Two for one: Povitica and Pumpkins.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Yes, step right up folks for the Test with Skewer 2 for 1 special! First we have a lovely, swirly bread, then something a little more decorative.

The Daring Baker’s October 2011 challenge was Povitica, hosted by Jenni of The Gingered Whisk. Povitica is a traditional Eastern European Dessert Bread that is as lovely to look at as it is to eat!

According to Jenni, “Povitica (pronounced po-va-teet-sa) is ... traditionally served during the holiday season.  It is also known as Nutroll, Potica, Kalachi, Strudia, just to name a few.”

The bread was indeed lovely to behold and very tasty too. I made two loaves (using the halved recipe measurements). One loaf with nutella, peanut butter and grated dark chocolate, the other loaf with the nut filling in the challenge recipe except I used a mix of brazil nuts, almonds and cashews as I couldn’t find any walnuts in the pantry. As mentioned, I thought it was very tasty, especially the nutty version, but my  fussy spoilt family members weren’t all that taken with it. (insert huge eye roll here).

(The nutty swirls weren't as prominent as the nutella swirls)

Luckily though, those same family members were very impressed with item number 2. I mentioned pumpkins in the title right? Well, here they are, sugarpaste pumpkins to adorn a Halloween themed birthday cake.

The birthday girl gave me very clear instructions for this cake - it had to be purple and have a witch, a cat and a pumpkin on it. Do you think I got it right?

If you’re celebrating Halloween, have fun and may you get lots of treats instead of tricks :).

And if you would like to see some other versions of Povitica, do check out what my fellow Daring Bakers have made.

Thank you and good bye :) And no, you don’t get a set of steak knives with that.

Feeling pink

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hi all! Missed me?

Do I have a good excuse for missing Malaysian Monday and for the rather lengthy silence? Not really, no. Last weekend, we had a rare and rather luxurious time at home where we did absolutely nothing. The weather was beautiful, and we slept in, ate, swam, ate and slept some more. That feeling of floating through the days sort of continued after the weekend, and oops, here we are at Thursday with not a lot to show for it :) But hey, if you can’t give yourself a couple of days off every now and again, where’s the fun in that eh?

So, even though today would have been a Daring Bakers reveal, I plead extreme laziness, and offer you some macarons instead. Rosehip macarons with a white chocolate and blood orange filling. The filling is pink as you will notice, and done in honour of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Jamie and Deeba chose the colour as the theme for Macattack #24.

Pink and blue hearts because breast cancer affects not only the ladies but men as well.

The macarons were originally going to be completely rosehip flavoured, and I attempted to make rosehip “ganache” using brewed rosehip tea. Unfortunately, I must have used too much tea and the ganache wouldn’t firm up at all.

Not wanting to waste another lot of (expensive!) white chocolate, Plan B was put into action. This involved adding the juice of one blood orange (reduced over low heat to about half the volume) to cream and white chocolate (can’t remember the ratios, I think about 50ml cream to 100g chocolate). I also added a few drops of red food colouring to boost the colour. When the ganache was almost cold, I whipped it up using my beaters.

Voila, a fluffy, sweet and slightly tangy filling that looked gorgeous. The macaron shells however, weren’t quite as gorgeous because I wasn’t paying attention when I baked them and some got a little bit too cooked. (For the recipe, I used the ratios given by Tartelette and added some ground rosehip tea to the almond meal).

And you know what? The first lot of failed rosehip tea and melted white chocolate didn’t go to waste. They were turned into blondies studded with dried cranberries and pecans. Perfect for sharing with Mr. Kitchen Hand’s friends.

Thanks for sharing your time with me today, and if you do get a moment, here’s another “pink” website that you might like to visit.

PS - My friend Suresh is hosting the round-up for the next Muhibbah Malaysian Monday slot so please send your entries in to him: sureshchong(at)yahoo(dot)com.

Here we go raiding the mulberry bush

Friday, October 21, 2011

Hear that? I swear I heard the buzz of cicadas. Sounds like summer’s on its way!

