Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Winter Solstice

Happy Winter Solstice! This is a late post of Tang Chek Festival , recipe and photo by Emmaline Lee and her daughter. This festival is not only celebrated in China but in many Asian countries that does not have the winter season.

As for me, I had almost forgotten about this event till I saw Em's Facebook page the other day and I yelled out loud, "Oh, I remember those things!" It's funny and I totally get this Chinese celebration now. The time of the year for family gathering, celebrating the end of short days, apparently days with longer sunlight means positive energy. More of the Ying and Yang thing later when I find out more.

When I was growing up in Malaysia, I remembered that we would spend half the night making this, helping Mum rolled out the balls. At that age, all I wanted to do was muck around when the novelty wore off and I wanted to go to sleep. I couldn't understand why we had to sit up half a nite, rolling bucketloads of glutinous rice balls. I was then and still am pretty ignorant in all things Chinese and in so many ways, I am so westernised, as my Mum would say.

That's right, my Mum would go all "Joy Luck Club" on me and complained that since I don't know my beginnings, therefore I won't know my endings. Like, really? That is deep, what does that even means? Meh, and those of you who know me; will know that I would get all defensive and rebel and grumble and complain till the very last ball was rolled. I was a child, a selfish one and what I didn't want to know then, I sure am trying to find out now. So like the ball, I am coming full circle.

So anyway, here the recipe from the lovely Emmaline and her daughter took this photo.

"Tang Chek - all u need is glutinous flour. Mix with water, mix color n roll, roll , roll bulat bulat. For syrup, u need pandan leaves n rock sugar. When boiling, throw the ee into pot. U can eat it hot or cold ( with ice cubes or chilled). Enjoy !!!

Roll Bulat bulat...Translation : Roll and roll and make it round like a ball. Hahhahahha ;) Ok, I don't know the measurement, you'll just have to "agak agak"... estimate, see the texture of dough.

Photo - All Rights Reserved to Emmaline Lee

Monday, December 19, 2011

Lemongrass Prawns on Stick

My dinner tonite was inspired by a food magazine that I had recently purchased. It was the best read ever and I really love this food magazine that I ended up subscribing it for a whole year. Anyway, I was reading this particular advertisement in the magazine at lunchtime... wait, let me rephrase that! I was drooling over the picture of the grilled prawns and I just knew that I had to come home and cook it. It was simple enough, took me less than twenty minutes to prep the prawns, and that was including deveining ( is there such a word? ) and marinating and then putting it on skewers and chucking it under the grill.

I wanted chinese vegetables to accompany it, so I decided on Kailan and Beansprouts also known as Chinese Broccoli and Beansprouts ;) Hehehe.. golly gosh I am smart today. Actually, it was the only veges that I had in the fridge, so I am just winging it, as I go.

  • 10 large King Tiger Prawns or Banana prawns, whatever you can get, Lobster tails are even better!
  • 2 tablespoon of Thai marinade, this marinade has coriander, lemongrass, garlic, basil and chilli. If you have time, you can make these marinade in advance to store using fresh herbs and spices. They are handy for quick stirfries.
  • 1 teaspoon of dark soy sauce for basting
  • A sprig of coriander for garnish
  • I tablespoon of Oyster sauce for the chinese vegetable stirfry

Preheat the grill or barbeque. BBQ is better but sometimes you should really just cook inside when it gets scary dark outside, yup, even in summer!
Using a skewer, thread the prawns, tail end first onto the skewer. Repeat until those suckers are skewered.
Then coat the prawns with the marinade, leave it alone for a while and go check your Facebook.
When you come back, put the prawns skewers under the grill, turning after four minutes. Keep an eye on it, don't let the tail burn.
While this is grilling, heat up your wok, and throw in the chinese broccoli and beansprouts. Tossed it around for a couple of times and add the oyster sauce. Turn off heat and plate it.
Serve immediately with cooked prawns on the bed of chinese veg.

Xmas cookies

Last weekend, I decided to make some xmas cookies. So I spend the day baking like crazy, like my life depended on it... and it was rather fun and succesful. For once, I did not fail in baking. Nothing was burnt, my house is still standing and that is always a bonus! I gotta say, the house smelt heavenly of buttery vanilla cookies and ginger from the gingerbread. Nothing could be better, except an alcoholic ginger beer of course, this Ninja must go raid her neighbour's fridge again.. mmm!

I took some cookies to work today. I am so glad that my co-workers like the cookies. Plenty more where they came from.

