Monday, May 4, 2009

The overflowing pantry

I'm a lazy person. Everytime I encounter food, I take pictures of them with a mental blog post stored away in the archives in my brain. The main reason that stopped me from blogging is the chore to "stamp" each picture with the blog's name and uploading the pictures online. It will seem quite effortless to many out there but somehow... it is not for me.

It is the same with trying out recipes. I see recipes that I want to try (my list is neverending) and I would mentally make them in my mind. So even after buying the hard-to-find ingredient(s) required in the recipe, I have yet to physically try the recipes. But I think I can also attribute it to the fact that I'm a hoarder. I like to stock up my pantry so that I know I have everything to make anything I want at a whim. Easy-to-obtain items don't count as a trip to the supermarket or grocery store can easily solve that problem. But don't count on your local supermarket or grocery store to stock up on everything required in the recipe. Often, the assembly of ingredients in a recipe requires trips to different stores and painstaking hunts for ingredient(s) or equipment(s).

Come to think of it, now I remember my poor Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs). It is still waiting for me to make the Hamburg Steak (recipe from Chubby Hubby). Now I have to find a way to use up breadcrumbs. Same goes for my Mirin, Hoisin Sauce and Hua Diao Jiu. Sighs. I've got to wait till Mum finishes her supply of Char Siew before I can try out the recipe for Char Siew from ieatishootipost. So now you have a vague idea of what a hoarder's pantry looks like, I am proud to introduce to today's additions to the pantry.

Clockwise from left: EASIYO Yogurt Maker AD$15.96, Natural Yoghurt 3 Pack AD$7.98, Reduced Fat Yoghurt 3 Pack AD$7.98, Skimmers Yoghurt 3 Pack AD$7.98, 2 Yoghurt Jars + Yoghurt Cookbook AD$9.98, Greek Yoghurt Base, Raspberry Yoghurt Base and Strawberry Yoghurt Base AD$3.71.

Mum couldn't resist buying another yoghurt maker since it was so cheap! She paid AD$25++ for hers and since it was on sale, she decided to get another. That way she can mass produce more. The yoghurts are very versatile. They can be eaten on its own, frozen to become yoghurt ice-cream or do like what Dad does. He eats the plain yoghurt with his rice. It is common in Indian cuisine as well. I like the fruit varieties. I can hear the questions ringing in people's minds. Why make yoghurt when you can buy it at any supermarket? Besides, it is not very expensive to buy it at supermarkets.

Well, my answer is that it does taste different from supermarket varieties. My family and I have been yoghurt eaters and we've tasted nearly every type of yoghurt available in the supermarkets. Homemade yoghurts are less sweet as you can control the amount of sugar to put it in. Also, homemade yoghurts are free from any additives and preservatives. No matter what the packaging says on the outside, to have a certain length of shelf life, some sort of additives or preservatives will be present in the yoghurt. Well, homemade yoghurts don't have that problem so you will be eating fresh yoghurt. Also, natural flavoured yoghurt are great since you can flavour it with anything you like. Add fruits to it for a great snack or dessert. Add jams or sauces to flavour the yoghurt and give it that swirl or marbling effect. Add herbs for a great dip and condiment. It is just so versatile. Oh. And you don't have to buy the packets of yoghurt base everytime you want to make yoghurt. Just buy one pack for starters, follow instructions in the book, and you will be able to make yoghurt!

Right: EASIYO Passionfruit Flavour Topping Fruit Squirt AD$2.98

I forgot to put it in for the "family potrait" above. Oh well. It can be the prodigal son that came home.

Glucose Syrup AD$4.36. I checked out Michael Laiskonis blog and was inspired by his use of glucose syrup in a number of his workbooks. His recipes have inspired me to hunt for locust bean gum, trimoline and xanthan. His blog is very inspiring for amateur bakers. Though he is very "scientific" and mathematical in some sense, his ideas and perseverance impressed me. Check it out if you are lacking of inspiration!