Of course, if I lived somewhere else in Australia, say the Outback or Far North Queensland, or even just a little further inland, I probably wouldn’t love summer so much. It can be ferociously hot, there’s alway the threat of bush fires, and the flies would drive me round the bend.

But we are very, very extremely lucky to live near the coast. Where summer means lazy beach days, cool evening breezes, barbecues and floaty dresses. I love this time of year, when the temperature is starting to rise, the jacarandas are in bloom and the scent of jasmine hangs heavily in the air. A simple thing like walking MC Senior to school can leave me smiling the whole day.

That’s the other lucky part about where we live. It’s pretty concentrated, so we can walk almost everywhere. And on one of these walks, I stumbled onto another happy, Sydney summer moment - a laden mulberry tree, ripe for foraging!

We’ve lived in this area for over a dozen years and this is the first time I’ve come across the tree.  When I went past, it looked as if no one else had realised it was there, but by the time I came back the next day with MC Senior and containers in tow, word must have got out.  We passed many, many, people heading away from the tree, carrying containers and bags laden with fruit. I felt like yelling, “Go away, it’s my tree, I saw it first!”. But of course, that would be immature, and of course we all know I am very much a responsible adult - ahem! But I needn’t have worried, the tree had produced enough bounty that even after the hordes of people had gone past, we still managed to pick close to a kilogram of fruit (maybe two pounds?)

Even when I returned the next day with MC Junior, who had missed out the day before, the tree still had enough to give. However, we weren’t as prepared as some of the people there. The fruit on the upper branches which received the most sun, were much sweeter. A resourceful gentleman and his daughter had come armed with a ball, which they threw at the branches to dislodges fruit. Other kids came armed with long sticks to whack the branches with. Our tactic involved the tallest person (though not by much) tugging the branches, and the two MC’s acting as “eyes” to pick the fruit that fell.

 Yes, I do realise not all the fruit is very ripe, I had very zealous helpers!

Of course we got pretty stained in the process but that’s just another quintessential Sydney moment to add to the memory box.

We ate the mulberries fresh, popped them on top of simple lemon cupcakes, and turned the rest into a simple rustic pie, very similar to the one I made with strawberries last year.

Enjoy your weekend wherever you are :)

Malaysian Monday 85: McGyver Ang Koo Kuih

Monday, October 17, 2011

Happy Monday everyone.

First, let me clarify the title of today’s post. Nowhere in Malaysia will you find something called “McGyver Ang-Koo Kuih”. I am merely describing my highly unorthodox method of producing this kuih (snack).

If you read this bog on a regular basis, you’ll know that I host a Muhibbah Malaysian Monday round-up every alternate month. The task of hosting isn’t too hard, all I have to do is compile the photos from our very talented contributors, add some words, and off we go.

What can be very tricky though, is avoiding the inevitable hunger pangs and sudden food cravings when faced with the photos of mouthwatering delicacies. Many of these delicacies are now but a mere taste memory since I cannot get the correct ingredients or equipment to cook with.

Enter the ang koo kuih (pronounced ung-coo coo-eh). These kuih have a very specific shell shape, and the name means “red shell  tortoise”. I can’t remember why it is meant to look like a tortoise, most probably something to do with luck or wealth.

Anyway, last month we had three contributors who all made this kuih. Oh boy those cravings went into overdrive! I hadn’t eaten this snack in years, because a key element for making these kuih is the special wooden mould to get the aforementioned tortoise shell shape.

I could stand it no longer! Armed with the purple sweet potato ang koo recipe posted by Lena from Frozen Wings (via Sonia of Nasi Lemak Lover), I set out to make do as best I could. Luckily, I remembered watching my mum make this kuih when I was little so I knew the mechanics of it. The dough is wrapped around a small ball of mung bean paste, then pressed into a mould. The back of the dough ball is smoothed over, then the mould is inverted and tapped sharply on the counter so that the kuih falls out in the required shape.

