Eggplant-zilla

This is the weirdest looking, largest eggplant I’ve ever seen. I bought it for that reason alone.

The world trembles beneath her feet

Having bought it, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with so much eggplant. Initially I considered eggplant parmagiana, but the thought of breadcrumbing and frying the eggplant slices individually was a bit overwhelming.

So, lasagne it is. I didn’t manage to use all the eggplant in the end. It was too much, too much.

..Help?

Please excuse my bao-lo fa-ke sweaterDon't hog the parmesan topping, not sociable at all

Eggplant Lasagne

You can do this with pretty much any vegetable, I did one with pumpkin and baby spinach a few days later. Quick-cooking vegetables like spinach don’t need pre-grilling. 

1/2 a humongous eggplant, cut to 1cm thick slices – equivalent to 1-2 large eggplants
1.5 – 2 cups tomato sauce – I used this, but any tomato-pasta-sauce is fine.
Lasagne strips – amount depends how big your baking dish is, I used  6 strips.
Cheese strips / grated for layering – again, depends on the size of your dish and how much you liked cheese. I used about 150g of colby cheddar, cut into thin strips. Mozzarella would probably be nice.
1/4 cup (or less) Grated parmesan to top

  1. Slice and grill your eggplant. Easiest is to do this in an oven / toaster oven – I stuck mine on an oiled tray in the toaster oven for 20 minutes at 220 degrees C. 
  2. Time to start layering – get out your oven dish, and start by pouring in about 1/4 cup of tomato sauce. Spread it around well.
  3. Then add a layer of lasagne strips. Break them to get them to fit if you need to.
  4. Then, another layer of tomato sauce – spread it over the pasta until it is all covered thinly.
  5. Then, a layer of grilled eggplant. Distribute your eggplant so you have enough for at least 2-3 layers.
  6. Then, add a layer of cheese. I just sprinkled strips sparingly across my eggplant, but I don’t like loads of cheese inside mine. Use more if you do.
  7. Repeat steps 3-6.
  8. Now, if you have space in your dish height-wise, repeat steps 3-5 again. If not, then just layer up what you do have, and make sure you end with a layer of lasagne strips.
  9. Now, pour on what is left of your tomato sauce, and scatter the parmasan cheese on top.
  10. Look down the sides of your baking dish. Is there sauce everywhere, or does it look dry? If it is dry, gently pour a 1/4 cup of water down the side of the dish, without disturbing the lasagne structure. This is to help the lasagne noodles cook.
  11. Stick the whole thing back in the toaster oven / oven for 20-30 minutes on 220 degrees C. If it starts to burn, cover with foil.
  12. To test if it is cooked, try sticking a fork in it – if you feel no resistance from the pasta, it’s done!
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The Prince of Battenberg

The Prince of Battenberg was a rather illustrious man. A lover, a singer, a fighter. He protected the Earth from dragons and giant spiders and aliens from outer space. Yes, he did, why do you think we can’t find any of these things nowadays?

How did he do it, you might ask?

Overdid it a little with the food colouring

Apart from his mighty constitution, he subsisted solely on Battenberg cake. And he had a shield with a battenberg design on it. When he was ready for battle, he would close his eyes and crouch behind his shield. The sign of the battenberg would then shoot out of his shield like a laser (think Captain Planet with only 2 colours), and it became a giant multicoloured light sabre. He was then able to yield it like a mega-sword.

As Battenberg cake was the source of his special powers, I thought it was prudent to learn to make one.

They don't need to be super even. Ready to roll This is how we crimp itIf you want the real story of the Prince of Battenberg, you can find it on Wikipedia here. I think mine is more interesting. Though even without his super batten-sabre, Prince Louis was apparently a pretty successful fellow.

Seriously, don’t let other websites fool you into thinking this cake is rocket science. If you can roll out pastry (like make cookie-cutter biscuits and apple pie) then you can totally do this. It’s a cut and paste job, and the marzipan is pretty easy to roll out with a rolling pin.

Psychedelic yet sophisticated

Battenberg Cake

Almond Cake

I used the almond sponge recipe off BBC (tweaked to suit what I had in the kitchen), though any almond sponge will do.
Note that the cake gets better after a few days as the flavours meld. I don’t like almond cake, but I have it on good authority.

140g self raising flour – or normal flour with an extra 2 teasp of baking powder
150g brown sugar
175g butter, softened
3 eggs
1/2 teasp vanilla extract
1/2 teasp almond extract

Red food colouring
Yellow food colouring
Baking paper

Oven temperature: 180 degrees C for around half an hour.
Yield: 1 20cm square cake tin, split into two for the 2 colours.

