When I’m feeling sick (like today) all I want is something to warm me up inside-out. The spicy warmth of pepper always does that for me, making bak kut teh one of my favourite ‘sick person’ foods. Fatty pork ribs in a peppery herb soup, dipped in sweet black sauce, with salty vegetables on the side… Even when my nose is behaving like a broken tap and my throat feels like sandpaper, I can still taste it ;) I get my appetite back too, even if it’s just for a while!
Do you ever feel like there’re too many thoughts swirling around in your head, and you just can’t get them to stop?
I’ve been feeling that way, which makes it hard to settle down, relax and just enjoy the moment. Why can’t we just tell our thoughts to stop running around in so many directions? Sometimes it feels like trying to find your way out of a maze, but it’s so twisty, you keep getting lost.
When I just can’t find my way out of the maze, I like to cook or do yoga. I was too lazy to yoga today, so I ended up making one of my favourite comfort food dishes instead – Japanese curry!
This my one of favourite ‘shortcut dishes’ to make. All you need is Japanese curry paste, and other ingredients you like. I usually just add carrots and potatoes, because I don’t really like onions. Isn’t great how you can use only what you like, when you cook at home? ^O^
Yes – this is all I use. Comfort food should be easy to make too, otherwise it would be too much trouble!
- 3 mid-sized carrots
- 6 small russet potatoes (less if they’re bigger)
- 1 square of S&B Tasty Curry Paste (one box contains two squares)
Chop the carrots and potatoes into bite-sized chunks. Fry in about a tablespoon of oil till lightly browned, then add water until it just covers the top of the vegetables. Add in the Japanese curry paste, stir it dissolves in the water, and bring the curry to a boil. Turn down the heat to medium, and let it simmer for about 15min, or until the curry is as thick as you like.
TIP: The curry tastes great with short grain brown rice. It’s healthier too!
If you have more time to spend, try making katsu to go along with the curry. I only do that occasionally because my Japanese curry craving can hit me out of the blue, and I’m not always prepared to make katsu. My ‘shortcut’ version is to pop some frozen chicken or crab cakes into a toaster oven for twenty minutes, usually the time it takes for me to make the curry.
I think cooking to settle my mind is great because at the end of it, I get to enjoy something yummy too :) Now I’ve really got to do some yoga!
It’s been over a week since my last post, and I’ve only got one excuse – a new job has taken over my life. Crazy days and sleepless nights – that’s how it has been since February started.
“A new job is like a new pair of shoes – it takes a whole to get used to”
Someone said this to me today, and I think that’s the best comparison I’ve heard so far, especially since I’m definitely in the ‘wearing it in’ phase!
When you’re going through a ‘wearing’ time, it always helps to have something to look forward to. For some people it’s an ice-cold beer at the end of the day, for others it’s going to the gym. For the past week, I’ve been craving chocolate. Dark, 60% – 70% chocolate that isn’t too sweet or bitter. The kind that melts on your tongue, and leaves you craving for more.
Not just chocolate, but chocolate cookies too – and I’m not talking about the kind you can buy from supermarkets. Aside from Famous Amos Cookies that have such a distinctive taste, I haven’t bought any chocolate chip cookies that really hit the spot. Sometimes, you’ve just got to make them yourself.
Whenever I need a chocolate fix, I turn to one of these chocolate recipes. These are just my current favourites – I love trying new recipes, so I’m sure I’ll find more to add to this list soon. If you’ve got some favourites too, please share in the comments below!
One thing all the recipes have in common – they only taste as good as the chocolate you use, so go ahead and use your favourite brand.
1. Chocolate chip cupcakes
This recipe is adapted from Hamlyn All Colour Cook Book, a very old, very retro recipe book that I got from my mum. The recipe is for Polka Dot Dandies, but I usually skip the icing, replace the coffee essence with vanilla essence, and use this recipe for chocolate chip cupcakes instead. It’s a simple, no frills recipe that really hits the spot.
- 4 oz. butter
- 4 oz. caster sugar
- 2 eggs
- 4 oz. self-raising flour, sieved (or 2 oz. wholemeal flour, 2 oz. self-raising flour, and about 1 tsp baking powder)
- 1 packet of chocolate chips
- 2 tsp of vanilla essence
TIP: For a ‘healthier’ version, replace half the self-raising flour with wholemeal flour, and add a bit of baking powder to help it rise a bit more.
Preheat the oven to 175 °C (350 F). Use an electric mixer to cream the butter and sugar until it’s light and fluffy. It usually turns a pale, cream colour at this point. Beat the eggs, add in the vanilla essence, and add it slowly to the mixture. Make sure to mix in the eggs well each time, as adding them in too fast can cause the mixture to curdle.
TIP: If your mixture does curdle, don’t worry! Folding in the flour after that usually fixes it.
Fold in the flour using a metal spoon, and add in the chocolate chips. Spoon the mixture into paper cases lightly dusted with flour. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the cupcakes turn golden brown. If you’ve added wholemeal flour, they will usually look darker.
