Quiche, Pies and Tarts- a workshop


A golden shell, a savory or a sweet filling, topped with a beautifully browned crust. Or no top crust if it is a quiche. Shortcrust pastry at its best.

Learn how to make the perfect shortcrust pastry at a workshop on Quiche, Pies and Tarts.

On the menu-

Luncheon quiche Lorraine - a classic quiche that uses luncheon meat;
Chicken and mixed vegetable quiche - a delicious quiche filled with chicken and vegetables;
Herb and fish quiche - if you like fish, here's a novel way to bake it into a quiche; and
Lattice cherry pie - juicy red cherries and pastry - a delightful way to end any meal.

This workshop will be held on February 20th, 10.30 am- 2.30 pm at Kottivakkam.

Lattice cherry pie

Sambal pork


I don't cook pork very often but when I do, I like to make it this way. For one, it tastes fantastic a couple of days after it's made and also, it makes a great snack. Slice open a soft bun, scoop a bit of the meat into the middle and that's a yummy munch. A couple of these buns and that's a working lunch.  

I always have ground galangal and lemon grass in my freezer. You never know when you might need it! The other 2 ingredients that give this dish its flavour are candlenuts and shrimp paste. I suppose you could substitute candle nuts with almonds.  If you really don't like shrimp paste, I guess you could leave it out. But die-hard Nonya cuisine fans will miss its absence.

The other thing is that this dish does take some time to prepare. That's because pork has to be cooked well and at the right temperature. The ideal cut for this is the belly but I used a leg cut.

Sambal pork

1 kg pork with fat
1 teaspoon vinegar
8 dried chillies, soaked in hot water till soft
2 large onions
5 cloves garlic
2 lemon grass bulbs
1" galangal, sliced
1/2 teaspoon shrimp paste
4 candlenuts
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1-2 tablespoons dark soya sauce
Salt to taste

Slice pork into long strips, boil with vinegar till almost tender. (I used a pressure cooker.)
Cut cooked pork into cubes, reserve stock.
Drain the chillies and grind together with onions, garlic, lemon grass, galangal, shrimp paste and candlenuts.
Heat oil in a pot, saute the ground paste till fragrant and oil seeps out.
Stir in pork cubes, mix so that the paste covers the meat.
Add in stock, a little salt, stir well and bring it to a boil.
Simmer till the pork is tender and the gravy is thick.
Add in sugar and dark soya sauce, check seasoning.
Remove from flame, transfer to a heat proof dish.
Level the top, leave to cool then refrigerate.
For a healthier dish, remove the layer of fat from the top of the meat before reheating.    

Enjoy your sambal with bread or rice and a cucumber salad.

Saddle pan almond and chocolate cake


Sometimes, it's a good thing to pick up stuff you have no idea what to do with. Eventually you'll find good use for it. Hopefully, at least.

Like this baking pan I picked up from a tiny store in Singapore. I bought it because it looked cute and different from the usual pan shapes. I've used it a couple of times to make butter cakes but as it was small, a 2 egg mixture was all it would hold.

I learnt it was called a saddle pan or rehr├╝cken. The mould is log shaped, has ridges along the sides and rests on a flat centre which resembles a spine. It's so called because it represents a saddle of venison. 

The cake that's made in this pan has Czech/ East German origins, a chocolate cake with ground almonds, ginger powder and sometimes, cinnamon powder and iced with melted chocolate. 

Like the original recipe, mine uses melted chocolate and ground almonds but my version is more like a butter cake. With the addition of almond powder, the cake would be dense and I did hope that separating the eggs and folding in the whites at the end would give it a lighter texture. 

And for the topping, what goes better on a chocolate cake than ganache?  And while at it, indulge yourself even more with some melted white chocolate.

The almond slivers that decorate the cake represent lardons that are stuck into the actual saddle to prevent it from drying out while roasting.  In the original recipe, they look  like quills on a porcupine- lots of them and evenly spaced out, I just used a handful.

It's a pretty cake and not dense as I feared. The icing is all that it needs. You could be picky and sieve the almond flour after grinding it but I like a bit of a nut to bite into.  


