R.S.P.C.B.*

So my colleagues are guilty of cruelty to bananas. They were going to bin these two dear, sweet old fellows. Just because they are no longer tinged with the yellow blush of youth, their flesh no longer firm and tender. It’s ageist, I tell you. These guys are in the prime of their life. Give them a chance, sometimes age brings a luscious maturity, a little extra something that the young kids of the banana world can never match. As soon as I sniffed the sweet sweet smell of overripeness, and touched their wrinkled speckled skin I knew – it’s caking time!!

Sirs Banana

I wish I could capture the fresh-banana-cake-smell and put it in a bottle, it’d outsell any perfume I know (well maybe not, just among the foodies, and even then..well nevermind). There’s a caramel richness that you can only find in old bananas, so old that there’s hardly a yellow spot left on their skin. These two started the day as lightly freckled, and I am ashamed to admit that I tied them in a plastic bag and left them in a warm spot to speed up the aging process. Think of it as how you would think of growing up as a little kid, you always wanted to grow up faster didn’t you? To be baked into a sweet, moist, caramelly, fragrent, soft banana cake? You know you did!

I’ve tried a bunch of banana cake recipes, and the one below is my favourite. It’s not too sweet, and the texture is just the right combination of soft, moist and springy. And not to mention the intense banananana flavour. There are extra nanas because it’s extra banana-ry. Also, it tastes most similar to Malaysian style banana cake – none of this fussy nonsense with cinnamon and nutmeg! Eat it straight up, in the morning, no icing. And don’t be a traitor, don’t ever, ever use banana essence instead of your brownest banana buddies. They taste best in cake when they’re brown like milk chocolate, all over.

Lea’s Favourite Banana Cake / Kek Pisang

Borrowed from Kitchen Guardian and hardly changed at all.

Plain flour – 175g
Baking powder – 2 teasp
Bicarbonate of Soda – half a teasp
Salt – half a teasp

Butter (unsalted) – 125g, melted
Brown sugar – 120g. A note on sugar: I don’t like my everyday cakes too sweet, and I consider banana cake to be an everyday cake. If you like it sweeter, the original recipe uses 150g.
Eggs – 2
Bananas – the equivalent of 2 large bananas. Use the brownest you can find!
Vanilla extract – 1 teasp

Oven temperature: 170 degrees C

Tick tock banana

  1. Sift flour, bicarb soda, baking powder and salt. Don’t be lazy! This stops lumps of bicarb soda appearing in the middle of your cake. It doesn’t taste nice, even lazy me sifts.
    Science flash: bicarbonate of soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is mildly alkaline in water. It’s also used in mouthwash, as a cleaning solution, and to kill fungus (biopesticide). You really don’t want big chunks of this nasty tasting but useful stuff hiding in your cake.
  2. Mix melted butter and sugar well.
  3. Add eggs, one at a time.
  4. Mash the bananas and add that too. If your bananas are brown enough, this should be easy!
  5. Fold the wet mix into the dry mix in 3 batches. Don’t over mix.
  6. Pour into a greased baking tin.
  7. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean. I made two smaller cakes, it took 35 minutes. If you make a larger cake it will take a bit longer, between 45 minutes and an hour – but I suggest you check it around the 45 minute mark anyway, no one likes burnt cake!

Bananas for everyone!

One for my banana-binning colleagues, and one for me. There have to be some perks to late weeknight baking. It’s especially fun when the people you are baking for don’t know you’ve eaten half the result first (lets hope they don’t find this blog).

Mm banana

* Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Bananas

Eggless Mini Chocolate Cakes

“EGGLESS?”

“Like, no eggs?”

“But, why?!”

Same reaction every time I tell someone “oh, yeah it’s meatless spaghetti”, or it’s “tofu steak”. Or on certain days when I decide to bring in salad, which elicits the usual “she’s eating grass again!” from my precious coworkers.

“I have problems with my body image and I feel compelled to not eat meat – or anything at all – for, like, ever,” I would then reply in my best April Ludgate voice.

