Molasses carrot cake

Molasses Carrot Cake

After watching a few episodes of Top Chef: Just Desserts (in between surfing, knitting and reviews on patagonia ultralight down shirts), I suddenly have a craving for carrot cake but I wanted something that the kids, specifically Noah, could enjoy. This meant no dairy and only ingredients that he is familiar with.

So after hunting around my recipe books and the Internet, I decided to improvise on the simplest recipe I could find – the one by Betty Crocker. I was intrigued by the low calorie option although the idea of using just 1 egg and 4 egg whites didn’t go down too well. So I just stuck with replacing 1/2 cup of oil with applesauce. Then I had the strangest idea – I wanted a dark, nearly toffee-like smelling cake so why not use the molasses I bought a while back? I usually like my cakes to be on the less-sweet side so I cut back on the sugar and sub 1/4 cup of the stuff for molasses.

The result is a moist, semi-light cake that reminds me a lot of Christmas and fruit cakes. Perhaps it’s the spices I used – cinnamon and nutmeg. It’s not a bad thing…in fact, I like it. I can’t really remember what carrot cakes are supposed to taste like – the ones I had in Malaysia always taste like buttercream more than carrot OR butter cake with carrot bits in it. The only change I would make would be to shred the carrots by hand as they appear to be too large – I used a food processor – but after looking at it again, it doesn’t seem to be all that bad.

Molasses carrot cake
Adapted from Betty Crocker’s Carrot Cake recipe.

Ingredients

3 cups shredded carrot (about four medium sized carrots)
2 cups self-rising flour
1 cup dessicated coconut (optional; you can sub with chopped nuts, raisins and other dried fruit)
Slight less than 3/4 brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup olive oil
4 medium eggs
1 tbsp coconut milk
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp nutmeg powder
1 tsp vanilla essence

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 170°C and put aside a greased loaf pan or square pan.
  2. Mix the eggs, sugar, oil, applesauce and molasses until well combined before adding in the flour, vanilla essence, cinnamon and nutmeg powder. Stir until just lumpy.
  3. Fold in the coconut, coconut milk and shredded carrots. Mix well.
  4. When ready, pour into your pan and bake for 30-45 mins – test using a toothpick (it should come out clean if cooked).
  5. Leave to cool in the oven with the door ajar for 10 mins before removing it from the oven. Cool in the pan for an hour before removing it to place on the rake. Enjoy on its own or with frosting if you like
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Homemade soy milk & soy pudding

Recently, I started thinking of making my own soy milk as the ones available for sale here contain only 6-11% soy. They were marketed as soy drinks/water rather than soy milk and I felt that they just lacked the soy flavour that comes from soy milk that we get back in Malaysia.

My initial hunt on the Internet churned out recipes that used a soy machine but I wasn’t keen on spending €100 minimum on something which I wasn’t consuming on a regular basis. Then I discovered that I had the recipe for homemade soy milk all along in one of my Asian cookbooks. So it was off to get a blender and some soy beans. I found a good deal on a no-name housebrand style blender for €20 and some organic hulled soy beans at the organic shop where I go to regularly to get my supply of grains, legumes and sugar.

Operation Soy Milk-Pudding finally started!

I soaked the beans yesterday afternoon in cold water and changed the water again before I went to bed. This morning, when I woke up, the water was less cloudy and the beans were quite soft. With Noah watching me in the high chair – we had just finished breakfast – I set to work on grinding up beans with clean drinking water until they resemble a paste or thick batter of some sort. I ground the beans up twice to ensure that I broken the beans down to a fine paste which would mean that I would be able to get more “milk” out of them.

Now here’s the tough part. I squeezed out every single drop of soy milk from the okara (the soy bean pulp) by hand with the aid of an unused cotton cloth nappy. The okara is placed aside; I plan to oven dry it and keep it as a flour to be used in baked goods as okara is high in calcium, iron and other nutrients. The resulting milk is then placed over the stove top to boil and cook – important as crude soy milk don’t go down very well.

(If you have a soy milk maker, you won’t have to do all this as some machines can churn out milk with just dry soy beans. But we all know why I don’t have a soy milk maker!)