  1. Dump all the ingredients in a food processer and mix until smooth. Wasn’t that easy?
  2. Divide into 2 bowls. Colour one bowl pink and the other yellow. As you can see, I added a bit too much food colouring. This affects cooking time, if you add very little then check whether it’s done at about 25 minutes.
  3. Grease your baking tin. Cut 2 sheets of baking paper to the size of the tin. Fold them in such a way that you get 2 “pockets” for your batter in the cake tin. Make sure you score the corners with the back of a spoon, else your cake won’t have sharp edges and you’ll end up wasting *even more* cake. Fit these 2 pockets into the cake tin (see the picture above if you think I sound crazy).
  4. Pour each colour of cake mix into one of the pockets. Don’t worry, they won’t mix – the batter is pretty thick.
  5. Bake, and leave to cook thoroughly.

I like to build it build it

A pink bar cake – you just made these cakes, you clever fellow
A yellow bar cake
About 500g of marzipan
A few tablespoons of smooth apricot jam
Icing sugar

  1. Stack your bar cakes one on top of the other. Using a sharp knife, cut off the edges so they stack together nicely. Then, cut them in half and switch the top and bottom layers on one side so you get a chequerboard pattern of pink and yellow (see pics above if you’re confused).
  2. Heat up some jam in the microwave so it goes a bit runny. Use the runny jam to stick your 4 strips of cake together. You can be pretty generous with the jam.
  3. Powder a surface with a little icing sugar (I did this on a chopping board to minimise mess). Roll out your marzipan, to a size large enough such that you can wrap the 4 strips of cake in it. You don’t want the marzipan to thin or it won’t be able to hold the cake together.
  4. Paint runny jam all over the marzipan.
  5. Roll the cake into the marzipan, trying to keep the marzipan as tight as possible. Once the edges meet, trim the marzipan with a knife so it sits flush with the corner of the cake.
  6. Pinch all the way along the bottom two corners of the cake with your fingers, no one will see this because it’s at the bottom of the cake. Try not to be too violent though.
  7. Roll the cake back right-side up again. Slice off the two ends of the cake so it becomes a nice even cuboid, covered with marzipan on all sides except the ends.
  8. Decorate as you will, sir.

If you leave it to sit, the marzipan hardens and tightens up

Tiny Tasty People

Apart from ginger flavoured baked products, my other favourite thing about Christmas is that it is socially acceptable to eat tiny baked people.

I feel that eating such people head first is the kindest way, because it ensures a clean and quick end to their misery, and is also the weakest point of the biscuit.

Squishy sogginess It was too squishy to make into a single ball

Given how I feel about this, you’d think I would be the first to blog about the spiciest gingerbread (people) biscuits, but the fact is that I haven’t yet found a homemade gingerbread biscuit that I liked. I enjoy eating gingerbread biscuits that other people have made, but if I’m going to make them myself, I want something really dark and spicy. And crisp, not cakey or chewy. So, in lieu of gingerbread people, I get my eating-tiny-people fix from other other baked goods.

But. As with all baked goods requiring the use of cutters, mince pies are a pain in the behind.

Yes that's a koala. My bookmark. Yes, that's the hobbit. I'm going to watch the movie this weekend (in 3d!)

First you mix up the crust dough, then you chill it. Then you take it out and roll it a bit. It refuses to cooperate and sticks to the table because you used too little flour on the surface and it’s warm outside. You put it back in the fridge. Repeat this about 6 to 8 times, and you will feel how I feel about making biscuit cutter snacks.

I think it’s something about Christmas, I magically forget every year what complete bullocks these types of foods are to make and how they take 3 hours or more and how I get so sweaty and angry that I very seriously consider feeding the remainder of the raw dough to my dog (try not to do that, it might not be good for dogs depending on what you’ve made).

These are the standard (larger) pies

I suspect it’s because I usually freeze my mince pies after baking them earlier in December, so by the time I get to eat them on Christmas day, I have forgotten how much the process of making them irritated me.

Pretending to be an angry cannibal, ginger spice, and Christmas. Some things in life just go together.

And these are the mini pies. Meet the Fat Man and Spooky Lady

Christmas Mince Pies

Crust adapted from the Patchwork Apple Pie recipe (doubled).

