Monday, February 28, 2011

Savoury Biscuits

Are they biscuits or are they cookies?! That's something that's always confuddled me! If I'm not mistaken, I think the American word is cookies whereas the British word is biscuits... I came to that conclusion after flipping through an American cookbook called "Cookies" containing all what I usually call "biscuits".. but for me, cookies are a TYPE of biscuit... the chocolate chip kind, or the oatmeal and raisin kind...

Anyways, moving on... my father can't eat very many sweet things and so he asked me to bake savoury biscuits for him. After some browsing, I came across this recipe which I thought he'd like. I had never made savoury biscuits before and thought it was going to be an interesting experience. Especially since it contained cheese. The recipe looked fairly simple and easy.

And it called for mixing the dough with your hands. Until recently, I always took an aversion to recipes that called for hand mixing or kneading. I fine with elastic-ish bread dough etc but not biscuit dough which was very... soft.. I still find it kind of not-very-enticing when a recipe calls for something that's going to get my hands dirty.. but now, I'd like to think that as I'm getting more dedicated in my cooking, my inhibitions about food-related things in general are decreasing.

I now try making more diverse kinds of food. I also try ordering things that I normally wouldn't when I go out to eat. And, yes, I'm fine(-ish!) with getting my hands messy.

Anyways, back to the biscuits.. I thought they were toooo floury.. but apparently everyone loved them. There's no egg in the recipe and the predominant ingredients are flour and cheese. The dough wasn't coming together very well and so I kept on adding water gradually to increase the sticky consistency of the dough. And at the end, the biscuits looked more like little toasted slices of bread.

Oh, I also replaced fresh/dried rosemary with chives- which I thought would have a stronger flavour.

But, it was fun to make. And it was good to venture into new territory in the world of baking. And everyone loved it! So that is what's important.

Do you have recipes for any good sugar-free or savoury biscuits that I could make?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Random Recipe: Pea and Potato Pakora

At 5PM this afternoon, I was browsing through food blogs and came across Belleau Kitchen. Specifically, I came across this post in Belleau Kitchen. It was a blog challenge with a closing date of.. TODAY. I had never taken part in a blog challenge and I immediately thought that I should participate in this- especially since I loved the theme.

Often, when I am bored and do not know what to make for dinner.. I close my eyes, pick up a random cookbook, blindly flip through it, and then open my eyes to see what I'll be having for dinner that night. This blog challenge called for exactly that. I rushed over to my bookshelf and since I didn't want to "take all your cook books off the shelf and shuffle them" as the challenge called for, I closed my eyes and picked out around six cookbooks at random. If I were to take all my neatly organized cookbooks off the shelf, the perfectionist OCD in me would throw a fit....

Anyways, the book I ended up picking (by further closed eyes) was one called 500 Appetizers by Susannah Blake. The recipe that the book opened up to was "pea and potato pakora with yogurt".

Very ironic. I'm half Pakistani and have never made pakora.. something of a staple in a South Asian's diet. I have eaten it though.. a lot. Apparently pakoras are perfect for when it's raining- as I'm told so often.
(I sent some of these over to my aunt for her to try and she said that these actually aren't PAKORAS.. they're something called batata wara... sounds funny, I know. Sounds like Hakuna Matata. The batter for these is the same batter used in pakora.. only difference is that this contains potato.. hence batata wara and not pakora....)

Anyways, back to the pakoras. I usually try to avoid making anything deep fried... because of the high oil content... but I made these because obviously that was the spirit of the blog challenge.. randomness and spontaneity... and who better to indulge in spontaneity than The Spontaneous Euphoria herself? Hmm.

These were exceptionally easy to make (and fun!). I loved swirling the pakoras around in the oil as they fried....

Here's the recipe.. I added double to triple the amount of chili powder and fresh green chillies though.. also, don't forget to SEASON it!