The result is a very nice and creamy soy milk that isn’t too thick. It doesn’t have much of a taste to it – maybe because I didn’t add a lot of pandan essence (I wanted to retain the natural soy flavour) but sweetening it with agave syrup or honey made it much more palatable!

Homemade soy milk

Homemade soy milk

Ingredients

250 gms yellow soy beans
1.5 liters water
1-2 drops of pandan/vanilla essence / some fresh pandan leaves

Method

  1. Soak the beans in cold water overnight or for 8 hours minimum. I did it for around 16 hours just to be on the safe side. When ready, wash and remove any debris or skin. Place aside.
  2. Blend the beans together with some water in a food processor or blender until the beans are finely ground and form a paste or thick batter. Add more water into the blender if necessary. Repeat until all the beans are ground – this takes about three tries. When they are done, blend the paste again to ensure a good fine grind.
  3. Using a cheesecloth or muslin (I used traditional white cotton nappies which are made from cotton muslin), squeeze out the liquid from the soy paste. Patience is a virtue at this stage. Place aside the okara (ground soy bean pulp) as it can be used as a flour or in omelettes, etc.
  4. When ready, heat the soy milk over a medium fire until it comes to a boil. Add in the pandan/vanilla essence or fresh leaves and turn the fire down to allow the milk to simmer. Continue to cook the milk on low heat for at least 15 minutes.
  5. Once ready, place the milk aside to cool and store in the fridge. You can serve this with some sugar, syrup or honey to add sweetness to it.

NOTE: Because this is homemade and do not contain any preservatives, please consume within 48 hours.

This is a recipe for a soy pudding or tau foo fah with a twist. Instead of making tau foo fah with gypsum powder or GDL (Glucono delta-lactone) – I can’t seem to find them here in Dole (I might have better luck in Lyon) – I made mine with agar agar, the vegetarian sister of gelatin. I didn’t really follow any recipe but instead just the instructions at the back of the packet.

The resulting pudding is a little firmer than what I would like it to be and I did forget to remove the “skin” off the surface as it was cooling down. Still, it makes for a nice dessert, especially when paired with the ginger sugar syrup that I made. For the syrup, I used a mixture of sugars that I have at home. Do note that coconut sugar isn’t the same as palm sugar. Coconut sugar is made from the coconut flower bud whereas palm sugar is made from the sap of the palm. Coconut sugar has a very lovely fragrant and dark honey colour to it and I find it to rival the flavour of palm sugar.

Noah had a few spoonfuls of this and was screaming for more when the bowl was empty! I reckon it’s the fragrant, smooth yet textured feel of the soy pudding that he likes.

Soy pudding / Tau foo fah

Soy pudding

Ingredients

(A) Pudding
600 ml soy milk (see recipe above)
1/2 tbsp agar agar

(B) Ginger syrup
1″ ginger, thinly sliced
25 gms white sugar
30 gms brown sugar
50 gms coconut sugar
10 gms palm sugar
Approx 30 ml water

Method

  1. In a pot, heat up 300 ml soy milk until it begins to simmer. Add in the agar agar and stir well. Add the remainder of the soy milk and bring the mixture to a boil for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Remove from the heat and pour into a mould, ramekins or pan of your choice using a sieve. Place aside for a few minutes to cool before removing the “skin” (a skin would form over the surface – you could leave it as it’s edible but for appearance sake, it looks better removed).
  3. Allow the mixture to set – about 2-4 hours – before placing it in the fridge.
  4. Place all the ingredients for the syrup in a small pot and slowly heat over a medium-low fire until the sugar has dissolved. Use a whisk to stir and incorporate the sugar with the water.
  5. Once the mixture bubbles, turn down to a low heat and allow it to simmer for a further 5 minutes. Be careful not to let it come to a boil.
  6. When ready, remove and store in a clean, glass jar. Allow the syrup to cool before storing it in the fridge.
  7. Serve your soy pudding with drizzles of the syrup – it goes down well hot or cold.
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Pandan chiffon cake

Eva enjoying some pandan chiffon cake!

