Beef and beer pie #WeekendCooking

After my older son did his class craft, which was to make “mooncakes” using puff pastry and tangyuan, I was left with an extra sheet of puff pastry, and I wanted to do something for a meal with it.

So I found this recipe for Beef Guinness Pie from NY Times

It looked easy enough, although had an interesting link to trotter gear. Something that was new to me. I hadn’t heard of it before, have you?

Turns out, the pie recipe is from Jamie Oliver and Fergus Henderson (adapted by Sam Sifton for the NY Times), and Henderson is rather fond of using trotter gear in many of his restaurants’ dishes. It’s best described as a jellied broth made from pigs’ feet and vegetables.

I didn’t really fancy messing about with trotters, so luckily the recipe had a substitute – freshly grated cheddar cheese. That I found quite interesting. I can understand a jellied broth giving the unctuousness that this pie filling needs, but cheddar? Why have I never put cheddar into stews before? It really creates this silkiness that is quite delicious. I also adapted this recipe a bit as I didn’t have any stout but instead used a dark beer I had in the fridge. I only used one can of beer and added some stock instead (the recipe calls for two cans). Also, I cooked my stew on the stove top instead of the oven, and added in far more vegetables than the recipe calls for – two carrots and two ribs of celery to 3 pounds of meat seems a bit miserable. I increased it to five carrots and 6 ribs of celery.

After the filling cooks for a few hours, pop it into a pyrex dish, cover with the store-bought puff pastry (or follow the recipe for the crust), brush with egg wash, pop into the oven, and there you go, a comforting and delicious beef and beer pie for dinner!

Weekend Cooking was started by Beth Fish Reads and is now hosted by The Intrepid Reader and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs

Dirt by Bill Buford #weekendcooking

“I pressed on. “No one in America eats food out of a pig’s bladder.”

Oh boy, it’s been ages since I’ve read a foodie book, and I was so excited to read this one. I read Buford’s previous book, Heat (published in 2006), and really enjoyed his adventures in the cooking world. In that book, he got to train in Mario Batali’s kitchen (of course, now that things have come to light about Batali, I wouldn’t know what to think of that), but at that time, I really enjoyed Buford’s writing, and his brashness in being able to jump into a professional kitchen and move from station to station.

Similarly, this happens again in Dirt, this time in Lyon, France. Why Lyon? It’s the home of Paul Bocuse, Daniel Boulud grew up near there, and some consider it the gastronomy capital of the world.

Also, Buford had come across the idea that French cuisine originated in Italian Renaissance kitchens:

“In any case, the implications were intriguing to consider: that at one point French cuisine did not exist, or at least not in a form that we would recognise today; and that then, at another point, it did, and that the Italians may have had something to do with its coming into being.”

Packing up and heading to a new country for a while is nothing new to Buford and his family. They lived in Tuscany for a year, his wife loved to travel and could easily pick up languages. And Buford had been wanting to work in a French kitchen. But they soon learned that France was not Italy. That is, while it was easy to land in Italy, figure things out as they went along, even just the process of getting to France (legally that is) was hard. All kinds of supporting documents were needed, even financial statements for each child (though they were still in diapers). And somehow needing to prove residence in France – although they were still in the process of applying to be residents??

At any rate, they made it there, with a little help from some friends.

But there, still, Buford had a hard time getting his foot into any restaurant kitchen. He does, however, work for a baker, and attends culinary school for a bit – not just any culinary school, but L’Institut Bocuse – then eventually lands up at La Mère Brazier, which first opened in 1921.

I have enjoyed eating French food, one of my favourite all-time meals is Duck Confit. But I have no clue about the food of Lyon, some of which sounds like nothing I’ve ever seen on French restaurant menus. For instance, andouillette, which sounds like the andouille sausage (common in the US), but is instead full of pigs intestines and stomach. Or the volaille à Noelle (I could only find recipes in French, so the link here is to a Youtube video of a chef making the dish), it’s essentially a deboned bird, refilled and stuffed with vegetables and meat. And then there’s the Poulet en Vessie, which is a chicken cooked in a pig’s bladder. Yup. The dish looks like a ball in which a chicken is enclosed. Fascinating!

“After twenty minutes, the vessie is transformed: No longer thick and opaque, it has the appearance of a beautifully golden, nearly translucent beach ball that some maniac is still insisting on pumping more air into. Also, you can see the chicken.”