Almond and chocolate cake

60 gm flour
125 gm almond powder
4 eggs, separated
140 gm butter
140 gm sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
140 gm dark chocolate, melted

Chocolate icing
130 gm dark chocolate, melted
15 gm butter, at room temperature

75 gm white chocolate, melted
Almond slivers to decorate

Grease a saddle pan.
Mix flour and almond powder together, keep aside.
Place egg whites in another bowl, whip till stiff, keep aside.
Put the butter, sugar and extract into another mixing bowl, cream till light and fluffy.
Add in egg yolks, beat till well mixed, stir in melted chocolate.
Fold in the flour/ almond powder mix, and finally, fold in the egg whites.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, level the top and place the pan on a baking sheet.
Place in a preheated 165°C oven till the cake is cooked, about 40 minutes.
Remove the cake from the oven, after 10 minutes, upturn it carefully onto a wire rack and leave to cool.
When the cake is cold, place it on a cake board and make the icing.
Melt the dark chocolate and butter together.
Mix well, carefully spread it evenly over all over the cake.
Run the blade of a butter knife along the top of the cake and along the indentations on the side.
Melt the white chocolate and pour it over the top of the cake.
Bang the cake board on a counter top a couple of times to get the white chocolate flowing down the sides.
Stick almond slivers all over the cake.
Leave to set for about half an hour.

In case you would like to make this cake but don't have a saddle pan, do go ahead and use a loaf pan.

Stir fried sweet peas with chicken


This was the last of the sweet peas that I got from Fruitmarx. Crisp, tender and slightly sweet, these would be perfect just stir fried and served with steamed rice.

It's a very simple recipe using chicken, onion, garlic, pepper powder and a bit of oyster sauce.

Now for  the recipe.

Stir fried sweet peas with chicken 

200 gm sweet peas, topped and tailed
1 onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
150 gm chicken breast, sliced thinly
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon oil

Heat oil in a wok, saute onion slices for a minute over high heat.
Add the garlic, stir and then add in the chicken slices.
Cook the chicken, add in pepper and the sweet peas.
Cover the wok and let the contents cook for a minute.
Open the lid, add in the oyster sauce, mix well, cover and cook for another minute.
Dish out onto a serving plate, serve with hot steamed rice or even fried rice.

Pandan flavoured agar agar


Agar agar, derived from seaweed, is nutritious and healthy. By itself, it contains no calories but has plenty of fiber.

Made into jelly and served cold, it is the perfect way to end a meal, especially in summer.

Agar agar comes as powder, flakes and strips. Of the three, it's easiest to use the powder as it dissolves very quickly. But at school, we were taught to cook with the strips.

Use a pair of scissors to snip the agar agar into 1" lengths. Half fill a cup with water and press the cut strips lightly into it. That is considered a cup. Of course, if you have a digital weighing scale, you can just weigh the strips. A cup of agar agar should weigh around 20 grams.

Put the agar agar and water into a saucepan and them bring to a boil.

I love the flavour of pandan in my agar agar so I knot 2 leaves and put that also into the saucepan.

It takes about 15- 20 minutes or so to cook the agar agar until all the strands have dissolved, then add in the sugar and bring it back to the boil. When it starts to boil, remove from the flame. Add in the coconut milk. Remove the pandan leaves, add a little green food colouring and strain into a mould.

Leave to cool, it would have set by then, and then chill in the fridge. The coconut milk rises to the top and forms a lighter layer. Cut into slices and serve cold.

Enjoy your cold and delicious agar agar jelly.

Another favourite flavour is rose. In which case, omit the pandan leaves, add a few drops of rose essence and a tiny drop of red food colour so the jelly turns pink. You could even omit the coconut milk, add an extra cup of water and proceed with the recipe. But remember to flavour it.

Pandan flavoured agar agar

20 gm agar agar, cut into 1" lengths
3 cups water
2 pandan leaves, knotted
100-120 gm sugar
1 cup freshly squeezed thick coconut milk
A pinch of salt
Green food colour

Put agar agar strips, water and the pandan leaves in a saucepan, bring it all to a boil.
Stir the contents occasionally till the strips are no longer visible.
Add the sugar and when it comes back to the boil, remove from flame.
Add the coconut milk, salt and a drop of food colouring.
Remove the leaves and strain the jelly into a mould. Do it quickly before it sets.
Cool till it reaches room temperature.
Chill in the fridge, cut in slices before serving.

Shimeji mushroom and snow pea stir fry


Does anyone know how many edible mushroom varieties exist in the world? Wikipedia very helpfully says that mushrooms are cultivated in more that 60 countries!

It helps to have friends who import exotic vegetables. So that's how Shimeji mushrooms, snow peas and garlic chives ended up in my wok. This is a simple stir fry and tastes absolutely delicious.

There were 2 kinds of mushrooms- white and brown. They come in clumps in a punnet. Slice off the base so the mushrooms can be separated. Bring a pot of water to the boil, quickly rinse the mushrooms and plunge them into the boiling water for half a minute then drain them through a colander. Now they can be tossed through with the other ingredients. They are strong flavoured and have the texture of preserved jellyfish but are absolutely delicious.