2 jars of mince pie filling – I used Robertsons, vegetarian and alcohol free
1 small red apple – the addition of apples is my way of bulking up the mince pie filling
1 small green apple

500g flour – I used gluten free
100g sugar
Zest of 2 lemons
Pinch of salt
250g butter – cold and cubed
2 large eggs

Extra flour for rolling
Egg wash – an egg beaten with a little milk
Copious amounts of patience
A cup of tea – to prolong aforementioned patience

Oven temperature: 180 degrees C, for half an hour
Yield: 36 mince pies – I had 24 large and 12 slightly smaller pies, as well as a little family of shortcrust people

  1. Sift together flour, sugar, and salt. Stir in the lemon zest.
  2. In a food processor, pulse the butter cubes and flour mixture until the texture of the mixture looks like sand.
  3. Turn out into a bowl. Directly crack in the 2 eggs, and use your hands to get everything to stick together. You have to keep going for a quite a bit, I realise last time I probably stopped a bit early which is why my dough never came together.
  4. Cover dough and put it in the fridge to firm up.
  5. Peel and core your apples. Cut them into 8ths, then slice those 8ths into thin strips. Mix into the mince pie filling in a big bowl.
  6. Flour a surface and roll out your dough. You need quite a lot of flour because it’s a bit sticky, watch out!
  7. Use a round biscuit cutter / your mother’s fancy dinner party wine glass to cut out rounds. Put each into a hole in a greased cupcake tray and press in.
  8. Spoon in a little mince pie filling / apple mixture.
  9. Use a fun cutter to cut out the pie cover, and carefully place it on top of the filling. It doesn’t need to touch the sides of the pie, or be crimped or anything complicated. I used stars, hearts, trees, fat men, and spooky ladies. I have squirrel and snail cutters somewhere too but I couldn’t find them.
  10. Dab with egg wash, and stick it in the oven for half an hour.
  11. Cool in the cupcake tray.

Notes: freezes well in an airtight box layered with baking paper.

Happy unsuspecting pastry family

Dough-splosions

This is another classic case of recipe-in-progress that gets posted, so that I don’t forget what I did and what I want to try next time. Don’t ask what possessed me to attempt making bread, I don’t know. No less, bread that I can actually buy from down the road (since I’m still based in KL).

Perhaps stubbornness because I wanted to see if I could do it myself?


Not membrane-like at all. Think I didn't knead enough

I also had a bit of an explosion because I forgot that I was making bread and went off to do something else. Note to self: don’t leave dough alone to proof for 4 hours, it will try to escape the bowl.

Boom!

I made two types of bread, one was cinnamon sugar and the other was cheese sugar. I’ve provided the recipes for both. It wasn’t quite as fluffy as I would have liked, but I think that’s because I kinda don’t know what I’m doing. Suggestions welcome, and I’ll try again soon 🙂

Cinnamon LoafCheese Sugar LoafNot quite fluffy enough - but I think that's my fault

TangZhong (湯種) Bread

Adapted from Do What I Like, though I also looked at Bush Gourmand. I made a bigger loaf and scaled the Tang Zhong for one loaf of bread.

Tang Zhong – apparently this fluffs the bread

130g water
3 1/3 teasp unsifted flour

  1. Mix everything together, and cook over medium heat, stirring continuously.
  2. Keep going until the mixture starts to thicken, and you see streaks across the surface when you drag a spoon across the top (I’ll add a picture next time).
  3. Cool to room temperature.

Bread

500g flour
200g water
10g milk or some skim milk powder – make up the liquid in water instead
2 tsp salt
2 tablesp / 30g sugar – the typical amount in Hong Kong style bread is about double this, pump it up if you’re making a sweet bread
2 tsp yeast
50g melted cooled butter – I just melted mine in the microwave and let it cool to room temperature

2 teasp vanilla essence
2 teasp cinnamon
2 teasp brown sugar
OR
1/4 cup grated cheese
2 teasp brown sugar

Oven temperature: there are options…either 220 degrees C or 180 degrees C (I tried the 220 degrees C here)

  1. Mix flour, water, milk, salt, sugar (30g for cheese loaf, 60g for cinnamon loaf), yeast, melted butter, and tangzhong together in a bowl. Also add the cinnamon and vanilla if you’re making the cinnamon loaf.
  2. Knead until it gets stretchy, the “membrane stage”. I didn’t get there, so pics next time if I do. It also works in a bread machine for 2 cycles, about 10 to 15 minutes if I’m not wrong.
  3. Put the dough in an oiled bowl, cover loosely to allow it to rise. Leave it there until it doubles in size. It takes about an hour to an hour and a half in a warm room.
  4. Punch the air out, and dump it into the baking tin. Let it rest there for 15 minutes or so. It should pop out above the baking tin.
  5. Now add your toppings:
    1. Sprinkle on the brown sugar for the cinnamon loaf, or
    2. Sprinkle on the cheese and brown sugar for the cheese loaf. I added too much cheese so I had to “rescue” it, hence the crown shaped top. Don’t over-do it so that it gets too heavy or the top of the loaf will slip out the sides of the tin when it bakes.
  6. Bake at:
    1. 220 degrees C for 25 minutes. Then remove the tin, and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes so the outside gets crispy. Note that the cheese burnt a little on this setting, so a little tweaking may be required.
    2. 180 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, with the lid of a pullman baking tin closed. I haven’t tried this yet, but the time seems a little short to me – to be updated!