Clearly, I don’t have a problem with meat, given the fact that I ate an entire year’s worth in under three days in Vietnam. I also don’t have body dysmorphia. Not an extreme case, anyway. I do, however, have a very unique living situation which compels me to go lacto-vegetarian on certain days.

“Don’t you feel weak after?”

Only if you eat wheatgrass for five days straight.

Contrary to popular belief, I have come to learn through the wise teachings of a sagacious so-and-so that I live with (whom we shall name Mrs Y from here onward) that you can have a balanced vegetarian diet, but you can also put on weight when you’re vegetarian. Mrs Y is mostly vegetarian, but she can cook and bake delicious things that can cause a 10kg spike in weight. Case in point, I sort of forced this fantastic eggless chocolate cake recipe out of her secret cupboard.

“But eggless cakes will never be the same as egg-filled ones”

Sometimes they might taste even better. Boo yah.

Mrs Y’s Eggless Mini Chocolate Cakes

1 cup self-raising flour
½ cup cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
½ tbsp sodium bicarbonate

1 cup milk
1 cup sugar (or less)
½ cup corn oil
2 tbsp white vinegar

1/4 bag of Hershey’s semisweet chocolate chips
Handful of crushed almonds

Before you begin, always grease your cupcake tin or holders with some butter or oil. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

  1. Combine milk, sugar and corn oil in a mixing bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds til the milk gets warm.
  2. Stir in the sugar until it dissolves.
  3. Sift flour, salt, sodium bicarbonate and cocoa powder in a separate mixing bowl.
  4. Slowly fold in the dry ingredients into the wet. A delicious brown goopy mixture will form. Make sure all the lumps are gone. I recommend using an electric beater.
  5. Fold in the vinegar. A lighter brown mixture will begin to appear, but don’t freak out: it’s just chemistry. Acid + sodium bicarbonate = carbon dioxide, thus releasing air bubbles into your mixture, thus substituting nicely for egg whites.
  6. Spoon the mixture into the tin. Bake at 180 for 20-25 minutes until the insides are done.

Best served with cold milk at midnight.

Onigiri Onigiri Onigiri

Onigiri is such a funny word, I like to say it. Onigiri onigiri onigiri. I’m sure it isn’t that fun for normal people. Perhaps I’m just a little tired today.

I made onigiri a while back to take with me when I went for a day-long Red Cross event. I thought it was too exciting and cute a packed lunch to keep to myself until I made it again. It begged not to be hidden in drafts for that long, bouncing up and down on its springy rice bottom, imploring to be set free. Well onigiri, here you have your wish.

Onigiri with Tuna

You can really fill these with anything that’s relatively dry, and savoury. If you use a filling that’s too wet then the onigiri won’t hold its shape so well. Also, note that these freeze well and can keep for up to a week in the fridge. Eat them within the day if you take them out with you!

Guided by various pages on Just Hungry.

Sushi rice – 2 rice cups
Sushi vinegar – a quarter of a cup
Water – 2 and a quarter rice cups

Canned tuna – one can
Soya sauce – about two teaspoons, more if you like it a little stronger
Chilli flakes – half a teaspoon

Salt
Warm water – bearably hot, you need to use the salty water to mold the onigiri

Sushi rice

  1. Rinse the rice 3 times, by swilling water around in a bowl with the rice and then draining the water.
  2. Rub the grains together with your hands, as if scrubbing them. Then rinse with water.
  3. Drain in a sieve for about 30 minutes. I skipped this, but don’t as your rice will suffer for it.
  4. Put the rice in a rice cooker with the water, let it sit for about half an hour then turn on the rice cooker. I didn’t let it set for more than 5 minutes because I’m an impatient person, but for best results you should wait.
  5. Once the rice is done, mix in the sushi vinegar with a spatula. Try to fold it in as you would do to cake batter, and don’t squish the rice grains if you can help it.

