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Bitter gourd salad – raw and refreshing!

 

 

BITTERGOURD. Think of this vegetable and the first thought that comes to mind is its bitterness. Bitter gourd is believed to have many nutritive and medicinal values and great for detoxing. I have known that by consuming the bitter gourd juice regularly one can alleviate diabetes. Not sure about this. If any one have done this and have had improvement, kindly let me know.

 

There are a few types of bitter gourd.   Normally I use 2 types depending on what I want to use it for.  I have a daughter

who from a very young age loves bitter gourd, surprising me too as I am not fond of this vegetable.  I usually slice them very thinly and bake as chips for her to munch.   My whole family loves bitter gourd done this way.   I have grown to love this vegetable now.  So I am dedicating this dish/salad to my daughter who simply loves this vegetable!

 

About 1 year ago, I learnt from my cousin of another way of using up bitter gourd and it was a delight to eat, I was very surprised because she did not cook it. She made it into a salad. Guess what! This is a raw bitter gourd salad with the end result so refreshing and not at all bitter.

I have some bitter gourd plants at home so whenever there is one ready to be plucked, this salad will be made. It is that simple to make too.

This salad is a fabulous accompaniment to fish or any curry dish. It is enjoyable as an appetizer too.

If you panfry a fish or bake it, you can have this bitter gourd salad as a side dish as well.

So get going with a raw vegetable that is surprisingly not bitter as the name says!

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GRANOLA

 

 Breakfast ideas

When I was a little girl, while living in a kampong, the Bread Man comes in a bicycle laden with bread on a huge box. When he opens the box, one side of it will become his cutting board.

He will take out loaves of French bread and long loaves of brown and white bread.

The brown bread apparently is not made from whole-wheat flour, which I had thought previously, but it gets the colour due to the use of brown sugar.

Normally one can buy slices of bread spread with one side margarine and the other side kaya. (Egg jam)

He also has a huge tin with red coloured jam, which is basically a mixed fruit jam.

There were times when we buy the bread and the spreads separately and he would place a dollop of each in pieces of a square tracing paper (now it is the Baking paper) and scrunches to make a small parcel, this is considered take-away, I wonder how many readers of my blog can reminisce this!

Another popular local breakfast item is the pancakes with peanuts, known as the banh chang kueh. The fun is watching him doing it. It is just like “Performance.” We the little ones will make OOHs and WAHs sounds while watching him.   Now this peanut pancakes are available at most places at all times. This clearly declares that this is not just a breakfast item anymore.

I have evolved from my childhood days and now my breakfast is so important that I include a combination of protein, carbohydrates and fruits to have proper nutrition, as this is the first meal of the day.

So much goodness is said about oats so I have made it the main ingredient for this recipe.

Granola is a boon for people in a hurry as it is ideal to eat on the go. If you have time, you can add milk and eat it like cereal as part of a breakfast meal or it can be eaten as a cereal bar if you woke up late and don’t want to miss breakfast.

A great breakfast for anyone, which provides some health, benefits which also tastes so delicious. So lets to go to the kitchen to make this easy breakie!

My friends usually snack on it when they come over to my place! I do too while watching TV! Its like eating peanuts – just can’t stop!

Raw Almonds, pecans, cashews and walnuts

 

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CHOCOLATE PUDDING

 

The majority of us love chocolate. Chocolate to me is a symbol of love and care. I give chocolates whenever I visit someone or for that matter anyone. There was a time when I carried bars of chocolate in my handbag just to give to children. People around me love chocolate and there is always chocolate in my home. I am also adventurous when shopping for chocolates. I love dark chocolate and pure choc nibs. Of course it is bitter but you eat little at a time. I have eaten various types of chocolates from various countries; recently I tried some from Nicaragua and Belize. They were good!

                                                          Chocolate buttons with different flavours

Chocolate had been my go to support whenever I was low and I tend to overeat it.

