Saturday, 29 December 2012

Chelsea Buns

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and have recovered from all the excessive eating and drinking. Yes, Christmas is done, but at my home, season's eatings continues... with these lovely Chelsea buns.  I did some history research before baking these buns and found out that the buns go way back to the early 18th century; gaining its name from a bakery, the Bun House, in Chelsea area in London.  So, it's not associated with the football club as some friends suspected. 

I used a mixture of raisins and golden raisins for the filling here. But, had I some currants and dried cranberries, I would have thrown them to the mixture as well. Some lemon or orange zest would definitely add to the flavour as well. 

Serve them warm with soft butter, or if you're like me, some vanilla and lemon curd... heavenly. 

Chelsea Buns
Recipe from The Great British Bake Off
For the list of ingredients and instructions, click here.

I am quite glad that 2012  is soon coming to an end. This year has not exactly gone to plan, and it sucks! But  someday I know I will appreciate all that happened. In the meantime, I will be patient, continue learning and seize every opportunity along the way...  

I also want to take this moment to thank all of you wonderful readers and friends from all parts of the world, for reading, commenting, blogging, tweeting and sharing your stories with me. I wish you a very happy new year! Have a great one my friends...

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Cheese, Corn and Kaffir Lime Leaves Crisps

With time on my hands right now, I have been spending my time experimenting in the kitchen... discovering, testing and stealing recipes from mom's recipe scrap book... it's like opening a treasure box and finding so many charming, old-fashioned recipes.  Many of which I remember eating as a kid.  I can feel some of the cakes will make a comeback very soon... so watch this space :)

One of the recipes I discovered is for a home-made crisps that are flavoured with cheese and corn.  It is very good and it's only right that I share it with all of you.  The original recipe uses curly-leaf parsley (you can probably guess that this is in the '80s territory).  I did try it with parsley first time round, but it just didn't do it for me.  It does give a nice colour, but contribute very little in terms of flavour. 

After some discussion, mom and I then opted for kaffir lime leaves... and I think we made a great decision here.  It is intensely fragrant with a distinctive citrus scent.  You will need to go to your local Asian store to get them, but it is definitely worth it.

Making the dough for the crisps is exactly the same as making a pasta dough.  Mom has a pasta machine which makes it very easy.  But making it in the traditional way isn't difficult. Therapeutic in fact... well, for me anyway.  Or you can also make the dough in a food processor. Once the dough is made, you can shape the crisps any way you want.  This time, they look like rigatoni pasta.  

You may notice the beef bouillon in the recipe which you can replace with the vegetable kind to make these crisps vegetarian friendly. I wouldn't leave it out completely though, as you wouldn't get the savoury saltiness, which makes the crisps so addictive. These crisps didn't last very long in our house, that I can tell you :)

Cheese, Corn and Kaffir Lime Leaves Crisps

500 gr tapioca flour/starch
100 gr finely grated mild cheddar cheese
2 teaspoons beef bouillon, crushed
1 teaspoon salt
150 gr fresh corn kernels
1 egg + 1 yolk
2 tablespoons kaffir lime leaves, finely cut 

Start by making a purée by blending the corn kernels, egg, yolk and salt in a blender.

Now, if you have a pasta machine, combine all the ingredients and simple mix until it becomes a dough.  If you are using a food processor, again, combine all the ingredients and pulse until everything is combined.  Then take it out from the processor to your work surface.  At first, the mixture may seem wet, but as you work it with your hand, it will come together as one nice lump. 

If you are making this the traditional way, combine the flour, cheese, crushed bouillon and kaffir lime leaves in a bowl or a work surface.  Make a well in the centre and add the eggy corn purée.  Using the tips of your fingers, mix the eggy mixture with the flour, incorporating a little at a time, until all is combined.  Knead the dough until it is smooth.

Roll the dough as you would make fresh lasagne sheets and cut it in any shapes you want.... strips, triangles, stars, etc...

Heat some vegetable oil in a pan and fry the crisps for a few minutes until they are golden.  Take them out and place on some kitchen towels to absorb the excess oil.  Wait until they are completely cool before storing in an airtight container.  They will keep for a few days, but I doubt they'll last that long...

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Cognac and Raisins Ice-Cream

This is supposed to be my favourite time of year... If I were back in the UK, I would be cooking hearty stews and casseroles, baking seasonal goods, inviting friends over for some mulled wine and home-made sweet mince pies, you know, the rest of the festivities.  Not that I cannot make stews or mulled wine here, but being in a tropical country where I am at the moment, it's just not the same... well, there's tropical thunderstorm every now and then, but that's not enough for me to crave a bowl of stew.  

People say nobody comes to England for the weather, but that's exactly one of the reasons I love England.... its gloomy weather.  Forget the sun, the white sandy beaches, coconut trees, etc... damn it, I want grey, cloudy, damp, snowy day!  Yes, I am feeling homesick.  I know It's a weird thing to say when I am at 'home', referring to the place where I was born...  Saying that, I haven't actually live here for over ten years and even though I am physically here, my heart is a few thousand miles away.  I look forward to coming back home, hopefully soon. 

Anyway, enough with my rant... now to this delectable cognac and raisins ice-cream.  I think this is my way of comforting myself with all those familiar flavours, but very much enjoyable in this hot climate.  But to be honest, I would still eat ice-cream even in the coldest winter's day.  Perhaps, I could also call this "sweet mince pie ice-cream" because that's exactly what it tastes like.  Utterly delicious. 

Making home-made ice cream is easy, especially if you have an ice-cream maker.  But like me, if you don't have an ice-cream machine, do not worry.  Just follow my simple instructions below.    

Cognac and Raisins Ice-Cream

50 g raisins
50 g golden raisins
100 ml cognac
4 yolks
80 g caster sugar
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoon corn flour
seeds from 1 vanilla pod
450 ml milk
the zest of 1 orange 
300 ml double cream
toasted flaked almonds, for sprinkling (optional)

Start the night before by macerating the raisins and cognac in a bowl.  The next day, strain the plump and drunk raisins and set aside the leftover cognac for the custard.

To make the custard, bring the milk to a simmering point on a low heat.  In another bowl, whisk the yolks, sugar, vanilla seeds, ground cinnamon and corn flour until well blended.  Slowly pour the hot milk on to the yolk mixture, whisking all the time. 

Return this mixture to the pan and over a low heat, gently stir with a wooden spoon until thickened.  This might take ten minutes.  You know the custard is thick enough when you can draw a line on the back of the wooden spoon.  Take the custard off the heat and let it cool.  Add the reserved cognac and stir.  Cover the top of the custard to prevent skin forming.

When the custard is cold, start whipping the double cream and orange zest until it's firm but still soft.  Fold in the cold custard.  Now, if you have an ice-cream maker, simply put this mixture in it and churn away... Otherwise, put the custard mixture in a container and then to the freezer.  Every hour or so, take the ice-cream out and whisk.  This is necessary so that you won't get ice crystals and to ensure the ice cream is smooth.  Do this two or three times and then let the ice-cream freeze completely.