Shimeji mushroom and snow pea stir fry

2 punnets Shimeji mushrooms
100 gm snow peas, topped and tailed
100 gm prawns, cleaned and deveined
1 onion, sliced
1 teaspoon garlic
1-2 tablespoons oyster sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons oil
Garlic chives or spring onion to garnish

Heat oil in a wok, toss in onions, then garlic, add in prawns.
Stir till the prawns turn pink, then add the snow peas.
Add in oyster sauce.
Prepare mushrooms by rinsing them, then plunge them into boiling water for half a minute.
Add the mushrooms to the wok, season to taste and dish out onto a serving platter.
Garnish with chives or spring onions.

Yam puffs for a first birthday


A year into blogging, has it really been a year? Initially, it was hard- staring at the screen, waiting for an idea to float by. The times I'd bake something nice and then forget to click a picture. I didn't tell anyone I had a blog, then I told a few friends, then my students and then friends would call up to say that they had read the blog.

To all of you who have taken the time to stop by, thank you. And I hope you will keep coming back.

I thought I would bake a cake for the occasion but my friend from Fruitmarx, put paid to those plans. Last Saturday morning, he sent me shimeji mushrooms, snow peas, sweet peas and some other vegetables.

And at the bottom of the bag I found this- a taro yam. If I had nothing else to do that day, I would have made yam puffs. So it sat in the fridge till today when I could finally make my favourite kind of dim sum.

The natural progression of yam preparation- peeled, sliced and steamed. Unlike smaller yams, this one does not cause an itch but you have to peel it well as the toxins are present just under the skin. Slice the yam, wash it and steam for about 20 minutes or till cooked through.

Mash the yam in a bowl, mix in sugar and salt. And shortening. In another bowl, measure dim sum flour, pour boiling water over and when cool enough to handle, knead till smooth, add the yam mash to it and mix well to get a smooth dough.

Make the filling(recipe follows), divide the yam into small balls, stuff with filling and deep fry.

And what does it taste like?

An amazingly crunchy, feathery crust, soft yam inside and then the filling full of minced chicken, prawn flavoured with sesame oil.

Happy birthday, Baketales!

Fried yam puffs

400 gm taro
3/4 teaspoon salt
30 gm sugar
40 gm shortening
70 gm dim sum flour(wheat starch)
70 ml boiling water
Tapioca flour for kneading

Peel the taro, cut into 4 and slice thin.
Wash and place in a steamer basket, steam for about 20 minutes or till cooked.
Mash when hot along with salt, sugar and shortening. Keep aside.
Put the dim sum flour in a bowl, pour over boiling water. When cool enough, knead to a smooth dough.
Mix the yam paste and dim sum paste together till well combined.
Shape into 20 balls, keep covered.

200 gm boneless chicken, chopped
100 gm prawns, chopped
1 onion, diced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 cup peas
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 teaspoon light soya sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon cornflour mixed with 1 tablespoon water

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a pan, lightly saute onions and garlic.
Add chicken and when meat changes colour, add chopped prawns. 
When the prawns are pink, add in the peas, oyster sauce, soya sauce, salt and pepper to taste.
Add in the sesame oil.
Mix cornflour with water, add to the pan and stir till thick. 
Turn off the heat and keep filling aside to cool completely. 
Make a depression in each yam ball, put in some of the filling and close well.
Heat 2 cups oil, deep fry the yam balls, 2 at a time.
When one side is done, turn the balls around gently until they are evenly browned. 
Scoop out and place on kitchen paper.
Serve with chilli sauce. 

At the Wok to China workshop


On our Wok to China last Sunday, we made chicken wantan soup with home made wantan skins.

For starters, steamed chicken parcels,

followed by prawns with dried chillies and cashewnuts,

stir fried chicken,

fish in chilli garlic sauce

and gold coin tofu.

Also, Hong Kong noodles

and pineapple fried rice

followed by lychees with almond jelly.

We sure need to go on another wok!

Thank you, Sneha & Natasha, for the photographs.

Wok to China- a workshop


Love Chinese food? Who doesn't!

Well then, come with me and let's take a "Wok to China". And learn how to cook a Singapore-inspired Chinese meal starting with soup and ending with dessert.

On the menu- chicken wantan soup, steamed chicken parcels, prawns with dried chillies and cashewnuts, fried fish in chilli garlic sauce, gold coin tofu, stir fried chicken, Hong Kong noodles, pineapple fried rice and for dessert, lychee with almond jelly.

Both the wantan skins and noodles are home made and instructions will be given on how you can make them yourself.

On Sunday, April 7th from 10.30am-2.30pm.

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