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

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).

 

 

 

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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!

 

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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.

 

 

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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!

 

 

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Meals under a week of lockdown #WeekendCooking

And so yes, I went on a panic buy. Just for a few extra things after I heard that our county in the Bay Area was one of the six announcing “shelter in place” that would begin 1201am Tuesday. I learnt of the news just after lunch on Monday (the schools had announced closure the Friday before) and immediately the husband went to Trader Joe’s to grab milk, more fruits, bread. When he returned, I popped into our closest Asian supermarket for noodles, some frozen bao, fresh vegetables. I was hoping to also get some tofu and chicken but none was to be found. I was worried about the lines getting longer – and also staying out too long with possible COVID-19 carriers – so I didn’t want to wait at the seafood or fresh meat counter.

Anyway, we do have supplies at home like rice, flour and other staples. It’s more like the fresh produce that may require a trip to the supermarket next week. But for now we are doing ok. Hope you are too.

But with four people at home for all meals plus snacks, I am thankful that my kids are the kind who are happy to have sandwiches for lunch several days in a row!

Here are some of the meals I’ve made over the lockdown week so far:

 

 

Noodles with chicken, bean sprouts, prawns and enoki mushrooms.

 

 

 

Pizza with asparagus and bacon

 

Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

Over the weekend, I’m thinking of making a baked Mac and cheese to freeze. Maybe make some more pizza dough to pop into the freezer. I don’t have any tortillas at the moment, but I was thinking of making some freezer burritos, either breakfast style with scrambled eggs, bacon and potatoes, or regular with black beans, rice, and cheese.

Another thought I had was to make some wonton or dumplings to freeze.

What meals do you make ahead to freeze? I always make extra bolognese sauce to freeze, and whenever I make waffles at home, I always triple the batch to have extra to freeze. I also like to have homemade pizza rolls in the freezer which are a quick school lunch idea. And when I make bread, I tend to make two loaves at a time, and stick one in the freezer. Otherwise, I’m not quite sure that the Chinese-style food that we cook is all that freezer-friendly.

 

 

 

 

 

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Baguette-r be good #weekendcooking

 

I’ve been on the lookout for a good baguette for a while now.

Some of the ones I’ve tried are:

– King Arthur Flour’s Classic Baguettes recipe which is not bad but requires some planning to make the poolish (a wet sponge starter) the day before.

Dan Leader’s 4-hour baguette recipe (via Food 52) which ok so does take just about 4 hours and is ok, but I thought, didn’t provide as much taste.

Then I tried this classic baguette recipe from Peter Reinhart, from the book Artisan Breads Every Day. The recipe is available on NPR here. 

The recipe is a little like the KAF one above, but instead of making a poolish, the whole dough is made in advance and placed in the fridge overnight. Yes, that really did appeal to my laziness…

However, it was only later I realised that I neglected to follow the instructions to the letter….

Where it said to knead by hand and instead just let the mixer and the dough hook do the work (I did mention that laziness bit didn’t I?) and then popped it all in the fridge. I followed the recipe after that.

The thing with baguettes is that home made versions just can’t quite compare to the store-bought ones. But this one, with its relative effortlessness is one I will attempt again. I might leave the dough in the fridge for a couple more days, to see if the taste improves over time.

 

 

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Weekend Cooking: Coconut rice and Sayur Lodeh (vegetable curry)

During the first day of lunar new year, we invited friends over for dinner and I cooked up a Singapore-style meal. With sayur lodeh, grilled chicken, coconut rice, and pandan cake.