And reading about French schools, especially their school lunches – three course meals, the food served at the table, and kids cannot get the next course if they haven’t finished.

Another fascinating part, is the principles of a French plate:
“If your dish uses colour strategically, volume (i.e. has height), and texture (mixes soft and hard, or juicy and crunchy), then it will appeal to a diner.”

This was a book I needed to read. The thought of someone travelling to a different country is such a foreign concept right now. Getting on a plane and moving your family to another part of the world, to live there for a few months – which turns into five years? What a dream! This was armchair – and foodie – travelling during a pandemic.

Here’s a tip: If you’ve ever watched the late Anthony Bourdain’s TV series Parts Unknown, Season 3 Episode 4 is the Lyon episode and it features Daniel Boulud, who is often mentioned in Dirt. The episode also brings in Buford himself. The season was aired in 2014 and so that possibly means that he was still living in Lyon when it was taped? He had moved to Lyon in 2009 and they stayed for five years. Also, the chefs cook the Poulet en Vessie, and that is quite a sight.

Weekend Cooking was started by Beth Fish Reads and is now hosted by The Intrepid Reader and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs

Plum cake#WeekendCooking

What do you do when your husband returns from the Sunday farmers market with a giant bag of plums – “they were on offer!”, he said. I should also mention, he also came home with a giant bag of green grapes and our usual flat (or is it a half-flat? There are nine of those little green baskets worth) of strawberries. And in the fridge also had clementines, apples, and a few pluots.

We do eat quite a bit of fruits – it’s our usual dessert after lunch and dinner – but that was quite a lot of plums.

So it was off to the Internet for a fun plum cake recipe, and this one by Smitten Kitchen looked delicious and easy. I especially liked that I only need to half and pit the plums – it was a busy day in the kitchen as I was also planning to cook up as much of the San Marzano tomatoes that I had harvested.

I followed her instructions although I only baked it for about 35 minutes – the skewer I stuck in came out clean, but on hindsight, I should have stuck it in in another spot as well to check.

The problem was that after letting the cake cool for 15 minutes (and thus having the plum juices seep into the cake), I had to invert it onto a plate and then onto a cooling rack, as I always do for cakes. But when I tipped it over, I realised that a little bit in the middle of the cake was a bit soggy and the inversion process had dripped some juices onto my counter. So it wasn’t as firm a cake as I imagined it would be. That could be due to a couple of things:

  • I had put in the maximum number of plum halves I could squeeze into my 9×9 cake tin.
  • I should have baked it for longer – questionable, as the skewer I used to test it came out clean.
  • A couple of the plums I used were a bit riper than the others (but they weren’t falling apart overripe, they cut in half cleanly)

Still it was a delicious cake. I loved how the plum juices turned it reddish, and it was a good excuse to eat some at breakfast – it’s mostly fruit!

Have you made any plum cakes? And what’s your favourite?

Weekend Cooking was started by Beth Fish Reads and is now hosted by The Intrepid Reader and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs

Singapore-style carrot cake #WeekendCooking

Now when I say “carrot cake”, for most of you what comes to mind is that delightful dessert, often with a cream cheese frosting, sometimes with nuts in it, or with shredded coconut, and definitely with carrots in the batter.

But in Singapore, carrot cake or chai tow kway (in Teochew dialect), does not have carrots, instead has daikon or white radish, and is a delicious savoury dish found at most hawker centres and food courts.

It is one of my must-eat dishes when I’m back in Singapore. There are two versions, white or black. Black has the addition of a sweet black sauce so it has a slightly sweeter taste than the white.

But why “carrot cake”? Perhaps because in Mandarin (and other Chinese dialects), carrots are 红萝卜 (hong luobo) and daikon or white radish is 白萝卜 (bai luobo). The only difference between those two is the colour – 红 red vs 白 white. As for “cake”, the dialect word kway (which in Mandarin is 糕 gao) just means a cake or pastry of some sort. And the carrot cake does begin with a steamed “cake” of daikon and rice flour.

So now that you know a little bit about Singapore-style carrot cake, how is it made?

Part one: Make the steamed daikon cake (enough for 3-4 portions)

One medium-sized daikon, grated (it gave me about 600g grated)

50 ml water

Steam for about 30 minutes until the grated daikon turns translucent

200g rice flour

250 ml water

1 tsp salt

Mix the three ingredients along with the steamed grated daikon above. I placed it in a small metal cake tin, and into the steamer (which is for me, just a pot with a small metal rack on which to put the tin). Steam for 40 minutes until firm.