Scoop the ice-cream into a bowl and sprinkle with some toasted flaked almonds if you wish, or some crushed amaretti biscuits will be nice too.

This ice-cream is also my first entry for the Bloggers Scream For Ice Cream by Kavey Eats.  The theme this month is boozy ice-cream (two of my favourite things combined into one)... so if you're making boozy ice-cream this holiday season, do take part in the challenge...

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Lemon and Vanilla Buttermilk Cake

I've been experimenting with lemony cakes and after several tests, I feel I must share with you the recipe for this lemon and vanilla buttermilk cake, because it is utterly delicious.  I love the combination of lemon and vanilla.  They are among my favourite flavours of all time.  I always add vanilla seeds when making lemon curds.  They simply compliment each other.  

This is a very easy cake to make.  And of course, if you don't have buttermilk, natural plain yoghurt will do the job just fine.  Or you can always make buttermilk substitution by adding a tablespoon of lemon juice to a cup (250 ml) of milk.  Just give it a stir and let it stand for ten minutes or so until it thickens.  Easy, right?

In essence, this cake is actually a lemon drizzle cake.  Not only you get the lemon flavour in the cake from the zest, but also as the cake is out from the oven, it is then drenched with a lemon syrup... making this cake  incredibly moist. 

I must apologise that if you are going to comment on this post, I have put the annoying word verification back on again as today.  I received so many random anonymous comments and they're just beyond ridiculous now.  Just this morning, I got over seventy spam comments.  If anyone have any tips or suggestions on how to stop this, please let me know.  Thank you in advance. 

Lemon and Vanilla Buttermilk Cake 

3 eggs, free-range or organic
200 gr caster sugar
150 gr buttermilk
250 gr cake flour (or use 175 gr plain flour + 75 gr corn flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
a pinch of salt
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
1 teaspoon of vanilla paste (or the seeds of a vanilla pod)
150 ml vegetable oil
Icing sugar, for dusting

For the lemon syrup
the juice of 2 lemons
50 gr caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 180 C.  I use a 23 cm bundt tin for aesthetic purpose, but there's no need to.  You can use a regular 23 cm round tin.  Grease and flour or line the tin of your choice.

In a bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and salt.  In another bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, buttermilk, lemon zest and vanilla.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix well.  With a spatula, slowly fold in the vegetable oil until all is incorporated to the batter.

Pour the batter into the tin and bake for 35 - 40 minutes or until a wooden skewer comes out clean when poked to the centre of the cake.

Make the syrup by cooking the lemon juice and sugar in a small pan.  Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved and until it thickens.

When the cake is out from the oven, using a wooden skewer, make lots of little holes all around the cake.  Drizzle the syrup all over the cake.  It's best to do this when the cake is still warm as the cake will absorb the syrup better.  Let the cake cool in the tin.  When ready to serve, take it out from the tin, to the serving platter, and dust with icing sugar.

Monday, 19 November 2012

First Roast Turkey of the Season

I am always honoured when people ask me to cook for their parties... and when such cooking opportunity presents itself, like the saying, I grab on to it and don't let go...

I was asked to roast a turkey for a birthday party and I think the timing couldn't be more appropriate as the Season's Eatings is upon us and for my American friends, Thanksgiving Day is just around the corner... 

I did not grow up eating turkey in Indonesia.  Indonesian turkeys are often prized as "show birds", not for eating.  I had my first turkey when I lived in the States where I also celebrated my first Thanksgiving over ten years ago now... and it's such a great tradition (what is not to like about a day full of eating?), I carry on celebrating it every year.  I get some questions about roasting turkey from Indonesian friends, so I hope this post would help.  

Here's the truth: brining works! and I confess I used to think brining is just a waste of time.  But, I gave it a go a couple of years ago and I am a convert.  Brining does make a difference.  It ensures the turkey is juicy and so tender... and the great thing is, the prep takes no time and effort.  Last Christmas I used a more elaborate brine with herbs and spices and all things Chrismassy a la Nigella.  But, the brine I most often use is just a simple salt water solution.  The ratio is 60 grams of salt for every litre of water.  And you don't need an instruction on pouring salt to a bucketful of water... 

Brine the turkey overnight in the fridge.  The next day, remove the turkey from the liquid and pat dry with kitchen towel.  The turkey is seated inside a roasting tin, on a platform of celery sticks and carrots which will add to juices for the gravy later.  I smeared the turkey all over with softened butter, over and under the skin; and I put lemon halves, garlic cloves and fresh thyme inside the cavity.

Preheat the oven  to highest heat and roast the turkey for 15-20 minutes to get the colour going... then I turned it down to 180 C and cook for a further 30 minutes per kilo.  

I don't own a meat thermometer, but it's pretty easy to tell if the turkey is fully cooked.  I use the jiggling the leg method, which means if the legs (drumsticks) jiggle easily, well, it's cooked.  Also the juices should run clear when pierced with a fork or knife at the base of the legs and thighs.   

Let the turkey rest under a blanket of foil to let all the juices go back to the centre, even though it is very tempting to eat it straight away... Now, the carving of the bird.... I dread this task every time because I am a terrible carver, I admit.  So, you shouldn't really be getting carving advice from me.  You need Martha Stewart. 

Anyway, back to the turkey I cooked for the party as pictured above... it was a huge success and all the compliments are music to my ears.  Come on, you know you love the compliments too :)

American readers and friends, how will you cook your turkey this Thanksgiving day? and do you brine your turkey?

Have a great day!

Monday, 12 November 2012

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Zebra Cake

Update: Since this recipe, I have been experimenting to create a much lighter zebra cake and equally delicious.  And I think I have figured out the recipe. Please check it out here, Zebra Cake 2.0

Ah, don't you just love the name? I do. I am easily amused as you can tell :)  This zebra cake with its distinctive stripy pattern is nothing new actually. I remember my mom baking plenty of this cake when I was a kid.  And now, I am very pleased that I can bake it myself and share this cake with her.

I used to think that there's go to be an intricate technique to create the stripy pattern inside the cake.  But I can tell you, if you haven't made this cake before, it's actually pretty simple.  All that's required is a little patience, which I don't have.  So, If I managed, so can you....

This easy recipe is from the gorgeous Lorraine Pascale.  Previously I got the recipe by watching, pausing and taking notes from the TV programme.  However there must be an editing error that caused the flour to be added twice, causing a thick batter problem.  The ingredients list below has now been updated according to the book. I have also adjusted the method. Sorry for the confusion.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Zebra Cake
Recipe by Lorraine Pascale

250 ml vegetable oil
250 gr caster sugar
100 ml semi-skimmed milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 medium eggs
300 gr self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
25 gr cocoa powder
1 orange

Line a 23 cm cake tin and preheat the oven to 180 C.  In a big bowl, add the first five ingredients and mix well to combine.  Then, split this batter into two.

In the first bowl, make the vanilla batter by adding 175 gr self-raising flour and 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder.  Mix it all together and set aside. 

To the other bowl, add the cocoa powder, remaining 125 gr self-raising powder,  1/2 teaspoon of baking powder and orange zest to create the chocolate mix.

