Lasagna a la Bolognaise

Lasagna a la bolognaise

It’s lasagna day in my house! It’s my first time making lasagna…
C’est le jour de lasagne chez moi! C’est la premier fois que je fait de lasagne…

…while it is still not too bad for a first try, I hate the way the lasagna falls apart when it’s served. Nil reckons it has everything to do with me not using the béchamel sauce; well, I had decided to try a little something different with all the cheese in the fridge.

Then there is the bolognaise sauce – I think there’s too much liquid but Nil thinks it’s just nice. O’well…he cleaned his plate; that surely must be a sign of something, no?

Lasagna a la Bolognaise

Ingredients
Approximately 12 lasagna pieces
800 gms ground beef
Can of tomato sauce
6 medium size tomatoes – diced
1/2 of neuchatelois sausage – diced
2 tablespoons of tomato pesto sauce
Freshly grated cheeses – parmesan, appenzella, superchoix, tête de moine
Mozzarella or pizza cheese mix
1 beef stock cube
Onions – finely diced
Garlic – minced
Rosemary
Oregano
Black pepper
Salt
Olive oil

Method

  1. Saute onions and garlic with some olive oil in a pot until soft. Add in the diced sausage and fry until slightly crispy.
  2. Throw in a couple of pinches of rosemary and oregano before adding the ground beef. Stir until almost cook.
  3. Add in the tomato sauce, chopped tomatoes and stir. Prepare some beef stock by mixing the stock cube in some water.
  4. Pour the stock in, add more oregano and rosemary, some black pepper and salt to taste. Cover and simmer until the sauce thickens. Once it does, turn off the fire.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare lasagna sheets by cooking them in boiling water (add salt as well). Once cook, drain and wash with cold water to prevent the sheets from sticking. Place aside.
  6. Preheat the oven at 180 C for 15 minutes.
  7. In a small rectangular pan, arrange a layer of pasta sheets at the bottom. Place the meat sauce on top and cover with another layer of pasta.
  8. Generously sprinkle a layer of the grated cheeses before covering with another layer of pasta. Top this layer with meat and cover with the final layer of pasta.
  9. Generously sprinkle a layer of mozzarella or pizza mix cheese before adding some grated parmesan on the top.
  10. Bake for 30 minutes and serve hot/warm.

NOTE: There will be a good amount of sauce leftover, which can be packed and used with other types of pasta.

Yes, I think I’ll try to start off my blog posts with a couple of French sentences from now on. It’ll help…I hope.

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Roast lamb & potatoes

Roast lamb and potatoes

It has been quite some time since I last had lamb and since the local store had a sale off lamb, we decided to buy a whole chunk suitable for only one thing – roast lamb – and nothing else. Of course, I could slice them into thinner bits... But I had been hankering to try my hand at roasting something.

Yup, this is my first try at roasting ANYTHING, much or less lamb, and it was a pleasant surprise. Nil enjoyed every last bit – he has decided to take the rest for lunch tomorrow!

Roast lamb and potatoes

Ingredients
Approximately 300gms (or more) lamb (shoulder/chunk/leg)
Coarse black pepper
Salt
Half a lemon
Two sprigs of rosemary
Potatoes for two

Method

  1. Score the surface of the lamb in a crisscross manner and pat dry.
  2. Prepare the marinate by crushing black pepper, salt and rosemary in a mortar. Sprinkle all over the lamb and rub into the flesh.
  3. Dump the lamb into a ziplock bag/container and squeeze out the lemon juice onto the lamb. Throw the lemon into the bag/container.
  4. Set aside in the refrigerator for at least 1.5 hours.
  5. Prepare the potatoes by washing them clean and then wrapping them in aluminum foil.
  6. Preheat the oven at 200 C for 15 minutes. Place the lamb in a pan and cover with foil before putting it the oven to bake for 30 minutes.
  7. After 30 minutes, remove the foil, baste and brush some honey onto the surface before putting it back into the oven. Turn the temperature down to 170 C.
  8. Bake for 1 to 1.5 hours; remember to baste and turn the lamb every 30 minutes.
  9. In the last 1 hour, place the potatoes at the bottom of the oven. When done, turn off the oven and set the lamb and potatoes aside to rest.
  10. Approximately 15-30 minutes before serving, remove the foil from the potatoes and quarter them. Place the potatoes in the same pan as the lamb and place in an oven with the grill option turned on (to help brown potatoes).
  11. Once the potatoes brown, dish out and serve with mustard, pepper and salt to taste.

