Chinese New Year: Pork Dumplings

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Being away from home means I don’t get to celebrate Chinese New Year with family. Mostly bummed because I don’t get any of the glorious food. It’s been 3 years now since I had any of it. I loved going visiting because you always get offered goodies and with my sweet tooth, it’s always a good thing.

This year, seeing everyone having so much New Year fun as well as being in a city where there are Asian supermarkets I decided to make some effort. I say ‘some’ but it’s really just me making what I want to eat – dumplings. I think dumplings are currently on my list of favourite foods. I’m not really a ‘favourite food’ kind of person but rather I go through phases of wanting to just eat one particular thing the whole time.

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I’ve been really excited to make dumplings because there’s so many ways to wrap/fold them! The one’s that are pleated were done by my mum. I did the simple purse-like folds which look so elegant. I found the whole folding process really calming as well. Yep that’s me for you, food makes me happy.

The best thing is that you can make dumplings in advance. I made these in the afternoon in preparation for dinner so all I had to do was just get a pot of water boiling and cook them. Furthermore, you can freeze them on a tray/plate and once they’re frozen solid, put them in a freezer bag. Your very own frozen dumplings! Amazing.

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I’m just singing praises for dumplings right now but they’re just so versatile! You can fill them with anything , like really. Mushroom and tofu or pork and chives or chopped up veggies. It’s just up to you.

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*happy dance*

Ingredients
220g mince pork
100g spring onions
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 1/2 tbsp soya sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp arrowroot
Dumpling skins (20-25 skins would be good)

Note: All the quantities are just a rough guide as I find with Chinese cooking a lot of it is eye-balling and tasting.

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I almost forgot to mention! The dipping sauce! It is just as important as the dumpling itself. Don’t worry, it’s nothing complicated. Literally takes 5 minutes to make or rather, put together.

All you need is finely slices ginger, soya sauce and rice vinegar. I’d say 1tbsp each of soya sauce and rice vinegar then add according to your taste.

And finally,

Happy Chinese New Year everyone! 

Butternut Squash Gnudi

First of all, I want to say how happy I am that these were a success.

After a day of rehearsing in my head the timings and all that (I was also pan-frying fish), everything went so well!

The thing I find about cooking stressful is the timing. I’m really on about having all the food on the plate hot and nothing lukewarm at all. Hence I’m always like “OKAY DINNER IS READY PLEASE COME AND EAT IT NOW.” whenever I cook for the family. Oops haha!

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I don’t really know the definition of ‘gnudi’ but I think it means something like ‘naked pasta’? From reading what some people say, it’s like the filling of ravioli and so a pasta without the ‘skin’. It’s almost like gnocchi but softer and lighter since there isn’t as much starch in it.

I really enjoyed eating this. It’s really comforting and could even make a good snack in my opinion!

Ingredients (serves 3)
2 cups butternut squash mashed and possibly drained of excess moisture
1 1/4 cups parmesan, grated
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2- 3/4 cups plain flour
2 tbsp butter
10 or more sage leaves

Directions
1. Heat a pot of salted water and bring to a boil. 
2. In a bowl, mix together the squash, parmesan and egg. Add 1/2 cup of flour and mix well. Add another 1/4 cup if needed to form a sticky ‘dough’. I say ‘dough’ because it’s really more like a paste. Test the consistency by dropping a small ball in the boiling water. It should hold it’s shape.
3. Meanwhile, heat butter in a pan until it begins to brown. Add the sage leaves. Remove from heat.
4. Cook the gnudi for about 2 mins or until it floats to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon and toss in the sage butter. Serve immediately. 

With this I feel confident about trying out gnocchi now. They’re really so good and I love how I got them to be in quinelle(?) shapes!

Fluffy Greek Yogurt Pancakes

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One of the most important days of the year is coming up real soon.

Pancake Day. Or Shrove Tuesday if you’re familiar with that.

PANCAKE DAY!!!

If you’re a busy bee like me, it may not be possible to make pancakes on the day itself. So I make them in advance. As an excuse to have a nice breakfast as well.