Gooey chewy vinegar - yes I overdid the water a bit

Tuna filling
Do this while your rice is cooking. You need your rice to be hot when you shape your onigiri, or it won’t work.

  1. Drain the tuna. Flake it well with a fork.
  2. Mix in a couple of teaspoons of soya sauce, and chilli flakes.
  3. Taste, if you think it isn’t salty enough add a little more soya sauce.

It’s onigiri-making time!

  1. Wash your hands. And again. And under the nails too.
  2. Mix the warm water with a generous helping of salt. It should be salty like the sea. You don’t need a whole lot of water.
  3. Dip your hands in the salty water, make sure they are pretty damp. This stops the rice sticking to your hands.
  4. Grab a handful of rice, the size that you want your onigiri to be. Don’t make them too large or they won’t hold themselves together so well. About the amount that fits in a rice cup should be fine.
  5. Make an indentation in the middle of the rice. Hollow it out a bit with your thumb, then spoon in the tuna filling.
  6. Wrap the rice around the filling to make a ball, adding a bit more rice on top of the filling if you need to.
  7. To make the triangular shape, cup your hand so your thumb and the rest of your fingers forms a right angle, then push the onigiri into your (still wet and salty) palm to form the corner. Repeat for all three corners.

Yay onigiri!

You can either stop here, or add a wrapper of seaweed, or sprinkle on some sesame seed-seaweed mix (you can get this at Japanese food shops). Don’t wrap them with seaweed until you want to eat them, or the seaweed’ll get soggy. No one likes soggy seaweed.

Or, you can grill them!

Grilling onigiri

  1. Mix equal parts soya sauce and sesame oil (about a tablespoon each will do quite a few onigiri).
  2. Toast your onigiri on both sides in a hot, non-stick pan for a few minutes. You don’t need any oil for this.
  3. Brush on the soya sauce-sesame oil mixture.

Enjoy! They have a nice crunchy outer layer, and are extra tasty because of the soya sauce-sesame oil coating. Don’t forget to wrap your onigiri friends tightly in plastic wrap to keep them in shape and prevent them from drying out too much.

Any clues to the plural of onigiri? Onigiris? Onigirii?

Pho at Pho Hoa

Lea and I went to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, a couple of weekends ago. It was a very short weekend trip, but every meal we partook of consisted of this delightful dish we call pho. I mean, what else would you eat in Vietnam? Well, we also had coffee and banh mi, but that’s fodder for other posts 🙂

We purposely trekked 4km around the city to look for this one rather popular pho shop called Pho Hoa located on 260C Pasteur. It looks like a very rustic kopitiam from the outside, which I love because it reminds me of the coffee shop my grandma and I go to for breakfast at home. There is nothing worse than inauthenticity. I think the shop was quite popular with both locals and tourists alike, so it probably wasn’t as overrated as one would think.

You’d think that after a solid hour of traipsing up and down the city in 32 degree heat, the last thing you would want is a steaming hot bowl of noodles. Yeah, you’d think that we would be cursing the sun and slapping on sunscreen and whinging about the walk as good Asian girls would. But no. Quite the opposite, actually. We always indulge the inner fat sweaty children in us and good food always comes first!

DSC_0183

The table is already laden the moment you sit down; with 5 bananas, 5 wedding cakes, 5 nem chua (pork paste wrapped in banana leaf, as shown above. Resembles otak-otak quite closely, except of course it’s made of pork not fish hence its more rubbery-like texture. Oddly enough I also didn’t think it was very delicious), 5 dầu cháo quỷ (you char kway). 5 of everything so that when you take something, they know you’ve eaten something off the pile. I was very impressed with their system. It’s not like you can magically reproduce another you char kway without the hawk eyes of the waitress lady watching you. Also available was the usual mountain of basil leaves, cilantro, mint, beansprouts, limes and chillies. All these things are equally important when crafting your pho, because each garnish has its own unique flavour that couples with the beef, like half boiled eggs and black pepper.