On a whim, I decided to try my hand at making a pandan chiffon cake for the first time (people posting pictures of their chiffon cakes while I’m working on mens diamond rings reviews don’t help!). I wanted another flavour – lemon or orange – but didn’t have any on hand. Despite my pandan plant looking really sad, I was reluctant to lob off some leaves so have decided to use pandan paste and essence I purchased during my last trip to Paris Store in Lyon.

A quick search on google yield a lot – in fact, too many – results and I had to slowly go through them to pick them right ones. I finally settled for three and adapted my recipe to suit the chiffon cake tins I had stocked up on when we were packing to move from Singapore. They are mini chiffon cake tins from Phoon Huat – about 6-7″ in diameter – and because of their size, I had to halve the recipe…which required further time expanded into calculating and making sure I had everything I needed.

The result is an edible cake that is quite fragrant but still lacking in original flavour and taste. If you have access to real pandan leaves (about 10-20 small-medium sized leaves with 1/4 cup water should do the trick) and freshly squeezed coconut milk, USE IT. For someone who has no access to such luxuries these days, I’d have to settle for a twin. Someone isn’t really complaining tho (as you can see in the picture above) – she wolfed down a good three slices!

Pandan chiffon cake

Pandan chiffon cake
Adapted from Little Teochew, Kitchen Tigress and Kuali.com

Ingredients

(A) Egg yolk based batter

3 egg yolks (from large eggs)
35 gms coconut milk
1-2 tsp pandan essence/paste
75 gms all purpose flour/cake flour
2 gms baking powder
45 gms castor sugar (drop this to 40 gms – I find it a little on the sweet side)
1-2 gms salt (do not omit as this contributes to the flavour)
42 gms grapeseed oil/vegetable oil

(B) Meringue base
4 egg whites (from large eggs)
50 gms sugar (drop this to 45 gms)
1/4 tsp cream of tartar

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 160°C and put aside an ungreased chiffon cake tin. I used two mini chiffon cake tins but this should be okay for a big 15-18 cm tin, if you have one
  2. Separate the egg whites from the egg yolk. Place the egg whites in a separate clean and dry bowl and put aside for later use.
  3. Mix the egg yolk, sugar, coconut milk and pandan essence/paste well. Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add in the oil as you’re folding in the flour. Be careful not to overbeat. I usually do this by hand. When it’s done, put aside.
  4. Add the cream of tartar to the egg whites and whisk until foamy before gradually adding in the sugar – take your time. Do not dump all the sugar at once; this will result in clumps and lumps forming. Beat your egg whites until they resemble stiff peaks (you can lift the whisk and the egg whites will hold its own shape OR place the bowl over your head – if you don’t have a mess on your hair, you’re good to go!).
  5. Take a small amount of egg whites and fold it into the egg yolk batter. Use a spatula – not a whisk or wooden spoon. Be gentle and take your time. Once the egg whites are well-incorporate and your batter has been “tempered”, add in the remaining egg whites. Fold gently until they are well-incorporated.
  6. Slowly pour into the cake tins; jiggle the cake tin A LITTLE to ensure that everything is level (no banging please) and level and smooth the top if necessary.
  7. Place the cake tins on the lowest rake, lower the temperature to 150°C and bake for 45 minutes. When ready, immediately remove from the oven and invert it – I turn it upside down and placed it over glass jars. The higher it is from the table, the better. Let it cool for 30 minutes to an hour and remove with a serrated knife.

NOTE: Chiffon cakes don’t keep for long as they tend to dry out fast so this is best eaten fresh. If you must keep it, consider wrapping it in foil and storing in the fridge or placing it in an airtight container.

Pandan chiffon cake

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Pineapple & cashew nut pilaf

Pineapple & cashew nut pilaf

This rather simple recipe is great for vegetarians and makes a fine dish on its own or as a side dish. We had this as a main dish for lunch and then had enough leftovers to turn this into a side dish for dinner – it went along wonderfully with some beef stew.

Versatile yet flavourful – you can add other vegetables like peas, carrots, etc – you can also adapt this for a rice cooker. Just toss everything together, pour (the rice, pineapples, vegetables, everything except the stock) into the rice cooker and add in the stock. Start your rice cooker and wait!

