27 April 2007

More designer cupcakes

Oh, this is so exciting! I just attended Joycelyn's Cupcake Workshop II at Shermay's Cooking School today. Have been looking forward to it since the previous workshop in March. Was initially on waiting list and you can imagine how happy I was (still am) when I received an email to confirm my place!

Workshop II is about infusing different flavours into melted butter and blending them with batter. The crumb turns out to be tight and moist and I was utterly overwhelmed with bursts of different flavours, all owing to the ingenious master recipes which were painstakingly tried and tested by Joycelyn so that beginners like me can make such classy cupcakes too.

If I may say so, the Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Cupcake and Valrhona Dark Chocolate Cupcake (Workshop I) have simple, down-to-earth base yet flamboyant decorations; The Very Buttery Cupcake with infused butters (Workshop II) is the exact opposite - intense and sophistcated taste with a subtle finishing.

These are the cupcakes before decoration, well almost. Was so busy trimming the tops and pigging on the crumbs that I forgot to take photos and started with the golden meringue. In fact, they are good to eat as it is without necessity for decorations but of course it'll be better to dress them up for presentation.

Lavender Cupcake with Lavender & White Chocolate Frosting - sounds romantic, doesn't it. I'm a fan of anything lavender - essential oil, soap, powder and now lavender cakes. The taste of lavender is pretty subtle and light so no worries about eating a bar of soap.

Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Curd Filling & Golden Meringue Topping - don't exactly like lemon cakes but this changed my thinking. This is light and zesty definitely unlike those with a chemical fake taste.

Earl Grey Tea Cupcakes with Orange Blossom & White Chocolate Frosting - I love Earl Grey Tea, it has this distinct aroma and immense flavour; some people like it, some don't. Naturally I love this Earl Grey Tea Cupcake which is well complemented by the white chocolate frosting.

Chai Spice Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean & White Chocolate Frosting - surprise, surprise. I didn't know that spices can blend so well into cakes, bringing them into a whole new dimension. I am an avid fan of cinnamon buns, I guess the theory applies for cakes as well.

The end result - elegant looking and flavourful assortment of miniature cupcakes which can be served as petits fours. Anyone drooling yet?

And I must definitely mention the chilled Gryphon Earl Grey tea served during the workshop. The gourmet tea is an artisan selection of black tea with oil of bergamot and lavender. Taste really good and different from the usual earl grey tea, no wonder some people swear by it. Now I'm a convert too.


22 April 2007

Quick & Easy Meals III - Ee Fu Noodle

Braised Ee Fu Noodle is usually served the second last dish before dessert during a 8, 9 or 10-course chinese banquet. Save for the big eaters, most diners are already quite full by this dish. And wanting to save the stomach for dessert, most people (it's me actually :p) just pick a little in order not to appear impolite or wasteful, or simply skip it altogether.

Ee Fu Noodle can be prepared quite easily at home, although I think the noodle itself is not readily available at supermarkets or maybe I haven't been looking hard enough. The only brand I know is Kwong Cheong Thye (which produces dark and light soy sauce and different variety of noodles) and so far, manage to find it in some branches of Giant Supermarket and a shop at the basement of Takashimaya Shopping Mall that sells local food products.

Braised Ee Fu Noodle with shredded pork and golden mushroom (serves 2-3 pax)
* My version of noodle is slightly wet as compared to those dry versions served in restaurants.

  • 2 pieces of dry Ee Fu Noodle (comes in 2 types of packaging, packed in 2 or 3 pieces)
  • 200g lean pork, marinate with soy sauce, sesame oil, pepper, Shao Hsin cooking wine (can substitute with duck meat or do away with meat altogether)
  • 3 packets of golden mushroom
* can also add straw mushroom or shitake mushroom
  • Heat up the wok and fry some garlic. When garlic is fragrant and slightly brownish, add the marinated pork and stir fry until almost cooked. Remove the meat for use later.
  • Without washing the wok, add water filling 2/5 of the wok. Can also be part chicken stock, part water.
  • Once water boils, add the Ee Fu Noodle. When the noodles are softened, add seasoning - some dark sauce, oyster sauce, pepper, sesame oil and Shao Hsin cooking wine.
  • Turn the heat to medium low and let the noodles simmer with the seasonings.
  • When the gravy thickens, add the meat and golden mushroom. Stir fry and add some corn starch mixed with water.
  • Simmer for a while more and ready to serve.