Photo from Call Me Cupcake by Linda Lomelino
Linda Lomelino’s blog Call Me Cupcake is one my favourite places to visit whenever I want to try something new. Her photos are beautiful, the recipes are easy, and they all sound so delicious!
After lusting over these cookies for weeks, I finally spent some time making the dulce de leche the week before, and got down to making the cookies on Sunday. Making the dulce de leche was rather troublesome, but the cookies were worth it.
TIP: If you’re using the microwave, keep an eye on it! I ended up putting it in for 1.5 minute intervals instead, after the mix boiled over once and made a sticky mess. It took a while longer, but at least I only cleaned up one mess.
They’re an addictive blend of sweet, salty and chocolatey – A had one bite, and couldn’t stop snacking on them.
This January, I was determined to go somewhere… anywhere really. I had to get away, clear my mind, and feel free. I didn’t have to think about getting back to work, or what I left behind. For the first time in a long while, I could travel with no worries at all. Only problem was, A had a ton of work to clear, and my friends couldn’t get off work. Fortunately, my parents had a week to spare, so we bought three tickets to Osaka ;)
I’ve travelled alone with my parents before, but never to places that needed a plan. Since I had a week to get ready, I decided to follow in my friend S’s footsteps, and organized our entire trip using Google Docs. From arrival to departure and everything in-between, I’m so glad I did because it would have been a mess otherwise!
A and I snowboard in Japan very often, and we always spend a few days in and around Tokyo. After this trip to Osaka, I ‘m thinking of spending more time around Osaka instead :p It could be the amazing food, the fact that Kobe and Kyoto are so close, or because the people we met in Osaka were so friendly.
With so many reasons to love Osaka, here is part one of my favorite moments – there are plenty more gems for you to discover ;)
“There is no love sincerer than the love of food.” George Bernard Shaw
Three unforgettable dinners (without scary prices)
If you’re planning a trip to Osaka, start by planning your meals first! They were the highlight for us, and the top reason why we can’t wait to go back. I’m not a brave eater. I’m usually very picky, and I can’t eat a lot. However I think that I tried more new types of food this trip, than I ever have before – and I loved every morsel. If you’re looking for an easy way to plan some meals in Osaka, here are three places you cannot miss. All three places have Michelin stars, yet none of the dinners cost more than 10,000 yen each, including sake. Pretty amazing!
Reserve a counter seat, and go for their omakase. You don’t need to know what you’re eating, because you’ll love every bite. Actually, I think it might be better not to know – I had blowfish milt which tasted amazing, but I may not have tried it if I had known what I was eating ;)
TIP: Kigawa is on a lane off Shinsaibashi, so try to arrange dinner after shopping around that area. The closest train station is Shinsaibashi, take the Daimaru exit.
Like most fussy eaters, I only eat certain vegetables. However when you’re seated at the counter across from the stern-faced chef Nagai, you’ll eat anything he puts on your plate. I’m glad I did – it’s the first time in years I’ve had sweet potato, and definitely the first ever I’ve had lemongrass tempura. Every single piece was crisp and light, and the tempura batter complemented the fresh produce perfectly. Even my mum – who eats even less than me – finished all 11 varieties of tempura. I don’t think I’ll be ordering tempura at other Japanese restaurants any time soon.
TIP: Chef Nagai may look stern, but he’s really nice once you get to know him. Tenshige is a tiny restaurant, so reservations are essential.
Kushiage (or Kushikatsu) is a Osaka dish – crumbed and fried sticks of goodness that taste amazing, especially in winter. At Rokukaku-tei, the dinner set menu comes with 20 different types of sticks – or until you ask them to stop. I was full after ten, but I couldn’t stop without trying them all! The sticks were lightly battered and fried, and not oily at all. I’m craving them right now, that’s how delicious they were. Sigh.
TIP: If you’re having Rokukaku-tei for dinner, try to have a light lunch. Your tummy will thank you.
Another reason why I love Osaka – it’s just a short train ride away to Kinosaki Onsen, Kobe and Kyoto ;) I’ll leave that for my next post!
My aunt gives me just one jar of almond cookies every Chinese New Year, and I can never bear to finish them. They’re crunchy, crumbly, sweet and salty – all the things I love in a cookie, rolled into a bite-sized ball of goodness. I’ve only been desperate enough to make them once while I was in Melbourne. All I remember from that attempt was that it took a very long time to fill up one lonely normal jar :( That’s a lot of work for very few cookies! When I found out a few days ago that my aunt won’t be baking almond cookies this year, I decided to ignore the hesitation deep down inside, and to just go for it. How bad can it be anyway :p Can’t be more tiring than baking pineapple tarts, right?!
TIP: Set aside a whole afternoon for this. This recipe makes quite a lot of cookies, which means you may spend half a day rolling and baking if you want bite-sized cookies (approx. 1/4 tsp of dough per cookie)
For the almonds
You can buy the almonds skinned (they usually come chopped or sliced), or you can skin them by blanching the almonds at home. It only took me about 15 minutes to remove the skins from 500g of almonds :) It’s the easiest part of this recipe!
