Hot Cross Buns

I’m really not quite sure why Hot Cross Buns are created. All I know are that, they are the “must haves” every Easter. Some say, to share a hot cross bun with a friend means it will be a treasured friendship. Others say it is to be eaten on Good Friday where the symbol of the cross piped across the buns represent Jesus sacrificing for us on the cross.

It’s a tradition that I am keen to follow, as the lovely warm hot cross buns smells permeates the air, there is no turning back. For years I have read this recipe, but somehow, found it difficult to gather up my courage to make it. Perhaps I was fearful of destroying the beautiful tasting little bread by experimenting with the dough. Or I was just doubtful of my ability to make something that smells so nice.

Chatting with a few girlfriends last week, they asked me what will I be doing this long weekend. I said “I will finally attempt to bake hot cross buns.” There I said it. There was no turning back. So I rolled my sleeves and baked it on Thursday night 9pm, finishing the whole batch by 11:45pm. Just in time. We toasted and spread a healthy amount of margarine on our freshly baked hot cross buns as we thankfully prayed for His grace.

In the morning, the whole house smells heavenly (pardon the pun)… Was it worth the effort? Oh yeah!

ps- I did a mixture of fruit and chocolate in this batch. I couldn’t decide so I put both in. This resulted in a darker than normal hot cross buns.


Hot Cross Buns (adapted from Donna Hay)
1 tablespoon dry yeast
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 1/2 cups soy milk heated till lukewarm (You can use normal milk)
4 1/2 cups plain flour, sifted
2 teaspoons mixed spice
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon (original recipe calls for 2 but I LOVE my cinnamon)
50g butter, melted
1 egg
1 cup dried mixed fruits (That has some dried peel in it but not too much that it is overpowering)
1 cup of dark choc chips (I used Margaret River Dark Choc bits, however, if you can, grate some lindt chocolate or break them into small pieces. Use the best quality chocolate you can afford).

The HOT crosses (I put in more water so that it is more runny and easier to pipe)
1/2 cup plain flour
1/2 cup water

Glaze
2 tablespoon of castor sugar
1 tablespoon of water

Combine yeast, 2 teaspoons of the sugar and milk in a large mixing bowl. Set
aside for 5 minutes, until the mixture starts to foam. It has to form as it means the yeast is active.

Mix flour,mixed spice, cinnamon, remaining sugar, mixed fruit and chocolate. Beat butter and egg. Fold through to dough. Slowly pour the yeast/milk mixture to the dough. Use a spoon to mix until a sticky dough forms.

Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until it feels elastic (around 8 mins or so). Donna Hay also says you can use the dough hook. I think using the bread maker to knead might be a good idea too.

Place dough in a large oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and allow to stand in a warm place about 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.

Divide the dough into 12 pieces and roll into balls.

Line a 9X9-inch cake tin with non-stick baking paper. Place the dough balls in the tin and cover with a clean tea towel. Allow to stand for 30 minutes in a warm place, or until they rise.

In the mean time, preheat the oven to 200°C. Combine the flour and water for the crosses. Place in a piping bag or a plastic bag with the corner snipped off and pipe crosses on the buns when they are ready to be baked.Bake for 35 minutes or until browned and springy to the touch.

Make glaze by placing sugar and water in a saucepan. Simmer till it becomes a syrup.

When fresh out of the oven, brush the hot cross buns with glaze. Serve warm or toasted, with butter.

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Stir Fry Prawns with Century Eggs. A $20 Budget Meal- Egg Theme

 I didn’t forget! I meant to post my mixed fruit + chocolate hot cross buns today but I quickly realized that today is deadline for an entry to $20 Budget meal (= AU$15) submission.

Being on a budget isn’t new to me. I don’t recall a time where we are never on a budget. From being a student, to newly weds, it’s part and parcel and life really. We think being on a budget is a necessity to life these days. With raising costs, it’s hard not to take charge of your money and to know where each cent goes.

