Meat Free Monday // Olive Vegetable Fried Rice

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A recipe for olive vegetable (橄榄菜) fried rice was in The Sunday Times yesterday.  The original recipe used minced pork, I mashed up some tofu 水豆腐 as replacement to make it meat-free.  Also threw in a handful of sharp spinach leaves for more nutrients and also added in a beaten egg during the last few minutes of frying, a must when I make fried rice.

// Link to the non-vegetarian version HERE.

Creamy Creamless Cauliflower Soup

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4 ingredients : onion, cauliflower, olive oil and water.  No fattening cream used, same rich flavor created, thanks to the onion.  Wouldn’t you be tempted to try?

Without worrying on excessive MSG, fats or sodium level, I am adopting this creamy soup recipe to make healthier versions of other creamy soups like cream of mushroom (adding brown mushrooms, sautéed separately, and blend with cauliflower soup) or cream of corn (add fresh corn kernel to be cooked with cauliflower and onions, then blend).

You may follow the recipe below from The Amateur Gourmet, which yields 6 servings according to the site.  I prefer it thicker and add just enough hot boiling water to cover the cauliflower and onions, lesser than the 5 and 1/2 cups required.  I also cut the cooking time shorter by simply adding chopped cauliflower and hot water at the same time, right after the onions have turned translucent and soft.  The recipe originally called for the cauliflower to be cooked with the onions without water first.  I also do not like to work with very hot liquid in my blender, so I let it cool to lukewarm temperature before blending it, then reheat it again before serving.

CREAMY CREAMLESS CAULIFLOWER SOUP
// Adapted from : The Amateur Gourmet

INGREDIENTS
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, sliced thin
1 head cauliflower, chopped
Salt, to taste
Hot boiling water

1. Heat the olive oil in a pot on medium heat. Add the onions, cook them over low fire until they turn soft and translucent.  Ensure that they don’t turn brown, stir occasionally.
2. Add the chopped cauliflower and just enough hot water to cover the ingredients.  Increase the heat slightly, add salt and allow soup to boil.  Once the soup starts to boil, turn heat lower and simmer for about 15 -20 minutes, till cauliflower is cooked and turn soft.  Let soup cool aside till lukewarm.
3. Pour the mixture in batches into a blender and blend.  When the soup is fully blended, pour it back to the pot and reheat it.
4. Season with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.

DIY Popsicle #002 : Mango Yogurt Popsicle

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I made popsicles yesterday with Yoplait Mango Yogurt.  If the creamy kind of popsicle is what you like, then there are a lot of flavors for you to experiment with at the dairy section.  Some recipes online suggest draining away the extra liquid in the yogurt first, for a truly creamy texture.  But I have no problem skipping this step, my frozen yogurt popsicles still turn out creamy, like ice cream.

DIY Popsicle Version 002 : Mango Yogurt Popiscle
1. Base : Yoplait Mango Yogurt.  Simply scoop yogurt straight into the mold.  Tap the mold on the table a few times before freezing, to get rid of air packets within the yogurt.
2. For some bites : The yogurt already came with chunks of mangoes.   If you prefer more bites, or a different species of mango like the Indian or Thai variety, feel free to dice some and add them in first before filling the mold with yogurt.

.EAT // Classic Butter Cake

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This recipe does not belong to my grandma, but someone else’s 79-year-old grandma, who was featured in The Sunday Times few weeks back.  I made a mental note to keep this recipe, and managed to find an online version of it here.  I love collecting grandma/auntie/mother-in-law’s recipes!

The original recipe makes four 20cm cake.  I found the cake a bit flat when I followed the recipe last week.  So yesterday I halved it, less an egg and baked it in a 20cm x 7cm tall round pan to make one cake.

The best form of complement for this cake is an empty pan on the kitchen counter by late morning today.   The Big Man who usually shuns sweet stuffs has gobbled a few slices for breakfast already.  The little ones could not resist the temptation for a butter-cake-with-hot-Milo supper last night….

