Friday, June 24, 2011


We've had a wave of guests coming through Singapore at the moment. It's a good excuse to revisit the sights, discover little alleys, gorge on the wonderful local food, and shop! I love shopping with my guests. And although I don't buy anything, just the experience of trying those killer heels, testing different scents, carrying a designer bag on my arm, makes for a really enjoyable day. After a successful expedition, we ended the day with a dinner of Curry Prawns (adapted from a Hong Kong magazine clipping called Lisa's World), accompanied by Crab Cakes (adapted from Bon Appetit).

Curry Prawns with Pineapple

500g medium prawns
1 cup pineapple chunks
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1 red onion, minced
1 cup coconut cream
1/2 cup pineapple juice
(from the canned pineapple)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar

Shell and devein prawns (keep the tail end). Wipe dry. Stir in a little salt, cornstarch and pepper. Leave to marinate for 10 minutes, then deep fry in hot oil, remove and drain on paper towels.

Pour out all but 2 tablespoons of oil from the pan. Saute onions and curry powder for about 2 minutes. Pour in pineapple juice, salt and sugar, and stir until well blended.

Add the prawns, coconut cream and cook until sauce has thickened. Add in pineapple chunks, bring to a brief boil, and serve.

Crab Cakes

4 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, minced
1/4 cup cilantro, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, minced
1 can (6 ounces) fresh crabmeat
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon chili sauce (asian)
2 cups crushed Ritz crackers
1 egg

Panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
Canola oil for frying

Melt butter in a frying pan and saute onion and garlic until soft, about 10 minutes, on medium heat. Add bell pepper and saute for another 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in crabmeat, lemon juice, cilantro, Worcestershire and chili sauces. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer to a large bowl and mix in egg and crackers until well blended. Shape into little cakes and lay on a baking sheet. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Place bread crumbs on a shallow dish. Take the crab cakes and gently press each one onto the bread crumbs, on both sides.

Heat the oil in a large skillet and fry cakes until golden brown.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Nice on Rice

Once in a while, my neighborhood Japanese supermarket hosts a rice festival, and I treat the family to a sack of glorious Japanese-grown rice. Because the short grains are slightly sticky but still retaining a little bite and bounce, it's great for absorbing saucy dishes. I made Gyudon, or Japanese Beef on Rice as a topping, and Saucy Eggplant as a side dish. The Gyudon recipe is adapted from a favorite cookbook called Harumi's Japanese Cooking, and the Eggplant dish is from an old Chinese cookbook that I pinched from my Mom's collection. Now this is my idea of comfort food!

(Beef on Rice)

2 medium onions, thinly sliced
6 fresh shitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 cup white wine
1/2 cup water
500g sukiyaki beef (or thinly sliced beef)
3/4 cup soy sauce
3/4 cup mirin
4 tablespoons white sugar
cooked white rice

Pour the wine and water into a saucepan and boil over medium heat. Once it has boiled, lower the heat and add your beef one slice at a time and simmer for about a minute. Skim the surface of the broth for any residue.

Add soy sauce, mirin and sugar. Prepare a piece of aluminum foil in the diameter of the saucepan and let it sit directly on top of the beef mixture. This "drop lid" technique concentrates the flavor of your broth. Simmer for about 5 minutes.

Remove the lid, add the onions and mushrooms, and continue to simmer until soft.

Scoop the freshly cooked rice into your bowl. Spoon the beef, onions and broth onto the rice bowl. Garnish with sesame seeds and spring onions. Serve with japanese pickles, if available.

Saucy Eggplant

500 g eggplant
1 cup oil for frying
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon chinese black vinegar or
Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup water

Peel the eggplant. Cut off both ends and cut the remaining section into 3-inch lengths. Halve lengthwise.

Heat pan and add oil. Deep fry the eggplant pieces in batches for about 2 minutes. Remove and drain. Leave about 2 tablespoons of oil in the pan.

Stir fry garlic until fragrant, then add the eggplant, soy sauce, sugar, salt, vinegar and water. Cook over medium-low heat for about 3 minutes, or until the liquid is nearly evaporated. Garnish with spring onions. Serve immediately.

Monday, June 13, 2011


I usually make a banana bread out of leftover ripe bananas, but I wanted to try something different this time. I found an interesting recipe on originally called Banana Coffee Cake Diamond, which combined bananas with chocolate and coffee. The cake was very moist, and the flavor combination was intriguing. The teenagers loved it. Serve with some whipped cream or your favorite frosting.

Chocolate Banana Coffee Cake

1 1/4 cups cake flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 ver ripe bananas, mashed well
3/4 cup sour cream
125g butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon espresso or strong coffee
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 175 deg C.

I used a silicone baking mold, but if you are using a regular bundt pan, grease and flour it beforehand.

Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix bananas and sour cream.

In another bowl, beat butter, white and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, then coffee and vanilla.

Alternately beat in flour and banana mixture in batches, until well combined.

Pour batter into pan and bake in middle of oven for about 45-50 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool cake in pan for about 10 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack.

Dust with confectioner's sugar, and serve with whipped cream or frosting.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


I have not had many successes in baking, I can probably count the few triumphs on my one hand. I've always loved that wonderful, homey smell of fresh bread baking in the oven, but I never thought I would enjoy that in my own kitchen...until a dear friend (thanks P) showed me how homemade bread can be as simple as apple crumble (the ONE thing I can bake!). This is her recipe. The dough should be prepared the night before baking.

Multi-grain Buns
(makes about 12-15 buns)

500 ml lukewarm water
1 sachet of dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar or honey
1/4 cup lukewarm water
400 g all-purpose flour
200 g whole wheat flour
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 handfuls rolled oats (not quick-cooking or instant)
2 handfuls flax seeds
1 handful pumpkin seeds
(feel free to add raisins, chopped dried fruit if desired)

Pour the sachet of yeast into 1/4 cup lukewarm water, add the sugar and mix well until dissolved. Set aside while you prepare the dough. If active, the yeast will rise.

In a large mixing bowl, add the all-purpose and whole wheat flours, salt, oats, and seeds, and mix well. Pour in 500 ml water and the risen yeast mixture, and mix well in the bowl. The dough should resemble wet porridge (if too dry, add a bit more water to get the right consistency). Leave in the mixing bowl and cover tightly. Leave overnight in the fridge.

The next morning, preheat your oven to 275 deg C.

Use a large soup spoon to scoop out the dough, and form into buns with floured hands. Lay them side by side on a baking tray lined with a silpat mat or baking paper.

Bake for 5 minutes to brown, then lower the heat to 220 deg C, and bake for another 20 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Let cool before separating into individual buns. Store in an airtight container.