20 April 2007

Japanese-style potato salad and potato salad inari

My almost regular contribution for potluck parties. A simple side dish that offers pretty visuals, taste good and easy to eat :)
The jap-style potato salad is smooth and fluffy; unlike the western-style version where the potato is usually harder, cut into larger pieces and tossed with a sour cream-based dressing with condiments like spring onions. For the jap-style potato salad, the potato is lightly mashed, eggs are added and taste slightly sweeter as Jap mayonnaise is used. Cucumber and carrot are added for colour; makes the salad more refreshing and crunchy to taste.
A variation is potato salad inari (beancurd pouch). The inari tastes very sweet and complements the potato salad pretty well. Got the idea from Sakae Sushi actually.

Potato Salad and Potato Salad Inari (serves 10-12 persons, for a potluck)
  • 4 large US potatoes (Use US potatoes as they are more fluffy. Don't use China potatoes, the texture is hard when cooked)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 Japanese cucumber (use Jap cucumber as they are small and no seeds)
  • 1/2 carrot
  • Japanese mayonnaise
  • Inari pockets (can be found at Mediya Supermarket, in can or packet. Packet of 8 yields 16 potato salad inari)
  • Boil potatoes and eggs.
  • Eggs will be cooked first. Remove, de-shell and dice.
  • When potatoes are cooked (chopstick can poke through potato easily), remove the skin and cut into cubes.
  • Slice the cucumber and carrot into wafer-thin slices (faster and easier if using vegetable slicer).
  • Mix the cubed potatoes and diced eggs together and add mayonnaise (to taste).
  • Add the cucumber and carrot and mix thoroughly. Add more mayonnaise if necessary (to taste).
  • Chill and ready to serve.
  • Eat it as it is or with some bacon bits (vegetarian bacon bits, crispy and goes very well with the potato salad).
Potato Salad Inari
  • Squeeze the sauce from the inari pouches gently to remove excess sauce, otherwise the inari will be too wet. (the inari comes in can or packets packed with light sauce)
  • Gently split the top of the pouches with fingers (do it gently as the inari skin is easily torn)
  • Stuff the potato salad into the inari pouches using a teaspoon.
  • Cut the pouches into half carefully.
  • Chill and ready to serve.

18 April 2007

A bowl of soothing porridge

Celery, carrot and minced pork porridge
Looks like baby food? :)
This is specially created for hubby who doesn't like raw or stir-fry celery.

I love celery but seldom have the chance to cook it since hubby doesn't like the charismatic strong taste and crunch. After cooking the celery for some time, it becomes much softer and the distinct smell almost non-existent. The carrot and minced pork add a tinge of sweetness to the porridge.
It's good to have porridge after feasting on rich and heavy food; gives a warm and soothing feeling to the tummy.

Celery, carrot and minced pork porridge (serves 3-4)

  • Celery, finely diced (3 to 4 stems)
  • Carrot, finely diced (1 small carrot or half a big one)
  • Minced pork (200g to 250g), marinate with soy sauce, sesame oil, pepper and Huatiao wine (can substitute the pork with chicken but porridge doesn't taste as 'sweet')
  • Rice (1.5 cups)
Preparation (takes around 45 minutes to 1 hour)
  • Cook the rice in a medium-size pot with water filled to 3/5 depth (medium fire).
  • As the water heats up, add the diced celery and carrot and let the mixture boil for 20 minutes. Stir once in a while.
  • When the rice is just cooked (see the texture), add the minced pork bit by bit. As minced pork tends to be sticky and lumps together, I usually put a chunk in a scoop, lower into the water and use a chopstick to stir and break it quickly.
  • Let the porridge boil for another 10 minutes, stirring it once in a while.
  • Switch to low heat, add soy sauce (or salt), pepper, sesame oil and simmer for another 15 minutes before serving.

