28 June 2011

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

I'm not really a cookie person. I seldom bake cookies and rarely buy them as I always think that cookies taste overly sweet and dry. When I do buy cookies, I tend to get sick of the taste after eating just a few pieces, so the whole pack usually ends up in the bin after being chucked into the darkest corner of the pantry till expiry date.

My toddler son seems to like cookies (is it a kids thing or what?). As far as possible, I try to buy organic cookies for him, but recently I thought of baking for him after coming across an Oatmeal Raisin Cookie recipe by Camemberu. She was raving about the cookies and I think to myself, maybe I should give it a go? Afterall, the recipe looks fairly simple and oatmeal is supposed to be wholesome.

She was so right! While the cookies were baking in the oven, I could already smell the heavenly aroma. After the cookies were done, they were still soft so I had to wait for them to cool completely. The wait certainly tested my patience! In the end, I couldn't care less and took one cookie while it was still lukewarm. Oooh, I must say, it was absolutely scrumptious!! I didn't know Oatmeal Raisin Cookie could taste this delicious? What have I been missing all these while? Even hubby loves it (he ate 5 at one go), needless to say my toddler too. As for me, all I can say it's so addictive that I kept going to the cookie jar and sneaked a cookie every now and then :p

I modified the recipe slightly. As the raisins are already very sweet, I reduced the sugars by about half and the cookies still turn out sweet. Probably I can try reducing the sugars further next time. I also made small size cookies (20g dough each instead of 50g) which are great for toddlers to hold. I also reduced the baking time so my cookie is crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. My family prefers this texture. For more crispy cookie, just increase the baking time. And oh, I must add, pair the cookies with milk, really nice! (Psst, do you like the glass jar? I got them from Tokyo. Kawaii right?)

OATMEAL RAISIN COOKIES (Makes About 57 small size cookies)

For original recipe, pls refer to Camemberu's blog.

  • 225g Unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 100g Caster sugar
  • 100g Light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs (60g with shell), at room temperature
  • 245g Plain flour
  • 1 tsp Baking soda
  • 1 tsp Sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp Freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp Ground cinnamon
  • 175g Rolled oats (not instant or quick-cooking type)
  • 240g Sundried sultanas/raisins (can use other dried fruits like cranberries)
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile in a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon, making sure there are no lumps of baking soda. Stir in the oats and raisins. Set aside.
  3. Add the eggs into the butter mixture, one at a time, and beat until thoroughly combined. On low speed, or by hand, gradually add the flour and oat mixture to the butter mixture, mixing until completely incorporated.
  4. Chill the batter a few hours or overnight, covered. Alternatively, chill the entire mixer bowl in the freezer compartment for an hour.
  5. To bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  6. Roll the dough into 20g balls and place them evenly spaced on the baking sheet. Flatten the cookies slightly with your hand. (I got about 20 cookies per baking sheet.)
  7. Bake the cookies for 15 minutes or 20 minutes for more crispy texture. (I find the cookies do not spread much, not sure if it's due to the chilling of the dough).
  8. Remove from oven and cool completely.
Storage: Once cool, the cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to three days. The dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week, or frozen for up to two months.

I packed a tub of cookies for dear friend C as I was meeting her for lunch. She told me later that the cookies were well received by her family =D Maybe I should consider selling them, since I'm already selling cupcakes. Any takers?

Anyways, now I take back my very first sentence of this post. I was not really a cookie person, until I met the right cookie!

P.S. I kept the cookies for more than 3 days. They turned a little soft, so I popped them into the oven for a few minutes. The outside became crispy once again with the inside still chewy. I love warm cookies!

23 June 2011

Tempat Senang Spa Resort, Batam

Past Sunday, hubby brought me to Tempat Senang Spa Resort in Batam for a full day spa retreat. I've never heard about this spa resort before and in fact was a little sceptical about the quality of treatment and service there. Hubby assured me that he heard good reviews about the spa from the internet, and after seeing their website I was more or less convinced. Anyway, it seems like a good deal, 6hr of spa treatments including lunch and land transfer (excluding ferry) at S$195+ per person during weekend (a 1hr spa treatment at full-fledge spa in SG could easily cost more than $80).

We took the 8am ferry from Harbourfront and reached Sekupang Ferry Terminal in less than an hour. A staff from the spa was already awaiting for us at the entrance.