I usually cook for 4 and pack the remaining dinner into our lunch boxes the next day. By limiting take out lunches to once or twice a month, we managed to keep our expenditure low. It is actually not often that I have a soup and 2 dishes meal because with each component, costs increases. However, being a Cantonese, I missed my soups and would savour each time we have it. When granny was here, we would have clear soups two to three times a week. For us though, it would probably be once or twice every few months (I can see hubby’s sad look here..) Another reason of course is time, but I realised that if I put all ingredients in my magic thermal cooker in the morning, all I need to do is to re heat when we come home at night.

Usually, we do not spend $15 on our meals. It’s probably around AU$8-$10 depending on what dish I cook. This is the breakdown costs of our meals

Corn, Carrot and Radish Soup– $3.80

Stir Fry Long Beans and Mushrooms– $3

Chili Prawns with Century Eggs– $6.30

Total: $13.10 

I think it’s worth it though because we have prawns in this meal. Century eggs is around AU$2 here.

Granny who I spoke to one weekend, excitedly told me that she saw someone cooked this prawn dish on TV and think I should try it. She said that she has to tell me soon because if not she might not remember all component of the dish. So here I go, documenting it… and hopefully it’s similar to what she remembered!

Stir Fry Prawns with Century Eggs

1/2 red onion- sliced
2 chili padi (I used chili padi from our garden so it’s freeeee) 
1/2 tsp of corn flour
250 grams of shelled prawns
1/2 bunch of spring onions sliced
2-3 tablespoon of maggi soya sauce
dash of white pepper
1/2 tsp of salt
1 century egg diced

Quickly stir fry onions till soft. Add chili. Fry prawns till done and sprinkle some corn flour to it. Add around 2-3 tsp of water as well. Add sauce in with some pepper. Season with salt. Toss spring onions and century eggs through. Serve with soup, veges and rice.

Thank You Ellena from Cusine Paradise in hosting this event. I can’t wait to participate in next month’s!

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A Menu for Easter

Today is the day to be rejoiced! It’s Easter Sunday. A day of salvation and grace. A day of reflection and celebration.

Another occasion? Well, it’s our ROM anniversary. Given that we celebrate our traditional wedding anniversary instead of our ROM one, we are spending the day in church and painting of old tired looking tiles. We did travel to the place where we said our vows and had a cup of coffee. It feels like yesterday but it has been 2 years when our close family and friends in Perth gathered together to witness us making a commitment to each other.

Veronica from Quay Po and Lena from Frozen Wings tagged me in their celebration of Easter. I get to post five of my recipes to plan a menu. I’m going for a causal get together theme in this menu.

First up, I will be serving  Chorizo and Haloumi Cheese Skewers

Another classic Home Made Garlic Bread

With some healthy Sweet Corn Fritters 

To remember the warriors from Anzac day, I would also present some Anzac Cookies.

And a must have for every Easter.. HOT CROSS BUNS!

I will put up another post on how I made my first hot cross buns in the next day or so.

Given that this is the last day of Easter Sunday, I’m not going to tag anyone but please feel free to play if you would like to! Come join in the fun!

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Vietnamese Style Pickled Radish Pork Omelette

As a child, I never knew that my family was struggling with money. My parents and grandmother took it upon themselves to make sure that I never go without. My dad used to tell me that he could go without food, but I would never go without books.

My grandmother has various creative ways of making meals interesting. I recall that I love pickled radish omelette and would often request it for lunch or dinner (it goes well with congee or plain white rice). Sometimes, we would only have rice, egg and soy sauce for dinner. Again, I ever thought it was any different. I just ate it like it is.

Recently I saw a Vietnamese version of the same dish. It has fish sauce and some pork mince in it. As usual, I did not follow it’s measurements but just cooked with what I think it would taste like. I think I probably used too much pork mince, and would put some corn flour to the egg mixture so it doesn’t break as easily. The egg mixture was too heavy, hence the omelette didn’t flip as it should.

Nonetheless, it was a cheap meal served with some stir fry veges and rice. I used the sweeter version of the pickled radish. Speaking of which, any other ways to incorporated picked radishes in cooking? I have used the in chee kueh before but was wondering if there are any other suggestions?