Now put each batter in piping bags, snip off the end and start building the cake.  To begin, put a dollop of the vanilla batter in the centre of the cake tin.  And then inside the vanilla batter, put the chocolate batter.  Followed by the vanilla and the chocolate and so on... creating a target pattern.  Though saying that, mine is a bit wonky as pictured below, but does it bother me? nah...

Bake the cake in the preheated oven for about 35 minutes.  Let it cool slightly, cut into slices and enjoy...

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Gâteau à la Crème Fraîche

A few days ago I experimented with a couple of brioche recipes. The first one was supposed to be a straightforward recipe for a brioche loaf... I made the dough the night before and I let it prove in the fridge overnight.  The following day, I shaped the loaf, I let it had its second rise... then, here's my big mistake... I went to the gym, thinking I'll make it home on time to bake the loaf... but no... traffic was just mental and when I got home, it was without a doubt: over-proved.  (I imagine myself as a contestant in the Great British Bake Off and Paul Hollywood looking at me in disgust for my over-proved brioche)  I baked it anyway and it came out flat as expected....

Thankfully I didn't make the same mistake for the second brioche experiment... Gâteau à la Crème Fraîche.  This is one of the recipes that I've been wanting to try for ages and I'm glad that I've done it.  The recipe is from the Oxfordshire based French chef, Raymond Blanc from his book Kitchen Secrets.  When I first saw the recipe and the stunning picture in the book, I thought this will be a complicated one.... and it's not.  But do tell people you slave for hours making this exquisite tart and enjoy all the compliments :)

I made the brioche dough using an electric mixer attached with a dough hook which makes life so much easier.  But if you want to do it by hand, I think you can do, but just to warn you, the dough is wet and sticky.

Gâteau à la Crème Fraîche 
Recipe by Raymond Blanc

For brioche dough
250 gr strong white bread flour
3 pinches sea slat
30 gr caster sugar
12 gr fresh yeast (I used 6 gr dried yeast)
4 medium eggs, lightly beaten
150 gr unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small cubes

For the crème fraîche filling
4 yolks
45 gr caster sugar
the zest of 1/2 lemon
the juice of 1/4 lemon
150 gr crème fraîche or sour cream

To finish
2 yolks, lightly beaten (recipe states 2, but 1 yolk is actually plenty)
caster sugar for sprinkling

In a bowl of an electric mixer attached with a dough hook, place the dry ingredients, keeping the salt and yeast apart, as salt will kill the yeast when they're put together.  Let them mix on a low speed and slowly add the lightly beaten eggs until fully incorporated.  Then add the speed and mix until the dough is coming away from the side of the bowl.  Now you can add the cubes of butter and keep mixing until all of the butter has disappeared.

Gave the dough a little scrape down the sides of the bowl and cover with cling film or tea towel, and let it rise for an hour.  Then, put it in the fridge also for an hour.  The dough will be much easier to handle when it's cold as the butter solidifies a bit.  Make the filling by simply mixing all the ingredients in a small jug, and set it aside.

Now time to shape the dough in the tin.  You can use a tart tin to make the edges look pretty but I left mine few thousand miles away, so I just use a regular round cake tin, about 30 cm in diameter.  Place the dough in the centre and using a lightly floured hands, flatten the dough, pushing in from the centre until it covers the bottom of the tin.  Cover again with cling film or kitchen towel and let it prove for 25-30 minutes at room temperature.  In the meantime, pre-heat your oven to 200 C.

Using a lightly floured hands, push the dough and make a well in the centre.  Pour the filling and brush the rim with the yolk(s).  Bake in the middle shelf for 10 minutes, then sprinkle with the sugar all over and bake for another 15 minutes until the edges turned golden brown and the filling is almost set.  Remove from the tin and let it cool slightly on a wire rack.  Serve warm with a nice cup of tea...

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

What I've been up to...

Greetings dear blog readers!

I am so sorry for the long blog hiatus and I do hope you are doing well.  I have missed you all and I cannot wait to catch up with my blog reading list. There are loads!!  I had some peeks and there are so many delicious posts.  I may need to get another round of sea salt caramel mocha frappuccino (my current favourite drink) to stop me from drooling all over my laptop later.

But before I start reading (and drooling), I want to share with you what I've been up to the past few weeks and my experience working as a culinary trainee at the pastry kitchen at the JW Marriott hotel Medan.

To just suddenly work in a kitchen surrounded by professional chefs, it was quite daunting to say the least.  I was nervous.  I have no formal culinary qualification.  I taught myself to cook and bake by reading countless cookery books, watching many hours of cookery shows and experimenting at the leisure of my own kitchen.     I just couldn't help but feel how if suddenly I realise that I couldn't actually cook or bake.  You know, that kind of thoughts...

But at the same time, I was very excited to learn... The first few days I felt I was the annoying new kid who asks for everything.  But then, I would rather be the annoying kid who asks a lot than to just assume and later make a complete fool of myself.  Especially since the recipe books only come with the list of ingredients with no instructions, required oven temperatures or timing.

Freshly baked rolls...
The kitchen is a shared space as well as all the equipments and tools. I am not used to this.  Living on my own for several years, I enjoy having my own territory.  The kitchen has always been my private place... where the magic happens.  At home, I know my way around the kitchen very well.  But here, very often I cannot find, oh for example a knife or a mixing bowl or the spatula that I wanted or it was being used by someone else.  Very annoying.  I was faced with the dilemma either to keep looking or wait and waste valuable time; or I could just used a different type of knives, dishes or spoons.  I was quite naive at first thinking that I must use the right tool for the right job.  Well, whenever possible, yes, I actually would.  But, to be honest, as long as I can get the job done properly, it doesn't really matter, does it?  So what if I cannot find the paring knife... the cheese knife would do just fine :)

There were plenty of daily tasks and I used to think that there weren't enough hours in a day to get everything done.  But it took me to a good week to realise that even though the tasks change daily and also depending on the shifts; there's a pattern to the routine, especially when setting/clearing up the daily mise en place.  Once I realised this, I was in competition with myself (my kind of competition and it's the best kind) to get the job done as efficiently (and of course, properly) as possible.  Then, I can get on with the rest of the tasks which also require a simple but useful tactic.  For example, when making a chocolate mousse, I always start by boiling some water in a couple of pans.  So that I don't have to wait for the water to boil later (I hate waiting and nothing worse than waiting for water to boil).  Then I use this time to weight the rest of the ingredients, cracked some eggs, get some iced-cold water to soften the gelatine and lightly whipped the double cream. Once the water is simmering, I can start melting the chocolate and make the sabayon.  This may sound a bit neurotic, however true, whilst whisking the eggs and sugar vigorously until they thicken, I make a sort of mind map to my next task; planning ahead and prioritising my workload, because at some point during my shift, I do want to take a break :) Anyway, after adding the now soften gelatine to the sabayon, followed by the melted and slightly cooled chocolate, I can start preparing the dishes and piping bag for the mousse.  And if the chocolate mixture is still a bit warm to fold the cream in, I can start preparing the ingredients to make other mousses or sauces or perhaps, a bit of a clean up.  What I'm trying to say is time management is the essence.