Copha Vegetable Shortening AD$2.42. Amazing! Mum has been trying to find it for ages and now she's found it. And next to it was blocks and blocks of lard! They had another type but I forgot. I was attracted by the various packaging of butter, then amazed by the varieties which led me to wonder between the differences of butter. She came to stop me from buying butter since we already have so much at home and tada. She found it! That supermarket is so cool! They have so many more "cool" stuff than the other supermarket from the same chain.

I Savoiardi. This is the remaining half pack. This is the Italian Sponge Fingers that I use for my Tiramisu. I will post pictures of my Tiramisu soon. I don't make my own Sponge Fingers because 1) I am too lazy to do so, 2) I haven't made any before and hence 3) don't know of any good recipes that I know is good for sure, and 4) this Savoiardi is from Italy and I figured that it would be quite authentic.

Close-up of the Savioardi. It has a crisp sugary shell encasing soft sponge. It is quite dry to be eaten alone but fantastic with a cuppa coffee or when soaked or brushed in liquids.

CocoaBelgian Pure Dark Belgian Chocolate AD$3.98. While shopping for chocolate, a thought struck me. When I buy dark chocolate, I simply buy any chocolate that says "Dark Chocolate". But what I failed to do in the past, was to check the Ingredients section to see how much cocoa solids it has in the chocolate. To my dismay, I realized that most cooking chocolates in the supermarket sections do not have enough cocoa solids in them. E.g. Dark chocolate has 50%-60% cocoa solids content and milk has 30%-40%. White chocolate has 0% cocoa solids and contains cocoa butter. I like to buy this popular brand of cooking chocolate. However, this particular brand's of cooking dark and milk chocolates have a minimum of 40% cocoa solids. So now what? What is the difference between dark and milk chocolate? Different amounts of sugar, milk and most importantly, COCOA SOLIDS! I was quite upset that I had to pay more for the dark chocolate variety when the dark chocolate had the same amount of cocoa solids as the milk. And the same applied for the other brands as well. Only the couverture type had a minimum of 50% cocoa solids but cost an extra arm and leg as well. The couverture type cost almost twice as much for a lesser amount. E.g. Dark chocolate cost about $3++ for 250g and the couverture would cost about $5++ for 150g.
So moral of the story; I chanced upon this Belgian Dark Chocolate, I checked the cocoa solids and saw that it has minimum 50% cocoa solids, and bought it. I'm going try to make bonbons this friday. After all the horrid assignments and tutorials are over, I need to relax. Hopefully, normal chocolate will work out fine. Anyway, I checked the fat content. Nestle Dark Baking Chocolate have 42.8g of fat while this chocolate has 34.6g of fat. Now I need to think of how to increase the fat content. Couverture chocolate, on top of having the required amounts of cocoa solids also have increased amounts of cocoa butter ranging from 36%-39%. Maybe I can replace the cocoa butter content for more fats. What do you think?

Silicon Daisy Mould AD$9.97. Omg. I'm really obsessed with learning how to make chocolate bonbons. There is so much to learn from making truffles and ganaches!

Other mould AD$2.20 for 2. The colour and price were irresistable. Never mind that it is deeper than what I wanted. Actually, I am not sure because it's got two stacked together and I haven't opened it yet. Going to check it when I wake up.

Madeleine Mould AD$17.95. This is the OTHER madeleine mould that I wasn't entirely happy with because of the size. This mould is more shallow but bigger than the mini one that I liked. Bought it out of sheer desperation.

Springform Mini Cake Pans AD$4.95 each. I've got plans for it already.

And I shall end here. Shall dream of all the goodies. Goodnight.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Taste of Singapore

Meepok, anyone? It always amazes me how being in Perth almost seems no different than being in Singapore. Well, there are a lot of differences in the two places, but what I meant was in the foodie sense. Roti Prata, Hokkien Mee, and now, Mee Pok! Happy Union Chinese Restaurant seems to have felt the craving of many Singaporeans & Malaysians alike, for the hawker dishes found in their home country. Many restaurants and eateries have found success and popularity in Perth due to the overwhelming demand from food-spoiled Asians like us.The newly opened Ya Kwang at Spencer Village is another example. News that Ya Kwang offers Singaporean Hawker cuisine spreaded like wildfire among our church community and we saw at least 1/3 of the churchgoers at Spencer Village after church service. A family friend even joked that we should hold service at Spencer Village instead.