Vietnamese Style pickled Radish Pork Omelette

100 grams of pork mince
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp of soy
1/2 tsp of garlic

4 eggs
20 grams of sweet pickled radish
a splash of soy milk/milk
2 tsp of fish sauce
1/2 tsp of sugar
1 small chili padi chopped

Marinate mince first. Heat pan with 1 tsp of oil. Saute pickled radish and chili padi. Fry pork mince till nearly done. Mean time, whisk eggs with milk, fish sauce and sugar. Pour egg mixture to pan and cook til set. Serve with veges and rice.

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Grilled Beef Sesame Japanese Salad

Are you the type of person who likes making decisions or perhaps prefer to ponder your choices for a while? For me, it depends on the situation and type of problem. Take food for instance, I plan my meals on a weekly basis a and around work schedules. The usual weekly conversation hubby and I have goes something like this:

me: “any meal requests for the week?”
hubby: silence
me: “I need suggestions!
hubby: “erm… beef?”
Me: “ok, how about a beef salad?”
hubby: “ok….” (and probably feeling relieved that I’m not pressuring him to give me more answers)

When it comes to general house issues though..it’s the reverse.

hubby: “sooo, what light switches would you like..how about electrical points, do we need 5 in the study?”
me: silence
hubby: “I need you to have a look…”
me: “I didn’t know there are actually TYPES of light switches? and yes, 5 is too many in the study…”
hubby: “ok, we go with the white switch and remove 2 electrical points and put in a surge protector board.”
me: “ok” (relieved as I have no idea what he was talking about but it makes sense…)

That’s why I guess God make sure that I am there to feed hubby, and hubby is there to make sure I have enough electrical points in the house to use…

Speaking of confusion, I’m not sure if the weather knows what it wants lately either. We have been going through a series of winter, summer and autumn weather in one week. It is freezing one day, and super hot the other. It’s getting harder to plan meals. Take this salad, I made this while it was below 20C. And then made a soup when it was 35C!

Hubby likes his beef medium rare. I like mine towards medium. We compromised as the rump steak has a side that is thinner than the rest (Which makes it cooked quicker). I sprinkled some peanuts and made a sauce based on sesame dressing from the shops.

Grilled Beef Sesame Japanese Salad (Serve 2)
250 grams rump teak (tenderized or with sea salt sprinkled and left on for 10 mins or so. Rinse and pat dry. This will make the meat tender).
1 tsp olive oil
cracked pepper

3 cups of salad leaves
1 carrot shredded
1 avocado diced and sprinkled with lemon juice

Dressing
3 tablespoon of sesame dressing
2 tablespoon of mirin
1 tsp of soy
1 tsp of sesame seeds

granulated peanuts to serve.

Heat grill pan till very hot. Spread olive oil on beef and some cracked pepper. Sizzle steak on both sides for 3 mins each. Rest steak. Sliced thinly.

Dressing-whisk everything.

Assemble salad but placing carrots on top of salad leaves. Beef. peanuts and dressing on the side.

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Spicy Bean Mash

It’s seriously difficult to photograph a chunk of meat. To me anyway! I tried the top approach, the left side, right side, half dish..and it still looks..

like a chunk of meat.

How in the world did Donna Hay make a piece of meat looks so good? grrrrrrrrrrrr

I spied this Donna Hay Spicy Bean Mash with a simple pork cutlet. It looks so simple but so hearty!

It’s the bean mash that won my heart in this meal though. Who would have thought? It’s almost like a dip, but good enough to be served as a side.. Ahhh…

Spicy Bean Mash (Serves 4)
2 tins of Cannelloni Beans or white beans drained
1/2 lemon juiced
2-3 tsp of cumin
1/2 tsp of chili powder
1/2 tsp of paprika
1 clove of garlic minced

Microwave beans for 1 min. Add all ingredients and mash with fork. Serve as a side dish with grilled meat and beans.