Coconut rice or nasi lemak (Rice cooker recipe)

5 cups of basmati rice
Water – to the amount in the rice cooker measurement
2-3 tsp salt
600 ml coconut milk/cream
5 pandan leaves (adds a nice fragrance, can be found in the freezer section of some Asian supermarkets)

Put the rice and water, pandan, and salt in the rice cooker, set to cook. When it is done, add the coconut milk, stir, and continue to leave it in the ‘warm’ setting

Sayur lodeh (Feeds 8)

For the rempah or curry paste
5 cm long piece of ginger
4 shallots
4 garlic cloves
2 red chilis deseeded
2 stalks lemongrass chopped
35g of dried shrimp, soaked in hot water
1 1/2 tbsp of turmeric powder
1 tbsp of curry powder
(in the recipe I referred to, it also called for 5 cm galangal, shrimp paste or belacan, and 6 candlenuts. These ingredients are a little more difficult to find. I could have gone to the Southeast Asian supermarket but it was a hassle to make another trip, and really, I think the sayur lodeh tasted fine without it)

Vegetables
About 500g of green beans, cut to about 5cm
3 medium carrots, sliced diagonally
About 1/2 cabbage, cut into pieces
Firm tofu (I panfried the tofu first)
About a cup of chicken stock
400ml coconut milk
(You don’t have to be so exact when getting your vegetables together. In the end I think I could have added more cabbage and carrots).

Use a food processor to blend all the rempah ingredients into a fine paste

In a wok, heat some oil, add in the rempah and fry until it’s dry (takes a few minutes).

Add in the chicken stock and bring to a boil.

Add in your vegetables and simmer until just tender.

Mix in the coconut milk. Don’t over boil as it will split. Just bring it to a gentle simmer.

Taste and add in some salt if needed (depends on how salty your stock is).

I served the sayur lodeh with coconut rice and grilled chicken drumsticks.

 

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Christmas cookies #WeekendCooking

It’s Christmas cookie making season again!

I’ve gone a slightly different route this year. I’m still making gingerbread cookies as I do with the kids each year (we make the recipe from King Arthur Flour – so delicious!)

But I wanted to try out some different recipes as well. Last year I made Meyer lemon biscotti  and vanilla biscotti. 

So here are some new-to-me recipes that I’ve been trying out!

Matcha Shortbread cookies (recipe from Wild Wild Whisk)

I love the green tea flavour of this one. And the colour is great for Christmas trees!

Sesame Sea Salt cookies (original recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s Dorie’s Cookies)

These cookies are almost savoury. I really like the flavour of this one. And hopefully others will too. They are really nice and buttery and there is some almond flour in them.

Citrus shortbread cookies (original recipe from the NY Times)

I have to thank Beth for this one! I first saw the link from her Weekend Cooking post. And because I had some (sadly unused) cookie stamps, I knew I had to make this!

I adapted the recipe slightly to use only our homegrown Meyer lemons, instead of the orange and lemon combination. The dough balls have to rather heavily floured before using the stamps, which tend to be hard to remove dough from! So it took quite a bit of time to make.

The cookies are glazed with more citrus! I loved the very lemony flavour in both the glaze and biscuit. They are also quite delicate so I decided not to put these in the shipment to the husband’s mentor.

What are your favourite Christmas cookies?

 

 

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#WeekendCooking A trip down Highway 1

The weekend before Thanksgiving we took a road trip down the Pacific Coast Highway, stopping the first night in the lovely seaside town of Cambria and then in Ventura in Southern California.

Here are some foodie highlights!

The main reason for this road trip was to try it out in our EV! We’ve driven down Highway 1 to Big Sur before, but not further than that. Usually we take the I-5 down to LA and beyond but it is one hell of a boring straight road. So it is so much more delightful to take the curvy winding roads of the 1, with the sea on your right and lots of vista points to stop and take photos at.

We arrived in Big Sur before 11, too early for lunch at the Big Sur Bakery, and the guy there, while friendly with the kids seemed to suggest that we would find more kid-friendly fare back down the road, “if you want scrambled eggs and things”. Um, not really, but I can take a hint. Instead, we kept going further down south to Ventana Inn, and ate at The Sur House (also, supercharger).

The food at The Sur House is nothing impressive, at least at lunch time, but you can’t beat that view!