Ohyes, I made some changes to the text style in the photos…just because it’s going to be spring…and warm…and well, flowers everywhere!!!

Roast lamb in detail

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Honey Apple Pie

Honey apple pie

There is just something about the smell of warm apples + hot butter during a cold, very windy and extremely wet wintery day. It’s my first try – this lattice apple pie with a twist – and as it bakes, I can just fall in love with the smells permeating my little studio apartment.

Again, all ingredients listed here are in estimated quantities – my kitchen equipment have yet to leave Malaysia. O’well…

Honey Apple Pie

Ingredients
(A) Filling
5 medium sized apples (in this case, I used Pinova Apples)
Some salt water to prevent the apples from browning
Two heaped tablespoons of honey

(B) Pastry (all measurements stated are approximates)
200gms flour
150gms butter
Ice cold water + 1 heaped teaspoon of honey (mix well)

Method

  1. Wrap the butter in aluminum foil and freeze for 30 to 45 minutes.
  2. Prepare the flour in a separate mixing bowl. Using a grater, coarsely grate the butter (the aluminum foil will help keep the butter from melting) into the flour mix.
  3. Using a spoon or spatula, gently coat scraped butter with the flour. Do ensure that all the butter is coated before adding the honey water.
  4. Mix the ingredients using the spoon/spatula well – the dough is ready when there is no more excess flour or butter sticking to the bowl. If the dough is too dry, add a little bit more honey water. If it is too wet, toss in a bit more flour.
  5. Wrap the dough in cling foil and place in a fridge for 10 to 30 minutes.
  6. Prepare filling by peeling, then thinly slicing the apples. Soak the slices in salt water for approximately 5 to 10 minutes.
  7. Drain apples and then toss in the honey; mix well and put aside.
  8. Once the dough hardens, using a rolling pin, flatten and roll out the dough into a large circle. Place on top of pastry dish and cut away the excess dough.
  9. Arrange the apples accordingly (it’s really up to you) and then layer off some excess dough in a lattice form.
  10. Once done, brush the lattice surface briefly with honey and bake in a preheated oven at 200 C for 15 minutes. Then lower the temperature to 170 C and bake for 30 to 40 minutes.
  11. Serve fresh from the oven with ice cream or on its own.
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Tuna pastries

Tuna pastry

Nil had been hankering for some baked stuff that he could bring to work and I thought it would be nice to have him munch on some pastries – a switch from the fried rice, wraps and other stuff I’ve made for him for lunch these past few days.

These were done with the most basic of items and on pure estimation – a lot of my measurement tools are still being shipped over; yes, no measuring cups and weighing scale! So the pastry bit is kind of iffy…actually the whole recipe is iffy!!!

😆

Tuna with mushroom & onion in flaky pastry

Ingredients
(A) Filling
One can of white tuna flakes in oil
A medium sized onion (large if you like onions; smaller if you don’t fancy them) – diced
A good handful of white mushrooms* – sliced

(B) Pastry (all measurements stated are approximates)
200gms flour
150gms butter
1 tsp salt
Ice cold water
1 egg (for glazing and sealing)

* You can use button mushrooms from the can if you can’t find fresh white/button mushrooms.

Method

  1. Wrap the butter in aluminum foil and freeze for 30 to 45 minutes.
  2. Prepare filling by draining tuna oil into a frying pan and saute onions on a medium heat until soft.
  3. Toss in mushrooms and stir fry for approximately three minutes. Add some water if you prefer the filling to be slightly wet (I added about three tablespoons of water).
  4. Toss in tuna flakes and stir fry for about two to three minutes. Turn off fire and put aside.
  5. Mix the flour and salt in a separate mixing bowl. Using a grater, coarsely grate the butter (the aluminum foil will help keep the butter from melting) into the flour mix.
  6. Using a spoon or spatula, gently coat scraped butter with the flour. Do ensure that all the butter is coated before adding the water.
  7. Mix the ingredients using the spoon/spatula well – the dough is ready when there is no more excess flour or butter sticking to the bowl. If the dough is too dry, add a little bit more water. If it is too wet, toss in a bit more flour.
  8. Wrap the dough in cling foil and place in a fridge for 10 to 30 minutes. Beat one egg in another separate bowl.
  9. Once the dough hardens, using a rolling pin, flatten and roll out the dough into desired shapes.
  10. Place some of the filling onto the dough and brush the edges with egg to seal the pastry.
  11. Once done, brush the surfaces with beaten egg and using a pair of scissors, cut some “slashes” on the surface to allow air to escape (and for decoration).
  12. Bake in a preheated oven at 200 C for 20 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Serve hot!
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The wedding cake – Part III

A slice of tangy traditional fruitcake goodness!