450g potatoes, boiled and mashed
125g frozen peas, thawed
2-3 fresh green chillies, seeded and finely chopped
4 spring onions, finely sliced
2tsp ground cumin
1tsp ground coriander
3tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaves
115g gram flour
1/2tsp chilli powder
1tsp turmeric
1tsp baking powder
200ml cold water
Sunflower oil for deep frying

Mix the potatoes, peas, chillies, spring onions, cumin, ground and fresh coriander. Season with salt and stir to combine. Shape into 16 walnut-sized balls, place on a platter and chill for at least 30 minutes, until firm.

Mix the gram flour, chilli, turmeric, and baking powder in a bowl. Using a fork, stir in a quarter of the water to make a thick, smooth paste. Stir in the remaining water smoothly.

Heat oil for frying to 180C. Dip the balls in the batter and fry for about 2 minutes, until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Keep hot until all are ready.

Sang Choi Bow

One thing I love making and eating is Sang Choi Bow. It's a wrap made out of LETTUCE and is full of flavours. I don't know how versatile the classic sang choi bow really is.. but I tend to experiment a lot with it.. I add tofu instead of mince and vary the spices and sauces. Here's one I made yesterday with capsicums, bok choy, corn, green beans, and a sauce made of oyster, soy, and sweet chili.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Marmalade and Coconut Crumble Cake

Another super-quick cake.. although this takes 20 minutes and not 12.

I had been hearing things like "apple crumble", "raspberry crumble", "blueberry crumble", "pear crumble" and.... well you get the picture. Anyways I think I must have had something crumbled somewhere but never consciously knew what it entailed. That was until I made some raspberry crumble muffins. I never knew how easy it was to achieve such a crust. All you do is throw together some ingredients, rub them together with your fingers, pile them on top of your cake, and you're done!

So today as I was lazing around and flipping through cookbooks (my way to destress & unwind), I came across a recipe called "marmalade and coconut crumble cake". The cookbook in which it's written dates back to 1994 when I was barely four years old and perhaps that drew me even more into making this. (It also helped that we had every ingredient at home.. major plus point for lazy-me.)

This is a very fun cake to make, perhaps because it's a "melt and mix" cake... which means you melt the butter and then stir all the ingredients together with a wooden spoon.. no mixer needed. I always make a beeline for recipes that don't call for a mixer.. partly because its whisks are such a hassle to clean and also because I'd rather do without the noise pollution.

Just one question though, whenever a recipe calls for soft brown sugar it always says "firmly packed". How important is that? Because I always keep my sugars, flours, etc in airtight containers once I purchase them... and so their "firmly packed" quality is somewhat nonexistent.

1 and 3/4 cups self raising flour
125g unsalted butter
3/4 cup caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup marmalade
1/4 cup plain yogurt
>For coconut crumble:
1/2 soft brown sugar
1/2 cup plain flour
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
90g unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease 20cm cake tin and line with paper. Grease paper. Sift flour into large bowl and make a well.
Melt butter and sugar in small pan over low heat until sugar dissolved and butter melted. Remove from heat. Combine eggs, marmalade, and yogurt in a small mixing bowl, whisk until combined. Add butter and egg mixtures to flour. Using a wooden spoon, stir until combined; do not overbeat. Spoon mixture into prepared tin; smooth surface. To make coconut crumble, combine sugar, flour, and coconut in a medium bowl. Add butter. Using fingertips, rub butter into mixture until well combined. Sprinkle over cake batter in tin.
Bake 40 minutes or until skewer comes out clean when inserted in centre of cake. Leave cake in tin 5 minutes before turning onto wire rack to cool.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Pineapple Streusel Cake {Recipe Included}

This cake took me exactly 12 minutes to prepare. And then it spent an hour in the oven. But twelve minutes- that's amazing! I didn't even have to use a beater for it- just a wooden spoon. It tastes delicious- very moist with the pineapple and its syrup. What I added to this cake that was not in the recipe was that I brushed it as soon as it was out of the oven with combined equal amounts of lemon juice and caster sugar- added tanginess.