Jammy Fingers and a Custard Face

Many of my cooking adventures seem to begin this way. I found what is probably a very nice recipe for Raspberry Trifle Cupcakes in the Hummingbird Cake Days book. But I thought it was slightly too involved (read: I’m lazy).

I kinda want one of these scales but they're so irritatingly inaccurate

I wanted:

  1. A cupcake that resembles an English dessert. After much thought, I settled on  the Jam Trifle
  2. Not to have to slave away making proper custard for icing (as in the Hummingbird recipe)
  3. For said custard icing to not-melt in the heat
  4. Not to have to spend loads on buying fresh berries
  5. Not to have to layer everything in a very involved manner (as in the Hummingbird recipe…well it seemed involved to me)
  6. To maintain the nice springy cupcakes that the Hummingbird book produces

Dangerously close to my computer..again

My task was not made easier by the fact that I had left my Hummingbird book in Melbourne, apart from the page with the Raspberry Trifle Cupcake recipe which I took a photo of (on my phone). You don’t really want to be my cooking buddy do you? Please?

Though I ate jam and icing, I did not eat cupcake lids. Proud?

After much thought (well not really thought…internet research), I settled on a solution. My solution was to take the normal Hummingbird Vanilla cupcake recipe, flavour the icing with Bird’s custard powder, and fill with jam.

So essentially just a normal vanilla cupcake with normal icing and a jam filling.

Not much less involved I agree, but I at least I didn’t have to stand around over a pan waiting for eggs and milk to clump together.

Better with a raspberry on top? Fresh berries are exp in M'sia

This was the first time I’d ever done filled cupcakes. I think it really made a difference, but I also think I wouldn’t make it a habit to fill cupcakes. Unless there is a good reason (Jam Trifle cupcakes are a good reason).

Why, you might ask? Well firstly, it takes aaages. And secondly, I almost made myself sick with the amount of jam and custard icing I ate.

Bliss..cupcakes and tea

Good afternoon to you.

Jam Trifle Cupcakes

Based on the Vanilla Hummingbird cupcakes, and heavily adapted. I found the original recipe in The Telegraph. I got 9 decent sized cupcakes out of this recipe, though the original states 12. Perhaps I ate too much batter? On a side note, this isn’t the yummiest batter in the world to eat raw.

The icing is taken from Nigella’s Birthday Custard Sponge, and adapted slightly

Cupcakes

120g all purpose flour – I used gluten free with no problems
120g caster sugar – original recipe states 140g. This gave me a slight mental freakout because that meant more sugar than flour. Diabetes hello
40g butter, softened
120ml milk
1 egg
1/2 teasp vanilla essence
1.5 teasp baking powder
A pinch of salt

Oven temperature: 170 degrees C

  1. The recipe says to beat the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and butter with an electric mixer until everything is combined and the mixture looks sandy.   I ended up with flour on the walls, so I admitted defeat and used my fingers to rub everything into the butter. You can probably do this in a food processor too.
  2. Pour in half the milk, and beat until just combined.
  3. Whisk the rest of the milk, egg, and vanilla essence in another bowl, then pour that into the flour mixture. Keep beating until smooth, but try not to overmix or it’ll be chewy.
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until light golden brown, and sponge bounces back when touched. Fill the cases only 1/2 to 2/3 full, it seems to rise quite a lot!

Custard Icing

125g icing sugar
75g butter – I used salted, softened
6 teasp Birds Custard Powder
1.5 teasp boiling water

  1. Zap the icing sugar and custard powder in the blender to get rid of lumps.
  2. Drop in the butter. Mix mix!
  3. Pour in the hot water – this helps make the custard flavour come out, so make sure it’s hot.
  4. Now turn up to high speed and keep whizzing until it gets fluffy. Mine took about 5 minutes. The longer you keep going the fluffier it gets.

Build it!