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Jamie Oliver’s “Asian Style Salmon Noodle Broth”

For my birthday gift last year, a few friends pool together and bought me Jamie Oliver’s 30 minutes Meals Cookbook. They know, I am a fan of Jamie Oliver’s no fuss, quick and easy cooking. I am also aware of previous reviews on the book states that these meals do not take 30 minutes but can take more than 1 hr to prepare.

I love cookbooks. I adore them. I”m addicted to them. I like flicking pages, visualizing how I can make a dish, brainstorming meal ideas- but I rarely use the recipes as it is. I dare say that the only recipes that I follow to the tee would be baking recipes. For most cooking recipes, unless it is something that I have absolute no idea what it looks or tastes like, there would be same changes. Usually, it’s due to practical reasons- like it is more expensive to purchase limes than lemons in Perth. Sometimes, it’s personal taste- I cannot justify putting 1/2 cup of sugar in a cooking dish or 3 tsp of salt in any dish for that matter (Unless it’s a brine and I can rinse it off). Otherwise, I view recipes as a playground really. A guide for me to start cooking something AND to minimise kitchen disasters.

At first, this cookbook makes my head spin. You see, it’s a book of meal planners. Hence it’s not your typical one dish per page cookbook. Jamie (oooo..should i be on first name basis with this awesome chef now?) presents 3 recipes per menu and guides us through how to multitask in preparing all 3 dishes at once. Therefore, even if you just want to make one dish out of 3, you still have to read through the whole menu planner. Unless of course, you want to make all 3 dishes.

In our household, we rarely have 3 courses. It’s one, and perhaps some fruits or ice-cream for dessert. Nothing fancy just quiet simple food. Other than the slight inconvenience of needing to read the whole planner, it’s actually quite good.

I picked this noodle broth to try first. At first, I’m sceptical of its ginger/chili garlic paste. I did a taste test after blizing it in the food processor and to me, it was slightly weird. However, when paired with salmon and the soup, it matched really well!

How long did it take me to prepare one dish?

Funny you asked. In estimation, 30 minutes.

But it doesn’t matter at the end of the day does it? It’s good food that matters.  😉

Asian Style Salmon Noodle Broth (serves 2-3)
2 cm piece of fresh ginger
1 clove of garlic
1 fresh red chili
1/2 small red onion
1 tablespoon of soy
1 huge lime

2 pieces of salmon fillets
180 grams of egg noodles
1 cup of snow peas
2 cups of bean sprouts
few sprigs of spring onion chopped
1 red chili sliced
chinese five spice
1 ltre of vegetable stock

Garnish
Spring onion sliced left overs
quarter of lime.

Blitz ginger, garlic, red onion and chili in food processor. Squeeze in lime. In an oven proof dish, place mixture at the bottom of dish. Place fish on top of mixture. Rub some five spice powder on it. Cook in oven preheated 180C for around 20 mins or so.

Meanwhile, boil vegetable stock. Add chili and soy sauce when it begin to boil. Taste test. Add all vegetables and finally noodles. Spoon noodle broth into bowls. Top it with salmon and spring onion. Squeeze lime juice over it. 

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My Ultimate Chocolate Brownies

If there is ever one recipe that I have attachment issues with, it would be my brownies.

It was year 2002 or was it 2003? I can’t quite remember now. All I can remember was I survived many moments with these brownies.

  • Stack of assessments to complete at Uni. Brownies. 
  • Tears over bad grade. Brownies.
  • Stressed friends. Brownies
  • Helping a friend to impress her boyfriend. Brownies
  • A big thank you to a supervisor? Brownies
  • Break up tears? Brownies
  • I hate statistics. Brownies
  • Marking assignments. Brownies
  • Celebration in completion of thesis-s. Brownies
  • Farewells at various internships. Brownies 
  • Impress the potential (and now quite real!) extended family members of in laws. Brownies 

Brownies were actually one of the first most successful bakes I have ever done. Ask my hubby. He survived rock cakes (I mean rock!). We weren’t even dating yet! What about floury cookies? Or raw ones? Oh I have done it all. My poor friends who survived through my years of disasters (and more to come). 