There have been occasions when I have completed 1 whole bar of 200g chocolate and I have also gobbled 1 full tin of chocolates at one go. Just can’t imagine how did I do that!!

But that’s the past and I have become sober now but nevertheless I do love a nice cup of hot cocoa or hot chocolate – somehow reminds me of my childhood days. I guess I have to blame my Mum for it. She madly loved chocolates and drank hot cocoa or chocolate quite often. I love the way she did my hot cocoa but really I don’t know her method. I learnt to do it by reading from various books and came up with my own recipe. Watch this blog – I will reveal the secret of making a hot cup of steaming rich cocoa!

But now I want to share another chocolate recipe, which is a chocolate pudding. This is one pudding that my mum had made. I wished I had her recipe but nevertheless my recipe is so chocolateee and delicious!

It is easy to make, a recipe for chocoholics, and can be dressed up to serve to guests.

Pure moulded chocolates

You may also serve the warm pudding as chocolate dips for fruits and biscuits or bread sticks.

I have made this pudding several times but each time I made different toppings to depict the occasion. For example for a child’s birthday party I put a dollop of homemade ice cream in a pudding cup for each child to enjoy!

I taught this recipe to my residents at a community club in my monthly baking class lesson and I topped with crunchy maple cornflakes and pecan nuts.

So experiment and enjoy this wonderful pudding.   Love to hear from you of course. If you have other combinations kindly feel free to comment. You are so welcome!

REN’S CHOCOLATE PUDDING

INGREDIENTS

1 cup sugar

3 tbsp cocoa powder (pl use good quality)

100 g dark chocolate – melted

½ cup corn flour

½ tsp salt

6 cups milk

4 tbsp butter

2 tsp vanilla extract

For topping, use any of the following:

Strawberries/nuts/granola/cranberries

Chocolate pudding served in cups

METHOD

Sieve all dry ingredients.

Blend the corn flour in 1 cup of milk. Keep aside.

In a pot, stir together cocoa powder, sugar. Stir in remaining milk. Add the salt.

Once heated, pour in slowly the corn flour mixture and continue stirring constantly till mixture is thickened.

Remove from heat. Add in the melted chocolate, butter and vanilla extract. Sieve this mixture.

Serve in individual small glasses or in a large bowl to be the centerpiece in a dinner table.

Top with nuts, granola or cranberries or fresh fruits such as strawberries as preferred.

Chill in the fridge if serving cold.

Notes:

You may substitute cocoa powder totally with your preferred dark chocolate.

This pudding can be served warm or cold.

You may reduce the sugar or use other types of sugar such as raw or brown sugar.

You need to thoroughly mix quickly when pouring the corn flour mixture. Use a whisk for easy stirring.

You may add brandy or rum instead of vanilla extract if serving to adults only.

I have used treacle rum and it was fabulous.

You may substitute other flavorings instead of vanilla extract but make sure it is a compatible flavour to chocolate, e.g. banana and chocolate or raspberry and chocolate or caramel and chocolate etc

Keep all the ingredients and utensils ready. The mixture will thicken quite quickly especially when you remove from the stove to sieve the mixture. You need to work fast here.

If it thickens, put back on the stove and add a little milk and whisk it quickly.

It is a great pudding for children’s parties and to anyone who loves chocolate

 

Work tools all moulded in chocolate at a private chocolatier in Genoa, Italy

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Devilled Curry Prawns

 

This is an interesting recipe from a friend, Mr. Viki who is a well known poet and hails from Sri Lanka.

He is known to be a great cook and I have eaten some of his creations such as his cutlets both fish as well as vegetarian, they were excellent. He brought it when we went for a retreat so it was like fabulous picnic food.

On another occasion, when we wanted to celebrate a mutual friend’s birthday, we threw a potluck party and this is the dish that he had cooked and brought. It was soo good!

I asked him to share his recipe and this is it!

His recipe seems to have many ingredients but I can tell you it is worth the effort of cooking this dish. I have done the dish with little changes and it came out fantastic. It is a good party dish and goes so well with wine as a starter.