Pineapple & cashew nut pilaf
From Mini Cookbooks’ Asian Rice Dishes

Ingredients

90 gms butter
1 small pineapple – cubed
3 tbsp raisins
Some spring onions – chopped
75 gms cashew nuts
1 tbsp coriander seeds – coarsely crushed
1/4 tsp paprika powder
1 medium sized capsicum – cubed
360 gms basmati rice – washed, soaked in cold water for 30 mins and drained
625 ml stock
4 hard boiled eggs – peeled
Salt to taste

Method

  1. Melt half the butter in a wok over moderate heat. When foam appears, add the pineapples and raisins and fry for 2-3 minutes or until they turn slightly light golden brown. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  2. Melt the remaining butter in the wok over moderate heat and add the spring onions. Cook until golden brown before adding in the coriander seed, paprika powder, capsicum and cashew nuts. Fry for about 3-4 minutes and stir occasionally.
  3. Add the rice and salt and continue cooking while stirring occasionally for 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in the pineapples and raisins, then add the stock and bring to the boil. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to low and cook for 20-25 minutes or until the rice is tender and all the liquid has been absorbed.
  5. Adjust the seasoning if necessary and remove from the heat. Serve with the hard boiled eggs as a side dish or a main dish.
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Chunky chocolate chip cookies with almonds & cocoa nibs

Chunky chocolate chip cookies with almond and cocoa nibs

Quick to whip up and perfect for those times when you’re craving for something chocolate-y and sweet!

Chunky chocolate chip cookies with almonds & cocoa nibs
Adapted from Betty Crocker’s Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe

Ingredients

3/4 cup palm sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
1 cup margarine/butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg
2 1/4 cup self-rising flour
3-4 tbsp cocoa powder
1 cup chopped almonds
1/2 cup dark chocolate chip pieces
1/2 cup roughly chopped dark chocolate pieces
Slightly under 1/4 cup cocoa nibs

Method

  1. Preheat the oven at 180°C and prepare cookie sheets or baking trays.
  2. Beat the sugars, butter, vanilla and egg with a wooden spoon before adding in the flour and cocoa powder. The dough will be stiff so be prepared to use some arm muscle. Stir in the nuts, chocolate chips & pieces as well as the cocoa nibs.
  3. On an ungreased cookie sheet or baking tray, drop the dough by rounded tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart.
  4. Bake 8-10 minutes (centers will be soft) before removing it from the oven. Cool for 1-2 minutes and remove from the cookie sheet to rest on a wire rack. Once cool, store in an airtight container.
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Three mushroom pasta

Three mushroom pasta

We have been on a diet/lifestyle change for the past one week, thanks to influence from my sister-in-law’s family. It’s a “meat once a day” rule which means that out of the three meals we eat, only one of it will have meat – either lunch or dinner. The other two meals will be strictly just vegetables and fruit with grains and/or dairy. Hopefully it’ll help with trimming the waistline – that reminds me; I need to check out thule bike racks for the bikes in our garage. Hm.

For someone like me who grew up eating more meat than vegetables and had meat with every meal (breakfast, lunch AND dinner), it’s quite something to adjust to but I took it in my stride. For me, the challenge was more on coming up with vegetarian dishes rather than downing them. So far, I made ratatouille, stir fried eggplant, vegetable curry, salad, and soup (Western-styled) but am fast running out of ideas. Luckily I placed an order for a vegetarian cookbook – I’m in dire need of something like that as my bookshelf has a lot of recipes on one pot meals, kid’s meals, world cuisine (italian, etc), cakes & other bakes and just about anything other than vegetables!

After some thought, I decided to churn out some mushroom pasta. There was some lovely girolles (a kind of forest mushroom) for sale. At first I wanted to make an omelette with it but we had some meat for lunch (I forgot what it was!) so I decided on a mushroom pasta. Took me a while to hunt around for another type of mushroom on top of the button mushroom we had in the fridge.