I’ve been using this recipe for ages and came across this new one on Tumblr one fine day. I’m always up for using yogurt in baking or substituting ingredients to make the end product healthier. I would say this pancake recipe is pretty healthy and good for you! Or maybe I’m just lying to myself to make myself feel better about eating them hoho…

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Topped my beautiful stack with the remaining Greek yogurt swirled with some blackcurrant jam and a tiny (don’t judge it’s tiny-ness) drizzling of honey. I know this may sound odd, but I don’t fancy honey. It kinda smells weird…

Pancakes are just so versatile and fun. You can put anything in them. They can be breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. A 4-in-1 whoohay!!! Okay, clearly getting too excited. I mean, they’re so yummy I just. Can’t.

Ingredients
1 cup self-raising flour (I used wholewheat self raising for that extra healthiness!)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp brown sugar
*sprinkling of cinnamon (just because I love cinnamon)
1 large egg
1/2 cup non-fat Greek Yogurt
1/2 cup milk (use skimmed for a healthier option)
1 1/4 tbsp vegetable oil
1/3 – 1/2 cup fresh or frozen berries of your choice
2 tbsp chocolate chips 

Directions
1. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Using a measure jug/cup or another bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients.
2. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture. Use a wooden spoon to stir until just combined. The mixture will be thick and don’t worry about the lumps. Fold in the berries and chocolate chips, taking care not to bash up the berries (yeah we can get a little too excited about food sometimes).
3. Heat a pan over medium heat and grease it lightly. Use 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake, spreading it out slightly. Cook for 3-4 mins or until golden brown. The batter may not bubble because of the thickness. Flip and cook for another 1-2 mins. 
For those who make pancakes regularly or have just made them enough times to notice, the very first pancake is always ugly. Okay, maybe ugly is too strong a word but it never browns evenly! Compare photo #1 and photo #2. Anybody can tell me why? What’s the science behind this pancake mystery?! Not that I’m very concerned about it but it’s just interesting hmm…

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If that can’t convince you (if you need any convincing at all), then I really don’t know what can. Oh my mama.

I don’t have the best plates or deco for photos but I like to tell myself the food will speak for itself. In this photo I think it’s saying “Eat me, Human.”

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Are you a fluffy all-American pancakes kinda person or a French crepes kinda person? I think it’s wonderful how every country has their own version of what a pancake is.

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Today is actually the first time I’ve eaten 4 pancakes in a stack :o In my family we usually put all the pancakes on a plate and then eat them one piece at time. I can finally say that eating them in a stack is 1) so much more efficient 2) prevents any dispute on who has more or fewer pancakes 3) so much more satisfying *dreamy face*

Just seeing my knife sink into that pillowy fluffiness (I could even replay it in my head in slowmotion). Oh my days. Somebody help me. I’m going to end up obsessing over food in my own kitchen one day. Goodbye society. Goodbye social life. Hello food.

And also, I have no shame in smears on my plate. I’m that person who scrapes up every last bit of dessert on her plate. I don’t get why people don’t really. It’s such a waste. Even more so when you’ve paid for it! Hurhur.

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So this Tuesday get creative with your pancakes and if you can, make your own from scratch. It’s really worth it, trust me. <3

Lime, Yogurt & Olive Oil Cake

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Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me!

Yes.

I baked my own birthday cake. #noshame

Initially I was going to make a chocolate cake. But after this whole bad dessert incident at a restaurant which resulted in me feeling really ill from chocolate, no way. Furthermore, I love love love citrus-y cakes! Although I struggle with getting enough of that tangy flavour in the cake :(

Lemon drizzles are amazing and delicious but LIMES. My, my. There’s something about limes that puts them 5 steps ahead of the game with lemons. I would drink limeade rather than lemonade to be honest. Funnily enough, I used to hate citrus fruit. Especially oranges. I thought they were the worst thing ever. In retrospect, I think I just always had a sour orange…

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Pretty pleased with this second attempt with using olive oil and yogurt in a cake. Although I really am not gonna lie and try to fool you guys but you can see how the base of the cake kinda got a bit squidged up = very moist. I am thinking it’s either the addition of a couple tbsp of plain natural yogurt (I didn’t have enough Greek yogurt) or the fact that my mixing bowl is too tall/narrow that when I add wet ingredients to dry ingredients I end up with an annoyingly lumpy mess. Anyway, not to worry. The first time I made an olive oil & yogurt cake I got this very weird textured cake… no idea what went wrong.