For most of us a steaming plate of rice is enough accompaniment. But if you remove the shells of the prawns, or reduce the chilies then it can be rolled into breads etc. I had some leftovers, which I spread on pizza dough and baked quickly. Oh my goodness – so delicious!

The dish is very spicy with plenty of chilies and fresh peppers and I loved it with just wine alone.  The recipe given here is exactly as Mr. Viki had given me.

Thank you Viki for a wonderful recipe. Wish to learn from you more!  My dear friends – make this dish and taste for yourself the superb flavors in this delicious prawn dish.

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CHEESY BRINJAL BAKE

 

Vegetables always have great nutritional values and we are told to eat vegetables on a daily basis to receive as much nutritive values.

Many a times while discussing about food, my friends have always complained about how difficult it is to get their children to eat vegetables. I am so very glad that my daughters love all the vegetables whatever the colour. Very surprisingly, I personally do not like broccoli except if it is made into a blended soup. My girls will make fun of me about this whenever I cook broccoli!

Brinjal is one  vegetable that my family loves. I love Malay style brinjal berlado the best or in Indian style chutneys which goes so well with briyanis.

I love to bake vegetables as often as possible with different herbs and possibilities and one such dish is this brinjal bake.

It looks very presentable, simple to do, no need to fuss in the kitchen type of recipe.

It is a side dish for pasta or a meat dish and sometimes it can be the main dish as well if you are a vegetarian.

You can experiment with the different cheeses that you like or keep to the safe ones that you normally use.

Use different types of brinjals, as each is a little different from each other in flavour and taste. The lighter green and purple ones are less bitter though.

For this recipe use the big dark purple eggplant as they are large and easy to cut into even large slices.

Lets enjoy vegetables!

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BLUE MARBLE BUTTER CAKE

Blue Birthday Marble Cake

 

I have done many birthday cakes as well as cakes to befit different occasions so far.

Previously when I started to make cakes on a regular basis, I did not write down or took pictures of my cakes. In the last 3 years I have started to write and take pictures at the same time for the sake of my family, friends and readers of my blog.

When I was a teenager, one of the best cakes that I have eaten was from a hotel at Orchard Road. It was for my nephew’s first birthday which was shaped as a Concord plane. It looked so real that my father wanted to pick it up and give it to my nephew to play. When the cake was being cut, my father’s finger prints were at the sides of the cake which was the body of the plane. A cake that I would have loved to replicate of course but which I never did.

I have never spent alot for my childrens’ birthdays because I always thought it was a waste of effort and money as very very young children may not know what the fuss is about.

But I agree that any occasion to bring the family and extended family and even friends is reason enough to celebrate an occasion.

I remember doing simple birthday parties for my 2 daughters when they were in kindergarten and primary schools. Yes there will be cake and food and games in my house. And because they are a little older than babies or toddlers, they are able to see the cakes and enjoy them as well. One of my favourite cake was the Humpty Dumpty Cake. I used an empty eggshell for the face of Humpty and drew his face and let him sit on a brick wall cake. These are just memories because as I said earlier no photos were taken.

But now I take pictures and write down everything about the cake so as to improve or to bake the cake again when it turns out so delicious.

One such cake is this Blue Birthday Marble Cake made specially for a senior friend of mine who loves the colour, Blue! She does not like sponge cakes or chocolate cakes and definitely not too much frosting!  So I did a marble butter cake frosted  with fresh blue whipped cream icing and blue m&m chocolate buttons.

 

 

The cake was so tasty that it finished even though we had taken a full sumptious dinner earlier!

Anyone can make this cake – I have made this cake umpteen times just for the deliciousness and each time I had received many accolades. Simple and tasty and can be decorated elegantly to suit any occasion.

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COFFEE TALK

COFFEE TALK

Singapore coffee festival is an event for all coffee lovers and more. I went to this year’s coffee fest held at the Marina Bay Cruise Centre  and was greeted with beautiful quotes along the way. Enticing me of course!