Heat a pot of water until it boils, and put almonds in for 1 minute – any longer, and the almonds will get soft. Use a sieve to strain the almonds from the water, then rinse them in cold water. Roll or pat them dry with kitchen towels. Hold the fatter end of the almond in one hand, with your other hand cupped in front. Squeeze gently, and the skin should come off easily. Cupping your hand in front of the almond prevents them from shooting across the room – it really happens, I tried ;)
Put the almonds into a food processor, and chop them into a mixture of fine and small almond bits. I like to have a mix for more crunch, but it’s really up to you. Set aside, and begin preparing the dough.
For the dough
- 1 kg plain flour
- 500g caster sugar
- 2tsp fine salt
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 6 tsp baking powder
- 250g chopped almonds
- 740ml oil (any brand will do, as long as it is tasteless and odorless)
For the glaze
- 1 egg yolk, diluted with a bit of water
Heat oven to 160°C (320 F). Sift the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder together. Mix in the almonds, then slowly add in the oil, until the mixture begins to stick together and form a dough. Roll the dough into little balls – I used a 1/4 tsp to form bite-sized cookies. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper, and place the balls of dough about 1 inch apart. Brush the tops with the glaze, and bake for 13 minutes, or until the cookies turn a pale golden brown.
TIP: If the cookies are baked long enough, you won’t be able to smell or taste the oil used in the dough.
A and I planned a last minute Sunday tea for some friends, to get their help with a new venture A’s been busy with. To be fair, it wasn’t really that last minute – I was feeling a bit worn out after the pineapple tarts baking frenzy the week before, and kept putting off planning the weekend tea… until the day before ;)
While I could have bought something instead of baking, I wanted to make the most of my month off work. Besides, it’s still January, much too soon to be slacking off on anything!
I’ve been following Linda Lomelino on Instagram for a while, and her desserts look like they belong in a fairytale. From cakes to cookies, and everything sweet in-between, I wish I had her magic fingers. Since I don’t, I decided to try something that looked fairly easy – chocolate skillet cookies. You can find the recipe here. I followed it exactly but added about 60g less sugar – just right for me!
TIP: These cookies taste best straight out of the oven – crisp on the edges, soft and gooey on the inside. I kept one in the fridge and heated it up the next day. Not as amazing :(
Whenever I need an foolproof recipe, I look for Jamie Oliver – and he hasn’t let me down yet! This time I decided to try making a quiche for the first time. I did plan on making the dough as well, but the thought of rubbing in the butter early in the morning… I decided to get some shortcrust pastry from the supermarket instead :D The filling was very easy to make, and one of the tastiest I’ve ever had. You can find the recipe here.
TIP: If you’re using pre-made shortcrust pastry, it’s probably square shaped, while your quiche tin will be round. You’ll find that if you lay the pastry down gently, and cut off the edges, you can use the leftovers to fill in the gaps rather nicely!
After the early morning rush to finish baking, I wasn’t sure if the cookies and quiche were going to taste ok – especially since it was my first time trying both recipes. Fortunately for me, everyone was either too polite to complain, or they were too hungry ;) Looking forward to more (better planned) afternoon teas!
I always try to spend Chinese New Year overseas because I don’t like the crowds. Combined with the crazy hot weather that always seems to accompany the first two days, the only reason I look forward to it is because of the two-day holiday!
Since A and I can’t escape the madness this year, I’ve decided to focus on the only part I like – the Chinese New Year goodies :)
Pineapple tarts have got to be my favourite. Tangy jam on buttery, melt-in-your-mouth pastry… So. Good. In the spirit of embracing every single day, I’ve stopped wishing for the perfect pineapple tarts, and tried making my own.
I used the recipe here for the pineapple jam. Turns out that if you use ripe pineapples, you may not need to use as much sugar.
I tried Thai pineapples, which taste amazing. Couldn’t stop licking my fingers while making the jam. Mmmm!
TIP: Use ripe pineapples, and less sugar. Make the jam a day before bake day, roll it into little jam balls after it’s cooled, and store in the fridge.
I used the recipe here for the pineapple tarts pastry. If you’re a fan of buttery, melty, pastry like me, you may end up ‘testing’ quite a bit as you bake!
The hardest part is rubbing in the butter – your forearms will get a really good workout :)
TIP: It’s easier to get a cleaner shape with your pineapple tart cutter if you roll the dough slightly thicker, and press down firmly.
Here’s the combined ingredients list, taken from the recipe links above. I made about 80 pineapple tarts, with some dough leftover.
For the jam
2 ripe pineapples (the ones from Thailand tasted better)
250g sugar (you probably won’t use it all)
For the pastry
400g plain flour
50g corn flour
1/4 tsp (heaped) salt
280g cold, unsalted butter (don’t let it soften!)
3 egg yolks, beaten
3 tbsp cold/ice water
6 tbsp icing sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 egg yolk and 1 tbsp water (for the glaze)
The best part of baking has got to eating the freshest pineapple tarts I’ve ever had. Warm, buttery pastry that’s light, slightly crisp, and topped with warm, tangy jam. Best afternoon treats ever!