At the Shot glass and bite-size desserts workshop


My tryst with shot glass and bite size desserts was a long session. But it was fun and interactive and 
my girls were an enthusiastic group. So, here are the pics, most of them shot by Anjani and Vidya.

Brownie under a mudslide- a chocoholic's delight

Ginger caramel creams awaiting the caramel topping

Ginger caramel creams

White chocolate and orange muffins

Lemon custard cream with shortbread fingers

Glazed orange pannacotta

Dainty little babas

Divine mango cloud
Classic white chocolate crème brûlée

Eat your heart out!!

Bun Tales


Growing up in Singapore, we were exposed to a huge variety of food. At home, we ate the Kerala staples- rice, fish curry, vegetable thoran and other regional preparations that kept the ties with the home country strong. Mum was a fantastic cook, and willing to experiment with the local cuisines.

On Sundays, after church, Dad would take us out for lunch, sometimes to Chinese restaurants, sometimes for yummy Indian biriyani or nasi padang. Nasi padang is the Indonesian version of rice and curry.
We lived in a place called Bukit Panjang, those were the days when there were no supermarkets. Honestly, I have no idea where we got our provisions from but I do remember a little store down the road from home where I would be sent to get essentials like eggs and matches.

One thing I do remember was the bread man. An old Chinese man, I suspect he was also the baker. He carried his wares in a big red box strapped onto his cycle and would ride around the neighbourhood. He would ring his bell as he passed by our gate and Mum would send one of us to call him. Impatiently, we would wait for him to pedal up the driveway, hop off his bike, unstrap the fastenings and open the lid of his box.

The first thing that hit our noses would be the smell of freshly baked bread. The wheaten aroma, the slightly warm, moist air that rose from his box would send us into raptures. Then, the sight of loaves, rolls, baguettes, and buns nestling in the depths of his box would melt every last bit of resistance within us and we would plead with Mum to buy us some buns. She always did but we always had to go through the drama.

Mum would buy bread for breakfast and for us, plain buns. After paying the man, we would carry them to the kitchen in a triumphant procession.

Mum would place the buns on the counter and we would watch her while she got out her bread knife and sliced each bun into two. Then a flick of golden butter on one side, a spread of jam on the other. She'd join the halves back together and then pass it on to each waiting child.

Teeth meeting in a bite, a small tug and the piece in my mouth. The flavour of soft, warm bread, slightly salty, creamy butter and the sweetness of jam...

This is my recipe for plain buns but for a change, I scatter spring onion bits over them and shape them into rolls. Stuff a hot dog in them, spoon in some relish, squeeze some mustard paste and tomato ketchup and tuck in!

Spring onion rolls 

500 gm flour
2 tsp instant yeast
50 gm sugar
1 tsp gluten
50 gm soft butter
2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
6 spring onions, use only green leaves
Egg for glazing
Extra butter for brushing

Warm the milk and water to blood heat.
Start by sifting the flour into a large mixing bowl, add in yeast, sugar, gluten, butter and salt and combine.
Make a well in the centre and mix in milk and enough of the water to make a soft and slightly sticky dough.
Mix with hands till the dough comes into a ball, transfer to a worktop and knead till the dough becomes smooth and elastic, adding in a little more water if you feel it is dry. This will take about 10 minutes or so.
Put into a greased bowl, cover and leave until the dough has doubled in size.
Or, if you have a bread maker, just bung all the ingredients into it and switch it on.
After an hour or so, when the dough has risen and has doubled in size, punch it down. 
Knead briefly for a few moments, then slap it back onto your worktop, cover with the mixing bowl and leave it while you prepare the spring onions. 
Wash and towel dry the leaves, chop into 1/2 cm pieces.
Knead the dough briefly one more time, then divide into 14 pieces.
To shape, take one piece, cover the remaining dough with a bowl to prevent them from drying out.
Dust the worktop with very little flour, roll out into a 4" disc, then roll it up like a Swiss roll, from one end to the other. 
Dab a bit of water on the end to seal it, roll it gently between your palms to neaten it.
Place on a greased baking tin, shape the remaining buns.
Make a small slit on the top of each roll, then brush with egg glaze.
Sprinkle chopped spring onion over them and leave for the second proving.
When the rolls have risen well and have doubled in size, bake for 10-15 mins in a preheated 200°C oven.
Remove from oven when the rolls are golden brown, brush carefully with butter. 
Cool on a wire rack. 

Thyme buns
The thyme buns above are made with the same dough, just add leaves from 4 stalks of thyme or mix 1 teaspoon dried thyme into the ingredients and proceed with the recipe.

Busy weekend


How was your weekend?
I had a few cake orders which kept me quite busy.

These are chocolate date cakes. They were for a corporate order. The dates, from Muscat, and gave the cakes a soft and moist texture.

A strawberry and white chocolate mousse cake for a 40th birthday. Three layers of super soft sponge cake, strawberry and white chocolate mousse filling in between, the sides studded with swiss roll slices. The top layer is white chocolate ganache and decorated with cream rosettes and strawberries. A labour of love for a very special person.

Rose and star vanilla buttercream cake

This vanilla and buttercream cake was for a 12 year old. The birthday girl was quite keen on a pink and blue cake.

Shot glass and bite sized desserts - a workshop


 What's the one thing you look forward to when you're invited for a meal? Come on, be honest.
Desserts, of course. Unless you hate them or do not have a sweet tooth.