Pineapple Streusel Cake

1 & 3/4 cups self-raising flour
125g unsalted butter
2/3 cup caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
450g can crushed pineapple, drained, 1/2 cup juice reserved
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
1/3 cup soft brown sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Brush a deep 23cm round cake tin with melted butter or oil. Line base with paper; grease paper. Sift flour into large mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre.
  2. Melt butter and sugar in a small pan over low heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved; remove from heat. Combine eggs and reserved pineapple juice in small mixing bowl.
  3. Add butter and egg mixtures to flour. Using a wooden spoon, stir until combined; do not overbeat.
  4. Spoon half the mixture into prepared tin; smooth surface. Cover with combined pineapple, coconut and brown sugar. Spoon remaining batter over pineapple; smooth surface. Bake 1 hour or until skewer comes out clean when inserted in centre of cake.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Chocolate Fest! (And my 100th blogpost!)

This is my 100th blog post -and what a better way to celebrate it than by posting about the chocolate fest that we (our food bloggers group had today!)
Sarah, Ruth, Sukaina, Yasmin, and Sally came over and we made (and ate!) chocolate shortbread drops, chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream, rich chocolate pots, and black forest cupcakes.

Ruth brought some lovely flour-less chocolate cake over which was wonderful- it tasted like a super-moist brownie. I think I ate like half of it. My neighbor Emma brought over chocolate tiramisu which was amazingly light and would be just the perfect dessert for any occasion!

Here are some of the recipes!

Basic Chocolate Cake
125g unsalted butter, 1 cup caster sugar, 1 egg, 2 teaspoons vanilla essence, 1/3 cup cocoa powder, 1 ½ cups self raising flour, ¾ cup cream
Preheat oven to 180C. Brush deep 20cm round cake tin with melted butter, line base with paper, grease paper.
Using electric beaters, beat butter and sugar in small mixing bowl until light and creamy. Add egg and vanilla essence, beat for 1 minute on medium speed or until well combined. Add sifted dry ingredients and cream to bowl. Beat on low speed for 1 minute or until just combined. Beat 2 minutes on high speed until smooth. Spoon mixture into prepared tin, smooth surface. Bake for 55 minutes or until skewer comes out clean when inserted in centre of cake. Turn onto wire rack to cool.

Rich Chocolate Pots
300g plain chocolate, in pieces. 284ml carton double cream. 250g tub mascarpone. 3tbsp cranberry juice. 1 tbsp vanilla extract. 6 tbsp crème fraiche
Put chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of gently simmering water. Leave until melted, then stir until smooth. Remove the bowl from the heat. Add the cream, mascarpone, cranberry juice, vanilla extract, and mix well together- the hot chocolate will melt the mascarpone. Divide the mixture between six 150ml glasses and chill for 20 minutes. Spoon a dollop of crème fraiche on top of each dessert and decorate with chocolate curls.

Black Forest Cupcakes
90g dark chocolate, chopped. 115g unsalted butter at room temperature, 115g caster sugar, 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons ground almonds, 150g self raising flour, 1 tablespoon cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons cranberry juice, 50g glace cherries, halved. To decorate: 100g dark chocolate, finely chopped, 100ml double cream, 1 tablespoon cranberry juice, 12 glace cherries
Preheat oven to 180C. Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water. Do not let the bowl touch the water. Leave until almost melted, then set aside to cool slightly. Beat the butter and sugar together in a bowl until pale and fluffy, then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Beat in the melted chocolate, then stir in the almonds. Sift the flour and cocoa powder into the mixture and fold in, followed by juice and glace cherries. Spoon the mixture into paper cases and bake in a preheated oven for about 20 minutes until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. To decorate, put chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream in a saucepan until almost boiling, then pour over the chocolate and leave to melt for about 5 minutes. Stir until smooth and creamy, then stir in the cranberry juice and leave to cool for about 1 hour until thick and glossy. Spread the frosting over the cakes and top with a glace cherry. Using a vegetable peeler, make some chocolate shavings and pop them on top of the cakes.