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Imperfect Salted Caramel Slice (paleo, not so paleo, gluten free, clean eating, raw)

Imperfect Salted Caramel SliceI hesitated writing about this recipe because I wanted to fine tuned a few things. Hubby, being the biggest encourager that he is, insisted that I take some photos- despite the chocolate being a little rough, and my cutting of the slice is uneven as. His logic was that I make the decision later, but he loved this slice so much that he doesn’t see why I shouldn’t be sharing it. 

He reminded me that perfection can be a good and bad trait. I wrote about how in my desperation to “get it right”, I have once made a lemon tart 3 times. I wasn’t happy with the based once, the curd 2nd, and there was some cracks on my 3rd. Funny though, that once I put that to rest, the next tart I made- the base came out the way I wanted it to be. Sometimes, the best thing that one can do is to “put it down” and try again sometime later. IMG_1833 (640x427)

Have you ever experienced that? 

I can recall as a child, my mother used to coach me in doing my homework. I wasn’t a good student. I laughed and cringe now, as I became somewhat like a nerd when I was in University. Pre university days? Not so. Mum can probably fill up a book on stories of my whinging, running away (yes! I literally ran away from maths!), and down right resistant in completing any school work. Her persistence in me taught me exactly that trait. In some ways, she taught me what perfection stands for because she never give up. At the same time, when I was in secondary school and she found me in tears over some maths question (I guess by now you know my love-hate relationship with maths…), she encouraged me to take breaks and to re visit them again. IMG_1837 (640x427)

How many times do we persist on with something head on, only to become increasingly frustrated and stressed? Cortisol has been known to increase productivity. We know that through the stress curve, having some cortisol and adrenaline get things going quicker. However, we also know that it will come a point, where productivity falls. Your other instincts will kick in (aka fight or flight), and nothing just seem to make sense anymore. 

The little slice reminded me of just that. My imperfections are there for a reason. It’s ok to sit with that. Who knows, I may come back with a better and prettier slice. Just this moment though, sitting with it does not mean I’m giving up. It simply means exactly that. Pondering, savouring and taking in the moment. IMG_1836 (427x640)

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Leek and Spinach Tart

This is one of my favourite “light meals” recipe. I spoke about Teresa Cutter before but honestly, this woman creates the best healthy clean recipes that are so nourishing for your body. I have made this tart a few times and even had it at my baby shower.

One of the reasons why I made this various times is because I have trouble removing tarts from tins. This version was one of the semi successful ones- but you can see it suffered some trauma. The filling is beautiful and the crust is so yummy though.

Some mistakes I made included
– Not oiling the tin enough
– Pressing the pastry too hard into the tin. Gentle pressing is sufficient.
-Not rolling the pastry evenly.
– Underbaking the crust.
– Using the wrong type of tart tin. I used the high wall type but found out that NOT all tins are created equal. Too thick a tin actually made it harder for the tart to be removed.

There was one week, that I was so frustrated, I made 3 tarts to prove that I can do it 😡

Leek and Spinach Tart (Serves 10-12)
Crust
300 grams of Almond Meal
1 Cup of desiccated coconut or around 100grams
3 tablespoons of linseed
pinch salt
3 eggs

Filling
2 leeks
500 grams of spinach
500 grams of ricotta cheese
seasoning

Preheat Oven to 180C. Oil your tart tin VERY well. Blitz crust ingredients in the food processor. Roll pastry in between two pieces of baking paper and gently press it to the tin.

To make the filling, cook the leek with a little oil till soft. Add spinach till it wilts. Mix vegetables with ricotta and seasoning. Spoon into tart. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve with rocket and balsamic vinegar.

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Almond and Garlic Stuffed Mushrooms

I would call this a “work in progress” recipe. Since I have been trying to work with almond meal and not breadcrumbs, I decided to make a stuffing for mushrooms. Nutty flavours with some chives and garlic could do the trick I thought.

The result is “ok”. I like the texture of the crumbs, but wondered if I could put in maybe chill or even fresh chopped almonds to add another dimension to the texture.

I paired it with some grilled lamb chops and salad. Simple week night dinner.

You can tell that I’m still trying to work out in my head how can I better improve on this dish without the use of breadcrumbs or bacon. Any suggestions? 😉

Almond and Garlic Stuffed Mushrooms
6 mushrooms cups
1/2 cup of almond meal
1 tsp of garlic
small bunch of chives chopped
2 tsp of sesame oil
salt and pepper

Mix almond meal, chives, garlic, oil and seasoning together. Spoon into mushrooms and bake for 10-15 mins in a preheated oven.

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Grilled Salmon with Ginger Soy Soba Noodles

I’m not sure if quick cooking this summer is a reflection of my impatience of wanting to spend less time in the kitchen or wanting to experiment making good food in the least amount of time.

I have to confess that it has been challenging managing time and cooking for the last two months. With increased responsibilities and a desire to achieve our goals suddenly meant that cooking has taken a back foot. It’s a tad scary, as cooking as always been a staple in my life (or since I decided to cook seriously!). Now however, creating a fitter me seem to be the focus.

Have you ever let anything distract you from cooking?

I am very fond of this dish as it is incredibly quick to do but so delish. The noodles in particular tasted better the next day. I am pretty sure I adapted this from reading Donna Hay and possibly even Taste app. I have changed a few things of course like more chill, more soy and added toasted sesame seeds when grilling the salmon.

I have in my hurry, overcooked my salmon- usually it’s light pink in the middle. Nevertheless, I think the noodles are the winner. I think it’s something I will bring to a pot luck,gathering or serve in a bbq party setting.

Grilled Salmon with Ginger Soy Soba Noodles (Serves 4)
4 slices of fresh salmon
1 packet of Soba noodles
Shredded carrot- I used 1
1 red capsicum sliced finely
1 bunch of brocallini

Dressing
1/3 cup of soy sauce
2 chii padi
knob of fresh grated ginger
1 tsp of garlic
2 tablespoons of miring
1/2 tsp of sugar

Grilled Salmon with a little oil. Cook till pink in the middle. Set aside and sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Mean while cook noodles using packet directions. When the water is boiling, quickly add brocallini.

Shake dressing in a jar. Toss warm drained noodles/carrots/capsicum/brocallini with dressing. Serve with Salmon on top.

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Roasted Chicken with Herb and Lemon Stuffing

 I’m not sure if I can hold my head up high as I write this. I could feel my cheeks slightly flushed with embarrassment. It’s true. I have never attempted roasting a chicken since I started cooking years ago. It’s one of those tasks that seems huge and too much work to me. I think I used to assume that anything that takes more than 30 minutes to cook must be hard.

I started reading up on how to roast a chicken and was surprised to learn that it’s really… all in my head. The preparation work may take a tad longer than what I am used to, but having a fresh roasted chook in our humble kitchen is pretty amazing. More like a sense of achievement (ha ha, yes i know, simple things amazes me). The crisp skin, moist meat and addictive stuffing.. argh.. why haven’t I discover this little secret before?

But you will not laugh at me… will you?

Roasted Chicken with Herb and Lemon Stuffing (serves around 5-6)
1.6kg of organic free range chicken
2 tablespoon of olive oil
sprinkle of salt

Stuffing
3 cups of a day old multigrain breadcrumbs
a tablespoon of margarine
2 tablespoon of mixed herbs
1 tsp of lemon zest
1 tablespoon of garlic
half an onion sautéed

wash and pat chicken dry. Trim any fat that you can see. Preheat oven at 200C.

Combine stuffing together. Spoon stuffing into chicken cavity. Tie legs together. Brush or using your hands, oiled chicken. Sprinkle generous amount of salt on chicken. Roast it for 1 hr till golden brown. Serve with crisp potatoes and veges.

UPDATE: Don’t forget the blog giveaway!!! It ends TOMORROW (28th of Oct)!

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Apom- Indian Coconut Pancakes

A traditional Sunday for hubby, his brother and parents, would be a trip down to the local Indian shop for a hearty breakfast of Thosai and Apoms. If I have to choose, I would say Thosai is my favourite. I love the thin pancakes and the condiments that come with it (dahl, coconut and usually a spicy curry gravy). My mother in law’s favourite item would be Apom. My hubby would usually order both.

My mother in law gave me this cute little wok the last time we went back to KL., She said she bought this with the intentional of making apom at home, but given the availability of it in KL, she changed her mind and store it away. Since hubby likes it, would I try making it in Aus? I accepted the challenge.

And challenge it was! Obviously, I couldn’t do the diet and make this at the same time, so I started the diet after making this (Always the next day right?). I made the mixture the night before, and made my first apom the next morning. It was certainly an adventure as I wasn’t sure if what I was doing was right. I do know that a good apom is thin on the edges with a slight crisp and soft in the centre.After reading up on a few recipes, I experimenting with the batter, this appears to be it.

(First attempt)

I learned that a hot work is the way to go. I didn’t need to add any oil as the wok that I have is non stick. One has to swirl the wok very quickly though to make sure the batter coats the sides of the wok. I wasn’t sure how much batter should I have and ended up with 20 apoms. Obviously, that lasted us for both lunch and dinner with leftovers to boot!!

You can choose to make a sweet coconut syrup to go with it. Or you can choose to have it with dahl. I made a spiced potato (aka my version of masala potatoes) as hubby wanted something more substantial.

The funny thing was, half way through lunch, he said “dear, this is vegetarian!!!!!!!”

(finally getting the little bubbles right)

I replied: “yes dear. It is!!! and this time round, it was YOUR request to have this.”


Apom (Plain hoppers Coconut Pancakes) -makes 20
3 tablespoons of cooked rice
1/2 cup of warm water
1 tsp of yeast

500 grams of rice flour
1/4 cup of sugar
1 tsp of salt
800 grams of coconut milk

Blend cooked rice, warm water and yeast together. Put dry ingredients in a large bowl. Pour blended mixture followed by the coconut milk. Mix well. Glad wrap it and leave it overnight.

Next day, heat your wok till hot! Ladle mixture (2x) into the wok. Swirl it quickly. Cover and cook for around 3-4 minutes. Remove lid and let it cook for another min. Slide on plate. Keep it warm in an oven.

Make coconut condiment by heating up 100 ml of coconut milk with 2-3 tsp of sugar.

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Quick and Simple Pear and Walnut Cake

It has been a while since I baked some sweets. The main reason is that my current work place does not have a culture of morning teas. Rather, we like to go out for a short walk to a nearby coffee joint to grab a caffeine fix.

So one day, when my manager said we will be having a guest speaker, I asked if I could bring something. I spotted this recipe by Belinda Jefferys- a well known Australian cook and baker. This came from her book Mix and Bake. I am a fan of her recipes because it is as it says in the title- most of them are mix and bake! No fuss and little use of the cake mixer (less to wash! yay!).

I used a bundt tin for this. Unfortunately I did not oil it well and the cake broke while I turned the tin over. Oh well, MORE crumbs for me I say!!

It’s a rather moist cake. I love the chunks of pears in this. Best of all, it’s an olive oil cake so it’s healthy to eat.

Quick and Simple Pear and Walnut Cake 
2 cups plain flour
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp of mixed spice (you can use nutmeg)
1 tsp bicarb soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup of roasted walnuts
3 eggs
1 cup of brown sugar
1/4 cup castor sugar
1/2 cup of light olive oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup water
3 medium size pears peeled, cored and diced into small chunks

optional-icing sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 150C. Oil and flour 26 cm bundt tin.

Whisk flour, spices, bicab soda and salt in a large bowl. Toss nuts through.

Whisk eggs, then add sugars, oil, vanilla and water. Pour wet ingredients to dry. When they are well combined, fold in pears. Spoon into prepared tin.

Bake for 1 hr and 10 mins or so. Cool tin for 10 mins and invert it to the rack. Serve with a dusting of icing sugar if desired.

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Lamb Curry 2

Determined not to be disappointed with my first curry-from-scratch experience, I rolled up my sleeve and decided to give it a go again. This time round, I have ALL the ingredients with me-including curry leaves and ginger.

I opted to use a milder Indian curry powder which still provided the kick. We are a family who loves our spiciness but even my grandma admitted that last batch was abit too potent. You can tell that the colour is slightly different too-probably because I cooked this longer, and added more potatoes to it. This means I had to add more water to it too.

I was told that each time one makes curry, it may taste slightly different. But as long as we keep tasting, keep smelling, and keep adjusting, it will be fine. I did just that. Thankfully, everyone could stomach this curry, and the leftovers were even more tasty the next day.