CLASSIC BUTTER CAKE
// Adapted from : Soshiok.com

INGREDIENTS
250g salted butter, soften at room temperature
1 cup fine sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 eggs
1 cup self raising flour, sifted

Oven Temp : 150C
Bakeware : 20cm x 7cm (Height) Round Pan

1. Preheat the oven to 150C.
2. In an electric mixer on medium speed, cream the butter and sugar for about 10 minutes until well-mixed and fluffy. Leave the mixer on medium speed for the next two steps.
3. Add the vanilla extract.
4. Crack the eggs in, one at a time.
5. Add the self-raising flour in two batches at low speed. Run a spatula along the side of the bowl to make sure all the flour is blended properly. You should get a smooth and creamy batter.
6. Pour batter into baking pan.
7. Place the tins in the preheated oven to bake for about 50 minutes.
8. Insert a toothpick or knife into the middle of each cake. If it comes out clean, the cakes are ready. Cool them in the baking tins for about 15 minutes on a rack.
9. Take the cakes out from the tins and serve. If not consumed immediately, keep the cakes in air-tight containers and refrigerate.

 

Homemade Tomato Pasta Sauce

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I have heard about how easy it is to make your own tomato sauce for pasta, but I have never tried.  I would usually prepare the simplest cold tomato sauce with just diced tomato, herbs, minced garlic and olive oil.  Only fresh ingredients, real food, good for body right?  Tell that to the kids, they prefer the thick chunky version, better still, the ones that come in cans and loaded with sugar.

I caved in,  so I made this tomato sauce from scratch last week with the recipe from Chubby Hubby, and again this week.

I think I am getting the hang of it.  The red wine vinegar is a must, to make the sauce taste like the store-bought type (ironic?).  I did not use the Hediard brand that was suggested, but it was good enough for my kids.  Then simmer the mixture slowly and patiently to a thick sauce.  I used plum tomatoes for both attempts so far, and want to try cherry tomatoes next time.

According to the website, this sauce can be made in advance and store up to 1 week in the chiller or months in the freezer.  Great as pizza sauce too.  Woohoo!

HOMEMADE TOMATO PASTA SAUCE
// Source : Chubby Hubby

INGREDIENTS
(Yields 600ml of sauce)

1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 tbs olive oil
1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 tbs fresh oregano, chopped or 2 tsp dried oregano
2 X 400g tins of Italian plum tomatoes (cherry tomatoes are also nice)
1 tbs red wine vinegar
1 handful fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2-3 tbs extra virgin olive oil

1. Fry the garlic with the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan (no aluminum) placed over medium-high heat.
2. Once the garlic starts to release its aroma, add the chilli, oregano and tomatoes. Stir gently without breaking up the tomatoes.
3. Bring to the boil and simmer for about an hour.
4. Add the vinegar, then stir and chop up the tomatoes in the sauce.
5. Add the fresh basil, season to taste and add extra virgin olive oil.

Nutella Lava Mug Cake

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Make a Nutella Lava Mug Cake, the easiest way to enjoy Nutella other than licking a spoonful of it direct from the bottle.

Chocolate chips are added into the batter before baking for the a gooey, molten chocolate center effect.


NUTELLA LAVA MUG CAKE
Adapted from Plateful
Makes 4 cakes with small ramkins, or 2 cakes with jam jars
INGREDIENTS :
- 4 tablespoons self rising flour, sifted
- 3 tablespoons caster sugar
- 1 medium egg
- 3 tablespoons Nutella
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 3 tablespoon olive oil
- Chocolate chips, for the 'lava'

 INSTRUCTIONS :

01. Combine all ingredients, except chocolate chips, in a bowl.
02. Whisk with a fork until mixture is smooth.
03. Divide the batter evenly between 4 small ramkins.  Fill up only 3/4 or less, otherwise it will overflow while cooking in the microwave oven.
04. Then tip in 4-6 chocolate chips into each cup and push them into the batter with the fork until completely submerge.
05. Microwave on high power for anywhere between 30 seconds to 3 minutes, depending on the microwave wattage.  My 1000W microwave took 30 seconds for small ramkins, and about 50 seconds for the jam glass jars/mug.  The size of the cake/container will affect the cooking time too.


 ++ Notes To Self ++
///
To know how long it takes for your microwave oven to cook the mug cake, watch the cake while it is cooking in the oven.  The cake will reach a “dramatic rise” stage when it is about to be done.  Once that happens, give it another 5 seconds, the texture should be just nice; moist and not too dried out.
///
I used Nestle Toll House Semi-sweet chocolate morsels
///

Condensed Milk Marble Cookie

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Another small batch baking recipe from <<每天都是饼干日>>.