Let cool and then place it in the fridge. I did this overnight as it made it easier to cut up. 

The radish cake from above is enough for 3-4 portions

5 eggs, beaten together (more if you’d like)

2-3 tbsp of preserved radish – I soak this for a few minutes as it can be really salty. Then drain in a sieve.

4-5 cloves of garlic, chopped (then again, I do like garlic, you can decrease this a bit)

spring onions

fish sauce (to taste)

white pepper (to taste)

chili sauce (optional)

Cut the radish cake into small cubes.

I used a wok but you can use a nonstick skillet.

Heat oil, fry the radish cake cubes until slightly crisp and lightly browned.

Add the garlic and preserved radish to the pan. Fry it for a bit until the garlic smells good. Don’t burn the garlic!

Season with fish sauce, white pepper, chilli sauce. You can add salt if it’s not salty enough. 

Add the beaten eggs and let it cook a bit before flipping. Some prefer carrot cake that’s more stirred up and messy, others may prefer it a bit more like an omelette. 

Top with chopped spring onions. 

Weekend Cooking was started by Beth Fish Reads and is now hosted by The Intrepid Reader and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs

Strawberry milk, Gula Melaka chiffon cake #WeekendCooking

The husband was watching something on YouTube the other day and I happened to look over his shoulder and saw this video about Korean strawberry milk and thought, hey the kids would love that.

It was simply a kind of strawberry jam (mashed strawberries cooked with sugar then cooled), and milk, also, some small diced strawberries. I’ve also seen recipes which macerate the sugar and strawberries for an hour. There are other recipes which blitz the strawberries into a puree. But the one I tried was just a simple mashed and cooked strawberry jam, and an additional chopped fresh strawberries.

The kids loved it! They’ve never had fresh strawberry milk – and really, the commercial strawberry milk is quite disgusting and is just pink-coloured sweetened milk.

And since it was Father’s Day, I made a Gula Melaka Pandan chiffon cake. I’ve made quite a few pandan cakes before – and wrote a detailed post here. 

But if those ingredients are new to you, pandan is a fragrant leaf that is used in Southeast Asian foods and sweets – you can use it to flavour rice, curries, make refreshing drinks, it’s also added to cakes and kuehs. It’s very aromatic and somewhat floral despite the fact that it’s just a long thin leaf.

Gula Melaka is palm sugar popular in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore. It usually comes in a small cylinder block as it is traditionally formed using bamboo moulds. They are usually dark brown in colour and has hints of toffee, caramel. In Singapore, Gula Melaka is in the form of a syrup in many desserts like Ondeh-ondeh, Sago Gula Melaka, Chendol.

This Gula Melaka Pandan cake (recipe here) uses Gula Melaka in place of the sugar, except for the sugar in the whisked egg whites. It wasn’t the easiest thing to do, whisking the egg yolks and the Gula Melaka together, as the Gula Melaka tends to clump together and doesn’t fully dissolve into the whisked yolks as caster sugar would. The recipe does suggest that the egg and Gula Melaka batter can be sieved, to remove the lumps, but I felt that would be such a waste of Gula Melaka (which my parents had brought over from Singapore for me, as it’s not the easiest thing to find in the US). So I left it in, lumps and all.

Usually, lumps would not be a welcome sight in chiffon cakes, but I think this one, with its little bits of undissolved Gula Melaka, was quite unique and delicious. (You can see a small Gula Melaka bit in the cut cake)

Weekend Cooking was started by Beth Fish Reads and is now hosted by The Intrepid Reader and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs

Pork floss buns #weekendcooking


It’s a bit tricky explaining pork floss (also available as chicken or fish floss, also known as rousong or yuk sung in Mandarin and Cantonese respectively) to someone who’s not eaten it before. It’s made of meat yes but has a sweet-savory taste as it’s cooked with soy sauce and sugar and shredded (here’s a recipe). It’s very popular in places like Taiwan and Singapore. I used to bring pork floss sandwiches to primary school when I was growing up in Singapore. 

Some years ago, the pork floss buns became popular in bakeries in Singapore. It’s a soft bun topped with meat floss. I never was quite sure what exactly sticks the meat floss to the bun. But now I do.

I’m not big on the pork floss bun mostly because I don’t like the commercial bakery version of the topping.