Once I found what I wanted, it was a matter of prepping and then cooking them. Eva was excited at seeing a big basket of mushrooms as we had gone mushroom hunting during the summer holidays which allowed her to see where and how people used to get wild mushrooms instead of just harvesting them from a farm. The mushrooms were washed and roughly sliced up before being cooked with some garlic, onions and a Provence herb mix. A little fish sauce was added to finish it up.

The result is some very yummy mushroom pasta that was finished up in no time!

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Mixed berry sorbet

Mixed Berry Sorbet

Summer has been knocking on our door for a while now and I finally succumbed to the call of the sorbetiere or ice cream machine. A picnic outside on wooden tables and such wouldn’t be complete without some ice cream! With the summer sales still going on, I took the plunge and bought a housebrand ice cream machine with the intention of making my own sorbets. Commercial sorbets have gelling agents which I’m not a big fan of and some have milk or soy components which I can’t take. Homemade, it would appear, is the best route for me and my elimination diet.

Since berries are in season, I decided on a mixed berry sorbet – raspberry, blackberry, strawberry and blackcurrants. I based on my recipe loosely on the one I found here and replaced the lemon juice & zest with my recently harvested orange-ginger fruit enzyme, orange flower water and vanilla extract. To make this sorbet even more unique and flavourful, I used a mix of sugars – 1/2 cup white sugar, nearly 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup palm sugar – to give it a less “refined” taste that comes with white sugar. For the mix of berries, I settled for 1/2 cup raspberry, 1/2 cup blackberry, 1/2 cup black currants and 1.5 cups strawberries.

First impressions on the ice cream machine
Cooling the bowl is very important. Preferably over 12 hours and if you can wait for 24 hours, that would be even better. The ice cream base has to very cold so that means sitting out in the fridge for the night. Because of the above timing, I’d make my base around the same time as I’d chuck the ice cream bowl in the freezer to freeze.

Then when churning the ice cream, try to keep the bowl/machine cool so this means working away from heat sources and in the coolest room possible. I covered my bowl with towels to help keep the cold in and since today was a chilly day, I left the windows open too.

If all else fails and the ice cream still doesn’t set, then have no fear, resort to old fashioned way and process it with a hand mixer or whip. You won’t have to repeat it a few times tho – maybe just once and it’ll be good to go!

Home-made blueberry ice cream
Based loosely on Tartelette’s recipe here
Ingredients

3 cups berries
1 cup sugar
1 3/4 cup water
1/4 cup fruit enzyme (orange)
1/4 cup orange flower water
A dash of vanilla

Method

  1. Wash all the berries and toss in a large pot with the other ingredients. Bring to a boil before simmering for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, blend (and strain if you don’t like to have bits and pieces – personally, I think it adds a nice texture to the sorbet) and chill overnight. Cooling is important especially if you’re using an ice cream machine so the mix has to be cold.
  2. Process according to your ice cream machine’s instructions.
  3. If you’re not using an ice cream machine, place the chilled mix in a container (leave room for expansion) and place in the freezer. After two hours (or when the edge has set), remove from the freeze and beat in a food processor/mixer or using a hand mixer or fork until it is smooth. Repeat this at least twice.
  4. Leave your ice cream (machine- or hand-made) to set in the freezer for at least a few hours (at least six to eight hours). Dish out as it is or decorate with some fresh berries or fruit.
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Tangy Fruit Enzyme – Part II

Harvested fruit enzyme!

That’s not my original fruit enzyme. The original fruit enzyme didn’t turn out well – there were black spots on the top and after two weeks, I wasn’t confident about the results so I started a new fruit enzyme with just oranges, lemon, kiwi and some ginger.

I made some adjustments this time around to the quantity of sugar and honey. I used about 300-400 gms of sugar and three heaped tablespoons of honey (only on the surface) for 4 medium sized oranges, 2 lemons and about four to five kiwis. With the advice of a friend in mind, after I finished layering the fruits and before adding in the sugar, I pressed down to remove as much air and space as possible from each layer, making it ultra compact.

The result is an orange-kiwi fruit enzyme that smells yeasty (hubby thought I made beer!) yet had a delicious orange taste to it. Very refreshing! I drink mine with some water although you can take it neat. After we finish with this, I might make a strawberry-lemon enzyme just to see how it would taste!

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