Easter 2012

The Darling Harbour Easter Long Weekend Hoopla Festival is on again! Owl and I had a blast there last year and wish we could attend it this year but alas, we are going away. I hear there will be an Easter parade in the Sydney CBD too!

from the Nova website: B&J ManlyOn a totally unrelated note, how awesome was Ben & Jerry’s Free Scoop Day! The Clusterfluff was the. absolute. bomb. Peanut butter ice cream with caramel chunks and marshmallow swirl? Yes please! Owl and I went back for seconds and between us also got the New York Fudge, Triple Caramel Chunk and Chocolate Therapy hehe. We also managed to steal some coffee flavoured ice cream from another comrade. They were also handing out taste testers of a banana split flavour and a lamington flavour which I thought were kind of random but then it turns out that they were flavours made up by Fitzy and Wippa from Nova.

There is also a really cute video of wildcats going nutzors over some Easter eggs at the Big Cat Rescue site; and since I’m on a roll, here is a recipe for easter bunny cake pops from the creator herself. You could just make hot cross bun ones – less work lol!

Have a great Easter, guys! Stay safe.  🙂

Oat Pancakes

The fruits make it healthy.. ahem.
The fruits make it healthy.. ahem.

Besides instilling in me a love for bacon, teaching me about poutine and other such useful things as how to pronounce ‘couch’ authentically, Caleb-the-Canadian taught me a simple pancake recipe which I have since not found cause to find another. It goes as such:

1 cup of flour
1 cup of milk
1 egg
1 pinch of salt

I forget which flour to use so I always use self-raising (it’s my just-in-case flour).

One beautiful morning, I decided that we needed some pancakes for breakfast. And not just any pancakes but oatmeal pancakes! I whipped up Caleb’s foolproof recipe, replacing half a cup of flour with half a cup of quick oats.

Make a well in the middle of the sifted flour, pour in the wet ingredients and mix in the flour a little bit at a time from the crumbling flour walls. This is to ensure you get a smooth batter. A few quick mixes after full incorporation and you’re ready to pour it in lots onto the buttered pan. I always re-butter the pan between each pancake otherwise the subsequent pancakes don’t get a crisp golden-brown exterior. Keep the heat on medium and flip the pancake when bubbles start to pop on the surface.

Voila! Stacks of comfort dripping with liquid love.  Happy New Year, guys!  🙂

NB. I actually find the original recipe 1 pancake too much for 2 people so I tend to reduce the flour and milk a bit with no negative effects.

Shepherd’s Meat Pie

I love the slow cooker Owl’s mum gave us last Christmas. With such horrible weather this week, I decided to make some pie. We don’t have a lot of time to cook so we tend to do a big cook once a week and eat it for about 5 days or so. Since puff pastry does not keep well, I used mash for the topping instead. Think of this as a hybrid meat and Shepherd’s pie.

Cheesy crust
Mmm cheesy crust take me home!

I tend to eye my measurements as supposed to actually measuring them so take the following metrics with a grain of salt  😛

Pie Innards
1 kg chuck steak
1 Tbs Soya Sauce (Kikkoman ftw. If using a chinese brand, add a bit more)
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs chinese rice wine
1.5 Tbs tomato paste
4-5 carrots
6 cloves garlic
1 cup frozen peas
2 ‘petals’ of star anise
2 dried sage leaves
1 beef stock cube
Pinch of dried chilli flakes
Half cup of water

I had about a Tbs of dried porcini mushroom lying around so I snipped it up and threw it in. Then I found some unfinished coke which also went in (~ quarter cup).

Chuck everything into the slow cooker, set it on low and then go to bed (or work).After about 8 hours, set to high and thicken with cornstarch (2-3 Tbs, mix with cold water until dissolved, pour into innards and mix thoroughly. Sauce will thicken gradually as the cornstarch cooks).

Innards
Pie Innards

Pie Hat
800g potatoes (I used washed. Don’t use waxy potatoes like Desiree or Kipfler)

 Start with room temperature water. Boil until soft then mash with milk to a smooth consistency (practise your eyeing method, lol). Place mash on Pie Innards, make pretty patterns with your fork, sprinkle on some cheese and bake it at 200°C until golden brown (~20min).