++Notes001 // This cookie cutter will make the cookies look even nicer.

++Notes002 // I use Van Houten cocoa powder.  Recipe originally stated 4g, but I found it too much and dry out the dough.

++Notes003 // After cutting out first batch of star-shaped cookies, I still had a lot of dough left.   As I did not want to spoil the distinct marbled effect by gathering and kneading the remaining dough too much , I simply rolled and shape the remaining into a log. Wrap it with a plastic bag, and after chilling for 30minutes, the dough is ready to be sliced into 1cm  thick round cookies.  I then baked them the same way as per the recipe instructions.  (Last photo)

CONDENSED MILK MARBLE COOKIES
// Adapted from <<每天都是饼干日>>
// Yields 20 cookies, depending on the size of cookie cutter

INGREDIENTS

  • 60g unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 100g condensed milk, room temperature
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 170g plain flour, sifted
  • 1 tbsp Cocoa powder

METHOD

01. In the small mixing bowl, whisk to cream softened butter.
02. Add condensed milk and salt.  Whisk to combine.
03. Add vanilla extract.
04. Pour sifted flour into the mixture, stir with metal teaspoon to form dough ball.
05. Pinch out 50g of the dough, add cocoa powder slowly to it to form a cocoa dough. Stop adding when the dough starts to feel dry
06. Roll out the plain dough on a floured surface or baking paper.  tear up cocoa dough into pieces randomly place them on top of the flatten plain dough.
07. Roll out with pin again to flatten (to 0.4cm) and combine them.
08. Cut into desire shapes and arrange on a baking tray.
09. Bake in a preheated oven at 170C/325F  for 10minutes till cookies are done, but not brown.
10. Cool completely on rack before storing in air tight container.

Small Batch Baking : Almond Cookies

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Small batch baking = less utensils to wash

++Notes 001 // Made with minimal utensil and no electric mixer, just a hand whisk and a tablespoon for mixing.
++Notes 002 // Baking and washing up completed in less than 1 hour.  Butter need to be softened in advance though.

RECIPE : ALMOND COOKIES
/ Source
/ Makes 15 cookies

____________

55g unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
50g sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
60g plain flour
60g ground almond
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp fresh milk

____________

01. In the small mixing bowl, whisk to cream softened butter.
02. Weigh sugar in bowl No.1, add to creamed butter.
03. Add 1/4 tsp salt.  Whisk to combine.
04. Separate egg yolk from white like this and add the yolk into the butter mixture and whisk to mix well.  Keep the white in bowl No.2 for other recipe.
05. Measure flour in bowl No.1 and add 1/2tsp baking powder to the flour.
06. Measure 1/2 tsp (2 x 1/4tsp) vanilla extract and whisk it into butter mixture.
07. Sieve flour and baking powder directly into the mixture. Stir briefly with a tablespoon to incorporate.
08. Measure ground almond in bowl No.1 and add this into the mixing bowl.  Stir to incorporate all ingredients well.
09. The dough mixture at this stage will be too wet to be shaped with hands.  Leave the mixing spoon in the mixing bowl, and chill dough in fridge for 10 minutes to harden it for easier handling.
10. After 10minutes, remove  dough from fridge.  Pour about 1 tablespoon of fresh milk into bowl No.1 and set aside with brush.
11. Preheat oven to 180C.
12. With the chilled tablespoon, scoop out a dough, approximately 15g, shape it into a ball and place it on a baking tray.  Gently press down to flatten it.
13. Repeat with the rest of the dough.
14. Brush cookie surface slightly with milk before baking them in the preheated oven for 10minutes, until golden brown.
15. Cool completely before storing in airtight container.

Artisan Bread In 5 Minutes A Day – My First Attempt

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The book, Artisan Bread In 5 Minutes A Day(ABin5), that advocates the making of good quality artisan bread at home quickly and easily has been on the retail shelves for quite some time.  But I have been using another No-Knead Bread Recipe and Video Demonstration from NY Times – without a single success.  I attributed my result of dense loaves with thick -PLUS – hard crust to the fact that I do not own a dutch oven to bake the bread, a necessity tool for the No-Knead recipe.  But I kept on trying, using any oven-safe cookwares available at home that comes with a lid.  What was I thinking?  But I realized that my few failed attempts have actually taught me quite a few things when I tried the Basic Master Recipe in ABin5.