But somehow, as I grow tougher, more adventurous… I neglected my brownies. I say mine with a big possessiveness neon sign on it.  When a few colleagues took turns to bring their version of chocolate brownies, something in me stirred.

I HAD to make brownies.

Over my uni years (~8 years!!!), many late nights, allowed me to change and alter the recipe till it I can call mine finally. It’s seriously my pride and joy. Even though it’s a simple, everyone can do it dessert…. the smell of the mixture, the chocolate.. .. it brought me back to yester-years.

So finally, I decided to share with you my ultimate. It’s my favourite of all favourites. It’s dark, rich, slight crisp on outside and soft/fudgy on the inside. And perhaps then you could create more tomorrow, future years of memories. 

My Ultimate Chocolate Brownies 

1/3 cup plain flour
1/2 cup of Nestle Cocoa Powder 
1 cup of sugar
1.5 cups of chopped toasted pecans/walnuts
250 grams of Lindt dark 70% chocolate (Sometimes, I used a mixture of 60% or 70%. I even experimented with peppermint versions as well)
250 grams of butter melted
2-3 tsp of vanilla essence
4 eggs lightly beaten 

Preheat Oven to 180C. Line slice tin with baking paper.

Sift flour and cocoa. Toss sugar, nuts and broken pieces of dark chocolate in mixture. Make a well in the middle. Pour butter and fold gently. Slowly add in eggs and vanilla. Continue to fold. Then pour into tin, smooth surface and bake for 45-50 minutes. It will still be slightly soft inside-that’s perfect! Cool. Chill for 2 hours or overnight before slicing.

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Turkish Gozleme

I’m starting to appreciate other cuisines. Growing up in Singapore, I had the luxury to try Indian, Chinese (mostly!), Japanese.. but never as extensive as growing up in Perth. Lebanese? checked. Indonesian? Checked. Thai? Checked. Fusion al carte Australian? checked.

It’s weird. Seriously. I’m taking cooking Chinese tips from an Australian cookbook (I swear, granny, you are still the first I go to!). Or like in this case, Turkish Gozleme from the AUSTRALIAN Women’s Weekly!

I loved it regardless. It means there are no boundaries in creating cuisine. Flipping through a few “Australian” cookbooks, it made me realised how much food bring different cultures together. Perhaps by printing a different culture recipe from a known writer, it gives me the guts to try something new. It means it can be done.

I had a go at making Turkish Gozleme at home one weekend, and boy oh boy, never did pounding dough feels so good. Is there such a therapy call Dough Therapy? Maybe that is how Turkish ladies get their tough arms from.  Perhaps that also explains why I never got a gozleme from an angry lady.

So I served this to my husband. And watch him smile.

Turkish Gozleme (Adapted from Australian Women’s Weekly Eating Together)
4 cups of plain flour
1 tsp cooking salt-I used my sea salt
1 2/3 cups of warm water
2 tablespoons oil. I used olive

Lamb filling
3-4 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
pepper
1 tsp garlic minced
500 grams lamb mince
1 can of diced tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped parsley

Spinach and Cheese Filling
300 grams baby spinach
1 small red onion chopped
1 tsp mixed spice
150 grams feta cheese
1 cup of cheddar or mozzarella cheese

Make Dough
Combine flour, salt and gradually stir in water. Sprinkle flour on work surface. Don’t forget to flour your hands. Knead dough. Hit it, punch it, just keep working on it till it is smooth. Return to bowl. Cover.

Make lamb filling
Cook garlic. Fry lamb till done. Add tomatoes and spices. Simmer. Cool.

Make spinach and feta filling
Combine all ingredients. I blanched the spinach first quickly and squeezed some water out.

Diver dough into 2 pieces. Flour work surface and rolling pin. Roll each piece into a square. Roll as thin as you can. Sprinkle spinach and cheese filling first, then topped it with lamb filling. Fold each edge over.

Using a well oiled grill pan, cook gozleme on each side till browned slightly. Serve with lemon/lime wedges.

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