Pie is for the week
A week's worth of pie!

The innards will taste saltish until you add the mash then its just right. Makes about 8 serves.

Chinese Herbal Soup – Strength/Blood Tonic

I have been feeling run down and tired lately so I decided to make some herbal soup in our newly acquired crockpot to help replenish vigour and promote blood/haemoglobin production.

Herbs:

Astralagus – Huang Qi
Codonopsis (Dange Shen) or Ginseng
Dioscorea – Shan Yao
Polygonatum/Solomon’s Seal – Huang Jing
Red Dates/Jujubes – Da Zao
Lotus Seed
Longan (dried or fresh; remove pip)
Black Fungus/Cloud Ear Fungus
Dried goji berries/wolfberries

 

Herbs
Amount of herbs I used. From top left clockwise: Solomon's Seal, Astralagus, Diascorea, Liquorice Root, Goji Berries, Dried Longans, Black Fungus, Lotus Seeds and Red Dates.

4 whole cloves of garlic
About a 3cm knob of ginger – peeled and sliced

Other Ingredients:

1 whole small chicken (skin peeled off)
½ head of celery – chopped
5 carrots (depends on the size – they’ve been pretty small at Coles lately) – chopped

Method:

  1. Place the whole chicken in a large pot, fill with cold/tepid water and bring to a boil.
  2. After boiling for about 10-15 mins, chuck away the water and wash the chicken under cold water. This is to remove as much fat/oil from the chicken as possible. You can peel the chicken skin at this step as well if you haven’t peeled it before boiling.
  3. Place chicken in the crockpot with all the herbs, fill with hot water and bring to a boil. After that, bring it down to a simmer and let it simmer for as long as you like. I’ve heard 5 hours is a good amount of time.
  4. In the last hour or so of your self appointed simmering time, add the carrots and celery and bring to a boil.

 

Soup!
Soup! After 1 week it made my toenails pink 🙂

Tips:

  1. Important: do NOT boil/simmer the herbs in a metal pot. Only use ceramic or clay as the metal will react with some herbs. You can parboil the chicken in a metal pot, but not Step 3 onwards.
  2. You can use chicken pieces if peeling is not your thing. Chicken bones make the stock tastier but not necessary.
  3. Drink the soup as soon as possible for maximum benefit. Everything can be eaten except for the Astralagus as it is too fibrousy.
  4. Keep the lid on when boiling/simmering to retain certain medicinal properties.
  5. Black chicken is less fatty than normal chicken so that is preferable. I saw it for AUD$15/kg at the butcher’s in Market City, Chinatown and decided that the AUD$5/kg Coles variety is good enough for me  :p
  6. Make sure you heat the soup thoroughly post refrigeration to prevent salmonellosis. The entire portion of soup must reach a minimum of 60°C for 60 seconds to ensure safe consumption.

I’m sorry I haven’t posted quantities of herbs as this is my first time and I suppose its trial and error to find a good combination. I like herby soups having grown up with Bah Ku Teh so stronger is better for me, but other people might prefer it to be subtle so it is really up to you. Generally you can’t really taste the herbs since the soup is quite sweet and tasty.

Medicinal properties of the herbs will be posted separately since I hate long posts (don’t you?  :p ).

Enjoy!

Egbert for breakfast

Valentine’s Day and I’ve got the day off so I decided to make Owl some special eggs and toast for breakfast.

Owl's Egbert
Owl's Egbert

I can’t remember what these are called and where I first saw them, but I thought they were mighty cute and so versatile as you could technically make any shape with whatever cookie cutters you have. I have dubbed them Egberts because it sounds like egg bread.

Elephant Egbert
Elephant cut-out Egbert

Ingredients:

Brioche (goes better than normal bread)
Butter
Eggs

Method:

  1. Cut a shape out from the middle of a slice of brioche or bread.
  2. Butter both sides and fry one side.
  3. When golden brown, flip it over and crack an egg into the hole. Fry until egg is cooked through, or you may want to leave the yolk runny.
  4. Salt Egbert a little bit for flavour (unless you have bacon then thats salty enough).
  5. Griddle the buttered cut-outs or save them to make crouton shapes!