The cake is light, fluffy and moist. It would make a superb tea cake. No correction. It would make a lovely anytime cake. Because let’s face it, we all can have cake at any time of the day. Wait, did you say you can’t? I’m sorry for you then.

Ingredients
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup full fat Greek yogurt
zest of 1 lime (I’m pretty sure the more the merrier for a stronger lime flavour)
1/4 cup lime juice
1 3/4 cups plain flour (218.75g)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 180C. Grease a 9″ round tin.
2. In a bowl or a large measuring jug, whisk together the sugar and oil. Add the eggs, followed by the yogurt and finally the lime juice and zest.
3. In a large mixing bowl, sift in the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and fold in until just combined. Don’t over mix!
4. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until top is browned and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs. Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack. When cake is completely cooled, sprinkle with sugared zest (one part zest : 2 parts sugar)

I took this recipe from this foodblogger and sadly, her cake is so much prettier than mine!

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Same slice from a different angle just because I can.

I was being all ambitious thinking of making candied lime peel but it’s just way too much effort. Plus, the sugared zest looks a lot prettier. The sugar almost looks like snow!

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So it’s coming to the end of my birthday and I’ve learnt one thing, or rather reminded myself of this one thing –

Be satisfied with what you have and be happy with the little gifts life gives to you. 

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Yes I cut all that with my little paring knife.

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(End of the post and I just realised how ridiculously little of the sugared zest I sprinkled on the cake…)

Cinnamon Muffins

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So I finally got myself a 12-hole muffin pan. Yes.

I mean I have one in Singapore but not here in London.

I decided to christen it with this super simple muffin. It was a fine, fine day and I wanted something cinnamony and I was also craving cake. What else would be better than cinnamon muffins? Well… churros actually but I wasn’t going to go through all that hassle of making them!

I don’t know about you but I find the cracking on the tops really inviting.

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Aw yeah. Close up of that craaaaaaacked top.
Ingredients
1 1/2 cups flour (187.5g) 
2 tsp baking powder     *if you only have self-raising flour, omit the baking powder
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
pinch of salt
1 lightly beaten egg
1/2 cup milk
1 heaped tsp cinnamon
113g butter, melted

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 180C. Mix flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a bowl. 
2. Whisk together egg, sugar, milk and butter in a measure cup or another bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and fold in quickly. I’d say a maximum of 10 folds. Lumps are fine!
3. Spoon into prepared muffin tin and bake for 10-15 mins or until tops are set and edges are crisp.

Remove from tin and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Makes 9 muffins
The muffins taste like cinnamon pancakes and are amazing warm. As I was eating one I almost tasted banana and wondered if anyone has tried making cinnamon banana muffins. I’m sure if I consult google there’d be tons of recipes available.

So if you’re craving cinnamon and haven’t got much time, I suggest you give this recipe a try. It’s super basic but sometimes cravings just need to be satisfied.

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Gingercake again!

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Doesn’t it look so beautiful? The colour of it is just so inviting, well to me at least.

I realised that I’m very drawn to ‘dark’ versions of food if that makes any sense at all. Such as, dark chocolate, dark rye breads, chocolate cakes that are as black as night. There’s just something about the colour that calls out to me.

Anyway if you can’t tell, I’m back in London and hence decided to try the same gingercake recipe but using black treacle and dark brown sugar. It definitely intensified the rich, almost bitter taste of the cake. I also used fresh grated ginger and the cake has more spice to it.

Loving the end product of my efforts because the process of making it was hell. Okay, I exaggerate but my goodness me! Black treacle is a b*tch to work with! Thankfully I oiled my measuring cup prior to spooning it in because it did make it easier to get out of the cup. While I was struggling with the treacle then did I remember the spoon-in-hot-water tip. Yup. Strands of treacle EVERYWHERE. But that’s alright, just more time spent on clean up.

