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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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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…)

AVOCADO WAFFLES - A BREAKFAST TREAT

Avocado Waffles

BREAKFAST. We need breakfast daily. Not simply bread and toast all the time, or our favorite local prata, nasi lemak, chee cheong fun, etc. Once in a while make it special and different.

Lately I am experimenting with different types of whole grain and nutritive flours. I did the following breakfast on a Sunday morning which I know my family members will enjoy.

It is so simple once you have your ingredients on hand.

Avocados are always in my house, it is a staple for my daughter who eats it daily with one of her meals at least.

I told her I will make avocado pancakes the night before, but decided to do waffles instead.

At first I thought the buckwheat flour will not marry with the avocado well but I tell you, it happened to be a good combination. If you like buckwheat and avocado then please go ahead and make it because it gives a satisfying and fulfilling breakfast without the feeling of “Oh dear too much of a flour meal first thing in the morning”

The waffles were perfectly cooked, crisp on the outside and soft inside.

I gather this can be an all day breakfast meal if you include a piece of roast chicken or ham etc. Include a green salad and it becomes lunch or dinner.

That’s what I did with leftover batter. So enjoy a different kind of meal for a change, albeit a nutritious clean meal!

 

Avocado waffles

INGREDIENTS

1 cup self raising flour

1 cup buckwheat flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

2 cups milk

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

2 avocados

 

METHOD

Put all the ingredients into a blender and blend to a batter . It is alright to have some lumpy avocado.

Heat a waffle iron, brush with butter.

Pour half a cup of batter into the waffle iron and cook till desired crispness or softness is reached.

Serve with maple syrup, strawberries or blueberries and sunny side eggs.

Notes:

You may replace oil with any other preferred oil or melted butter.

You may use half cup self raising flour and 1 ½ cups buckwheat flour.

As this is not a cake recipe, you don’t need to be exact in the measurements.

Please reduce the salt if desired.

Use ripe avocadoes if possible and if you use another 1 more avocado, you don’t need the eggs.

You can make pancakes if you do not have a waffle iron. Add half a cup of water to dilute the batter if necessary.

 

PINEAPPLE TARTS TASTES DIVINE

 

Pineapple tarts have been a firm favourite since I had helped my mum making it as a little girl. I remember rolling the pineapple jam into small marble sizes and placing them on a tray.

My mum is the person who had made such great tarts that many of her friends would come over just to get a tin. My mother never sold any food to anyone, she always gives them.   And which I do follow till today. The satisfaction of seeing someone’s joy is just immense.

And I love pineapple tarts so much that I must share this incident that may leave you dumbfounded.  It is  a true incident.

You should know if you read about me  in my home page, that my mum passed away when I was barely 18 years old.

I got married at age 23.   I was in the family way at age 27.

And guess what, I craved for my mum’s pineapple tarts, but how?

I had a dream that night, my mum who was dressed so regally knocked on my door and was holding a huge tin of pineapple tarts. I remember the tin so well – it was a 2 kg EveryDay milk powder tin.

She told me this “this is just for you, enjoy it”.

I took the tin and started eating and devouring the pineapple tarts one by one. I was so satisfied. And thanked her profusely. She smiled and went away.

When I woke up that morning, I could sense the taste of pineapple tarts in my mouth and throat.   You will understand this when you eat one too many.   I was so shocked and do you know, it was the best and till today I don’t crave it that much even though it is my favourite festive treat.

 

 

Now to the main tart itself, I have done many variations of this tart but yet to perfect the one that my mum made. She didn’t leave a recipe. So it has always been a trial and each time doing the tarts slightly differently. Yes I did have many successes along the way, and as always never wrote the recipe down. One day, my younger daughter who also loves these tarts told me that she is going to tape me while I am doing it. Which she did. That is the recipe that I have been using to make tarts for her.

As she lives in London, whenever she comes to visit me or when someone goes to London, I will pass 2 jars of pineapple tarts, one for her and another for my best friend’s daughter, Mary Laura who loves these tarts too. Mary Laura has told that my tarts are the best.

Me being always on the look out for a pineapple tart recipe, came to read about pineapple tarts in the Straits Times quite  recently and so decided to have a go with this recipe. I found the dough  very difficult to handle as it had too much butter to flour ratio. But the taste was good.

 

Today’s recipe is the adaptation from the article in the Straits times  with some modifications and  it turned out so well. You will not be disappointed with this recipe of course. So those friends of mine who have requested for the recipe, here it is. Enjoy making it and eating it too.

Both the jam and the pastry are important elements.

But to save time, you may buy the jam from reputed stores. There are some good ones, for today’s recipe I bought the premium jam and I did some modifications to suit my taste.

For the pastry, it depends on your preference, some like it crumbly, some like it crisp and soft, and some like it meltingly smooth.

The pastry that I have in this recipe is slightly crisp on the outside and soft in the inside. If you bake it a little longer maybe another 5 minutes more, it will be crisp crumbly.

My personal preference is a pastry which is crisp on the outside and soft inside, which melts in your mouth but at the same time very flavourful.

 

Pineapple tarts

INGREDIENTS

210 gm plain flour

20 gm cornflour

30 gm icing sugar

¼ tsp salt

140 gm unsalted butter – must be direct from fridge and cubed

2 egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla extract

I to 2 tbsp ice water if necessary.

Pineapple jam as required

METHOD for Dough

In a food processor, add all the ingredients except the ice water.

Pulse it or use low speed to get the dough together. If it does not form a ball of dough, add 1 tbsp of ice cold water. Repeat if necessary to form a nice soft dough.

Keep aside in the fridge for 15 mins to 30 mins.

Or you may roll the dough to about 0.6 cm if it is not too soft to handle and proceed to use the tart mold to cut into shapes and fill with the jam.

Bake in a preheated oven at 175C for 15 mins or to your preferred pastry texture. Not more than 20 mins or your jam will become too hard.  This happens if you use store bought jam.

Remove the baked tarts to a rack to cool.

Once cooled, store in an airight jar.

This recipe makes about 40 tarts.

INGREDIENTS for Pineapple Jam

300 gm store bought premium jam

1 tsp of cinnamon powder or less

1 tbsp soft brown sugar

1/2 cup to ¾ cup hot water

5 cloves

METHOD

Put all ingredients except the water in a pan to heat through till well combined. Add the water if it is too thick and  combine until you have the right ball forming consistency. If you like the taste, remove to cool and roll into 6 gm balls. Place in a tray and keep aside to be placed in each tart shell before baking.

 

Notes:

If the jam is too tangy, add soft brown sugar, a pinch of salt to counterbalance the taste.   This is only necessary if you are using store bought pineapple jam.

Alternatively you can prepare the jam by using fresh ripe pineapples. OR you can use canned pineapples.   Reduce the sugar as the canned pineapples are already very sweet, Coarsely pulse the pineapples ,add lime juice and salt , 1 tbsp of butter, cinnamon stick and cloves, cook it till it is jammy and cool to use it. Do it a few days earlier.

 

For this recipe, I took 8 gm of dough each which I rolled into a ball. Pressed my thumb into the centre and while holding, pinched it with the pinch maker all around  with my other hand.

I finished the whole process and placed them in a baking tray.

Then I placed 1 ball of pineapple jam, 6 gm each. Slowly patted the jam onto the tart base.

To make it pretty, I crinkle cut strips of thin dough or just roll strips and put a cross on each.

And some I used a mini star mould to cut the shape of a star to decorate each tart.

You may leave it out if it is too much work but then I love to do them.

For the dough, you may reduce the icing sugar or leave it out completely  if your jam is sweet enough.

It is very important to have everything cold, including the flour, butter, eggs etc.

The pastry is a short one, so it has to be cold.

SHORTBREAD BARS

 

These are english shortbread, a type of rich cookie or biscuit as it is called in asian countries.  In my early days as a child, I remember eating these cookies but it is also called butter biscuits because of the vast amount of butter used.  My mum used to do beautiful biscuits just for us kids which were  very yummy and which melted in the mouth.

Of course it was very expensive then to buy them which comes in colored round and oblong tins.  I used to reuse the tins for keeping knick knacks. These are very good too.  It is still available at very good shops.  I do buy them as gifts if I don’t have time  to prepare them myself.  But most of the time, I will prepare these shortbread bars and beautify them by putting them in beautiful art tins which becomes my signature!  And of course you know that mine is free of any chemicals or preservatives and  definitely more tasty!

So today I would like to share my recipe which I have altered a little to include flavouring and zest.  I have baked many different types of shortbread but this is one of my favorite.  It is a little finicky to do as the dough can become very soft in our hot climate.   But the hard work pays off as you will bite into a crunchy yet soft cookie when baked.  The flavor in this shortbread is just too awesome as I have used orange zest and orange extract.    You may substitute with grapefruit, lemon or just leave it out.

INGREDIENTS

 250 g plain flour

1 tbsp rice flour

220 g butter

80 g fine sugar

1 orange – zest only.

1 tsp orange extract or more if you like the flavor.

coarse sugar for sprinkiling.

METHOD

Preheat oven to 180C

Beat butter till smooth and creamy. Add sugar and continue to beat till fluffy.

Add the orange extract and the orange zest and blend well.

Slowly add in the flours and gently form a dough.

Wrap with cling wrap and chill for about 30 minutes.

Roll dough onto a floured surface to ¼ inch (0.5 cm) thick, cut into 8cm by 2 cm or 3 inch by half inch bars.

Place the shortbread onto a baking sheet.

Sprinkle with coarse sugar if desired. Keep the shortbread in the baking sheet in the fridge for about 20 minutes to chill. Poke a few holes  on the top of the shortbread with a cake tester or a skewer stick if desired.