Talk about eating your heart out lol. Happy Valentines Day!  ♥

Stir fried bean sprouts with salted fish

Ever since we went to our friend’s place for dinner I had been obsessing about stir fried bean sprouts with salted fish. It’s a simple dish and very cheap but sooo delicious. I think the salted fish is what makes me salivate everytime I think about it or smell it.

We were in Chinatown the other day so I decided to make some of this beautiful stuff. I made a massive batch (900g of bean sprouts) because we tend to cook once a week and just eat it for the rest of the week. Also because I was planning of consuming 10 years worth in a sitting that night; which I did since I haven’t had very much in the past 10 years of my life  😛

Ingredients:Taugeh

  • Bean sprouts – 900g  (~AUD$1.80)
  • Salted fish (the vacuum packed ‘wet’ type) – 1/3rd of the packet (~AUD$1.50)
  • Garlic – couple of cloves (~AUD$0.50)
  • Chilli – to your liking (~AUD0.50)
  • Fish Sauce – to taste; depends on how much fish you put in

  1. Heat oil in the wok and fry the salted fish until almost brown and crisp
  2. Chuck in the chopped garlic and chillies. Stir for a bit (don’t allow the garlic to cook too much as burnt garlic is really bitter)
  3. Chuck in the washed bean sprouts and cook until it is wilted. I like mine with a crunch still to it so I don’t cook it very much. You can sort of tell because the bean sprouts go a bit translucent

In the wok

How easy is that! Takes like 10 mins, cost like AUD$4.30 for the whole batch, and fed us for a week with the chicken casserole we made in the slow cooker. And rice of course.

Be forewarned though – frying the salted fish really stinks! Owl almost died, not being from the same kind of background as me.

Our cat, the Empress Dowager, loved it though hehe.

Baking Myth

The biggest myth I’ve found about baking is this:

That all quantities of ingredients used must be measured with agonising precision otherwise the whole thing will be (literally) a flop.

As I’ve experimented over the years, I’ve not only found this myth to be untrue but came to the realisation that it is a relatively new myth.

Consider with me that some of the best recipes come from generations past; and yet when referred to, one finds that these recipes are somewhat imprecise. They use phrases such as “a pinch of salt”, “a smidgen of flour” and “a drop of vanilla essence”. A new baker of my generation would be pulling their hair out at such ambiguous terms. Doesn’t it strike you as rather funny that it is only in this digital age that we’ve become such anal bakers?

This is to bring a word of comfort to you and dispel the aforementioned myth. I have found that the most important thing when it comes to baking is, in fact, the consistency of the mix.

There are several consistencies you need to become familiar with. The main three are the cakes, the cookies and the ‘sticky stuff’ like puddings and brownies. Within each category, you need to become familiar with how certain ingredients or procedures can affect the final mix. For example, creaming butter and sugar using a hand mixer will produce a drier and stiffer cake mix than creaming it by hand. They both still turn out fine and, in fact, it will probably not do for the former mix to be watered down to the latter consistency.

If you are a new baker, you should follow recipes as much as possible so you can familiarise yourself with the texture/consistency. This will also help you gauge in the future which ingredients are necessary for certain mixes as well as the relative quantities required. Once you are comfortable with baking, you will find that there is actually quite a large margin of error allowed before disaster strikes.

If you would like me to expound further on this topic, please do leave a comment or email and I will be most happy to put a more detailed post up.

If you are a more advanced baker, trust yourself and test out the ‘Consistency Theory’ using leftover buttercream. In my kitchen, they become all manners of delicious one-of-a-kind cookies (because they can’t be reproduced for lack of records).

One last word of advice is this: It is always better to underuse the sugar rather than overuse it because it is easier to ice/frost your goods to make it sweeter, than to compensate for a hyperactively sweet dessert.

Consistency matters. You heard it here first. 😉

– ant –