First, I tried using a small oiled metal bowl for my mould. It didn’t quite work as I hoped because it wouldn’t unmould easily, and the dough distribution was highly uneven. Wafer thin in some places and too thick around the edges.

Then I hit upon the idea of silicon cupcake liners! I popped a dough ball in, flattened it firmly with a plastic spatula, then peeled away the liner easily. I placed this tallish shape onto a square of baking paper, then used the spatula to flatten it further. Finally, I used a cookie cutter and a chopstick to impress some decorations onto the top.

First trial - the kuih at the back were moulded in a bowl, then the edges pressed with a fork. The one in front was made in a silicon cupcake liner.

Voila! Not the prettiest of kuih but enough to satisfy cravings :)

Please note, the cupcake wrappers are for decorative photoshoot purposes only. The kuih will stick to it which is not good. Use baking paper instead  (or banana leaves if you can get them.)

The recipe worked really well, I followed the given measurements and only needed about 150ml water for the dough. For the mung bean paste, I ended up cooking the whole 375g bag of peeled, split mungbeans that I had purchased, so I had to re-jig the quantity of oil and sugar. I also needed a tiny bit of water as the paste seemed a little on the dry side.

The only problem? I now have too many ang koo and not enough mouths to feed! So as an experiment, I’m freezing one complete kuih to check if it can be done. I’m also freezing some balls of uncooked dough and mung bean paste separately. Will let you know if it works.
(Edit: I defrosted the kuih overnight in the fridge and it tasted great. I'm sure if I'd steamed it a little, it would be just like a fresh one. The kuih I stored in the fridge however became really hard/ tough. Still haven't defrosted the dough yet, will keep you posted.)

So, if you ‘d like to induce more food cravings, do join our Muhibbah Malaysian Monday round-up. Suresh from 3 Hungry Tummies will be hosting this month, please send your mouthwatering entries over to him: sureshchong(at)yahoo(dot)com.  :).

Have a great start to the week!

Purple sweet potato

We came, we saw, we bought the T-shirt(s)

Friday, October 14, 2011

New York! New York! What is there to say about this amazing city that hasn’t already been said? It’s a city that you already “know” even before you get there, a city famous for its cameos in books and movies and TV. When we landed, it felt like a totally different world from us, yet somehow slightly familiar all at once. And it is definitely a city that gets under your skin, we’ve been back home almost three weeks and I never thought I’d say this, but I miss NYC already!

We miss your incredible, humungous museums.

We miss seeing squirrels everywhere.

We miss yellow taxi cabs.

We miss street carts on almost every corner.

And as strange as it may sound, we even miss the subway, with the funky buskers and the   sometimes quirky works of art.

But this being a food blog, you’ll no doubt want to hear about the victuals eh? Because we were travelling with the kiddies in tow, the very top end of town was not really on the cards, so no Daniel unfortunately :(. (We did get babysitting one night and headed out somewhere special but we weren’t all that impressed with the restaurant so we won’t be mentioning it).

Still, we had some pretty memorable meals. Our two most favourite, absolute stand-out meals were at Roberta’s Pizza and   El Amacen, both in Brooklyn. (We stayed on the Upper West side for a few days, then in Williamsburg, Brooklyn for the rest of our trip).

Roberta’s was a little hard to find at first because the exterior blended in so well with the surroundings. Inside, it’s a little bit grunge meets garden shed, meets sharehouse, complete with Tiki Bar! I loved it. And the food was just sensational. Produce driven, seasonal, exciting and just a little bit mad. Think black garlic, octopus and watermelon. Or how about strawberry and watercress gelato? Or nasturtium granita, frozen grapes, and white chocolate mousse? Stunning food without any hint of pretentiousness. Oh and they do wood-fired pizzas too. Worth the trek and the hunt to find it. ( This article does a better descriptive job than I can. Thanks for the recommendation Molly!).

(It was too dark to take photos of the food in Roberta's, but I tried. Here's one of scallops (amazingly well cooked), lardo, plum and long bean).