 

 

The first stop that caught my eye was organic coffee!. Had to try. Drank 2 cups of Peruvian coffee. Loved it. Especially the coffee named fiesta. My must buy to bring home!

I was looking around for breakfast but there was nothing much.  While looking for a bite I was intrigued by 3 vendors, selling pie tee buah kluak, chilli crab croissant  and vegan burger made totally with soya. Wasn’t keen on soya and chilli crab croissant was more like lunch so settled for the pie tee. Good choice, spicy with generous filling of chicken and buah kluak paste. It was definitely a ‘wow’. Should have reduced the salt though.

Pie tee full of buah kluak flavor!

 

Headed down to learn to make flat white which is what I normally order when I am in a cafe.

So it is 30% expresso with 60% steamed milk and 10% milk froth.   So I can do it at home for my daily caffeine fix..

I had always liked and have followed Sumiko Tan’s writings in the Sunday times for many years, so participated in Coffee with the columnists with Sr writer, Mr WongKH together with another best known columnist Ignatius Low in the forum.  Realized that they write their hearts out and not something they were told to write on. Great! Mr Ignatius Low was honest so will follow his column too.

 

This drink caught my eye at the wharf area.   But I loved the bottle more than the lychee tea that was inside it!

Walked around several vendors, surprised that Shiseido is not only a cosmetic house but a cafe as well. They had collagen drinks and cheese cake – couldn’t control my amusement..  They were promoting their skin care range at the same time.  Yes good idea!

I had time to listen to a talk on flat lay photography who is a blogger himself.    Delivery could have been better.

Some ST staff at the entrance of the activity corner  at the flat lay photography were not very helpful.  Maybe the organizers could do it better next time.

Nevertheless there was more than just coffee, there was wine, books, magazines, coffee in ice cream, and many cafes showing off their wares.  There were interesting forums, talks, learning to brew coffee, tasting like an expert and home roasting demonstrations. Of course there were chocolates and those from Nicaragua and Belize were worth a try.

Loved the ambience and the space to move around.   Happy to note recycling was a part of the festival to save the earth.  Great Move!  The crowd was basically young, from 20s to 40s, very hip and adventurous!

Yes I will join again next year.

AVOCADO SHAKE

AVOCADO SHAKE

 

The first time I had avocado was in Jakarta many years ago. I had gone on a 7 day cruise in Leisure World (Now this ship is no more) with a friend, Ms Mandy and she introduced the avocado as a miracle fruit. And this fruit was made into a shake which can be found in many cafes. street corners as well as restaurants in Jakarta. Her favourite way of saying something so shiok is “Shokudu”   Sometimes I  use this word when something is so out of this world in taste.

Yes I agree with her so much that this avocado shake is so shokudu in taste especially when gula Melaka (palm sugar) is added.

Back in Singapore then, hardly  could I find avocado except in specialty fruit shops and later the avocado shake was in the menu in Sanur Indonesian restaurant at Centrepoint, Orchard Road, Singapore. They used to make a fantastic avocado shake. Now somehow this drink has been so commercialized and I guess the ingredients are not authentic.

Now practically all kinds of fruit is available all year round due to imports from various countries.   We are very lucky too because I have seen the prices are sometimes much lower than the countries they have been imported from – could be due to economies of scale.

Avocado itself is so versatile. It grows in many countries. The common ones we find here are from South America, USA, Australia , Vietnam, and Indonesia. I have tried Sri Lankan varieties. They are much smaller but the Thai and Vietnamese variety tend to be the size of our palm. In Asian countries it is known as butter fruit. This is quite a suitable name because you can substitute mashed avocado for butter in your toast. Sometimes I sprinkle demerara sugar on my toast or even spread honey with it.  Because of its bland taste and the creaminess, butter can be substituted with avocado puree in cakes. I have tried some cakes and it did turn out well. So you can eat more cake as it contains no butter which is all fat. No need to feel guilty after eating cake!  I have done pancakes and waffles with avocado.  Do find time to check them out  in my blog.  Extremely delicious.