The drive to the spa resort took about 10 minutes, the last part was in fact a bumpy dirt track. There wasn't even a signage indicating that we were approaching the resort. But it was a pleasant surprise when we reached, it is quite an exclusive resort set amidst lush gardens and next to a golf club, with a Balinese style architecture.

The reception area is safari-theme though.
We were led to the lounge at level 2 where the staff asked us to choose 6 treatments from the spa menu. There are basically massages, facials, scrubs, wraps, herbal compress etc. I chose 2 massages, 1 scrub, 1 wrap, 1 herbal compress and 1 ear candling.

While the spa therapists prepared the room, we roamed around the resort.
This is the entrance to a few of the suites. The resort has 7 theme suites like Bali Room, Sultan Room and etc. We peeped into a few of them and they looked quite nice. Probably we could come back another day for a proper vacation.

There's even a small plunge pool.
The spa treatment rooms are housed in a different building. This is the lounge area.
Our spa treatment room, simple furnishing with toilet, shower and bathtub.
For the morning part (9am to 12noon), I started with a massage, followed by ear candling then scrub. After a refreshing shower, we took a break for lunch.
The dining area is perched on the 2nd level of the main building, overlooking the golf club, very airy and comfortable.
Refreshing lime juice.
We could choose our lunch from a few selection like sandwiches, fried rice, pineapple rice and etc. We chose Nasi Campur which turned out to be an excellent choice! Very sumptuous indeed, there's beef rendang, curry chicken, vegetable popiah, grilled prawn and gado gado. The popiah and curry chicken were nicely cooked, gado gado with the peanut sauce refreshing, only the beef redang was a little tough.

After the sumptuous lunch, we strolled around before proceeding back to continue the rest of the treatments. In the afternoon (1pm to 4pm), I did a wrap, massage and lastly, herbal compress. After end of the treatments, took transport back to ferry terminal and caught the 5pm ferry back to SG.

Overall, the spa treatments were quite good and the therapists relatively skillful. My favourites were the massage, ear candling and herbal compress. But 6hr could be a little overdose. Both of us felt like a marinated piece of meat at the end of the 6 treatments! I think if we were to return, half-day package should suffice. Anyways, we were glad to discover this hidden gem in Batam, and would recommend friends to give it a try.

20 June 2011

Pumpkin Chicken Soup

Dear son loves soup very much! So much so that if he sees the soup before the rice, he would insist on drinking the soup and refuse to eat his rice. So every time, I had to hide his soup, make sure he ate at least half portion of rice before allowing him to drink soup. And he finds drinking soup using spoon to slow. Initially he would obligingly drink from the spoon and after a few mouths, he would ditch the spoon and lift up the entire bowl to drink! His lack of table manners irks me but he simply ignores my repeated requests to use the spoon -_-" What to do? Hope that this would be just a passing phase.

Anyways, given his love of soup, I would try to cook nourishing and nutritious double-stewed soups at least 3 times a week. Recently, I even bought a cook book on double-stewed soups so that I can have more variety as I have ran out of ideas what soup to cook for him.

This is the first time I use pumpkin in soup, didn't occur to me before that pumpkin could be use in soup. Glad that I did, as the soup turned out to be very sweet. Dear son enjoyed the soup very much and asked for many helpings :)

Pumpkin is nutritious contains rich sources of carbohydrates, vitamins, proteins, a variety of amino acids and fats. It helps to improve qi, eliminates pain and has anti-inflammation properties.

  • 500g pumpkin (remove seeds, leave skin intact)
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 10 red dates
  • 1/2 kampong chicken (may be replaced by pork of beef)
  • Some sea salt to taste
  1. Put all the ingredients into 3L of hot water, bring to boil.
  2. Reduce to low heat and cook for 4 hours.
  3. Add seasoning if required. Serve hot.
*Usually if I have leftover soup, I would strain the ingredients and stock the soup into ice cubes for cooking porridge.

17 June 2011

Pandan Chiffon Cake (after a long hiatus)

I couldn't remember the last time I baked a Pandan Chiffon Cake. It must be at least one or two years ago? I could only recall it was really a messy affair trying to extract fresh pandan juice from pandan leaves and from then on, I sort of shun away from making this cake and opt for the Orange Chiffon which was easier.

