slice into the batter and fry as many pieces in a single layer in the pan. When golden brown on each side, transfer to a platter lined with kitchen towels to drain excess oil. Add more oil as necessary while frying the rest of the eggplant.

In another bowl, whisk the yoghurt, paprika and cumin powder. Season to taste. Layer the cooked eggplant in a flat serving platter and trickle the spiced yoghurt over them.

Heat up about a tablespoon of oil in another frying pan and quickly fry the cumin seeds, mustard seeds and curry leaves. Immediately pour this over your eggplant dish. Squeeze some lemon or lime juice and serve.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Lazy Daze

Another Lazy Sunday Morning. I've just let the dogs out to graze in the garden and chase after the blackbirds poking around the freshly cut grass. Husband's catching up on sleep after ten days of time zones and jet lag, and the teenagers never get up before their internal alarm clock says On Sundays, breakfast is at noon, and lunch is whenever. Our otherwise scheduled life gets put on hold, and today we're all allowed to be in a daze.

Yesterday I had a craving for something chocolate, so I drove to Jalan Merah Saga, a street lined with cookware boutiques, a cooking school, an Italian deli, a French bistro, a butcher, and a pet shop. Everything I need, and want, in one stretch! I popped into the cooking school to get a supply of Valrhona cooking chocolate to make the rich, dark and delicious Chocolate Pots which we'll enjoy after dinner today, whenever that will be.

Valrhona Cholocate Pots
from Shermay's Cooking School

300 ml whipping cream (35% fat)
200g Valrhona or other good dark chocolate, with 53-70% cocoa solids

2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons liqueur of choice (Grand Marnier, Kahlua, etc)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract (for a non-alcoholic version)
20g unsalted butter
chocolate powder for dusting

Over medium-low heat, bring the cream to a boil in a heavy-bottomed pan, until cream just starts to bubble slightly.

Immediately remove from heat and add the chocolate pieces. Allow the chocolate to rest and melt in the cream for a few minutes then stir with a whisk until smooth.

Add in the egg york, stirring continuously to avoid curdling. Add liqueur or vanilla extract, then butter. Stir well until blended.

Pour into espresso cups or any small individual pots. Cool to room temperature then transfer to fridge to set for about 2 hours.

Dust with cocoa powder or sprinkle with chocolate shavings just before serving.

Serves 6.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


The boys are aching from their hard-fought game last night. I don't quite get football, so I'm usually seated at the far corner, trying to follow the game, cheering for my teenagers. Son #2 had played through all the four quarters, and crawled out of bed like he just came out of a train wreck. Our plans to go shopping for his newly re-modelled room were quickly scrapped (the word shopping doesn't excite the boys as it would us girls!), so I decided to use the time to make Dumpling Soup.

Adapted from the Singaporean cookbook Shiok! by Terry and Christopher Tan, the hours spent filling, folding and sealing the little dumplings are worth the effort. As I watch the boys take seconds, and even third helpings, the heavy blanket of exhaustion lifts off slowly as they become their sprightly selves again. But not enough to go shopping. I will have to bribe them with something else next time!

Minced Pork and Prawn Dumpling Soup

For the Dumplings:
500g minced pork
(minced chicken is a good substitute for non-pork eaters)
250g fresh prawns, peeled, deveined and minced
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
4 spring onions, sliced thinly
2 dried shitake mushrooms, soaked until soft, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 pack wonton skins, preferably round shaped

For the Soup:
6-8 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar

For the Garnish:
10 garlic cloves, minced and sauteed until lightly brown
2 spring onions, sliced thinly
shredded cooked chicken breast
julienned iceberg lettuce
chili oil

In a large bowl, thoroughly mix minced pork, prawns, cornstarch, soy sauce, sesame oil, spring onions, dried mushroom, salt, and pepper.

Take 1 wonton skin, place 1 teaspoon of dumpling mixture in the center. Make a slurry of cornstarch and water and use this to moisten the edges of the dumpling skin. Quickly fold edges together to resemble a half-moon and press edges firmly with your fingers, ensuring that it is sealed completely. You will be able to make about 40 dumplings with the above filling. Add as much dumplings as you wish to the soup. The rest can be frozen.

For the soup, add chicken stock, sesame oil, soy sauce and sugar to a pot and bring to a boil. Add your dumplings one at a time, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring very gently to avoid the dumplings sticking together.

Top with a garnish of julienned lettuce, shredded chicken, spring onions and garlic. Spice it up with some chili oil, if desired.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Boost

The neighborhood kids take turns boarding their respective school buses, which drive by our road like clockwork, same time, same place. It's still dark when my boys run (actually it's more of a frankenstein trudge) to the bus, hauling their two-ton backpacks and football gear. The English boys cross the street and wait their turn patiently, already looking polished and proper at 7am. Later on the sun comes up, perking up the littlest ones, who play war games with their paper airplanes, happy that their bus is late.

Like Japanese Salarymen, my boys go about their early mornings like robots, moving from bed to shower to taking that death march to the bus in a stupor, then immediately fall asleep through the 45 minute ride to school.

Although nothing will ever shake them out of that morning daze, I thought a granita would be a welcome treat when they get back later.

Inspired by David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop, granitas are a great way to sneak in fresh fruit that the boys take for granted, never mind that the sugar content is substantial. Combining the techniques from David's cookbook and my earlier post on Watermelon Granita, this granita has the sweetness of strawberries, an exotic tartness from the kiwi, with a fresh citrus twist from the lime. The fleshy textures of the fruit give this granita a nice density, where the flavors linger a bit longer in your mouth before melting into a refreshing coolness.

Strawberry-Kiwi Granita

1 kilo fresh strawberries, hulled
4 pieces fresh kiwi, peeled and quartered
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
juice from 1 lime

for the sugar syrup:
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
zest from 1 lime

In a large bowl, mix the strawberries and kiwi with 6 tablespoons of sugar. Let stand, covered, for 1 hour.

In the meantime, make the sugar syrup by combining water, sugar and lime zest in a pot. Stir and cook until just boiling. Remove from heat and cool completely. Pass through a strainer to remove lime zest. Set aside.

Pour strawberry-kiwi mixture into a blender and blend until smooth. Strain to remove most of the tiny seeds, and pour into a freezable container. Add cooled sugar syrup and lime juice and mix well. Cover and freeze for about 3 hours.

After 3 hours, take the container from the freezer. You'll find the granita beginning to freeze on the sides. Scrape this and stir through the mixture. Return granita to the freezer and leave to set for another 8-12 hours, depending on your freezer capacity.

When the granita is thoroughly frozen, take a fork and scrape through the mixture to create the slivers of slushy ice characteristic of a granita. Scoop and serve in a chilled glass.