By the third week, in one afternoon I found myself making hundreds of mini quiches, donuts, sausage rolls, croissants, sweet buns and Danish pastries. It was madness but oh-so much fun!  However exhausting, I was always excited to learn, absorbing everything like a sponge.  I baked so many different types of breads... from the everyday white and brown toasts to various rustic French and Italian breads.

My first attempt at making baguettes... Not too bad I say.
I have also discovered that working in a kitchen is not that glamorous... unless your definition of glamorous is smelling home like bread, butter and sweat... :) and I still haven't managed to not cover myself in flour...
Oh yeah, before I forget, there's a great kitchen mantra "I taste the food I make" and I certainly tasted a lot!  Not just my creations but also everyone else's... :) I will  have to spend more time at the gym to make up for it now...

Bread basket for brunch service
Six weeks gone too quickly and I am sad that I had to leave the work experience earlier than planned due to other commitments.  But during this however short time, not only I gained valuable knowledge and hands-on experience in a professional kitchen, I met so many people whom  now I call friends...

To all the staff, my friends, at JW Marriott hotel Medan, I thank you for the opportunity.  And last but not least, I want to thank Louise from Fraiche Recruitment for putting this idea into my head and for your encouragement.  I hope this will be the beginning of something great...

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

My Birthday Cake

So it was my birthday a couple of days ago and I just wanted to share with you the birthday cake that my mom made.

This is a three layers of the lightest vanilla sponge filled with strawberry jam, frosted with buttercream and grated cheese. It's a very old fashioned cake, but what's wrong with that?

I don't have the recipe yet for this cake. I have to dig deep into my mom's recipe scrap book. I had such a lovely day with my parents and other friends. Especially this was the first birthday that I celebrated at home in ten years...

I had been pretty busy the past few weeks with the work experience (more about that in the next post). But I am very pleased to tell you that blogging will be back to normality very soon.

Take care my friends and thank you for your patience.

Have a great day.

P.S. if you're wondering, I am now 25 years old... :)

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Random Recipes: Bebek Bacem Masak Andaliman

Sorry blog and dear readers for I have abandoned you. I want to let you know that I think of all of you all the time... Truth is I don't have internet connection at home and I can't hang out at the mall or Starbucks all the time using their free wi-fi.

I am very much enjoying this long holiday period and I am using my time effectively. Very soon I am going to start working at JW Marriott hotel as a trainee chef. I am so looking forward to this hands-on kitchen experience. This is just temporary for a few weeks until I return to the UK, but still... it will be awesome, I know.

I have not been cooking, surprise surprise. I have been enjoying eating out and spoiled with mom's delicious cooking. But I did make time yesterday to cook my entry for this month's Random Recipe challenge.

All my cookbooks are currently in a box at a store room few thousand miles away. So, I am using my mom's  collection. The randomly chosen book is Lauk Bumbu Bacem by Indonesian cokery writer, Aan Roswaty. And the randomly chosen recipe is the delicious bebek bacem masak andaliman. Now, let me explain the lingo.

Bacem is a slow-cooking technique where the food is submerged in bumbu, a paste made of spices, and some liquid until it's completely dry or you are left with a thick sauce. Bacem cooking is very popular for tofu and tempeh. But it is also often used for poultry, meat and offal. For this dish, bebek or duck is the star ingredient. And andaliman is Indonesian for Szechuan peppercorns.

This takes hardly any effort to make as you can read below. I suggest you stay in the kitchen during the cooking process. The aroma is just amazing... and because the duck is cooked long and slow, it became very tender and the thick spicy sauce is finger-licking good.

I gotta go now... cappuccino is running low...  

Bebek Bacem Masak Andaliman
Recipe by Aan Roswaty 

1 duck, cleaned and cut into portions
2 asam gelugur, don't have this so I used a couple tsps of tamarind paste instead.
2 lemongrass, bruised
4 lime leaves
1 litre coconut milk
1 teaspoon caster sugar
vegetable oil

for the bumbu
8 red chillies de-seed if you want it milder
1/4 teaspoon andaliman
4 candle nuts
2 cm piece of ginger
2 cm piece of galangal
7 shallots
4 cloves of garlic
salt, to taste

Start by making the paste my mixing all the ingredients in a food processor to a thick paste. Rub this all over the duck. Add the duck and the rest of the ingredients to a pan and cook over medium-heat until the duck is cooked and most of the liquid has evaporated. Add a little bit of oil and cook further.... taste and season accordingly.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Indonesia so far... part 3, seafood

Hello dear readers! I hope you are all well. I am back in Indonesia, in Jakarta to be exact. It's day four and I almost beat this damn jetlag. Though it's not so bad this time because the Olympics is on all day and I have something to watch late at night. Come on team GB (and team Indonesia)!

It's been so lovely being reunited with family. I am gonna be here for several weeks and whilst I am figuring out what I am gonna do next, I hope you'll enjoy reading my travelog series. At the moment, I am staying in a hotel, but when I am at home in Medan, I'll be sure to start cooking again. One of the things that I've done is signed up for a gym, because I intend to eat a lot :)

When visiting the biggest archipelago in the world, you must try some of the fabulous and sumptuous seafood. Here are some of my favourite seafood dishes:

Grilled stingray with sweet soy and limes has been a favourite of mine since I was little. It is sweet and fresh and my favourite part is nibbling on the soft bones. Source of protein and calcium at the same time? :) Sometimes you'll find a variation of grilled stingray that is topped with sambal which is also delicious, but that depends if you can stand the heat or not.

I am not normally into anything poached, except for for poached eggs, but even that I don't have it very often... primarily because I am hopeless at poaching eggs. But anyway, these poached shrimps are also an exception. They are surprisingly delicious. They are poached in some sort of magical flavourful fish broth until just firm which allowed the sweetness of the shrimps to come through. They are topped with fresh coriander. 

Salted egg yolk prawns and squids are next on the list. Both are coated in salted egg yolk batter before deep fried and served with more salted egg yolks, spring onions and slices of red chilli. A quick note, the squids are often served in rings. However, the prawns are often served whole.. heads, tails and all. I actually really liked the heads as the pack lots of flavour, but it's probably too much for some. If you had a chance, you must also try salted egg yolk on crab... yum.

Please do not be alarmed by the picture below... I admit the fish does look scary, but it is so delicious. This is Chinese style steamed fish. The fish is called ikan jurung which I honestly don't know what it's called in English. But obviously this is not the only fish that are often used for steaming... other fishes like, snapper, tilapia or bream are quite popular as well. The fish here is steamed in Shaoxing rice wine, soy sauce, shallots, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, Chinese oyster mushrooms and topped with sliced spring onions at the end. 

Saving the best for last is kepiting saus Padang (crab in Padang's chilli sauce). This is without a doubt is my new favourite Indonesian seafood dish of all time. This is so delicious, just the thought of it makes me drool. The crab meat is sweet and the sauce... oh, the sauce is out of this world. It's a tomato and red chilli based sauce that's flavoured with lots of garlic, ginger, shallots and spring onions. I really look forward and cannot wait to eating this crab dish again when I am back in Medan.