Shot glass desserts have become very popular. The visual appeal of a tray full of tiny glasses filled with mousses, jellies, slices, custards and decorated with cream rosettes, chocolate shavings and tiny slices of fruit make the dessert counter the most popular. The nicest thing, of course, is that since the portions are very small, one need not feel too guilty of trying two or even three varieties.

My class on shot glass and bite sized desserts is on Saturday July 30, from 10.30 am - 2.30 pm at Kottivakkam. I will be showing you how to make white chocolate and orange muffins, lemon cream, brownie chocolate pudding, crème brûlée, orange pannacotta, rhum au baba and mango whip.

Classic white chocolate crème brûlée 

See you!

Prawn sambal


One of the advantages of of living near the beach is the easy availability of fresh seafood. Five days a week, at about 8.30 in the morning, a group of fisherwomen land up on the pavement of one of the roads near my home. The only thing on their agenda is to sell as much seafood as they can and then take the unsold stock to the main fish market located on the ECR. The group usually consists of about 20 women and a couple of men. On Saturdays, Sundays and school holidays, some of their children tag along.

One group of women own the stuff in the baskets, presumably their husbands are the ones who have caught the fish. A second group buys from the first group. They are the ones who have their stalls on the main road and are buying the morning's stock. A third group, some of them still brushing their teeth, tag along to watch the sales; their homes are very close by so they feel they can take this liberty! One woman maintains the accounts. No money is exchanged at this point of time, but this woman makes a note of every transaction and I guess that at the end of the day, when sales are over, accounts are tallied and justified. Then there are the local buyers like yours truly, who find the seafood at this impromptu market very fresh. The only problem is that weighing scales don't exist. One has to trust one's judgement and ensure the quantity and price are reasonable.

I have never seen any of the larger fish varieties being sold here. Lots of shankara,  mullets, sardines, mackerel and of course, prawns. And for a small cost, the women will clean the fish or prawns for you.
My Tamil is not very good, so the children step in to translate for me. And the men? They are the drivers of the autos who ferry women and baskets to the main road. And an hour later, by 9.30am, baskets and women get into the waiting autos, the place is cleaned up, onlookers and kids go back to their homes and customers too melt away. If you were to come by the area, you wouldn't even know that a fish  market had happened, except for a faint smell of the sea...

My catch for the day was a kilo of big prawns. The day's menu was prawn sambal and rice. For the authentic taste of sambal, you have to use belachan which is prawn paste in a cake form. Wrap the piece in a little foil and pop it under a grill for a few minutes. Prawn paste powder is also available at Amma Nana.

1 kilo fresh prawns, shelled and deveined
3 big onions
6 pips garlic
1/2 " ginger
3 tomatoes
1 tsp chilli powder, more if you like it hotter
1/2 tsp belachan or prawn paste
1 stalk lemon grass
1/2 tsp tamarind paste
Salt to taste
Coriander leaves for garnish

Wash prawns well and put in a colander.
Cut half an onion into thin slices.
Place remaining onions, garlic, ginger, chilli powder and belachan in a blender and process into a fine paste.
Bruise the bulb of the lemon grass.
Heat oil in a pot, put in the lemon grass and onion slices and saute till onions turn glassy.
Add in the ground paste,stirring now and then till the oil separates.
Grind the tomatoes and add them into the pot.
Cook the tomato till it is thick, add in a quarter cup of water, tamarind paste, salt to taste and bring to a boil with the lid on for about 5 minutes.
Add in prawns, stir and bring it back to the boil and cook it for another 3 minutes.
Check seasoning and serve with steamed rice, nasi lemak or coconut rice.

Prawn sambal with nasi lemak

Young chefs at work


 Last month, I had a few kids over for a baking session.

Five years ago, very few children would have been interested in such a session. Today, the plethora of food shows on television and the Masterchef Australia series have kindled the interest of  many young ones so much so that they are interested in how food is cooked, presented and critiqued. My nieces tell me that their children, ranging in ages from seven to sixteen, now finish homework and dinner well in time so they can plonk in front of the telly to watch these shows. The three judges on Masterchef have inspired them to the extent that that they talk of food that needs "more seasoning", or vegetables that need "to be a bit more caramelized" and the importance of "plating up".

Being exposed to these shows, children are now learning about food from different countries, showing an interest in cooking and the willingness to try new dishes. Unfortunately, many of the ingredients, fruits and vegetables that are used on these shows are not available in our markets. One can't go too far or too authentic with international cuisine in a Chennai kitchen because (a) exotic fruits and vegetables are not available all through the year and (b) if they are, they can be expensive.

During this session, we made food with ingredients easily available in most homes like bread for sandwiches, macaroni, pizza with a home made scone base and bubble and squeak, loved by both kids and grateful mums as they can be packed as school lunches. Also, apple doughnuts and easy and popular scotch pancakes that could double as delectable desserts.

Bubble and squeak

Scone pizza

Apple doughnuts
Scotch pancakes

Baking day was the most exciting day for the little ones. And this is what we baked:
Nutty brownie muffins

Shortbread shapes.  Creative, to say the least!

Double chocolate bread pudding

Slices of ooey gooey cake
And this plate of bubble and squeak was made by one of the girls. Yummy!

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