Lea got pho with raw beef, while I ordered the “special” pho, as per. “Special” simply means they add raw beef, well done beef and beef balls. Enough protein to build an army, really.

The thing that sets all pho shops apart is the stock, more so than the noodle. Rice noodles don’t have a naturally chewy consistency to begin with, so it’s not difficult to get that right. The soup at Pho Hoa saddled the fine line between salty and sweet, meaty and light. In no time, Lea had finished her food. I like to think I’m a slower eater, but it was probably because I just had more food in front of me. Mm, beef.

Elotes Callejeros

It’s a happy day today! Apart from the all-around-awesomeness of weekends and the apple-cranberry-cinnamon lassi I had at lunch, this wonderful creature came into my life:

Blue Sword of Wonderousness

He is named Ignatio for his fiery personality. And I have lived without him for the last two months, during which the ignitor on my gas stove didn’t work, and so I lit my stove using a candle and a lighter. I have wax all over the counter top which I’m not sure how to remove. I kept getting distracted by the fresh produce whenever I went to the supermarket, so I forgot to buy him every time. But now he is here! Wheee!

Anyway, back to business – the fancy words in the title. I don’t speak Spanish so I don’t know what it means exactly, but I do know that I ate this it Mamasita (Melbourne) the night before I left in January, and have dreamt about it ever since. Also other things, but that’s a subject for another day.. It’s a type of grilled corn, done Mexican-style. From what I can understand, this is *real* Mexican from Mexico not Tex Mex ..which I also like, I’m no food snob!

Do try this, the dripping mayo and tasty cheese with the sweetness of the corn is just unforgettable. Though for an authentic result, you need to use chipotle mayo and smoked paprika instead of the random substitutions I pulled out of my store cupboard. Scale it up for more corn.

Elotes Callejeros

Copied and bastardised version of EssJayEats recipe, which also includes instructions for chipotle mayo if you feel like a challenge 🙂

Corn on the cob – one, I really do need to start being more sociable at mealtimes.
Butter – 1 tablespoon. I used olive oil as I don’t have butter in my sad sad kitchen.
Garlic – 2 cloves, chopped
Mayo – 1 tablespoon. I used Kewpie, because Kewpie is the best in all mayo-situations.
Zest & juice of a lime – half the lime. I used a teaspoon of lemon juice as I didn’t have any lime..you are beginning to see why I said it was ‘bastardised’ now aren’t you.
Smoked paprika powder – half a teaspoon. I used loads of chilli flakes again, as I didn’t have any smoked paprika.
Salt – just a pinch

I’m such a bad food blogger, I didn’t have half the ingredients. But if it tastes good like this imagine how awesome it will taste with real limes and paprika powder!!

Yum raw veges

Please ignore the stray chilli and garlic on the right hand side. A girl can’t survive on a single corn on the cob for dinner, so Aglio Olio pasta was involved. Also, don’t cook with your laptop in the kitchen, my touchpad doesn’t work properly anymore because I keep dropping water (and garlic and olive oil and other various condiments) on it. You have been warned!

  1. Remove the corn from the husk. Try to take off all the stringy white bits as well, they get stuck in your teeth.
  2. Mix the garlic into the oil/butter, and stick it in the microwave for 1 minute. This fries it slightly and infuses the garlic taste into the oil.
  3. Rub the oil and garlic on to the corn (wait for it to cool a bit first!!). Grill the corn for about 15 minutes, turning frequently. If your grill is hotter than mine it will grill faster (full disclosure: mine’s actually an ambitious toaster oven)
  4. In the meantime, mix the mayo, paprika/chilli flakes, and lime zest and juice/lemon juice. Grate the parmesan. Be generous, parmesan provides an important chemical involved in producing brain-happiness.*
  5. When the corn is grilled, pour on the mayo and sprinkle on the cheese.

Sabrosa sabrosa! **

*Don’t believe everything I tell you, in all seriousness I’m not a brain-scientist.
** Google Translate says this means “tasty tasty”.