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Look at that moist texture. Nomnomnom.

It is less wet on the top this time round, possibly because of the tin and oven, but it’s still soft like the first time I made it.

Because I know not many people appreciate the rich taste and I’m going to have to eat this all on my own, I’ve cut it up into quarters and thrown them into the freezer. Brilliant! That means whenever I have a ginger cake craving, I can simply just defrost some.

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Happy Days!

Cake-like Lemon Sugar Cookies

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So in my previous sugar cookie post I must’ve talked about how I absolutely dislike sugar cookies (unless I’m imagining things!). Like, I can’t understand them as much as I’d like to be able to! That sickly sweetness that is just nothing but… Sweet. I have a massive sweet tooth and I can’t handle it :/

Anyway, since we’ve all stuffed ourselves with glorious Christmas foods (I hope you’ve all had a great one!) I thought I’d made a simple, light-tasting cookie. I mean, I could’ve just not made anything but I had the baking-itch. I had a dilemma deciding between making my favourite chocolate sugar cookies or trying something new.

I eventually decided on lemon cookies and boy did I have to search around for a recipe! Whenever I try something new I always pick out a few and do some comparisons. I like to think that’s a good thing.

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Look at how cakey this cookie is :o

The recipe is from here and Nicole talks about how it was initially meant to be a cake. She then added enough flour to turn it into cookie dough! From the few recipes I was reading, the use of baking powder makes the cookie have a cake-like texture. So depending on how you like your cookies, this may or may not be for you. But! With a crunchy exterior and a light, fluffy interior, how can you resist these?! Dx

Ingredients
1 3/4 cup flour (219g)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter, softened (57.6g)
1 large egg
1/2 cup sugar + more for rolling
2 tbsp sourcream/greek yogurt
2 tbsp milk
2 tsp lemon juice
1-2 tsp lemon zest

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 175C.  In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, cream butter and sugar. Then add the egg and beat well. Add the sourcream/yogurt and milk and mix well. Then, add the lemon juice and zest.

2. Add the flour bit by bit and stir until well combined.
*the dough was pretty soft for me to roll so I popped it into the freezer to harden up.

3. Roll dough into 1-inch balls then coat in sugar. Place cookies about 2 inches apart on a baking sheet and bake for 10-11 mins or until the tops have set. Remove from sheet and allow to cool on a wire rack.

*if your dough balls are quite firm after rolling, flatten slightly as they will not spread much and you will have a very domed cookie!

(Makes around 20 6cm wide cookies)

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Just had to say, these are AMAZING warm. Especially on a stormy day like today!

Gingerbread Cake

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Can we just take a moment to appreciate how long I have been craving these bad boys for? Since October. Yes, October was light years ago.

*raises fists in the air* finally!

They kinda represent Autumn, Christmas, warmth and family to me. Yeah, I’m probably going insane – cakes and symbolism!

Anyway, with Christmas round the corner I thought I’d better make these before the oven’s sole use becomes the turkey. I think this is the softest, fluffiest cake I’ve ever made. Not to say I make rock-hard cakes but it’s just a very different texture. I guess it may be due to the use of water and all the other liquids.

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I wish they’d turn out a deeper shade of brown but I didn’t have any dark brown sugar on me. Shame.

Ingredients
115g butter
1 cup water
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup molasses (or 3/4 cup molasses sugar mixed with 1/4 cup boiling water)
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temp and lightly beaten
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger (optional)
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder

Directions
1. Bring water to a boil in a saucepan. Add the baking soda and let it foam and stand for 5 mins. Add the butter and mix until melted. Add the sugars and fresh ginger if using, whisk until well combined. Allow to cool until lukewarm.

2. Preheat oven to 175C and butter and flour 2 8″ tins or 1 9″x13″ tin. (I halved recipe and used a tin that was sort of inbetween those 2 sizes)

3. Pour the mixture into a large mixing bowl and whisk in the eggs. Sift all the dry ingredients and stir until combined.
Note: mixing dry to wet may be easier to avoid lumps which I may try next time.