The eating continues...

Please click on the link if you missed part 1 and part 2.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

For all the memories and to new beginnings

Now that all the packing is all done, it has finally hit me to the fact that I am leaving; and when I thought I am not the emotional type, I was clearly in denial... I am missing this place already... a place now I called, home.

I came to Sunderland seven years ago to start university. I was just seventeen and freshly graduated from high school in the States. I guess I wanted an adventure and oh... I got a great one! The past seven years have been truly amazing. I still remember my first days here. I used to live in a student accommodation which was quite far from the town centre, and not knowing the area and with no internet access at the time, I thought the little shops around the accommodation were the only places in Sunderland. There was a small supermarket, a fruit grocer, a couple of pizza joints, a Chinese take-away place, a pasty shop and a tanning saloon. I immediately thought that I made a very bad decision and I didn't know how I would cope living here for the next three years. And out of the seven rooms in my accommodation block, I was the first one to arrive, so I also didn't have anyone to talk to. Like a stereotypical student, I spent my first couple of days eating tinned baked beans and pot-noodles.... 

Soon enough, I began exploring outside this little street and I found the town centre where there's life and civilisation. Hooray! I went to the university for orientation and I made new friends. Not so many. There were only nine of us in the course and by the time of graduation, there was only three of us who made it to the ceremony. Through sport clubs, societies, local choir and church, I made plenty more friends; and soon enough my then American accent was influenced by the local 'mackem' accent. 

I also experienced many life 'first' moments here. Like, tasting your first long island iced tea. You know that a mixture of vodka, gin, tequila, rum and coke would not end up well, but you drink it anyway. I'm not gonna go into the gruesome details of what happened when I woke up the following morning. Believe me it's not nice and I am disgusted just thinking about it. And to this day, I still don't know the full details of the things that happened that evening. Perhaps, it's better for me (and you) not knowing the details.

When I graduated four years ago, I started working for the university and I moved to my current flat. This was the second flat that I viewed and because I loved it so much, with no hesitation I signed the contract and I started to make the empty flat my new home...

And tonight, looking at the flat empty once more, I began to reminisce all the memories. The lovely dinners, the surprise parties, the day my friend Adam tasted chicken for the first time in his life, the break-ups, the hook-ups, the night I decided to start a blog and all the good times my friends and I spent here. Oh my, who am I kidding... I am sentimental. Sorry.

During all this time, I am very fortunate to have all the support from my friends... I will miss all of you. And if I don't say it enough, I want to say to say the deepest Thank You from the bottom of my heart. And to all of you with your kind comments and emails. I also Thank You

But I think this is the right time for me to leave and it's time for a change... a new adventure. In a few hours time, I will be heading to London and will be spending a couple of days there. I look forward to watch the Olympics opening ceremony with the crowds. It will be incredible. I am already buzzing with excitements. Then on Saturday, I will be flying back to Indonesia to spend time with family. I don't know where life will take me from there... well, I do have plans (one of the plans is to attend culinary school), but we all know what happen to plans... So, I am keeping an open mind to possibilities that will come. And just in case if I get homesick, with me I take a jar of marmite, golden syrup and English mustard :)

Earlier I cracked open a bottle of champagne that I've been saving... and I made a toast, "for all the memories and to new beginnings"... 

I'll be back again soon... x.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Gwyneth Paltrow's Duck Ragu... well, sort of...

I have been wanting to try this recipe for a while and I am so glad to have finally done it this weekend. With a total of five hours preparation and cooking time, yes, this recipe is time consuming. But, there's hardly anything to do while the duck is roasting in the oven or when the ragu is simmering gently. And it's perfect for me at the moment, since I am in the middle of moving, cleaning and packing. I can do all the housework and every now and then, I just need to stop by the stove to stir the ragu.

When testing a recipe for the very first time, I normally stick to the ingredients and instructions. And from there, if anything needs changing, I'll then adjust it to my liking. However, Gwyneth's recipe for this duck ragu calls for duck bacon which I could not find here in Sunderland. I could perhaps order it online, but they do not come cheap. So, instead, I used pancetta which is more accessible and affordable.

The recipe also calls of Italian red wine, perhaps something like Chianti which I often use when cooking beef ragu. But what I had was Cotes du Rhone which I like to drink; or use when cooking boeuf bourguignon and then drink with the stew later. 

The process of making the ragu is pretty simple. You begin by roasting the duck in the oven for a couple of hours. The cooked and cooled duck is then shredded and added to a slowly cooked tomato sauce which includes the pancetta (or duck bacon, if you're fortunate enough), finely chopped onions, celery, carrot, garlic, rosemary and the red wine. Tomato paste is also added at the last stage of the cooking.  

You can find the amount of ingredients by clicking the link below. This makes quite a lot of ragu and if you have some leftovers, it gets better the next day. Serve the duck ragu with tagliatelle pasta.

Have a great weekend!

Gwyneth Paltrow's Duck Ragu
Serves 4 - 6
For list of ingredients and instructions, click here.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Graduation Day and Hazelnut Prune Cake

It was my graduation day a couple of days ago and I had a fantastic day. Well, why wouldn't I? I was surrounded by family and friends I love dearly. This is my second graduation and I personally think the second time round was better. Like many things in life, the first time was good, but I was nervous... Now that I know the drill, I can just get on with it and enjoy...

Although, it was still nerve-racking when I was told that I was going to be the first one up on the stage to start the ceremony. Yeah, no pressure at all! Thankfully I did not trip or embarrassed myself in anyway like I would normally do. When my name was called by the Dean, I walked on stage, I shook hands with the Vice-Chancellor, the Chancellor (Steve Cram, BBC Chief Athletics Commentator and World Champion), I thanked my lecturers and I waved to my friends and family and fellow graduates. It was only for ten seconds or so or perhaps less, but it was just a great feeling hearing all the cheers.

In case if you are wondering I graduated in Master of Arts in Media and Cultural Studies from University of Sunderland. My dissertation focuses on the exploration of identity via food choices and eating culture (it's about food... Shocking! I know). The graduation was held at Sunderland's football ground, the Stadium of Light. And here's a narcissistic picture of me on the day:

OK, enough about the graduation, now time for cake. Packing is going and I am very pleased that it's almost done. I was cleaning my cupboard the other day and I found a bag of prunes that needs using and I just hate wasting food. I can't do it and won't do it. So, thank you to Google and Dan Lepard that I found this great recipe. It is not a summer cake, I know. Very Christmassy in fact. 

The cake is moist from the prunes and not too sweet which I like. And after it bakes, the top is drenched with delicious brandy. Enjoy with your morning coffee whilst blogging like what I'm doing now; or in the afternoon with a glass of chilled sweet wine, Dan suggests. 

Hazelnut Prune Cake
Recipe by Dan Lepard
For list of ingredients and instructions, click here.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Random Recipes #18 - something a little different...