Anyway, back to Happy Union Chinese Restaurant. While Happy Union does not offer Roti Prata, they offer plenty of other dishes like Rochor Mee(their rendition of Hokkien Mee), Fried Hokkien Mee (the black KL style), Loh Mee, Mee Goreng, Fried Kway Teow (Char Kway Teow), Laksa, Wonton Mee, Hainanese Chicken Rice, Curry and Beef Rendang as part of their Lunch Special.

Meepok with pork lard AD$8.80. When you order Meepok, you are essentially ordering the noodles. Naturally, the star is the Meepok; the thin flat strands of noodles. I love the spring and the bite of the Meepok. It is super al dente! The Meepok is a good agent for all the sauces, marketing the taste of the sauces with every bite of the Meepok.

I didn't like the fishballs or the smell of the dish. Fishballs first. When I tried "poking" or more like pushing my fishballs with my chopsticks, it didn't bounce back. It showed that it wasn't the springy type that I liked. Anyway, I proceeded to eat it and it could have stayed in the boiling water for a longer time. Though the fishballs were definitely cooked, I felt that it weren't cooked through. The insides had a slightly harder texture from the outsides. The smell. It smelt like 5 spice powder used to make Ngoh Hiangs and it had the smell of bean curd skin used to wrap Ngoh Hiangs. While the smell of Ngoh Hiangs are fantastic when cooked, the smell of them when they are raw are most definitely not. The dish smelt like raw Ngoh Hiangs. No idea why.

While I had the no-chilli Meepok with chilli on the side (it came on a saucer), I found that I had no need for the chilli. The Meepok was spicy though it was the no-chilli Meepok. Even my sister's no-chilli Meepok had the same effect that we had to chug down plenty of Lipton's Ice Peach Tea. They don't serve normal water so you have to pay for bottled water if you want any water at all.

The chef was also rather heavy-handed on the salt. While the dish remained in my acceptable range of saltiness, a little more salt would have rendered the dish to be salty. The chef is sure living precariously, threading on the fine line which will cause the dish to be either be tasty or salty.

But I'll be back. This is one of the best Meepoks in Perth. Not Singapore of course. But as the saying goes, "When life throws lemons at you, make lemonade out of them." We don't have the luxury of indulging in Singapore's Meepoks and this passes muster.

Rochor Mee AD$9.50. This is the ubiquitous Hokkien Mee that my family also like at hawker centres. The noodles belong to the wet type so you get tasty stock-flavoured noodles with each slippery bite. It is unanimous among my family that it is better than the version at Ya Kwang. However, I do think that there was too much fish sauce in it. The addition of fish sauce adds another dimension to a dish, BUT too much of it lends the dish a fishy smell.

This is my second time eating their dishes. The first was when Dad bought the Fried Hokkien Mee (black KL type) home for us. I would not recommend ordering this dish. For people who are sensitive to the alkaline taste predominantly found in yellow noodles, STAY AWAY. The black sauce could not even mask the heavy alkaline taste in the noodles at all. My sister barely touched a quarter of it and you must understand that at 10 years old, she is the least discerning of all eaters. You might argue that maybe that's because we had the takeaways? According to my Mum who ate the same dish at the restaurant, the dish was greasy and she didn't like it very much.
Pink Guava! I thought I will add this to my post. A family friend gave us mini pink guavas freshly plucked from his guava trees in his garden. While I have never seen a pink guava before (or at least I don't recall it), isn't the mini one cute? It is about the size of a mini mandarin orange.