Anyway, had this sudden urge last week so I attempted this cake again. Surprisingly I found the entire process easier than before and it was in fact a breeze baking it, even the part on extracting the pandan juice. Probably I've gained more experienced in baking these few years and thus better prepared.

The chiffon turned out nicely, moist and fluffy, with lovely tastes of coconut and hint of pandan. Yums!

Pandan Chiffon Cake(Shiok! Exciting Tropical Asian Flavors by Terry Tan and Christopher Tan)

Serves 8-10
Cooking time: 1 hour
Preparation time: 20 mins

  • 60 pandan leaves
  • 75ml (1/4 cup) plus 1 tablespoon thick coconut milk (I use Kara)
  • 7 egg yolks (I use Chews 60g egg with shell)
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) vegetable oil
  • 225g (8oz) cake flour (I use Prima)
  • 300g (10 ½ oz) caster sugar (I use Billingtons unrefined cane sugar)
  • 1½ teaspoon baking powder (I use Phoon Huat double-action)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 8 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1. Preheat oven to 165°C (325°F). Have ready a dry, ungreased 23cm (9-in) round chiffon cake pan.
2. Snip pandan leaves into short lengths with scissors, then blend in a mini-chopper or food processor for a few minutes, until reduced to a grassy pulp. Transfer pulp to a muslin cloth or fine sieve and squeeze for juice. Measure out 115ml of juice (if not enough, make up difference with water) into a bowl, add coconut milk, egg yolks, and vegetable oil and whisk until smooth. Set aside.

3. Sift cake flour into a large mixing bowl. Add 225g of the sugar, baking powder, and salt and whisk well to blend, then add egg yolk mixture and whisk until smooth.

4. In a clean, grease-free bowl, beat egg whites with cream of tartar at high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in remaining 75g of sugar, beating just until stiff peaks start to form. Fold egg whites into batter in three additions, folding just until incorporated (a few thin white streaks are okay). Pour batter into pan, level surface with spatula, and bake for 55 to 60 mins. Cake is done when an inserted thin skewer comes out clean.

5. Invert cake onto a rack and leave to cool upside down in the pan. Cut around edge and base with a thin-bladed knife to release cake from pan. Slice to serve.

11 June 2011

Roast Pork with Spicy Caramel Apple

There's currently a magazine talk-show called Ladies' Nite on Channel U hosted by TCS artistes Michelle Chong and Vivian Lai every Tuesday night, which talks about trends and tips on beauty, fashion, health, fitness as well as cooking. In the latest episode, I was deeply captivated by one of the recipes featured, Roast Pork with Spicy Caramel Apple. It looked so yummy that all I could think of the next few days was this dish! We'll forget about our promise to cut down on fats and bad cholesterol temporarily okay :p

The recipe called for 2kg of pork belly which is a huge slab of meat! So I cut down the portion by half and even then, we couldn't possibly finish 1kg of meat between the 2 of us. Well, we could always keep the leftovers for stir fry veg with roast pork or roast pork, cabbage and tofu pot.

The method of cooking is a little different from my previous attempt, the chef actually baked the pork belly in a water bath (together with some onion, carrot, cinnamon stick and star anise). I guess this would probably make the pork more succulent and juicy? The chef also recommended scoring the skin with a pen knife which I found it to be quite difficult as the skin was so tough (Psst... should I invest in a pricking tool :p). The amount of salt used was alarming as well, but was supposedly required to make the skin crispy.

This photo was taken after 90 mins of roasting, where the pork belly skin didn't seem ready. So I sent it back to the oven for another 20 mins.

Tadah! My roast pork belly all ready to be eaten! The skin was really crispy but too salty! Probably I should have tried to scrap off some salt before eating? Or use less salt? Would that affect the crispiness of the skin? Or probably get a proper pricking tool so that I could use less salt? Anyways, the meat was juicy and succulent as it absorbed the flavours from the onion, carrot and spices well.

And oh yes, this was the spicy caramel apple sauce which complemented the roast pork really well. Initially I was doubtful about making this sauce but glad that I made it as the sweetness and tinge of spiciness brought out the flavours of the roast pork.

Here's the recipe based on half portion. Original recipe can be found in the Ladies' Nite website.