Shortbread cookies adapted from Xmas Recipes
250g softened butter
150g (2/3 cup) caster sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
375g (2 ½ cups ) plain flour
Pinch salt

Cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Sift the flour and salt and add gradually to the butter mixture. Wrap in plastic wrap or greaseproof paper and chill for 2 – 3 hours in the fridge.
Preheat oven to moderate (180degC/160deg fan-forced)). Grease two biscuits trays or line with baking paper.
Remove from fridge. If it seems brittle, soften by kneading gently with your hands. Roll out onto a lightly floured surface and cut with angel and star-shaped cutters.
Bake for 12 – 15 minutes or until lightly coloured. Remove from oven. Cool biscuits on cake racks before dusting with icing sugar or decorating with white frosting and silver cachous and M&Ms.

Gingerbread Cookies Copied from Mrs Fred's Ninjabread Men recipe.
2/3 cup shortening
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
Pinch of salt
1 egg
3/4 cup of molasses
3 cups of flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking soda

Quietly cream together the shortening, sugar, spices and salt. Add egg and mix thoroughly, add the molasses and blend into the night.
Sift together the flour, baking soda and baking powder. Add the molasses misture with deadly accuracy and stir till blended and then chill it in the fridge.
Moving like the wind, preheat the oven to 375 degrees farenheit. If you do not the conversion in celcius, just wing it.. nuh, I am joking with you, don't guess, do google it!
Using a third quater of the dough at a time, roll into 1/8 inch or slightly thicker on light flour pastry cloth or baking paper with a rolling pin.
Release the Ninjas. Transfer them carefully into a greased baking sheet and repeat remaining dough.
Err, You may use your remainder dough for Xmas gingerbread men since it is Christmas. Heheh ;)
Place in the oven and let them fight, bake 8 to 10 minutes. Cool on rack and decorate the survivors!!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Work Breakup Lunch

Just a short post wishing everyone a Happy Xmas and safe travels if you are travelling.

Most people would have finished work today, but not us....sobs.. We are a special mob.. sigh! We did take off early for a work lunch at the Duke of Kent Hotel, downtown. Here are some photos of our lunch today ;) Gotta be happy with that! Mick and I had the Rump Steak, which was today's Daily Special, it has prawns and avocado with salad or veges on creamy mustard seed sauce. It was superb! I love my cow!

Brenton had the Cajun Chicken Burger and Nic had the Steak Sandwich with the works. Looks like a burger except the it was steak inside. She had trouble eating it. My thoughts were, that the steak inside the sanga, should have been sliced, to make for easier eating in small bites.

NOMS!!!!! Need to have a lie down now...all that wine.... mmmmmm

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Apricot Tart

I love summer ;) Stonefruits are in abundance and oh my God! Mangoes, don't even get me started on them, I am thinking there should be a scent for mangoes in the perfume range.. No? Maybe I will just make my own mango shampoo or something...

Back to stonefruits, err, yes, one of my favourites are the apricots. I love them, dried, stewed and fresh as well. Today, I am following a recipe from for this easy free form Apricot Tart.

Fingers and toes crossed and let's not burn the kitchen down. I have followed it to a tee except for kosher salt. What is that? Hmmm.... must google, meanwhile, yup table salt will do and this is why I failed at baking everytime!! Err, sometimes, not so good when I improvise ;)

I know I can't bake but I still carry on like a trooper, baking like nutter, I hate being a failure, so if I must fail, I will damn well fail splendidly..teeeheheh ;) Wonder what will happen if I accidentally dropped some white choc bits in it?

Short Crust Pastry:

1 1/4 cups (175 grams) all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) salt

1 tablespoon (14 grams) granulated white sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) (113 grams) unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) pieces

1/8 to 1/4 cup (30 - 60 ml) ice water

Apricot Filling:

1 1/2 pounds (680 grams) fresh ripe apricots (8 large or 14 small apricots)

1/3 - 1/2 cup (65 - 100 grams) granulated white sugar (or to taste)

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt  {I don't know what this is, so I used table salt heheheh ;) }


1/4 cup (25 grams) chopped pistachios or almonds

The method as per the recipe
Short Crust Pastry: In a food processor, place the flour, salt, and sugar and process until combined. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal (about 15 seconds). Pour 1/8 cup (30 ml) water in a slow, steady stream through the feed tube until the pastry just holds together when pinched. Add remaining water, if necessary. Do not process more than about 30 seconds.

Turn the pastry out onto your work surface, gather it into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about one hour to chill the butter and allow the gluten in the flour to relax.