Look at the flesh! It's so pink and pretty! I don't fancy eating the guava skin so I used a spoon and scooped the insides to eat. Oh. Unless you like eating mini guava stones (seeds), you will be constantly irritated by the need to spit out the seeds. Looking at it from another perspective, the flesh on the other hand is VERY fragrant and sweet. Pink guava is more fragrant than normal guava and has a slightly different taste to it. Different in a good way. The taste and smell of the guava lingered in my mouth long after I ate it and ahhh... Someone make a pink guava fragrance and sweet please?

Saturday, May 2, 2009


hello blog, I'm finally back on blogosphere. I think owning a camera is awesome. I have carried my camera with me ever since. From photos of people to food, I've been pretty anal about it all. Taking so many photos that my laptop is now full of photos. While photos of food have notes about them tucked away, I am now pondering about which I should blog about.

Looking at those past photos reminded me how long it has been since I've last blogged. Actually, I think my subconscious knew it long ago. As the number of photos increased rapidly, I dreaded to think about the number of blogs it would take me to do in order to account for my photos.

Anyhow, I will try to blog on all of them. Blogs on foods will be quite fair and NOT subjected to any memory lapse as I've written down notes on what I thought and felt in a notebook while I was tasting the dishes or right after tasting (read: when I reached home).

Recently I have been inspired by the numerous food blogs and I've been baking/cooking a lot more. Actually, it started with a whim when I saw the Savioardi biscuits (Italian sponge fingers) at Woolworths and I felt like making Tiramisu. My first attempt was a HUGE success. Alcohol and coffee laced fluffy sponge fingers, smooth light and delicious mascarpone mixture, I was inspired to make it again. My second and third tries were less successful despite using almost the same recipe. The taste remained but the texture was different. BUT the forth tries and onwards were hugely successful ONCE AGAIN. I've made it about six times in a span of two months? After that, I have tried making other things like Chocolate Souffle, Mocha Pie, Rose Meringues and recently, Quiche Lorraine.

It's not like I've never cooked before. I do cook and bake but the number of times I have done so has increased dramatically. Now I just can't wait till my cough is over so that I can start baking again. (I'm quite paranoid that people will fall sick after eating the food I've made.)

I am very excited because recently, I have spent a fortune on a quite a number of things.

A Day at elBulli by Ferran Adria. This is something I've wanted to get for AGES. Ever since the book came out, I wanted to lay hands on it notwithstanding the fact that I was in Singapore when it was first released, it was super expensive, and considering the meagre luggage allowance I have, this book would take up a couple of kilos off the allowance. Anyway, I chanced upon this book here in Perth and I bought it. It is still quite expensive but not as expensive as Singapore. Then again, prices might have dropped in Singapore since the book has been out for some time already. I wouldn't know now, would I? This book is massive and quite inspiring. It catalogues what days at elBulli are like. From experimenting, cooking, sourcing, service etc., this book is like WOW. The things they do there are just so.... challenging. Quite exciting actually. Anyway, 1 cookbook down, another 4 more to go.

Planet Cake by Paris Cutler. I knew I had to get this book when I saw the cover. Isn't it adorable? Besides, this book is very informative with instructions on decorating cakes. It is a book for both beginners and intermediate amateur bakers keen on learning how to decorate their cakes and make them look good. The book is a good 101 course (introductory course) that starts beginners off to reach the intermediate level to the advanced level where the book shows you how more complicated and intricate designs are made. FYI (for your information), Paris Cutler is the founder of Planet Cake; a hugely successful cake decorating business which makes celebrity cakes. Planet Cake is in Sydney and they also export their highly demanded cakes to Europe and USA. Their portfolio also includes Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban's wedding cake.

Lavender blossoms from T2. I was estatic when I found this at T2 at Garden City. I wanted to buy Matcha (green tea powder) too but they didn't have it. Oh. Guess what? Apparently Gunpowder Green Tea isn't Matcha. I nearly grabbed a box of Gunpowder Green Tea before I saw the sample bottle and saw coils of tea in it. Definitely not what I was looking for. And I've always thought Matcha was Gunpowder Green Tea. Anyway, something was learned.