Roast pork with Spicy Caramel Apples
  • 1 kg pork belly
  • 1 tbsp salt (The recipe stated not to cut down the amount as it helps to make the skin crispy but I really found it too salty after using this amount)
  • 1/2 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1/2 tsp five spice powder
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  1. Score the skin with a pen knife, you can also use a pricking tool if you have one.
  2. Rub salt all over the skin. Mix the remaining ingredients together and rub it on the meat side only.
  3. Leave it uncovered in the fridge overnight to marinate.
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tbsp salt (again, the salt is important as it makes the skin crispy)
  • 2 cloves of garlic crushed (I didn't reduce amount for this)
  • 1 star anise (I didn't reduce amount for this)
  • 1 quill cinnamon bark (I didn't reduce amount for this)
  • 1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped (I didn't reduce amount for this)
  • 1 carrot, coarsely chopped (I didn't reduce amount for this)
  • Water
  1. Remove the pork from the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for at least 30 mins (fridge very cold). Rub the oil and salt into the skin.
  2. Use a deep roasting tray or oven proof container that fit the belly almost exactly. Add the onion, garlic, carrots, star anise and cinnamon to the tray. Place the pork on top and add enough water until the meat is covered, be careful not to cover the skin and fat layer.
  3. Roast at 200°C for 90 mins. Depending on the size of the meat, it may need another 30 minutes. (I roasted the meat for another 20 mins). Let the meat rest for 10 to 15 minutes before carving.
Spicy caramel apples

  • 2.5 green apples, cut into wedges Green apples are tart which is great with the sweet caramel
  • 1/8 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  1. Melt the butter with the sugar, adding a few drops of water if necessary.
  2. Add the apple wedges and cook on moderately high fire until the sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. Be sure to stir occasionally otherwise will be overcooked.

03 June 2011

Strawberry Hearts

I made this sweet sweet strawberry hearts last Friday night. Initial intention was just to bake the luncheon meat soft bun over the weekend but suddenly had this itch to try the recipe learnt during Chef Valerie's class. So after dear son fell asleep, I quickly made my way to Sheng Siong supermarket near my place to grab the ingredients I don't have like strawberries, digestive biscuits, cream cheese & jelly. There were only 2 punnets of strawberries left on the shelf. Earlier in the day when I went for my grocery shopping, there were still quite a few punnets. Luckily they looked okay and should be enough for the recipe.

The recipe itself is quite simple being a no-bake recipe, broken down into 4 steps - (1) biscuit base, (2) cheese filling, (3a & 3b) heart-shaped strawberries and finally (4) strawberry jelly top to be completed the next day (or minimum 3hr) after step 3.

But the thing is it wasn't as simple as I thought. I fumbled upon the first step of prepping the container with aluminum foil. I used plastic rectangle container as suggested (alternative is removable base tin) and had some trouble lining the foil neatly. Biscuit base was straight forward, I crushed the biscuits using an electric chopper to save time. Then, spread the biscuit crumbs into the container, press firmly and chill for later use.

Before proceeding to step 2, I did part (a) of step 3 first - washed and cut the strawberries into heart-shape. Care must be taken to cut the strawberries properly else the result won't be as pretty, coz the heart shapes might not be visible. There were a few not done properly but I didn't have much choice due to the limited number of strawberries I could get.

Then step 2, mixing the cheese filling. I think I didn't cream the cheese long enough, resulting in small lumps in the cheese after adding the gelatin. After mixing for a long time, finally the mixture looked creamy & smooth enough but still had a little bit of lumps, so I decided to sieve the mixture. After sieving, pour the cheese filling into the trays.

Next up was part (b) of step 3, place the  the strawberries to the cheese filling. When Chef Valerie said to prepare extra strawberries in case of accident, she was right! I dropped the strawberries by accident into the cheese filling a few times. Butter fingers. Haha.

Anyways, once this step was done, I could rest till the next day for the strawberry jelly. Phew!!

The next day was pretty straight forward, melt the strawberry jelly, let it cool down, then pour into the container carefully until all the strawberries were covered. But not sure what happened, some jelly leaked from one of the container. Maybe I overfilled the jelly. After clearing up, no harm done. I left them to chill and after a couple of hours, tadah!!! My strawberry hearts! They looked not bad at all.
Noticed a bit of speckles on the jelly. My bad, didn't clean the knife properly after each cut.

Still they looked pretty & sweet, and tasted yummy! Dear son loves them very much! I guess I would be making them occasionally as a special treat.