4. Bake 30-35 mins or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean with a few moist crumbs. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

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The batter was pretty wet and it just formed a thin layer in my tin. I was worried I’d get a cake with a thickness of a swiss roll but they had risen nicely.

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Merry Christmas everyone!

Fluffiest White Sandwich Bread

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This is the second time I made this bread and I must say it’s the safest and easiest recipe! I’m new to baking breads so it is a rather nail-biting experience waiting for the loaf to be done and then slicing into it. To have success both times, you have no idea how happy I am!

So this recipe is from this food blogger do check her out. Her recipes are amazing! I was a bit hesitant initially as the recipe calls for all purpose/plain flour. After watching so many series of The Great British Bake-Off and how Paul Hollywood bangs on about strong white flour I was worried I’d end up with a dense brick. But clearly this recipe works because the bread is so, so soft. Like literally pillowy soft!

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Look at the texture! It bakes up with a nice crust – crisp but not hard that it cuts the insides of your mouth.

The recipe makes 2 8″ x 4″ loaves but I usually just make one as my family aren’t very keen on white bread.

(I’ve tweaked the recipe slightly as I found the bread to be a bit plain and tasteless the first time round)

Ingredients
5 1/2 cups plain flour (688g)
1 tbsp instant yeast or active dry yeast
3 tbsp sugar
2 cups warm water
2.5 tbsp butter, softened
1 heaped tsp salt

Directions
1. If using active dry yeast: dissolve sugar in warm water then sprinkle yeast over. Allow to stand for 10 mins or until frothy.
If using instant yeast: dissolve sugar in warm water. You can dissolve the yeast in the water, however it is not necessary.
2. In a bowl, mix together flour and salt (and instant yeast if using). Add butter in small chunks and the yeast mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon until a dough comes together.
3. Very lightly flour a surface and knead for 10-15 mins until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place in a clean, lightly oiled bowl and allow to rise for 1 hour.
4. Punch down the dough (this is my favourite bit) and knead slightly. Roll into a log and place in greased tins. Allow to rise for another hour.
5. Preheat oven to 200C and bake for 10 mins then reduce the heat to 175C for anothet 25-30 mins or until the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.
Allow to cool on a wire rack.

How to know when you’ve kneaded enough?
Poke Test: If the dough springs back after being poked firmly, it’s good to go!

Ball-in-hand Test: Roll the doll into a ball and hold it in your hand. If it falls out of your grip when you turn your hand over then you’d need to continue kneading.

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I look forward to PB&J toast tomorrow!

Blueberry Vanilla Braided Loaf

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So I’m back in Singapore with a full-sized kitchen. That only means one thing: bake to my heart’s content!

So week 2 of my holidays and we start off the week with this beautiful braided loaf. I made a white sandwich loaf last week and it gave me the confidence to try and enriched dough this week!

Its almost like brioche but not really and I absolutely love the braiding! The dough is so nice and soft to work with as well.

Do excuse the photos since I don’t have my camera with me.

Ingredients
1 cup milk
50g butter
1 vanilla pod or 2 tsp vanilla extract
500g plain flour
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 tsp instant yeast
2 egg yolks, save the whites for glazing
3/4 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (no need to thaw them)

Directions
1. Heat milk and butter together in a saucepan. Add vanilla and set aside until lukewarm.

2. Place flour, sugar and yeast in a large bowl. Add the milk mixture and egg yolks. Using a wooden spoon, mix together until a dough forms. Turn out the dough onto a very lightly floured surface and then knead until smooth and elastic. Allow to rise in a clean bowl for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

3. Knead slightly and divide into 3 portions. Roll each into a log as long as you want to loaf to be. Flatten it out and sprinkle 1/3 of the blueberries. Roll up ensuring all blueberries are encased in the dough! Braid them together and place on a lined baking sheet to rise for 45 mins.

4. Preheat oven to 220C and glaze the loaf with the egg whites. Bake for 10 mins then reduce to 200C and bake for another 30-35 mins or until it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

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Whooped! Yummy bread that definitely won’t last long!

I’m planning to bake a different type of bread each week. Any suggestions for the next yeasty adventure?