13 April 2007

Quick & Easy Meals II - Fried Beehoon

Fried beehoon is really a humble dish nowadays. Although supposed to be a staple, it is now overshadowed by the 'side' dishes which are deemed as the star attractions. For breakfast or lunch, it is accompanied with luncheon meat, fried egg, fish cake, fried popiah, hotdog etc; during BBQ or potluck, it plays a side-kick role to the popular curry chicken. Just look at the price of beehoon as compared to the side dishes which are relatively more expensive. It is a staple easily forgotten by many yet plays an important role in our daily lives (or perhaps used to be).
Fried beehoon can be cooked easily at home and it's really up to individuals to cook it a variety of ways. Some like it plain and simple; some like to spice it up with lots of different ingredients; some enjoy it soft while others like it 'QQ' and springy.
I like the nostalgic "mum's taste" (妈妈的味道) beehoon cooked with canned stewed pork (红烧猪肉,扣肉). When the gravy from the canned stewed pork is fully absorbed by each strand of beehoon, it adds a very special aroma and always makes me go for more helpings :P. I can say that this is my comfort food just like cabbage rice (shall blog about that another time).
Fried beehoon (serves 3-4 persons)
  • 1/2 pack of beehoon (I usually buy 'Chilli' brand. Soak it in water until soft)
  • 1 can of stewed pork (Maling or Narcissus brand)
  • 1/2 cabbage, shredded (Those small size cabbage found in NTUC. Quantity according to preference)
  • 1/2 carrot, shredded (Quantity according to preference)
  • 2 pieces of fish cake, shredded
* Ingredients are up to individual preference, can also add beansprouts, dried shitake mushroom (pre-soaked until soft) etc.
  • Heat up the wok with oil, fry some garlic for fragrance.
  • Add cabbage, carrot and fish cake and stir fry until cabbage is slightly soft and turns translucent.
  • Add beehoon and stir fry.
  • Add stew pork bit by bit (not the gravy yet), breaking the pork to mix it with the beehoon and other ingredients.
  • Add the gravy from the can bit by bit, make sure not to add too much otherwise the beehoon will be too wet and oily. This is done according to estimation and preference. As the gravy is well seasoned and saltish already, no need to add any other sauce.
  • Stir fry the beehoon and ingredients thoroughly. I usually cut the beehoon with scissors while stirring (I like my beehoon this way, easier to fry and absorb the gravy).
  • Simmer for a while according to the texture of the beehoon before serving. Some like it soft, some like it QQ, some like it wet, some like it dry. I like mine not too soft, not too QQ, not too wet, not too dry.

08 April 2007

Diving in Pulau Redang - April 2007

Just came back from my first dive trip of 2007, a 5D4N stay at Pulau Redang, Malaysia. This time, hubby's colleague and his wife joined us and we had a great time together. Totally awesome trip with perfect sunny weather (only a 20-min passing shower one of the days)! Did 8 great dives and enjoyed ourselves tremendously :D

Day 1
Once again, we opted to travel by Berjaya Air and stay at Laguna Redang Beach Resort. After reaching the island, we wasted no time to check out the Dive Centre. Good to see familiar faces once again, the ever friendly and professional group of Dive Masters and Instructors - Hitomi, Chin, James, Jimmy, Saiful, Eaing (didn't see Sangi, Andrew around though). Immediately booked ourselves for the 4.30pm dive. Couldn't wait to plunge right into the clear blue waters that looked so inviting!
Dive 1, 5.15pm - Mak Cantik (Maxi Mount)
This was my 3rd time to Mak Cantik. The underwater coral garden looks ever so beautiful. We were greeted by large schools of Golden Trevally, Yellow Tail Barracudas and reef fishes upon descent; practically surrounded by fishes! Lots of lovely hard and soft corals, Angelfishes, Anemonefishes, Damselfishes, Fusiliers, Sweetlips, Seafans, Feather Stars... slightly choppy waters but underwater was ok. Great dive! Rested early for the night as we were going for the 8am dive the next day.
Day 2
Woke up to great sunshine, had light breakfast and headed straight for the 2nd dive.
Dive 2, 8.50am - Pulau Lima North (Big Mount)
Met with high waves and strong current; had to fin like crazy and hence a relatively short dive as we breathed hard to fight the current. Nevertheless dynamic dive site with amazing boulder formation. Spotted large Butterfly fishes, Bat fishes, stingray, lots of colorful Sea Fans.Tired after the dive, we decided to rest till the 2pm dive instead of going for the 10.30am one.