Hi. My name is Michael Toa and I am a cookbook junkie.

For a couple of months, during my long holiday on the other side of the world, I have missed Random Recipe challenge. Now that I am back, although only for a short while before I head off again (I feel somewhat like a jet-setter, but clearly I am not), that simply needs to change. No more excuses.

The brilliant Dom has challenged us with something a little different. Instead of cooking a recipe from a random page of a cookbook, we have been asked to show each other our cookbooks collection. And I am very happy with the theme of this month's challenge. Not only because I am incredibly nosy - I love seeing what's inside other people's fridge for example - but also, I feel it's the appropriate time to showcase my cookbooks collection before they all go in a box and move to a new home... More on that later...

I don't have a bookshelf... well, I actually do, but I don't put my cookbooks there. The bookshelf is for my kitchen knick knacks. All of my cookbooks reside on the window shelf in my bedroom. I do find great pleasure in reading cookbooks, especially ones that are filled with personal stories; because I believe that the process and the story behind it, makes the food even more exciting.

I suppose there is no order as such in how I arrange my cookbooks, but I do like to group them together by the author. The section on the far right is the Food Network collections from my teen years which include Food Network all star cookbook, Rachael Ray, Dave Lieberman and Giada de Laurentiis. Giada's Everyday Italian is the first cookbook I owned. Moving on, is the Jamie Oliver section. I don't have all of his books but most of them I think. Jamie's Dinners is often my go to book when I am in need of inspirations. I do take a very good care of my cookbooks. I don't like creases and no greasy fingers, but the one book that's pretty worn out is Jamie Oliver's My Guide to Making You A Better Cook as you can probably tell from the fading cover. For one year, a couple of years ago, this was my bible and I am very proud that I have successfully cooked every single recipe in that book. Right after Giorgio Locatelli's Made in Sicily is the all important section: Nigella Lawson. I LOVE (notice the capital 'LOVE') all of her cookbooks.  

Continuing on to the rest of the cookbooks...

I am appalled to say that even though I have Nigel Slater's Toast and Eating for England (both are excellent reads) I have none of his cookbooks (friends reading this, yes, it's a hint). Every so often, some cookbooks are located next to my bedside table for easy access when I am on the bed. These are often new books or current reads. This week I've been sharing my bed with the following books.

I am anxiously waiting for the postman to deliver a couple of new books: The Little Paris Kitchen by Rachel Khoo and Giles Coren's How To Eat Out which I know I will very much enjoy reading. 

In my living room, under the coffee table, that's where I keep my magazines, cuttings and supplements from Sunday papers. I subscribe to GQ because obviously I am man about town and I like to look at nice things I can't afford; and also Jamie Magazine which is the source of many of my cooking inspirations.

Well, that's all friends. Tomorrow, all the books and magazines will be living temporarily in a box until they move to their new home somewhere in London...

Thank you Dom for this month's brilliant theme. Have a great day everyone... and now back to never-ending packing... *sigh...

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Indonesia so far... part 2, noodles

I had an absolute brilliant couple of weeks at my hometown in Medan, North Sumatra. I got to see my parents, slept in my old room, met more extended families, this time from my father's side and I got to play with my dog, Molly. Most importantly, I was reunited with so many delicious dishes in Medan.

Perhaps I've told you this before, but I'll tell you again, Medan is well-known for, one, its dreadful traffic. I am so glad my driving license has expired and I don't have to drive here. It's a thrill I do not want to endure. The second thing Medan is known for is the delicious foods this city has to offer.

I am spoiled for choice. And with so many eating occasions and very minimal exercise, no surprise that I gained weight here. But I'm not gonna worry about that now. I am still on holiday mode.

Rice is THE staple food of Indonesia. No matter where you go, you will find rice. And I do like rice, but if I had to choose my favourite carbohydrate, it's got to be noodles. Be it Chinese, Japanese, Italian or Indonesian, I love noodles. I suppose it's got to do with the slurping sensation which I find very satisfying. So, in this second part of my trip in indonesia, I'm going to share some of the delicious noodles I had here.

Before we go any further, feel free to make yourself a cup of coffee first or grab a light snack because this is gonna be a somewhat long post.

Now, if you're ready, let's begin!

Tiong Sim Noodle
There is just no way for me to visit Medan and not eating Mi Tiong Sim (Tiong Sim Noodle). It is located at Selat Panjang street and my family have been eating here for as long as I can remember. The noodles here are handmade and they are very thin which is a distinct feature of this dish. The cooked and seasoned noodles are topped with Chinese barbecued pork (char siew pork), pork dumplings, shredded chicken, slices of spring onions and crispy shallots. A fragrant pork broth will also be given on the side. Absolutely beautiful.

Kwetiau Mesjid
Another childhood favourite is kwetiau mesjid. Kwetiau means flat rice noodles. And mesjid, meaning mosque, refers to the name of the street where you can find this great dish. Again, we've been coming here for many many years. The dish is very simple and straightforward. There's kwetiau, veg, bean sprouts, duck egg and impeccable seasonings. Served on a plate that's been covered with banana leaf. Another example of some of the greatest things are the simplest.

Kari Bihun Tabona
Next is kari bihun or rice noodles with curry from a place called Tabona at Mangkubumi street. The curry is golden and fragrant and slightly spicy but just enough, to keep you wanting more. And the rice noodles are just the perfect vehicle to soak up all the spices. You can choose between chicken or beef curry here and I recommend both! With the beef curry pictured above, you can also ask for the offals which I love, but it's entirely optional.

Ak Bihun
Another fantastic noodle dish using rice noodles is Ak Bihun (rice noodles with duck). This noodle dish is one of my favourite breakfast item. You think eating duck meat is too rich for breakfast? Well, the duck here is poached so it is not at all fatty. Each bowl is filled with rice noodles, plenty of duck meat, veg, minced crispy garlic, fresh coriander, spring onions, with the broth served on the side.

Noodles with shiitake mushroom - Khek-style noodle

Now that I've mentioned noodles for breakfast, above are another two of fantastic noodle dishes, perfect to start your day or just about anytime in my case. The picture on the left is known as mie jamur or noodles with shiitake mushroom but obviously, there are other delicious ingredients as well which include melt-in-you-mouth pieces of pork, spring onions, crispy shallots and fresh coriander. The one on the right is khek-style noodle with loads of delicious sweet pork and a little heat from ground white pepper and spring onions.

Next on my list of favourite noodle dishes is laksa. Laksa is a sour and spicy noodle soup that is widely popular is Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Depending on where you go to, you might find laksa that has a coconut based broth which is nice, but a little too sweet to my liking. I prefer Medanese laksa, pictured above, that uses tamarind and chilli based broth, and plenty of holy basil, making it lighter and fresher. This particular seafood laksa with sardines uses thicker udon-style noodles which is great for slurping. Yum.