So having looked up some recipes, I learnt that it’s a combination of kewpie mayo (Japanese-style mayo), condensed milk, and something sticky – I’ve seen maple syrup in one recipe and corn syrup in another. I decided to use honey. Weird huh, but strangely kinda tasty. 

You really only need to slap a thin layer on top of your bun, then pile on the pork floss. It’s how the floss sticks on to the bun. 

In case you’re wondering, you can buy pork floss from many Asian supermarkets. I bought this one from Costco. Pork floss is also a great topping for porridge or rice. Also, the other day, our neighbour dropped off a sticky rice roll from a local eatery. It was something I’d never eaten before, but so delicious. It was a youtiao or a savoury fried dough stick, topped with pork floss and pickled radish and wrapped in rice. I later googled it and it’s a Shanghai breakfast rice roll or “ci fan”, 粢饭. 

Unfortunately I didn’t take a photo before we finished it (it was that good), so please check out the blog above for photos and a recipe.

(Edited to add) I made the buns using a Hokkaido milk bread recipe, it uses my favorite tangzhong method for a soft crumb. And instead of making a loaf I shaped it into a dozen small buns.

Weekend Cooking is now at The Intrepid Reader and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs

Very veggie risotto #WeekendCooking


Hi! It’s the weekend again, and I have missed out on posting these Weekend Cooking ones for a bit. So this is a kind of a round up on what we’ve been cooking and eating over the past couple of weeks.


One of our local ramen places opened up again last weekend and we were quick to place our order – when my husband went in to pick up, he said the owner looked really happy.

And they had my kids’ favourite – the lychee slush with lychee jelly. I later tried some of that with a shot of gin – delicious!

Another takeout dish that’s becoming a favourite of ours is Indian-style pizza. The last time we tried a tikka paneer one (which has a spicy garlic sauce, lots of coriander, peppers, onions and chilli, along with the paneer). And this time we did a half-tikka paneer and a half-malai chicken. The malai sauce is a kind of curry sauce so it had more spices in it. And both were really tasty. We also ordered a half-combination, half-Hawaiian for the kids. Both the husband and I preferred the Indian-style pizzas.

In terms of cooking, here’s what we recently made.

My kids’ favourite – Japanese curry. I made it with chicken, cabbage, carrots, and broccoli stems.

The kids made a brownie, pretty much by themselves. I helped chop the chocolate, put things in and take them out of the microwave and the oven, but the rest was on them. They declared it the best brownie ever.

I made my usual tangzhong bread – one Hokkaido milk bread and one raisin bread. I wrote about the tangzhong method in a previous post. 

A very veggie risotto – so I have been hesitating about making risotto recently as I haven’t managed to get my hands on Parmesan! And on all previous risotto cooks, I have always used Parmesan. So I wasn’t sure if this was a good idea, Parmesan-free risotto. But I had this craving for it. And we had a big box of mushrooms to eat up, and I decided to mix it up and add more vegetables with a lot of broccoli and carrots too.

I parboiled the broccoli (chopped into small pieces) and carrots in the stock that was simmering on the stove, removing them after a few minutes so it didn’t overcook. And while that was happening, I panfried the sliced mushrooms. Then removed them. After that, I continued with the risotto in the usual risotto fashion – adding in some chopped shallots, garlic, before adding the risotto to the pot. I didn’t have white wine (horrors) but I did have gin. Haha, so I tried adding in a bit of gin, not sure if that did anything to it. The stock I used was a Better than Bouillon chicken stock. And in the end, instead of the Parmesan, I added in some small torn-up pieces of fresh Mozzarella that I did have. It was delicious!

The risotto was served with Asian-style bone-in pork chops (marinated in black bean sauce, honey, soy sauce, five-spice powder, minced garlic, ginger, and shallots).




Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs

Bagels and a birthday cake #WeekendCooking

It was my younger son’s birthday yesterday and his request was for a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting.

So on Thursday morning, in between working with the two kids on their school work, managing their screen time, various Zoom sessions etc, I made this Fudge Birthday Cake from King Arthur Flour. (If you’re a regular-ish reader, you may know that I’ve used a lot of King Arthur Flour recipes!). And I made the mistake of letting him sample a small bit of the cake.

He was not a fan.

I thought it was fine. It had that chocolate fudge cake quality where the chocolate taste comes from cocoa powder. I don’t know, maybe he was expecting a more chocolate-y cake?