Take out and bake in a preheated oven  for 10 minutes or till shortbread is very lightly brown.

Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container. Keeps well.

 NOTES

These shortbread keeps very well if stored in an airtight container.

Its a very good gift to bring along for children.

If you can’t find the orange extract, substitute with 2 tsp orange juice.

Handle the dough lightly as it may become soft, or chill well before cutting into bars.

 

ROAST TURKEY – TANTALISING DINNER FEAST

christmas-30

 

Christmas and the  New Year  comes once a year and turkey is also allowed once a year into my house!

Usually we will have a formal sit down dinner. When my daughters were younger I used to put up a Christmas tree and they will decorate it with ornaments and wrap up the presents. Now my girls assist me with some of their favourite dishes. My elder daughter loves pate and makes it excellently. So it will be part of the first course.

Many friends have told me they don’t like turkey because it is dry and tasteless.

So I have decided to give a Christmas/New year  feast menu  and to roast a turkey which is moist and full of flavour.

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TOFU PANIYAARAM – A VILLAGE TREAT

tofu-paniyaaram-2

I tend to cook with whatever I have in my pantry or fridge.  So if friends drop by I will just do a quick snack, and this is one of them.

Tasty, easy and savoury!

If there are some vegetarians in the group, then I omit all meat/egg etc and make it totally vegetarian for all to enjoy.

I vaguely remember my mum making these but she had chopped long beans and some salted whitebaits in her paniyaaram.  Her vegetarian ones had cooked dhall (lentils) and vegetables.

If you are wondering what  paniyaaram is,  this is a tamil word for a food made of small balls of batter either fried or steamed.

Again there are so many versions, variations, sweet and savoury and all equally delicious.

My favourite is the Milk paniyaaram which I ate for the first time in a remote village in South India when I visited India as a tourist some 20 years ago.

The lady villager was so hospitable and refused to let me  go until I ate her milk paniyaaram and drank a cup of Indian coffee. I remember her serving me with a baby on her hips and with a wide smile on her face. This meal has been very  memorable for me, sometimes when I recollect, I think I can taste it again.   It was so so delicious. So it only shows that a  simple dish can be unforgettable till today. I will post her recipe sometime later.
Coming back to the paniyaaram, it is called  thus because you need a paniyaaram pan, it is similar to the Japanese takoyaki pan. Or for Malaysians similar to the older version of the Kueh bahulu pan.  The fried balls will retain a circular shape if using the paniyaaram pan.

takoyoki-pan

Japanese  Takoyoki panpaniyaaram-pan

Indian paniyaaram pan

 

If this pan is unavailable, don’t worry too much, just use any pan that you have which can be used to fry small balls of dough.  Use 2 spoons to form a ball and put it into the hot oil gently to fry.

Enjoy this simple recipe, my dear friends.  Do comment and subscribe so that you can receive all my recipes. (more…)

FRESH GRAPE CAKE – SO FRUITY & LIGHT

 fresh-grapes-cakes-1

 

When we were young we ate fruits as it is.  Now with the import of every kind of fruit to Singapore, we are so lucky to have and eat many different kinds of fruits all year round.

Sometimes there are just plenty of fruits in the house that I came up with recipes using fruits.

This time I experimented with fresh grapes and came up with this moist and delicious cake instead of using dried fruits which was normally done. I converted it to  cupcakes as I had some leftover champagne grapes.  It became one  elegant dessert for an afternoon tea.

Because of its taste and elegance I taught this in my baking class.  Some members tried it at their homes and sent me their pictures.  What more can you ask when your students are successful and so happy with their bakes.  So here is the recipe – do try my simple yet elegant cup cakes and you wont be disappointed of course! (more…)

Roast leg of Lamb with indian spices

roast-leg-of-lamb-2-featured

Lamb is one meat that I love to cook, serve and eat. My family loves it and so do I.  Some friends say there is a peculiar smell even after it is cooked.  To me if lamb is cooked properly it becomes one of the most tastiest meats.

Most roast  lamb dishes do not have much spices but only with seasoning alone. ( most of the English and American roast lamb).  South Indians usually do not cook the whole lamb or roast leg of lamb.  But in north India it is special to cook it this way. There is one special dish called Rogan Josh which is very popular using the whole leg of lamb. I will post this recipe sometime later.

I dont cook lamb regularly even though it is our favourite meat. So when I prepare it, it has to be cooked perfectly so as to enjoy it tremendously.

So today I am doing a simplified roast leg of lamb using indian spices which is different and yet very tasty.

The main ingredient will be the whole leg of lamb.  Get the best meat that you can get from your butcher.

All my lamb dishes are all favourites among my family and friends.  When a potluck party comes along, I always  bring my lamb dish to be enjoyed.

Serve this roast lamb with a large green salad.  I have given step by step instructions on how to roast it perfectly.  Prepare a day ahead so that you can  get a perfect roast the next day! So do give it a try. (more…)