I had a Gulf Shrimp sandwich which was tasty. The kids burger was well, a good enough burger, and the husband’s fried chicken sandwich had a nice hint of Thai spiciness and herbs.

But that view!

We kept heading down that beautiful highway to Cambria, our first stop for the the weekend.

We stayed at Pelican Inn, right across the road from Moonstone Beach which has a nice boardwalk and some tide pools to check out. After spending some time at the beach, it was time for an early dinner (also it was getting dark).

So just down the street from the inn is Moonstone Beach Bar and Grill. And there was already a short line of people outside the restaurant at 5pm, when it opens. We joined the queue and were given a nice window-side table, which of course would be more useful if anything were visible outside. It’s a touristy place so I wasn’t really eating there with high expectations, but I liked that the kids’ menu had fried clams on it. And the 8yo was extremely excited to have clams (strangely my kids like mussels and clams, something I wasn’t expecting. And don’t get me started on my 6yo who would eat all the smoked salmon and salmon sashimi if he could). The 6yo went with spaghetti. And I had the seafood pasta, the husband picked vongole. The service here was really great, efficient, friendly but not too much. And they even gave out little toys to the kids (who also got ice-cream).

The broth that the pastas came in was delicious and seafoody.

 

We continued our drive down south, stopping in the cute Danish town of Solvang. It’s very touristy of course, lots of shops selling random knickknacks, a horse-drawn trolley, lots of Scandinavian-style buildings, although it was too warm to feel like we were in Denmark. The best part of our little stop there was finding Mortensen’s Bakery and buying some treats for teatime.

 

This pistachio square was delicious!

 

And I hadn’t seen a Sarah Bernhardt cookie before and it was yummy. It’s mocha buttercream sandwiched between two almond meringue cookies.

 

We finally reached our stop for the night in Ventura, the Ventura Beach Marriott, a newly refurbished hotel, and I loved how the room looked. Also a plus for the sliding barn bathroom door!

For dinner, I found an Italian restaurant, Spasso, not too far from the hotel. The service was a bit slow (there was one waiter and one manager) in this small restaurant (the elderly couple at the table next to us came with books, making me wonder if they were regulars and expecting it to be a leisurely meal). But the food was really good.

We started off with an antipasti platter and I had a Campari martini, which was delightfully refreshing (and very strong).

The husband’s vongole (yes again!) was the “proper” kind, he said, not sitting in a pool of broth (which, while delicious, isn’t the vongole he was used to). And also, had a liberal sprinkling of chill flakes which made for a great spicy meal.

I had the carbonara. I love carbonara but most places make it with cream and it becomes too rich and just overkill. I make it at home sometimes but my kids don’t like it much (they’re very much bolognese fans). And so I was looking forward to this one, and it was just right!

The kids had lasagne and salami pizza.

That was a delightful dinner. We don’t have fantastic Italian food in our city (have to drive across to Mountain View or Palo Alto or the city for that), so I’m always happy to eat good Italian food.

Our road trip was coming to an end and we were due to head back north the next day. But first, a stop down to LA to meet friends for lunch.

They decided to take us to Porto’s which is apparently an LA institution. It’s a Cuban bakery and cafe and it’s expanded to several branches.

It was impossible to find parking though and we later found out why as the lines inside are insane (and stretched out the door). And this was on a Monday!

The cakes and pastries looked amazing but I didn’t want think cakes would survive the long drive back to the Bay Area. So we bought some cheese rolls (surprisingly, not a savoury thing but sweet – the cheese being more like a cream cheese), potato balls (papa rellenas), chicken empanadas, meat pies (pastel de carne). You also can order cooked food there so we had a ham and cheese croissant sandwich for the kids, a Cubano, and a steak plate. The eating area was so crowded! But the food was great.

The pastries were eaten on the drive back and the kids really liked the potato balls. The empanadas were good but I thought that the meat pies didn’t have enough filling in the puff pastry.

And that was a very delicious road trip!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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