Lavender has been widely used in so many recipes that I knew I had to get it. I hated the feeling of not being able to do what I want due to the lack of ingredients in the pantry. I am a pantry hoarder. I confess to that. I like a well-stocked pantry that allows me to make anything I want without worrying like a clucking hen whether the recipe will backfire if I substitute or omit an ingredient that I don't have or can't get at the last minute. I know I want to make Lavender Sables soon! Or Madeleines.

Italian "00" Flour. THIS IS THE LEGENDARY "00" FLOUR. It is an Italian wheat flour with low protein content. I promise you I had no idea what "00" flour looked like until now. I've been trying to find it to no avail till I chanced upon it in Woolworths. OH! It is not as expensive as I thought (AD$2.95, it is cheap! Don't tell Woolworths that or they will mark it up!) and it was the ONLY pack on the shelf! I've wanted to make Ravioli but I have no idea where fresh pasta is available on sale. There is no choice but to make my own. I don't have a pasta machine so I will try to roll it out and hopefully get it really thin and silky. I've already thought of a filling for my Ravioli but I still can't make up my mind what to serve it with. Recipes call for oil, butter or jus. My family don't really fancy eating oil or butter as a sauce. My father will be convinced that I'm trying to speed up the clogging of his arteries. And jus takes a long time to make. Too much work for me. I'm the lazy sort. Anyway, back to the flour. Normally I buy ingredients that I keep seeing in a few recipes I want to try. No point buying an ingredient and only use a bit of it to make a dish. This flour is really useful because you can also use it to make breads and pizza too!

Note: I have been trying to find out what is the difference between "OO" Flour and other types of flour. Apparently, "00" flour is flour that has been milled till it is super fine. Like baby powder fine. Contrary to popular belief that it is low in protein and unsuitable to make bread, it is untrue. Different types of "00" flour have varying amounts of protein content in it. A good substitute for it would be all-purpose flour though you would definitely see a difference if you used "00" flour. For those who do not understand about protein content and all, read the next bit. Otherwise, just skip to the next picture.

Bread flour is high in protein content as bakers want the as much gluten as possible to work their magic in the bread. Glutens allow the bread to rise as well as give the bread structure and texture. Cake flour is lower in protein content than bread flour, as bakers do not want their cakes to be chewy or tough. Cakes should have lighter and softer textures than breads. The science of flour is extensive. You should definitely look up on it if you are interested. There was so much information when I yahoo-ed 00 flour into the search engine. Too much to be listed here. Try

Arborio Rice. No fine science here. Used to make Risotto and Rice Puddings. Risotto is a dish on my list of things to make next.

Almond Meal. Macaroons! My loves. Too bad almond meals are expensive. It is rather costly for a 150g pack of almond meal. There were 2 choices. Pay a fortune for blanched almonds and go home and make almond meal out of it OR pay a fortune for almond meal. Either way you still pay a fortune for it. You know my choice already.

Madeleine moulds! This is the right sort of madeleine moulds I wanted! It is really quite and small. Too bad I was rather hasty on the day before when I spied a madeleine mould. I bought it though it was rather big for my ideal madeleine. Hey, I was desperate. I was even thinking of getting my relatives in Singapore to hunt it down for me! And you know how things work. When you want something, it will never appear. When you have it already, it will keep appearing. So when I saw this, I knew I had to get it. It is just PERFECT. For me, at least. It makes me smile. :) Think of all the madeleines that I am going to make using it.

Palette knife. For future spreading of creams, ganaches, and what not. NO MORE uneven surfaces. Good for my future attempts on decorating cupcakes. It is on my next to do list after sables and madeleines.

Murray River Gourmet Salt Flakes. Last but not least, the posh pink river salt. It's so pretty! Oh. Fyi, this salt and sea salt are saltier than your normal table salt so you can't be heavy handed with it. If the recipe calls for 1 tsp of normal salt, you would have to reduce the amount of sea salt used. To put it plainly, if the recipe calls for 1 tsp of sea salt, you put in slightly more if you are using normal salt.

Okay. This is it for now. It has been a very long post.