In my home, avocados sit on my fruit basket. Used daily for breakfast, shake and many times in salads.  I also make a Mexican dip known as guacomole.

As in most fruits, avocados ripen best off the tree. But here in Singapore I haven’t seen that so you’ll find that a lot of them are unripe when you shop. Choose avocados that feel heavy. The skin should be dark, with a hint of green, and taut, with no dents.

If a little ripe, when you hold an avocado, it will give a little give.

If avocados at the market are green and unripe, you can ripen them at home. Put them in a brown paper bag out of direct sunlight. Within three days they’ll be ripe and ready to eat. Press the skin gently. It will be tender but not too soft.

 

As for the shake you may put all the ingredients and blend and pour it into a glass, or if you want restaurant style, then the ingredients can be layered to make it so inviting. Of course you can stir and not stir too much to avoid too much of a certain ingredient.

Some may not like too much sweetness or too much coconut cream. And this can be decided if the shake is layered accordingly. For me I prefer to mix all and drink it chilled or slurp it slowly so as to maximize the joy of tasting my favourite fruit shake.

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Sambal Belachan – So shiok!

Some years ago, I went to Janda Baik in Malaysia for a course on Awareness Before Change 

It was my Company that encouraged me to go for it. To go for this course was one of the best  decisions that I made – I should say. It changed my life, the way I think and what to do if I ever need to get what I want. I am not saying need. It is What I want!. I didn’t practise what I learnt because I don’t have any wants in life. If I had been the go getter probably I would be a multi millionaires now!

No! I was more intrigued by the lifestyle of the trainers, the Colonel and his beautiful petite wife and who they have become to be.

At Janda Baik, at lunch time, our long wooden table always carried a cane basket full of this winged beans which were plucked  from the garden or maybe from the jungle nearby.

I was not going to eat vegetables that were not cooked especially vegetables that I am not familiar with. But I was coersed by the Cooks that I should try as it is very good for health.  Decided to give a try and it was indeed very refreshing.  I was hooked!

Back in Singapore – I couldn’t find it for a long time. I wanted my girls to eat this vegetable because they enjoy raw food. And I got a friend to buy it at a local market. (now I can get it at the Kranji farm which has this organic vegetable and other varieties too). But to eat this raw one needs a sambal to go with it.

I notice most of our various cultures have some form of sambals/dips in the diet. Indians have their chutneys, pickles, Italians their various olive oil dips, Thais have their nam prik, nam pla and many more.

But I love a mean sambal belachan which can be eaten with raw vegetables, or stir fried or as an accompaniment to rice.

As a child in my grandma’s place in Bukit Timah, I have seen my Malay neighbours eating together as a group using one huge tray of food. They sit on the floor in a circle around the tray and enjoy their rice with boiled vegetables, sambal belachan and fried fish. It is a sight to behold. I remember allowing them into my grandma’s garden to pluck sweet potato leaves and tapioca and some other vegetables on a regular basis.

My grandma was a giver of food, just like my mum. I remember that almost daily, some people will come and ask for permission to pluck fruits and vegetables. We had plenty to eat and to give away too.

I remember too, when I was married and had my own place, there were just too many ladies fingers and brinjals in my backyard that I gave away daily. Sometimes I pack it and give to whoever I meet when I go for a walk or when I wanted to fetch my girls from school.

Somehow this habit of giving food has been instilled in me that I tend to cook more than necessary so that I can pack the leftovers for my guests to bring home too.

Now when I am teaching baking or cooking at my Potong Pasir Community Club, I also tend to cook extra and my student residents are just too happy to have more. And I do this teaching voluntarily too.   I remember my WEC Chairman, Ms Jenny Yong, telling me once when I initially started to teach about 5 ½ years ago, that we want happy residents.  I totally agree with her.

This joy of seeing others happy is just too great. Money definitely cannot buy that, right? (more…)