Sometimes I have a love-hate relationship with baking. You see, I can never stick to a recipe and follow it to the T. I make modifications here and there, choosing to add a bit of this and a bit of that…it all depends on my mood really. Sometimes it turns out great, other times it’s just so-so.

This time, it turned out just fine…fine enough to become a wedding cake. The recipe is as per below:

Fruitcake

Ingredients
750gms mixed fruits
100gms green glaced cherries – quartered
70gms dried apricots – chopped
300gms mixed nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, macadamias) – chopped coarsely
30gms mixed peel – chopped

150gms strawberry jam
2 tbsp honey
1 cup brandy

50gms plain flour, sifted
250gms butter
125gms soft brown sugar
1/2 tbsp dark treacle
2 tsp vanilla essense
5 egg yolks

Combine and sift:
175gms plain flour
75gms self-raising flour
1 1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

5 egg whites
1/4 tsp salt
50gms castor sugar

Method

  1. Combine fruits and nuts in a container. Add jam, honey and brandy, and mix well.
  2. Cover and allow to sit for at least 7 days. Stir the mixture with a clean & dry wooden spoon every day.
  3. Before use, add 50gms plain flour to prevent the fruits & nuts from sinking to the bottom of the cake.
  4. Grease a deep 10″ round cake tin with butter and line the bottom of the pan with 3 layers of baking paper.
  5. Wrap the outside of the tine with brown paper and secure well. This is to prevent 1) the edges from cooking too quickly, and 2) the top to curve over (dome shaped).
  6. Mix the butter and sugar until well-combined. Then cream the mixture with essence and treacle until pale and light.
  7. Add the egg yolks one at a time and ensure that they are mixed well after each addition.
  8. Add creamed mixture into the fruit & nut mixture by hand and mix well.
  9. Fold in the sifted flour and mix evenly.
  10. Beat egg whites with salt until soft peaks form and gradually add sugar (1 tbsp at a time). Continue beating until it forms a meringue. All utensils must be free of fat (butter, shortening, oil, etc) otherwise the meringue will not form. You’ll know when it’s a meringue if you turn the bowl over and it doesn’t dribble out. The key is to look out for stiff peaks!
  11. Fold the meringue into your batter and mix thoroughly. Remember to be gentle as meringue is fluffy (due to all that incorporated air) so you don’t want to “deflate” it.
  12. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin, level evenly and bake in a preheated oven at 150 C for 1 hour. Do place a pan of water at the bottom of the oven to keep the cake moist.
  13. Lower temperature to 140 C and continue to bake for 2 hours or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. In the last hour, remove the pan of water.
  14. Once removed from the oven, brush the top evenly with either brandy or apricot glaze, and wrap up the entire cake with a clean tea-towel.
  15. Leave to cool for approximately 1 hour. Remove, turn out cake, remove lining paper and wrap with foil.
  16. Store the cake in the fridge. It will keep for up to 3 months.
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Marinated pan-fried mackerel in spicy sauce

Marinated pan-fried mackerel in spicy sauce

I don’t really know what made me decide to cook today’s main lunch dish. The packing had tired me out, my parents are great cooks and well, I’m always insecure when it comes to cooking for them. But surprisingly, they liked this…and so did I.

Marinated pan-fried mackerel in spicy sauce
Serves 4-5 people

Ingredients
6 medium to small whole mackerel fish
Some oil (for pan frying)
Ground nut brittle for garnishing

(A) Marinate
Kaffir lime leaves + stem
Thai basil leaves + stem
Mint leaves + stem
Coarse black pepper
Salt

B) Sauce
Shrimp sambal*
Sambal belacan*
Approx 2 to 4 tablespoons of water

* These were premade and stored in the freezer/fridge.

Method

  1. Clean each fish, leaving the head and tail intact. Marinate with pepper and salt.
  2. Crush and stuff the leaves into the belly of the fish. Crush and tear some kaffir lime leaves, and rub it all over the fish.
  3. Leave to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours or preferably overnight to several days (in the freezer).
  4. When preparing this dish, take the fish out to thaw (if it has been sitting in the freezer) and/or dry with a paper towel (if it’s straight from the refrigerator).
  5. Heat the work with a medium to high fire and drizzle some oil to prevent the fish from sticking. When the wok begins to smoke, place the pieces of fish on its side and cover the wok.
  6. Turn down the wok to a medium fire and allow the fish to cook (wok remains covered) for approximately 5 minutes.
  7. Gently flip the fish onto its other side and cover the wok again for 5 minutes.
  8. When the fish is done*, remove and put aside in a shallow dish.
  9. To prepare the sauce, dump all of ingredients (B) and fry on a medium-low fire until fragrant.
  10. Turn off the flame and spread over the fish.
  11. Sprinkle the ground nut brittle over and serve.

* To see if a fish is fully cooked, take a fork and pierce the thickest part of the flesh. Twist the fork gently. If the meat flakes, the fish is cook.

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Cranberry poppy seed cake

Cranberry poppy seed goodies!

The cranberry is my new craze after oranges and lemon. If you’ve been following my blog, I have this love affair with these citrus babies and strawberries but after discovering dried cranberries at Chang Tung in Taman Megah, you could say that the cranberry is like how pink is the new black. I simply love the sour-sweet taste of these pink goodies!

Do note that the poppy seed used is of the blue poppy seed variety which is nonaddictive and not the same as the opium strain.

Recipe was obtained from BBC’s 101 Cakes and Cookies and adjusted to accomodate 1) cranberries; 2) a generous sprinkle of finely chopped almonds; and 3) the use of milk instead of yoghurt.

Cranberry poppy seed cake
9 oz self-raising flour
6 1/2 oz unsalted butter
5 3/4 oz caster sugar
5 1/2 tablespoon full cream milk
3 eggs
1/2 tablespoon orange juice
1 cup dried cranberries – roughly chopped
1 oz blue poppy seed
Rind from 2 oranges
Generous sprinkle of finely chopped almonds

What to do:

  1. Prebake oven at 150 C and grease an 8″ deep round tin.
  2. Sift flour and mix in finely chopped almonds, poppyseed and orange rind.
  3. Cream butter and sugar until light and smooth. Add in eggs one at a time and orange juice.
  4. Mix in the combination of flour, almonds, poppyseed and orange rind into creamed butter mix until just blended.
  5. Fold in chopped cranberries and pour into greased pan.
  6. Bake at 150 C for 45 to 50 minutes until surface is golden brown and cake tester/stick comes out clean.

I’m actually quite pleased with the outcome. The cake turned out looking exactly like it was supposed to in the photos and the subsitutions worked to perfection! It was just right – orangey, moist and not too sweet. Wonderful when warm (works great with vanilla ice cream if you ask me!) and just as nice when cold!

Now onto the frosting bit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Strawberry shortbread

Lovey strawberries, anyone?

It has always been either orange or lemon shortbread. Since I was toying with the idea of sending some sweet hearts over to France for Valentine’s Day, I decided to try my hand at using some strawberries instead for that sweet, nearly pink touch.

I changed the recipe to accomodate 1) the extra fluids from the finely diced and mashed strawberries; 2) the use of a different type of flour and finally 3) the absence of regular granulated sugar. I suppose you could say that this shortbread come about with the use of whatever I had at hand.

Strawberry shortbread
2/3 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 1/4 cup of superfine flour
1/4 cup rice flour
1/4 cup corn flour
pinch of salt
5 small strawberries (half mashed, half finely diced)
Flour for sprinkling

What to do:

  1. Sift flours and salt.
  2. Cream butter and sugar until light and smooth. Add in mashed and finely diced strawberries together with sifted flour. Mix all until just blended.
  3. Refrigerate until firm (about half an hour).
  4. Cut and roll dough into desired shapes. Bake at 180 C until edges are very light gold (approximately 15 to 20 mins).

The outcome was pretty fine – nothing overpowering and tinged with some sprinkle of red here and there. The dough was hardly pink and it is good to keep it that way. Too pink and you lose the added touch that comes from the diced strawberries peaking out from the surface. Taste-wise, it was very buttery, crumbly and chewy – it has to be the strawberries!

Now the question is this: do I still want to decorate them with thin slivers of pinkish icing?

Starry starry strawberries...

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