Once the pastry has chilled, remove from refrigerator and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll the pastry into a 13 inch (32 cm) square. To prevent the pastry from sticking to the counter and to ensure uniform thickness, keep lifting up and turning the pastry a quarter turn as you roll (always roll from the center of the pastry outwards to get uniform thickness). Transfer the pastry to a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Cover and place in the refrigerator while you prepare the apricots.

Apricot Filling: Wash the apricots. Cut the apricots following the suture from stem to blossom end and then up the opposite side. Gently twist the two halves of the apricot and it should easily separate. Remove the seed and cut each half into two or three wedges (depending on size). Place the wedges of apricots in a large bowl and season with a pinch of salt. Then add the granulated white sugar and toss gently to combine. Arrange the apricot wedges evenly on the pastry (cut side up), leaving about a two inch (5 cm) wide border. Scrape any remaining sugar from the bowl and sprinkle over the apricots. Gently fold the edges of the pastry up and over the apricots, pleating as necessary. Make sure to seal any cracks in the pastry.

Bake the tart in a preheated 405 degree F (205 degree C) oven for about 35 - 45 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Garnish with chopped pistachios or almonds. Best served warm, with vanilla ice cream.

Makes one - 11 inch (26 cm) tart.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Assam Prawns

When I was growing up, I would spend some of my weekends at my grandfather's house. It was by the sea in a little fishing village called Tanjung Dawai in Malaysia. Grandpa ran a sundry shop and he would always give us treats when we visited. Of course, that was a bonus, having a sundry shop with lollies and stuff to eat but I do love going there to visit with my cousins as well. Three families lived in that house. It was a small house but the layout was open and spacious with the backyard facing the sea.

This was where I developed my fondness for seafood and I was very fortunate and thankful that I am not allergic to any shellfish. I could eat all kinds of seafood ranging from clams, squids, pipis, prawns and fishes. My uncles were fishermen and they would bring back all the goodies from the sea. 

Daytime was spent wandering around the beach with my cousins, digging for clams and watching the womenfolk hanging and drying up the fishes and squids. I love my childhood days. Evening was all about huge family dinner with seafood meals. After dinner, my cousins and I would try to catch fireflies for our night light. Grandpa's house had no electricity then and he would only use kerosene lamps for lighting. Cooking was done with a big wok over hot charcoal. Water had to be drawn from a well. I remember freaking out one time when we had to rescue a chicken from the well because it had fallen in. I refused to bathe that day. 

Grandpa didn't put electricity in his house till the mid-eighties. I didn't mind. For me, it was all a big adventure whenever I visited my grandpa. Bedtime was also a pleasure, I never once protested when told to go to bed; I would listen to the waves of the ocean before dozing off.

One particular dish and recipe that I can recall and still love to eat is the "Tamarind Prawns" also known as "Assam Prawns". This is a favourite local dish. Almost every Malaysian household would have their own versions and because it is so simple and flexible, you can adjust to your taste. Tamarind is a fruit, its pulp or skin can be added to any Malaysian dish for the sour taste. Some may like to add chilli or sugar to this dish. 

My version is very simple. It’s so good that you’ll be making lip smacking noise trying to suck the shells off the tamarind prawns and yes, it will be a little sour at first, till you get to the sweetness of the prawn meat.

Assam Prawns (serves 4)

  • 800grams of Large Green Banana Prawns
  • 4 tablespoons of Tamarind Pulp 
  • 2 tablespoons of Dark Soy Sauce or use Kicap Manis (Indonesian Sweet Dark Soy Sauce)
  • I tablespoon of sugar (optional) Omit if using Kicap Manis.
  • 2 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup water
  • Garnish: Sliced chillies and scallions or chives

  1. Wash prawns and pat dry, do not remove the shells. You can opt to keep the head on or not. Some may like to have their prawns deveined and shells removed.
  1. Put the tamarind pulp in a bowl.
  1. Add a little water, a tablespoon at a time, to soften the tamarind pulp. Use your fingers to press on the pulp and mix it in with the water. While it mixes, the meat of the tamarind will separate from the seed; throw away the tamarind seeds. Leave the extracted juice aside. It should not be too watery; it should be paste-like juice extract.
  1. Marinade the prawns in the tamarind juice for an hour.
  1. Heat up your wok and add some cooking oil.
  1. Throw in your marinated prawns and stir fry it on very high heat. Cook for few minutes or when the prawns have changed their colour. Add the kicap manis, omit sugar if using kicap manis. Use sugar if you are using dark soy sauce. Add any leftover tamarind juice extract to wok. 
  1. Garnish and serve immediately with a bowl of hot steamy Jasmine rice. 
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