Blitar-style noodle soup - Noodle soup with water spinach
Literally translated, mie sop means noodle soup. Mie sop is one of the most popular street food in Indonesia and there are so many variations, that it is impossible to sum everything up only in one paragraph. But, I'll share with you a couple of examples of sublime noodle soups I had here. The picture on the left is Blitar-style noodle soup from Java (but the vendor is in Medan) with rice noodles, shredded chicken and an extra plate of chicken for me :) And the one on the right is new for me and I can tell it going to be an old favourite soon, mie kangkung. This is so simple but yet incredibly delicious. There's egg noodles, chicken, bean sprouts, water spinach (kangkung) and then... the broth... it's dark, packed with flavour and it is just amazing. So delicious. Just the thought of it makes me salivate.

The eating continues...

Friday, 18 May 2012

Indonesia so far... part 1

So, it's been over two weeks now that I've been in Jakarta, Indonesia. I've got many stories to tell you, but where do I begin?

It's been wonderful spending time with my family and seeing relatives that I have not seen in years and some I finally met for the first time. I almost forget that I have a huge family. My mom's side of the family, most of them lives in Bandung, the capital of West Java, about three or four or five hours away from Jakarta; depending on the traffic. She has 4 sisters and 5 brothers. And just from that side of the family, I have almost, if not over 30 cousins, several nieces and nephews. I really need to do a proper count.

My dad is the 7th child out of the 9 children... But I'll tell you the details later. Anyway, I have this idea to create a family tree which I think is much needed... For me anyway. Can anybody recommend any good app or software for this? Thank you.

This must have been the longest I've been in Jakarta. It's a weird feeling, everything is familiar, but I feel like a stranger. Maybe that's because I have not lived in Indonesia for almost ten years now. Or perhaps that's just because Jakarta is not my hometown and I don't know the area well. Medan in North Sumatra is. It's about 2 hours flight away from Jakarta and is my next destination as soon as I'm done with all the business here.

I must appear different as well or too tourist-like. For some reasons, when I go to a shop or approach a taxi driver, people start talking to me in English or ask if I could speak Indonesian. Maybe that's just the norm now. I don't know.

Anyway, now to the all important business, the food! What else? Ah, I've been treated to so many delicious foods here; traditional dishes that I love and some new favourites too. I couldn't put everything into one post (or it's gonna be a really long post), so I'm gonna break it down to several posts. Here are some of them...

Walking down the streets of Jakarta... err... that's a lie... it's too hot to walk around here. Everybody drives, either a car or a motorcycle, and that's why the traffic is just a nightmare. Seriously. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is, anywhere you go in Jakarta, you'll find plenty street-vendors selling ketoprak. This particular one consists of tofu, bean sprouts, green beans and rice noodles. The sauce is made from ground peanuts, palm sugar, garlic, sweet soy sauce, chilli (optional), seasonings and a little water to thin it slightly. No ketoprak is complete without kerupuk (crackers) and a little extra drizzle of sweet soy sauce. Actually, throughout the island of Java and Sumatra, you'll find many versions of ketoprak. They will be called under a different name and the ingredients will vary slightly, but the idea is pretty much the same.

Sate kambing or mutton satay is another street-food I love. They are grilled to order on a charcoal grill to add smokiness and flavour. Very often you'll have the option to choose between a peanut sauce or sweet soy sauce to accompany the satay... Being somewhat indecisive when it comes to food, I asked for both! The more the merrier, I say. The satay is then topped with crispy shallots, picked shallots and sliced spring onions. Beautiful.

Empek-empek / Pempek originates from Palembang in South Sumatra. But you can find it all over Indonesia. There are many different kinds of pempek, but they are essentially fish cakes with tapioca added to make the dough. One of the most famous is pempek kapal selam (literally translated: submarine pempek), which reminds me of Scotch eggs. Because it is made from a chicken egg wrapped in the pempek dough and then deep fried. The one pictured below is pempek lenjer. When still whole, it is shaped like a sausage and then it's thinly sliced, mixed with beaten eggs and fried like an omelette.

Pempek is often served with noddles and sliced cucumbers and most importantly the dark vinegar-y sauce which I adore. It just gives tang and freshness to the dish. However, be careful, the sauce can also be spicy. I mean like crazy. So watch for the label or ask for the mild one.

There is another version of fish cake, called otak-otak which can also be found in other parts of South East Asia, like Malaysia and Singapore. Translated into Malay and Bahasa Indonesia, otak means brain, yet otak-otak has nothing to do with brains. So, don't be scared of this dish. Otak-otak is often wrapped in banana leaves and then steamed or grilled. The one I had below is steamed and then fried. Just steaming it, don't do it for me. Then topped with fresh shallots, spring onions and dark vinegar, like pempek above.

Five hours drive outside Bandung in West Java, you'll get to the town of Kuningan which is famous for its tofu, tahu Kuningan. Here, I saw the tofu making process and it is fascinating. No, I haven't planned to make my own tofu now. Not yet anyway. The tofu is then deep fried... oh, yeah... deep fried. These little mouthfuls are so good when still warm. I like it just by itself, but if you like it spicy, ask for the birds eye chilli. They are tiny, but they pack a punch.

That's for now... the eating continues...

Saturday, 28 April 2012

A Surprise and Bacon Brownies

Before I left work, I asked my friends not to make a big fuss about it. So last Thursday, we decided to go to the cinema to watch The Avengers Assemble and then perhaps going someplace to eat afterwards.

On the evening, I was told that my friend Adam made a mess with the ticket booking for the cinema and we're now going to a different one that's further away from where I live. Alison and Cian picked me up and on the way we have to fetch Adam too.

When we got to Adam's place, he wasn't ready yet, so we went up to his flat. I was panicking a little bit because I know we're gonna be late for the film and I'm going to miss the trailers at the beginning! But oh well, never mind...

Adam's flat was dark, warm and smelled delicious. That was my comment when I got in. When I opened the door to his lounge, "Surprise!!!" shouted everyone. All my colleagues and friends were there. I was so shocked!!

I never had a surprise party. I've been involved in many, but this one was for me... The room was beautifully decorated with pictures of me and friends, balloons and the food... let's talk about food. The spread was truly amazing. Everybody contributed a dish or two. Some home-made and some store bought.

Alison cooked a delicious slow-cooked beef in hoisin sauce and Chinese 5 spice. Liam made canapés or burritos and chilli con carne. Mark baked fairy cakes. Janet brought her gooey caramel slice. Michelle with the Chocolate cake. Somebody brought salad which was a nice thought but I believe it was untouched... Anyway, that's just some of the food. It was a feast!

Later in the evening, I was presented with a gift that appeared like a book. I opened the box and it was the new iPad! Oh my God! Second shock of the evening. I would be more than happy with a cookbook, but an iPad... I was out of words. I was so touched.

No, we didn't go to the cinema that evening. And that party was just truly amazing. Great food, lots of drinks and wonderful company of friends (and an iPad)... I count myself very lucky that I have such amazing friends. I will miss them very much...

The next day, on my last day at work, I baked Nigella's Bacon Brownies. If you haven't tried this before, I urge you to try it. It sounds strange combining chocolate and bacon, but believe me, it's delicious. All I and Mae West can say is too much of a good thing can be wonderful indeed.