El Amacen is a cute little Argentinian restaurant which was recommended by our hosts who we rented the apartment from. The food is fresh, zingy and authentic (according to Mr. Kitchen Hand who is apparently an authority on these things since he’s been to BA twice ;P). It is a meat-eater’s kind of place so don’t go if you are vegetarian, but my goodness the meat is  seared to perfection! Then it’s served with some incredible salads, and truffled fries. And for dessert, who can say no to churros and flan? Flan with strawberry pico de gallo!

Other memorable meals included: Momofuku Ssam Bar where we dug the pork buns, but the stand-out dish on the day was the roast duck and rice. It may sound simple but it was anything but. So full of flavour, it may almost be one of the best duck meals I’ve eaten in a while.

Mr. Kitchen Hand was also on a bit of a  barbecue quest (thanks to his visit to Salt Lick last year), and one of the most memorable barbecue meals we had was at Fette Sau. I loved the industrial warehouse feel of the place, and the decorative touches. There were old gramophone cones for lampshades, and the handles of the beer taps were made from rustic looking knives and barbecue implements. It was a loud, boisterous and fun set-up, were the food comes on paper plates set on waxed paper on a large metal tray, and there is a roll of kitchen paper at your elbow at the communal tables. Obviously eating ribs with your fingers is encouraged and the MCs absolutely felt at home.

However, the most kid-friendly and parent-friendly barbecue experience we had was at Blue Smoke. This is a more genteel eating establishment compared to Fette Sau, but still fun. After taking our orders, our lovely waiter brought out two raw cookie dough cut-outs (of little piggies) for the MCs to decorate with sprinkles. These were then whisked away to be baked and reappeared at the end of the meal for them to have for dessert. Very nice touch.

Actually, we noticed how welcoming everyone seemed to be when we ate out. No one seemed to bat an eye when we walked in with the MCs in tow. Not even at places like this:

Strawberry and rhubarb tart with fromage blanc ice-cream at Balthazar. We literally fought for bites of this dessert. I lost out on the ice-cream, but managed to at least snare a bit of the tart - divine.

Or this:

Mango and pineapple sundae at Terrace 5, MOMA. Like summer in a glass!

The waiter at this lovely brasserie in Washington DC even gave the girls a hug when we left (a nice hug, not a weird "get-off-my-kids" hug). How sweet!

Grits, caramelised pork belly, poached farm fresh duck egg, jus - brunch dish at Brasserie Beck.

Oh yes, we ducked up to the capital for a day, and said hi to presidents both past and present.

Really, I could go on, and on about our trip, but I won’t. I’ll just show you a couple more photos of interesting bites. Like :

Crisp Potato Waffle with Chicken Apple Breakfast Sausage,
Chunky Apple Sauce and Sour Cream - brunch at Sarabeth's West Side.

Lime in the coconut candy bar by Liddabit sweets

Peanut and salted caramel tiramisu at Eataly

Thanks for staying with me this far, needless to say, I would love to return one day to try and fit in many more things we didn’t get a chance to fit in the first time around.

Ps - New York is definitely the kind of place that you need to research before heading there, and I found a lot of valuable tips on this post of Lemonpi’s. Plus of course, lovely blogger Lora from Diary of a Mad Hausfrau was invaluable with her recommendations and we even caught up at the New Amsterdam markets and bought chocolate together. (Thanks Lora!).

Our travel tip if you’re heading over with kids and want to eat at nicer restaurants/ cafes is to go for lunch instead of dinner, and to eat late. We’d feed the kids a snack meal at about 11.30/ 12 to keep them going while sightseeing, then head to our restaurant of choice around 2 or 2.30 after the lunch crush was over. This way,  we usually had more chance of getting in.

And if you’re looking for accommodation, airbnb is a great site for sub-letting apartments. More affordable than hotel rooms and more room to spread out.

I started with a pic of Baked, so it's only fitting I end with another one. My surreptitious fangirl pic of co-founder Renato Poliafito. I was way too shy to even say hello!

Have a great weekend!