Cupcakes
Custard icing
Jam – I used blueberry but raspberry would probably be nice. I don’t think I’d like it with marmalade or strawberry, but you can always try

  1. Use a small sharp knife and dig out a little hole in the top of the cupcake. Keep the lid aside and don’t eat it.
  2. Using a teaspoon, drop some jam in the hole. Cover it back up with the cupcake-lid. Don’t lick the spoon you need to use it again.
  3. Ice the top of the cupcake with the custard icing. I used the Hummingbird method because it’s relatively easy and I like it, found here.
  4. In the little indentation left by the swirl, add a little more jam.
  5. Now you can eat.

BigFoot’s Mother’s Legendary Sambal Tempeh

This tempeh recipe is a bit of a legend, and is apparently one of the first things BigFoot wants to eat whenever he sees his mother. Apart from fish curry. Poor auntie, working so hard in the kitchen. She says she enjoys it though. She’s a really talented cook.

Uncooked tempeh is pretty gross looking Ready to chop

I’m in the process of trying to photocopy her recipe file, but haven’t succeeded yet (there are varying accounts relating to whether she even has a file or not). Supposedly most of the recipes don’t have written proportions next to them, so I’m not sure whether even getting a copy of her recipes would help me much given my ineptitude.

This is a bit undercooked, it needs to be browner and crispier

The recipe I want to steal the most is her chocolate cake recipe: it’s the best I’ve had since La Manila stopped selling theirs about 10 years ago (well it was a long time ago, I don’t know if it was 10 years ago…that seems like a long enough time to me. There used to be a thin golden layer in the middle of that cake, anyone know what it was??). I eat BigFoot’s mother’s chocolate cake out of a plastic box with a big spoon. I hid it in the back of the fridge so no one else can find it and eat it. Don’t tell anyone at home.

Sambal is almost cooked

Anyway, I specifically asked her for her tempeh recipe. Not for me, I’m not so nice. It’s so BigFoot can cook it himself and I can eat it. I do have standards, you know. Girl power and feminism, etc etc. Cooking is primarily for fun and to prevent deprivation / because I’m greedy, and I unfortunately don’t really enjoy spending 20 minutes flipping tempeh in a pan. It’s yummy though. Best persuade the party that craves it more to do that part.

It has a spicy, oniony, and satisfying flavour

It looks surprisingly easy considering its reputation. I was expecting something much, much more involved. Though tempeh always takes some time. However, the version we made last night didn’t taste at all like hers (I wasn’t joking, he actually did make it himself. I only operated the chopper). So yes, yummy tempeh recipe, but back to the drawing board clearly. Apparently if you add the dried prawns (we didn’t), it tastes more like the original.

BigFoot’s Mother’s Legendary Sambal Tempeh

BigFoot’s Mother narrated the recipe over breakfast, and I wrote it down. I’m not sure where she originally got it from, maybe she made it up. Note that I may have written it down completely wrong. Tastes good, anyway.

1 packet of tempeh – about 300g. I also chucked in a sliced potato because it felt lonely in the cupboard.
6 – 10 pieces dried chilli – depends how spicy you want it
1 – 2 pieces red chilli – the big ones. Again, add more if you want it spicier. Or add birds eye chilli too if you’re feeling brave. It doesn’t need it
1 large red onion, or 1.5 small red onions
4 – 5 cloves garlic
2 handfuls of ikan bilis
Asam jawa / Tamarind juice – crush a bit of the paste in a few tablesp of warm water, and add to taste. I crushed about 2cm in about half a cup of water, and added a few tablesp of that
Either: sugar to taste, OR about 2 tablesp udang kering blended with 1/4 cup vegetable stock – we used sugar, but it’s probably better with the prawns

  1. Throw the dried and fresh chilli, onion, and peeled garlic into the chopper. Chop chop nicely until it is relatively smooth. Pieces the size of those chilli flakes you get in the shops are ok. Add the udang kering (dried prawns) and vege stock here if you are using, and blend those too.
  2. Fry the ikan bilis with a little oil until it browns and your kitchen smells like fish. Set aside on kitchen paper.
  3. Cut the tempeh into little cubes, or slice it into pieces about 3mm thick. Fry with a little oil or grill these until they brown on all sides. Set aside on kitchen paper. A toaster oven is useful here, if you have one.
  4. Add about a tablespoon of oil to a wok, and fry the chilli – onion – garlic mixture. Keep going until it smells pretty fragrant and starts to brown. After it begins to brown, keep stirring or it’ll stick to the pan if you’re not careful.
  5. Taste. Add 2 tablespoons of the asam jawa liquid, discarding the seeds. Add a pinch of sugar. Taste. Repeat until it tastes good to you (we used about 5 tablespoons of asam jawa liquid, and about 1 teaspoon of sugar).
  6. Mix in the ikan bilis and tempeh.