Managed to catch a short nap before going for lunch. Thereafter, we were all set for the 2pm dive.
Dive 3, 3pm - Terumbu Kili (South Point, "Fish Market")
Site was relatively calm as it is partially sheltered by Pulau Pinang. Descent to a beautiful coral garden; spotted large schools of barracudas, scorpion fish which was well camouflaged against a rock, blue-spotted stingray, big fat sea cucumbers, crown of thorns, yellow boxfish, Angelfishes, Batfishes, a lone large Titan Trigger (luckily it was a distance away); and just before our 3min/5m decompression stop, spotted a Blacktip Reef Shark swimming to and fro some corals!
Ended our dive for the day; strolled around the beachfront, had some snacks before snatching a nap again. We were there on holiday, remember?

Day 3
The next day, we woke up late and skipped the morning dives. Hopped over to Redang Beach Resort and found some beachfront foodstalls. What better way to start the day with a rich Ramly Burger, Keropok Lekor and Ice Milo? Having idled enough, prepared for the next 2 dives in the afternoon.
Dive 4, 2.40pm - Terumbu Kili (South Point, "Fish Market")
Great to re-visit the "fish market" with abundance marine life again. Saw a Moray Eel immediately after descent. In fact, saw another 2 big Moray Eels along the way. Once again schools of fishes like Yellow Tail Barracudas; also spotted Nudibranchs, Cushion Stars and finally a Hawksbill Turtle feeding off the corals!
Rested a bit and had a refreshing sour plum drink before going another dive. This sour plum drink was served as a welcome drink when we first arrived. We loved it so much that we ordered it every day there! And also asked the staff for the 'secret' recipe. Shall try to make it one of these days.
Dive 5, 5pm - Pulau Kerengga (Sting Ray Garden)
Lots of Anemones and Anemonefishes, sashaying along with the gentle current. Saw a large stingray hidden among the reefs after descent, couldn't make out how big it is, but I reckon at least 1.5 to 2m from head to tail. Spotted a few more blue-spotted stingrays and then this giant stingray resting at the sandy bottom. None of us dared to swim close, chose to stay a distance away lest this menacing and sinister-looking monster decide to stir. The tail alone is at least 2m long! No wonder this site is called Sting Ray Garden. Tip of the ice-berg, swam with a school of baby Yellow Tail Barracudas; at one point I was literally surrounded by them. Cool!
After 2 great dives, we rewarded ourselves with a sumptuous dinner. For this trip, we dined at the ala-carte restaurant most of the time; I guess we just want to relax as much as possible instead of jostling with the crowd for food at the buffet restaurant. The full board package we booked allow us to dine either buffet or ala-carte with a value of RM40 per pax (excluding drinks) which could really buy us a lot of food!

Day 4

Dive 6, 8.50am - Pulau Lima (Southern Tip)
Descent to a garden of lovely table corals. Saw many reef fishes, hard and soft corals; spotted Moray eels, Nudibranchs and just before ascent, a baby Hawksbill Turtle. Great dive once again!

Dive 7, 11.10am - Garden Eel Garden
As the sea was pretty choppy on the east coast of Redang, our Dive Masters took us to the west coast where water was very calm. For this dive, we were in search of Garden Eels. Unfortunately, we weren't sharp-eye enough and didn't see any. But we were fortunate to spot 2 Lionfish, Giant Clams, Gobyfish, Pipefish. Very relaxing dive.

Dive 8, 3pm - Tg Lebah (Beehive Point)
Last dive for the trip. This site is at the west coast of Redang with pretty calm waters. Relaxing dive; able to spot many small creatures like Nudibranchs, Razor Fish, Shrimp. Sea Snake; Moray eel, Sea Stars, Lion Fish and a pair of Unicorn Fish. If not for the 18 hour 'time to fly' rule, we really felt like doing more dives. Well, safety comes first. Enjoyed the rest of the day idling and relaxing.

Day 5
Woke up early to pack our dive gears, had breakfast before heading home. Couldn't bear to leave the island paradise; must go back again one of these days :p

P.S. Already itching for another dive trip. Pulau Tioman, Aur or Dayang perhaps :D
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