Bacon Brownies
Recipe by Nigella Lawson

125 gr thin rashers of streaky bacon, cut into fine slices
2 tsp golden syrup
150 gr soft unsalted butter
250 gr soft light brown sugar
75 gr best cocoa powder
150 gr plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 large eggs, beaten
159 gr dark chocolate, chopped or use dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 190 C and get out a 25 cm square tin and line it, or do what I did by using disposable foil baking tray.

Heat a pan, preferably non stick and cook the bacon bits until beginning to crisp. Add the syrup, stir again and transfer to a plate.

Melt the butter over gentle heat in a medium sized saucepan and when it's melted add the brown sugar and stir with a wooden spoon.

Take the pan off the heat and add the cocoa, flour, bicarb and stir. The add the eggs and stir again.

The the chopped chocolate or chips and the bacon bits. Fold together then pour into the tin.

Bake for 20 - 25 minutes until it's still a little gooey inside. Let it cool a little and serve warm.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Cinnamon Sugar Doughnuts and an update...

Apologies for the lack of post and also apologies for haven't been visiting and commenting on your blogs too...

It's been a rather busy past few days... I am in the process of last-minute moving and packing is just not fun. I enjoy the cleaning up bit and throwing away crap I collect over the years, but the actual putting things and wrapping things into boxes... not so much.... Thankfully, it's almost done now.

Here's the thing, sometime ago, I found out that the place where I work for would not be able to sponsor myself and pretty soon my contract will officially be terminated; and that day is very soon coming... by very soon I mean in a few minutes time when I have to go to the office. Today is going to be my last day at work and I am absolutely dreading it... I'll get all emotional I'm sure and I don't do public display of emotion particularly well.

Throughout this time, I remain calm... well, I appear to remain pretty calm at least. I haven't had my "now panic and freak out" moment yet. Maybe that's because I have mixed feelings about all this. I am a great believer that everything happens for a reason... and one day, I will look back at this moment and I'd be glad that it did happen, because otherwise 'that thing' in the future would not happen.

And also, what keeps me really calm is the voice in my head... repeatedly saying, "Michael, don't worry. Everything is going to be OK. Everything is going to be OK". I am sure it will. I don't know if I am being overtly positive but I like the sound of that. Or maybe I have gone mental and started hearing random voices.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time working at such fantastic place, surrounded by great colleagues. I am sad that I am leaving, but not sad because I am leaving the job, but because of the people I am going to leave. I am lucky that over the years I have made some wonderful friends and I will miss them deeply. I will miss bringing treats to work that's for sure. I really don't want to get into that now... starting to get emotional just writing about it.

OK, so what's next? Well, I am off on holiday to visit my family in Indonesia... It'll be nice to have a bit of sun and away from the never-ending rain. I am also looking forward to the food there... what a surprise... Not! And then when I come back... I'm gonna be moving to London where I am going to start the Diplome de Patisserie course at Le Cordon Bleu. I am beyond excited!

During this time, I'm gonna try to keep you up to date with what I'm doing and will try my best to read your posts too. Just bear with me please...

A couple of nights ago, whilst packing, watching football, spending time with friends, I managed to make some doughnuts. I absolutely love doughnuts but don't make them very often. But when I do make them, I must be accompanied because I can eat lots of them, especially when they're still warm... I always use the same doughnuts recipe from Jamie Oliver. I love the old English spiced sugar with the warm doughnuts which includes cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, lemon zest, orange zest and vanilla seeds; but a simple cinnamon sugar is just as nice.

Cinnamon Sugar Doughnuts
Recipe for doughnuts by Jamie Oliver

For the doughnuts
1 x 7 gr sachet dried yeast
70 gr caster sugar
500 gr plain flour
315 ml whole milk, warmed until tepid
zest of two lemons
zest of one orange
80 gr unsalted butter, softened and cubed
1 litre vegetable oil

For the cinnamon sugar
100 gr caster sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a bowl, add the yeast with one tablespoon of the caster sugar and a tablespoon of the flour and mix in the warm milk. Let it stand for 15 minutes until the mixture becomes frothy.

Put the rest of the sugar, flour, zests and butter in a bowl. Add the yeast mixture and use a wooden spoon to bring it all together then use your hand to mix it into a bowl. Add more flour if it's too sticky. Knead the dough for 5 minutes or until it's smooth and silky. Pop it into a bowl and cover with damp cloth or cling film. Leave it to rise for about one hour. Meanwhile make your cinnamon sugar.... I'm not giving you mockery instructions for this...

When the dough has doubled in size, give it a punch. I love doing this, don't know about you. Then roll on a floured surface until it's an even 1 cm thickness. Use a little cutter, approximately 5 cm in diameter and cut about 25 circles. Put them onto a greased baking tray, cover with cling or damp towel and let it rise again for another 45 minutes.

When the dough has doubled in size again, use a chopstick to make a little hole in the centre. Now heat the vegetable oil in a large deep saucepan then fry the doughnuts until golden brown. This won't take long at all. Two minutes max. While the doughnuts are still warm coat them in the cinnamon sugar and eat straightaway with a cup of coffee or tea.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Rich Chocolate Tart with Salt Flakes

I have had a great weekend. I fed more friends (the usual) and getting fed by other friends too (the unusual). I was invited for lunch yesterday and I don't get this offer very often, so I when the opportunity comes, well, you know... As much as I love to cook and play host, every now and then I do enjoy playing guest as well. Although also yesterday, my patience was truly tested. My lunch invite was for 1 o'clock and food was finally served at 4.15. By that time, I was already digesting parts of the inside of my body. Lesson learned and note to self: must bring snacks next time.

Anyway, on the weekend I also baked another tart with homemade pastry, again! I know, I must have been possessed by the baking fairies (one source told me they do exist). I use the exact same pastry recipe from my Rhubarb and Strawberry Tart, please do check it out if you haven't done so. Practice does make perfect, right?

Chocolate and salt are ridiculously delicious together, so if you haven't tried them, I'm telling you that you are missing out! The tart is not difficult to make, especially if you use a store-bought pastry. You only need to bake the tart shell; and for the filling, a light cooking and stirring, and then two hours of patience for the chocolate to set...

Rich Chocolate Tart with Salt Flakes
Recipe by Jamie Oliver
Serves 4 - 6 (I managed to cut it into 10 slices)

375 gr ready-made shortcrust pastry
300 ml double cream
2 tsp caster sugar
50 gr unsalted butter, softened
200 gr dark chocolate, minimum 70% cocoa, broken into small pieces
50 ml whole milk
Seas salt flakes

If you are using ready-made pastry, bake the pastry according to the packet direction. Or if planning to make it yourself, click here for the list of ingredients and instructions.

Once the pastry is cooked, let it cool and make the filling. In a large pan, place the cream, sugar and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Then immediately remove from the heat and add the soft butter and chocolate. Let it melt a little and then stir until well-blended. Wait for a couple of minutes before adding the milk and stir again.

Pour into the tart shell and leave at room temperature for two hours to set. Sprinkle salt flakes lightly just before serving otherwise the salt will melt.