I did not want an unhappy birthday boy so I wrapped it up, set it aside in our freezer for another day (Mother’s Day perhaps? hahaha). And went ahead with a funfetti cake, as I know he always loves that one.

Just last month, I made one for the 9yo’s birthday with a deliciously strawberry buttercream. This time I went with this rainbow sprinkle cake recipe from the New York Times, and this chocolate frosting recipe from KAF. 

Luckily, I had added in an order of rainbow sprinkles to our delivery from Target the weekend before (which included toiletries, lots of snacks, and a new bicycle helmet for the birthday boy – he also got a new bike not from Target).



And since baking two cakes wasn’t enough for one day, I also tried making bagels for the first time. I used this recipe from King Arthur Flour. The article on how to shape bagels was helpful too, but from my not quite regular looking bagels, I definitely need more practice!


For my first attempt, they were not too bad, I reckon! They may look a little mishapened but they tasted great and the boiling was easier than I thought it would be – not sure why I was apprehensive about that now…I thought it might deflate after boiling and popping it onto the baking tray but it was actually ok.

We had them for breakfast next day, slightly toasted. Delicious!


Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs

Lunches are hard #WeekendCooking


I’ve been thinking recently of how the shelter-in-place has affected our relationship with food. Like many others, we are trying to keep our grocery store visits to the minimum. Last week, we had our first ever somewhat successful Whole Foods delivery. We are not really Whole Foods shoppers, partly because the parking lot is always terrible, and partly because I tend to shop at Asian supermarkets. So it was a learning curve, ordering groceries online from a store we don’t usually patronise. There were items that went out of stock when the delivery times were available, and when we went back to add them in, no more delivery times. But the husband was lucky on Sunday morning and we received our first delivery a few hours later, missing quite a few things, and getting far less chicken drumsticks than I wanted (just over 1 pound instead of 3!). And also the limitations on staples like flour.

I’ve been focusing more on produce that keeps better, like broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, carrots. Surprisingly, the asparagus has kept well too.

Generally, dinners are ok. I am fine cooking dinners, as that is something I always do. I am glad the family is ok with all the random things that I come up with. Sometimes it’s noodles, sometimes rice and dishes like one meat, a vegetable, a soup (which is what I grew up on in Singapore although my mum cooked fish a lot more often than I do), a lot of pasta dishes, some casserole type things like shepherd’s pie.

But it’s the lunches I find harder. Maybe because I typically like to eat sandwiches for lunch. Or soup. I would be happy having a sandwich every day, except that it’s not exactly a good idea to have processed meat so often. Especially when it comes to the kids. So we’ve been trying to mix it up a little bit, egg salad one day, ham sandwich another day, clam chowder, tomato soup. Some days the kids might have chicken nuggets.

The other day, I decided to try making flatbread, something new. The 6yo was eager to try kneading the dough.

I used this recipe from Recipe Tin Eats and it was super easy, just flour, butter, milk, and salt. It rests for just half an hour and cooks on the cast iron pan on the stovetop. I made just the amount that the recipe calls for (4 flatbreads), but next time I may make another batch or two to keep in the fridge. The flatbread actually tastes a little like roti prata, which is a popular South Asian dish in Singapore, eaten with curry. After this successful run, I’ve got my eye on this recipe for Spiced beef flatbread, Chinese-style. And this one for Gozleme, a Turkish flatbread.



Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs

Funfetti birthday cake #WeekendCooking

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to post this at first, as I have made a version of this cake last year (see not just once but twice)

But in times like these, perhaps there is nothing better to post about than a colourful sprinkles-filled (and topped) birthday cake. I used this recipe from Salt and Baker.

Also I must say that I love this strawberry frosting, which is so easy to make if you can find freeze dried strawberries. I first made it two years ago (also for a birthday cake). And this time reduced the icing sugar even further, mostly because I didn’t have enough (haha!). I used about 1 1/4 cups of unsalted butter, about 1 3/4 cups of icing sugar (possibly less – do note that the original recipe calls for 4 cups of icing sugar to 1 cup of butter ), 1 cup of freeze-dried strawberries, also quite a bit of salt as I really didn’t want it to be that sweet. And the kids still loved it!

Despite the unusual circumstances, the birthday boy said he had a great day anyway!

I also made burger buns for the first time, as the birthday boy loves cheeseburgers. I used this King Arthur Flour recipe and they turned out great!



Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs