Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pieces of Gold

I'm really intrigued by this new plant in my balcony.

I saw it in a nursery all the way at Chua Chu Kang.

I didn't know the name of the plant, so I asked the lady at the nursery what they were.

"Oh.. I don't know too.. we just call it Pieces of Gold (片片黄金)"

I laughed.. and brought the plant home.

The flowers are yellow and where there is a flower, there will be a white leaf or two accompanying the flowers.

Very interesting. If you do know the name of this plant... pls let me know?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Onde Onde

I like eating onde onde a lot. It is probably one of my favourite nonya desserts.

Onde onde (or sometimes spelt as ondeh ondeh) is a sweet snack made out of sweet potatoes with gula melaka (brown palm sugar) in the centre, rolled with fresh grated coconut.

I like the "popping" sensation one gets when eating onde onde. The melted gula melaka bursts out from the skin of the onde onde and mixes very well with the fresh coconut. As a child, onde onde was what I imagine Pop Biscuits to be like when I read the Faraway Tree.

I didn't know that onde onde is so simple to make.. until the class at A's place on Saturday.

All you really need is:
- Sweet Potatoes
- Glutinous Rice Flour
- Pandan Leaves and Green Food Colouring
- Grated Fresh Coconut (mix with a little salt)
- Gula Melaka

To make the "skin" of the onde onde, boil some sweet potatoes with pandan leaves until very soft and then mash it up well. Add an equal part of glutinous rice flour and knead the sweet potatoes and flour together, adding water until you get a firm dough. Add the green food colouring to the dough. If you like, you can add a bit of the juice of pandan leaves for better flavour.

Then, roll the dough into little balls of equal sizes. Fill the dough with chopped gula melaka and then it's done!

All you then need to do is to put the little balls into a pot of hot water and when the water boils and the little balls float up, take them out and roll them on a bed of grated coconut.

Boil the sweet potatoes

Mash the sweet potatoes up well with 2 forks

Mix the sweet potatoes with the glutinous rice flour

Knead until the dough is smooth and then add the colouring

When the onde onde floats up, they are cooked

Roll the onde onde over a plate of grated coconut

The final product - homemade onde onde

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Simple homemade granola

One of my favourite frozen yogurt is Yami Yogurt. I like the peach flavour at Yami Yogurt so much.. I don't think I've ever ordered another flavour before. And I like the granola topping so much that I've never really ordered another topping before.

I've never figured out the brand of the granola they use.. but I decided to make some of my own so that I can have healthier breakfast on weekdays.. I got the general idea of the recipe from Evan's blog.. but I just simply added what I liked and had at home to the granola too.

My version of homemade granola consisted of:
- 3 cups of old fashion rolled oats
- A small handful of raisins and dried cranberries
- A small handful of macadamia nuts, sliced almonds and some sunflower seeds
- A tablespoon of dessicated coconut

I mixed everything together with a little bit of salt and then addded in a mixture of canola oil and honey (2 tablespoon oil with half a cup of honey)

Then everything went into the oven at 160 deg C for 40 mins. Be sure to line your baking tray with silpat for this. I used a non-stick pan but the granola still stuck on to the tray after it cooled.

The granola should be stored in an airtight container when it is completely cooled.

The results? A weeks' full of granola to go with fruity yogurt. I'd be trying a different variation sometime soon again.

Homemade Mee Rebus - Finishing Off

The difficult part about homemade mee rebus is really making the homemade gravy.

After that, it's just about putting everything together - yellow noodles, bean sprouts, hard boiled eggs, prawns and stir-fried tau kwa bits.

The condiments to go along with the noodles are just as important, if not more so - homemade sambal chilli, Chinese corriander, sliced green and red chilli, fried shallots, fresh calamansi and most importantly fried tiny shrimps.

The ingredients to go with the Mee Rebus

You can add what you like to Mee Rebus - but 
hard boiled eggs, tau kwa and prawns are good

Laying everything out...

The condiments.. very key to making the mee rebus authentic

Chinese coriander, sliced chillis and fresh calamansi

The final product - the best Mee Rebus I've eaten

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Homemade Mee Rebus - Making the Gravy

Today, I went for another class at A's place. The plan was to make mee rebus and onde onde and have them for lunch at her place after we are done.

I love mee rebus and so of course, there was no way I was going to miss this class... in spite of the fact that I was really pretty exhausted after the hectic week at work.

Mee Rebus means "boiled noodles" in Malay and is a dish that can be found in some countries in South East Asia - including Indonesia, Malaysia and of course, Singapore. It is basically noodles with boiled eggs, prawns, firm tofu, bean sprouts, in a thick spicy-sweet gravy.

I never knew what went into the thick gravy.. besides salted soya bean paste.. so I was in for a real surprise!

Ingredients for the Gravy
Rempah - made by blending Galangal, Tumeric, Onions, Garlic, Dried Chilli and Belancan
Preserved Soya Bean Paste (2 tbsp, grounded)
Lemongrass (2 stalks, bruised)
Sweet Potatoes (1 kg, boiled and blended with 2 cups water. Use the water from boiling the sweet potatoes)
Flour (2 tbsp)
Cornflour (2 tbsp)
Prawn Stock (1 litre water - boil prawn heads and shells with the water for 10 mins)

The rempah - freshly made and very fragrant

Lemongrass, bruised with the back of a knife

Sweet potatoes - boiled until very soft

Prawn stock - full of the goodness and flavour of fresh prawns

Steps for making the gravy
1. Fry the rempah with some oil until fragrant
2. Add the soya bean paste and lemongrass and simmer until the oil surfaces
3. Put the fried paste in a stock pot and gradually add the blended sweet potatoes, prawn stock, corn flour and flour.
4. Let the mixture simmer on low fire
5. Then season with sugar and salt

Frying the rempah

See how the oil surfaces when the rempah is done?

Blending the sweet potatoes

The prawn heads are what makes the prawn stock tasty
You can also pound the prawn heads a little and then seive out the stock

The Mee Rebus gravy - simmering away in the post

I have to say.. this is probably the best Mee Rebus I have ever eaten. Stay tune for the next post to see how everything comes together for a really wonderful bowl of Mee Rebus..

P/S: My friend, A has kindly agreed to share her recipe with all the friends who read my mine.. If you ever do try out this recipe, do drop me a note/ comment so that I can let her know about it!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Chilli Prawns, local-style

Source here

Chilli crab is a very popular local dish that I missed a lot when I was in Beijing. Crabs are simply too troublesome to cook at home so I took to cooking chilli prawns whenever I have a craving for Singapore-style chilli crab.

The sauce for chilli crab is usually semi-thick, sweet and savoury. The base of the chilli crab sauce is chilli sauce and tomato sauce. It is also flavoured with garlic, rice vinegar, soy sauce and thickened with corn starch. Beaten eggs are added near the end of the cooking process to create egg-ribbons in the sauce.

I don't really have a recipe for this but I usually also add a whole lot of black pepper and sometimes curry leaves.

I made this again last night and added some onions, fresh tomatoes and served the prawns on a bed of green vegetables. It turned out quite alright although I need more practice with the egg ribbons.. The trick I think is not to stir the sauce too soon after adding the eggs.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

My Botak Frangipani

One of my neighbours moved away and I've noticed he left many of his plants behind. For a couple of weeks, I watched in dismay as the plants in the balcony die off. There wasn't anything I could do because the balcony, whilst visible from my place, was not accessible to me.

When I saw the new neighbours throwing out some of the plants today, I decided to be thick skinned and ask if I could adopt some of the plants that they didn't want anymore.

Turns out that most of the plants have died and gone to heaven.. and there were a couple that the new neighbours wanted to keep.

"But you can have this one.. if you like." The new neighbour gestured at a very bald frangipani.

Oh... I always liked frangipani but for one reason or another, never bought one for my apartment. So I thanked the new neighbour and took off with the frangipani before he could regret.

The Husband raised an eyebrow and pointed out that the frangipani plant is very bald.

"It has almost no leaves."

He is right. In Singapore, we would call it "botak". (Botak is the Malay word for bald)

So here you go.. My Botak Frangipani. She only has one leaf currently, but oh.. she has such a lovely clump of white/yellow flowers.

I'm going to put her into a bigger pot and take care of her. Hopefully, in time, she would have more leaves.

The botak frangipani

I like the white and yellow flowers. See the one and only leaf it has on the right?

I usually like the white and pink frangipanis.. but this colour is really lovely too..

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Easy Blueberry Muffins with Surprise

These blueberry muffins are really simple to make.. Being someone who likes to use the electronic weighing scale, I like all recipes where the measurements come in grams so no judgment is required apart from reading off the scale.

So, I was a little surprise to see Ting saying the other day that she likes recipes with cups only as measurement... but I think even Ting would agree with me that this recipe is super easy. In all, it took me about 30 mins to put everything together.

It is a really healthy muffin too! This recipe uses low-fat yogurt to make the muffins soft and moist. There isn't a lot of oil and sugar used too so I think it makes a really good breakfast muffin. You might want to be more generous with the sugar if your blueberries are really sour. The Husband didn't like these because the blueberries were too sour for him..

The surprise for these muffins are the little pieces of Philadelphia cream cheese I stuck into the centre of every little muffin. These aren't really neccessary but I like the charm of a little surprise now and then in my bakes.

Original recipe from joyofbaking.com

Ingredients (makes 12 muffins or 24 mini ones)
Wet ingredients
1 cup (240 ml) plain yogurt (regular or low fat)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup (60 ml) canola or corn oil
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Dry Ingredients
2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups (100 grams) fresh or frozen blueberries
Small pieces of cream cheese

What I did
1. Preheat oven to 190 deg C
2. Mix all the dry ingredients together
3. Whisk all the wet ingredients together
4. Take a spoonful of the dry ingredients and mix it with the washed blueberries
5. Gentle mix the dry ingredients and wet ingredients together. Don't overmix.
6. Fold in the blueberries gently
7. Scoop the batter into muffin liners or silicon muffin trays and stick a piece of cream cheese into each muffin
8. Bake for 15 to 20 mins.

 See the little piece of cheese in the muffin? (Picture on top left)

A bad week.. almost over

This week.. was just a bad bad week..

Problems at work from Tuesday onwards.. and then more problems on Wednesday.. and then Thursday.. and Friday..

I was a bit glad when a particular meeting I've been preparing for for the last few weeks went pretty well on Friday.. At least a bit of good news there..

Then.. there's some bad news about a friend's health..

My helper also had some of her problems.. so she can't help me anymore..


This is just not a good week at all. I'm just so glad it is almost over now.

Next week will be a better week... hopefully..

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Night Bloomer - Jasmine Sambac

I bought a pot of Jasmine Sambac last week and I must say.. I've very impressed with this plant so far. The fragrance of the flowers has a very light scent... and the flower buds and flowers look so... feminine!

The only thing is.. my plant seems to like blooming at night. So far, I've not been able to get a picture of a flower in bloom in the day during the weekends... So, here's a picture of the flower at night.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Happy Portulacas

I've finally found a plant that propagates so easily.. that even I seem to be able to do it without much trouble!

These portulacas are not just easy to propagate. They are really pretty and cheerful looking too.

Sky just bought another pot from World Farm with frilly orange-yellow flowers. Well, this means I have to go to World Farm over the weekend to get a pot too!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Onion Focaccia with Walnuts and Herbs

Onion Focaccia with Walnut and Herbs and a wee bit of sun-dried tomatoes

I love to bake focaccia.

Mainly, it is because I have a really simple, hard-to-go-wrong recipe. The recipe I have is really simple.. and I like it because of the use of honey. Somehow, I feel it makes the dough a little stickier.. but the end product always turns out pretty decent.

Today, I did a variation of my good old focaccia recipe.

380g Flour (2 parts bread flour, 1 part plain flour and 1 part wholemeal flour)
A good pinch of Salt
1 tsp Sugar
8g Instant Yeast
12g Honey
240g Ice water
20g Oliver Oil

Additional Ingredients (Optional - this is the bit where you can add what you like)
Some finely sliced yellow onions, stir-fried with a bit of olive oil until brown and quite dry
A handful of chopped walnuts
A few finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes
Some fresh rosemary (I used some frozen ones - from my rosemary plant before it died)

What I did
1. Mix all the dry ingredients
2. Mix all the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and knead until smooth
3. Add in the optional ingredients and knead well
4. Proof til double in size (about 1 hour)
5. Punch down and shape as desired. I ended up making 6 round pieces of bread
6. Proof for another 60 minutes, or until double in thickness
7. Bake at approx 190 deg C for 20 minutes.

I ate this warm and hm.. this is a bread that can be eaten plain on its own - no olive oil or butter required..

I like shaping my focaccia like that.. with 5 dimples on the top

The onions in this bread made it really fragrant~~

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Homemade Otah

It took me a morning of running around at a wet market and supermarket, an hour of onion peeling and chilli cutting to make the "rempah", an hour of cutting, chopping and mixing a very fishy mixture and then one more hour of wrapping and steaming...

All that for about 30 pieces of homemade otah.

That amounts to about 10 pieces of otah for every hour of preparation.. not to mention all that driving and rushing around at the market. And I haven't even counted the major wash-up I had to do after that... and the fact that my kitchen still has that fishy smell now..

I'm beginning to think the $1.50 otah at Joo Chiat road is worth the drive there and definitely worth the money.

But it was really fun.. I did enjoy it.. inspite of all that tearing (from the onions and chilli) and the washing up afterwards.

The otah taste good.. but it could be better. Next time, I'd make the batter thicker and add more chilli and salt. But it'd probably be sometime later.. because making the otah today really wore me out... *yawn*

Recipe here.

The ingredients that went into the "rempah" - 
tumeric root, shallots, onions, dried and fresh chilli and candlenut. 
And also blue ginger, or galangal and kaffir lime leaves, which I forgot to take pictures of.

Another 2 special ingredients that went into the rempah - 
toasted coconut and toasted coriander seeds. I forgot to buy the later 
today so I had to do without it.

The "rempah" smelled really good and "otahish"

The end result

Top - the otah I made today
Bottom - the one made during the class with Alice.
Difference - I used less chilli and added a bit too much water today

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The joys of simple living

A few things I've been reading recently all seem to converge on this one same topic.

At first, it was Yin Mei's blog - she is an ex-colleague who now lives in Australia. Her post on her 2 chickens - Chilli and Padi had me thinking - how nice to have your own fresh eggs every week. And I started dreaming about having my own homegrown vegetables and fruits. An impossibility on my balcony, with my black fingers.

Then, it was this book - "The Hole in Our Gospel", by Richard Sterns, president of World Vision. The book is about how we should and need to look after the poor. It got me thinking about how I can spend less and give more away.

A short article I read whilst waiting at the dentist on how a family tried not spending for a month and found they saved US$2000 that they can give away inspired me further on this.

Petunia's posts on the Amish folks and on a family in the US who decided to live plainly inspired me even further. (plainandjoyfulliving.blogspot.com - read the 2 posts on how they got where they are - Part 1 and Part 2)

It's all easier said then done though!

The Husband cannot live without his Macbook and internet. I cannot live without my washing machine and fridge. We cannot live without the air-conditioning. So... how to go about with simple living?

But maybe... there are baby steps I can take - like eating at home more.. not wasting electricity.. buying only what I need from the supermarket..

I will start a plan.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

For a perfect soft-boiled egg

This is a perfectly cooked soft-boiled egg.

Being an egg lover, I did some research on the internet and found that many websites that are either incorrect or not complete about the things you need to do to get a perfectly boiled soft-boiled egg.

To cook one certainly requires some trial and error.... no doubt, do to the different sizes of eggs and differences in sea levels. Unless of course you are extremely mathematically inclined, in that case you can follow the formula in this site.

For the rest of us... here are a few tips:

1. The egg should be at room temperature and not straight out from the fridge

2. Start off with your room temperature eggs in enough tap water to cover all the eggs. Most websites will tell you to put your eggs in boiling water. I find this to be wrong - if you do it this way.. most of the time, your eggs will crack or be over or under cooked.

3. Use a medium flame and time the eggs from the time the water starts boiling, time it for 2.5 - 3.5 minutes. Try it out for the precise timing required because either stove is different

4. Run the boiled eggs under cold water or put in a very large bowl of cool water to stop the eggs from cooking further after you've removed it from the flame.

5. Trial and error - you just have to try it out a few times befire you get the knack of cooking a perfect soft-boiled egg.