See recipe and Lamb Curry 1 here.

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The Aussie Classic- Pavlova Success!

Some of you may have read my Pavlova disaster a few years back. Although it was initially a success, I placed cream and fruits on it too early on and it was crushed from its’ weight. It was also pretty embarrassing, since I had to serve this at a Christmas gathering with hubby’s (then fiance) extended family. 

When I looked at the previous post, it came to me that it has been TWO long years since I made pavlova. Given my last attempt, I knew that I just had to make it again and learn from my mistakes.

This time round, we hosted a lunch with some close friends and I chose to make this pavlova from the same recipe again. Gotta love Donna Hay! After whipping the egg whites and spooning it on the baking tray, I was quite worried that the pav will come out flat! The last one, I was able to pile it up higher. Perhaps I should have beat the egg whites a little longer. Since it was too late, I decided to give it a go and bake it anyway.

I left the pav in the oven that night to cool down and only chose to fridge it the next morning. The result was a slightly flatter pav but the same crisp outer shell and marshmallow soft texture inside. I did not repeat my mistakes and chose to put cream and fruits on it just before serving.

The plate was clean by the end of it.  You can only imagine how happy and proud I was!

Success can be obtained by failing. Failing is not to be feared but to be embraced as each failure brings us closer to success.

Pavlova
4 Egg whites
3/4 cup of caster sugar
1 tsp of white vinegar
3 tsps of corn flour

1) Preheat oven to 150C. Line baking tray and draw a 7inch circle on it.

2) Beat egg whites till soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar and beat will till glossy and stiff. Sift cornflour and fold through vinegar.

3) Spoon meringue mixture onto baking paper. Place in oven and reduce temperature to 120C. Cook for 1 hr. Turn oven off and leave it to cool overnight in the oven.

4) To serve topped with freshly whipped cream and fruits. Serve immediately.

Toblerone Cheese Cake

My cheese cake experience is far from perfect. I had my fair share of sunken, cracked ( i hide it with chocolate)  and ugly  baked cheesecakes. In fact, the only cheesecake that I was successful was the Jap Souffle Cheesecake, which has a slightly different methodology than the usual New York or store bought cheesecake recipes. 

This cheesecake was made for a friend’s birthday. Having spot this recipe in Janelle Bloom’s Fab food for Family and Friends, I couldn’t resist trying it out. I have used Janelle’s recipes many times before and nearly always it is a success. Long before Nigella Lawson or Jamie Oliver, Janelle’s recipes was what I tried because she was a frequent contribute to Food Ideas Magazine which I bought regularly when I first arrived in Australia.

I was pleasantly surprised when I saw how easy this cheesecake was. More importantly, she features mascarpone cheese as a frosting- to cover any cracks and sunken mistakes I thought!!

Thankfully (with heaps of positive self talk), I didn’t need to cover anything at all. The cheesecake came out perfect. My first perfect baked cheesecake without flaws. Ahhhhh…

Toblerone Cheesecake (serves 8-10) 

750 cream cheese softened (I used 500 grams of 70% fat free cream cheese and 250 grams of 5% fat cream cheese).
3/4 cup of caster sugar (original called for 1 cup)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs room temp
2 tablespoon of plain flour
300 ml sour cream (I used weight watchers)
2 x 100 grams toblerone choc broken into pieces
250 grams mascarpone cheese
cocoa powder to dust
chocolate flakes for decorations

150g Nice biscuits
100 grams butter melted

Preheat Oven 180C no fan. Grease and line base and side of spring form pan (23cm) with baking paper.

Base- Break biscuits and place in food processor. Process till fine. Add butter till combined. Using a large metal spoon press mixture into base of cake tin. Refrigerate till firm.

Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla till combined. Add eggs. Sitr in flour. Fold in sour cream.

Pour cream cheese mixture over base. Top with toblerone. Press them in (it will burn if exposed). Place pan into baking tray and bake for 1hr 30 mins till set. Turn it off and leave cake pan in oven till completely cool (I left it overnight as I baked it in the evening). Refridgerate till chilled.

Spread top with mascarpone cheese and dust with cocoa powder and chocolate flakes.