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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

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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

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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

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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

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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…)

NUTRITIVE GOODNESS IN A MEAL

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Falafel is all about goodness, made totally of chickpeas or garbanzo beans.

Love it because it is one of the tastiest vegetarian food. It can be a starter or it can be the main meal.

I ate this  many years ago in London for the first time  in one of the Middle Eastern Cafés which are just about everywhere in the London streets.   It was good. It reminded me of  snacks that I ate  as a child but not the “’dressed up’’  kind.

I began to have a liking for such food and I started exploring the making of it as well as eating in places where  middle eastern food is served.    Not that I have tried all but the tastiest was in Amsterdam near a palace.  Really couldn’t remember the name of the restaurant though.

Now coming back to the making – many make the mistake of boiling or steaming the  dried chickpeas.

Absolute NO!  The dried chickpeas needs to be soaked preferably overnight and blended with some ingredients.

Form into canelles or lime sized balls, then just  deep fry, no need for crumbing or egg washing!

I have made it very easy for you to follow my recipe. Easy and yet  not short cutting the taste that comes with it.

Here I am using mini chapatis to wrap  it, but of course you may use any other wraps such as pita bread or soft tacos that are available in the supermarkets now.  Try and you will not be disappointed and you will have an accomplishment of feeding your friends and family a nutritious and tasty meal.

Serve it with Hummus ( a middle- eastern  dip) or simply grated  cucumber with yoghurt – delicious!

falafel 1

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SO VERY REFRESHING…….

Still on Vietnamese food,  this is  another  favourite dish of mine and my family loves it too.  It is wholesome, fresh and so very easy once you prepare the ingredients.

It is a way of eating fresh vegetables in a palatable manner and it is  good for communal eating and sharing .  I like to do this for a party as it can be prepared in advance and not much cooking is required.

Besides it is great for hot summer days as it is so very refreshing.

I taught this dish in my cooking class recently and everyone raved about the simplicity of the fresh ingredients and the delicious sauce that came with it.  It was also deemed to be so easy to do by everyone.  So give it a try, my friends!

This sauce recipe is so very special as it came from a Australian friend  who knew this Vietnamese lady who whipped up this sauce.   I simply love this sauce.  I make more than enough each time and use it for other dishes as accompaniment.  The most easiest way is to pour this sauce onto Chinese rice rolls – chee cheong fun.  Simply divine!

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Hi-protein and nutritious dessert just for you!

VIETNAMESE BEAN DESSERT

 

I am lucky to have travelled extensively and I have been to Vietnam twice.  I enjoyed Vietnamese food served there and I still do.  Infact their cooking is very easy to adapt and their use of multiple fresh herbs really made me  happy. Well I like herbs a lot in my cooking too.

There are just so many savoury  dishes that I enjoyed but I would like to share a simple dessert which is easy and very tasty just like  kueh (generic term for Malaysian dessert)

This dessert cake is unlike western buttery cake. Instead it is more of a pudding than a cake. It is  so easy to make and it is delicious if you like beans. And when  it is made of beans, it becomes very nutritious – how often can we find protein rich desserts!  Surprisingly this dessert is not found in most Vietnamese restaurants.

This is one of the desserts that I taught in my community centre recently  and my participants enjoyed it so much.

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Prawn Briyani

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I simply love to cook and eat briyani.  Once I told my close buddy that I can eat it every day and she gave me a startled look! I guess she was worried about all the calories in a plate of briyani!

I have to agree with her if it is not made by me.  There’s every reason to make a   briyani which can be nutritious with lower calories and most importantly not compromising on the taste.

The spices that I have used give a beautiful and heavenly aroma to the dish and of course adding lots of nutritious properties.

Briyani itself is a one-pot dish and can be very easy if you follow my steps to do it.

Briyani was introduced to India by the Persians and in India alone there must be hundreds of versions of briyani!

Every part of India has its own version. And yet you have the middle-eastern, African, Egyptian and south east Asian versions as well.  I ate the Egyptian goat briyani when I was there about 15 years ago.  I was invited by the chef into their huge kitchen and I was surprised to see huge pots being used as it is eaten everyday by many of their men.  1 goat can get into 1 pot! So imagine that!  The ladies do the bread – and I remember that I had some practice to make their flat bread in their charcoal stone ovens.  More of this later – please look out in my future posts.

Even in homes, each will have their own version of briyani.

I must say I have eaten briyani in most Indian restaurants in Singapore, and when I go overseas, always ordering briyani if it is in their menu.  Sadly yet to find the briyani that I want to eat again and again!

The best compliment came from a friend who lives in Melbourne (his family are all in Middle East and his wife is a fantastic cook).   He said the briyani that I cooked that day was the best he had eaten in all his life! I was very happy not because of the compliment but I could see his joy of happiness on his face. That was enough for me to cook for people who enjoy my food!

The Rice is the most important and is actually the hero ingredient.  Using Basmati rice gives a beautiful aroma, and its fluffy texture once it is cooked.  By the way in Sanskrit, Basmati means fragrance.

Today I have cooked Prawn Briyani .  It is slightly spicy – you can always increase or decrease the degree of spiciness.

My family members and I kept going for seconds and thirds as it was really flavourful and rather tasty.  So let’s start cooking or in my case continue eating!!

prawn briyani 1

 

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Mushroom and Vegetable Curry

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I do love simple vegetarian food,  I cook lots of vegetarian dishes almost daily and have a wide repertoire of recipes.  And each time I cook, it becomes a new dish as I tend to modify or add some new ingredient.

This  vegetarian dish is so simple, interestingly tasty and can be eaten on its own with a glass of wine.   Yes, I didn’t make a mistake here…..

This dish was cooked on a  day when I returned from a trip and I couldn’t bear to go out and eat lunch.  So looking at what I had in my pantry, came up with this dish.   As I didn’t feel like eating rice, I made prata to go with this vegetable dish.

I am not into mushrooms as in itself they taste very bland even though mushrooms can be meaty.   This adds a new dimension to simple potatoes and carrots to create the meatiness in a vegetarian dish.

I used Indian spices as the vegetables need to be cooked for  a little longer than other greens. So the spices tend to gel very well with the longer cooking time, thus giving a lovely curry.

As I said earlier, this dish can be eaten on its own or with any bread,  chappati, or prata.

It is a good accompaniment to rice with some soup or other gravy.

Once in a while it is a nice change to eat simple food.  So try this out and one might not miss any meat!

 

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