So what did I learn?  First of all, do not fear a wet dough.  By comparison, the ABin5 master recipe was not as wet as the NY Times one.  I even had the ‘courage’ the add another half a cup of water when my dough did not appear as wet as the ones I have seen on the web.

Secondly, patience in bread making.  Having waited up to 18 hours for the dough to be ready in the other recipe, the 5 hours wait for this one seemed manageable.  In fact, I left the chilled dough in the fridge for one more day before I used it to bake my first loaf.   Why?  Because the recipe says that the dough can be kept up to 14 days in the fridge, and the taste of the bread will get better with an aging dough, taking on a similar characteristic of a sourdough.  While my bake with a 2-days-old dough did not taste anything like a sourdough, I could still feel its huge potential in churning out batches after batches of delicious batard, brioche, or even pizza base (that’s covered in their latest recipe book, Artisan Pizza And Flat Bread In 5 Minutes A Day).  In the meantime, I will chuck another bin of newly prepared dough to the back of the fridge for 10 days.  Ready for sourdough?

I have bookmarked the book’s official website in my computer.  The FAQ section offers many useful tips to make sure this wonderful recipe works.  I also noted that the 2 authors respond very promptly to readers who post their bread making questions on the website, and new recipes are often tried out and updated.  How about using a slow cooker to bake your bread?


Recipe for Artisan Bread – adapted from “Artisan Bread In 5 Minutes A Day” recipe book, by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François (Thomas Dunne Books, 2007)

Yields 4 x 1lb loaf

- 3 cups lukewarm water
 - 1 tablespoon granulated yeast (I used instant)
 - 1 tablespoon salt
 - 6 1/2 cups (2 lbs) all purpose flour

Preparing The Master Dough:

Put water, yeast and salt, in a plastic container.

Dump all flour at once and stir till the ingredients are just mixed, do not knead. (*1)

Cover lid, but do not snap shut, so that gas can escape from the container. (*2)

Allow the dough to rise for 2 hours in room temperature.  By now, the dough could rise up twice its original volume,  Bubbles will appear popping on the surface. (*3)  Do not punch down the dough.

The dough can now be used for baking.  Or it can be stored in the fridge with its cover (again, not tightly shut to allow gas to escape) for up to 14 days.  Chilling the dough will make it easier to manage.

Baking:

Preheat oven to 450F/230C, with a baking tray on the middle rack, and a broiler below.

Take out the dough from the fridge, and dust the surface with some flour, so that it won’t stick to your hands when retrieving the dough.

Pull out a piece of dough and cut out about the size of a grapefruit , or weigh 1lb.  Return the rest of the dough into the fridge.

Form the dough into a ball, gluten coated.  Sprinkle flour on surface as you go for easier handling, but take care not to incorporate the flour into the dough.  Handle the dough gently at this stage, do not knead, press or squeeze out the air that has expanded inside the dough.

Rest the shaped dough on a piece of parchment paper for 40minutes (*4)

Slash the loaf so that it does not split at the bottom during baking.

Place the dough with the parchment paper on the heated baking tray in the oven.  Throw some ice cubes on the broiler to produce steam.

Bake for 30-35minutes.

Remove the parchment paper after 20minutes of baking, and continue to bake the bread on the tray to create a crispy bottom crust.

Allow the loaf to cool completely on a rack to room temperature before slicing it.  Otherwise, the bread will end up with a hard crust and a gummy interior.


My Notes:-

(*1) The end result should not be in the consistency of a ball dough, if it does, add some water.  I added 1/2 cup more for this first attempt.

(*2) My container did not have a lid, so I used a cling wrap to cover the container.

(*3) For some reason, mine took 5 or 6 hours to reach this stage, which is fine, as some readers have indicated on the website.  Something to do with the amount or types of yeast, I guess.

(*4) The longer it rest, (e.g. 60 to 90 minutes), the more open whole structure it creates.  Take your preference.  And delay the time needed to start preheating your oven.

This video is useful to show how to prepare the dough (3:00) and shape a basic loaf (4:20).