Saturday, 24 December 2011

Christmas Cake 2011

The cake is now completed!

Remember my previous post on the making of the Christmas fruit cake?

Step two - icing and decorating, is now completed!

It brought back childhood memories of playing with plasticine, but of course, I used the edible icing to decorate the cake.

The Christmas cake was first covered with a layer of marzipan then another layer of royal icing. This of course was not an easy task as I thought, as I almost broke the rolled-out icing in several places while trying to put it over the cake. But it was quickly saved with a little dab of warm water, clever trick taught by my work colleague.

Then I rolled the green coloured icing into cone shapes, Christmas trees look-alike. However, due to difficulties in finding BROWN coloured icing, or even BROWN food colouring, I had to improvise and used white icing covered with chocolate flakes to try and imitate the BROWN tree trunk. Clever eh?

Then it gets even more fun when I rolled white icing into two different sizes of balls to make the snowman, before using colourful chocolate buttons to decorate it. Guess what? I could not find any suitable stick-look-alike for the hands and nose, hence I used broken pieces of spaghetti! Isn't my little snowman cute? haha!

After piping many dots of white icing on the trees and around the base, '~ta~da~' the cake is complete!

Well, the cake did not look exactly LIKE the professional looking one in this page found in the Decemember issue of deliciousmagazine.

Page from delicious. magazine

But I still love my very own version!

With that, I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and all the blessings with friends and family!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

All-butter Shortbread

Not just any shortbreads, they are star-shaped shortbreads - 100% homemade!

Thinking what to give my colleagues at work for Christmas, I got this great gift idea from the December issue of deliciousmagazine.

Shortbreads made any shapes you like and wrapped beautifully any ways you like!
For me, a homemade gift is always the best gift! These shortbreads are pretty, delicious, easy to make and a wonderful gift for this festive season.

Recipe for 'All-butter shortbread stars and hearts' by delicious.magazine as follow:

Makes about 32
Takes 10 minutes to make, 15-20 minutes to cook, plus chilling and cooling

60g golden caster sugar
120g unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla or orange extract
175g plain flour, plus a little extra for dusting

Cooking method:
1. In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, butter and extract. Sift over the flour and mix until it forms a dough. Shape into a disc, wrap in cling film, then chill for at least 30 minutes.


Star-shaped dough

2. Preheat the oven to 180 degree C/fan 160 degree C/gas 4. Lightly dust the work surface with flour, then roll out the dough to a thickness of 5mm. Use small cutters to cut out stars or hearts and place on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden around the edges, the transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Shortbreads in festive paper cups

Once the shortbreads are entirely cool, I filled some paper cups with them then wrap the cups with cellophane and finally tie them up in a bow with some curling ribbon.

*Drum-roll*.......and we get a pretty little edible gift!

The shortbreads were wonderfully sweet and very buttery and crumbles nicely in your mouth...yummy!

All wrapped up in gold stars cellophane

My colleagues loved the little gifts they received, took photos of them and did not even want to open them up!

With that, I wish you all a joyous and blessed Christmas. Remembering that it is all about God's love for us that He sent His only Son, Jesus, for our salvation!

Happy holidays and have a lovely time with family and friends!

Rise, Soufflé, Rise

I would say most, if not all, people would agree that it is absolutely essential for a soufflé to rise!

I love soufflés not only because it is not the easiest recipe to make, but also because of it's beautifully light texture holding immense flavours!

Everytime some chefs try to make a soufflé in competitions on TV, the judges always say:"He/she is really brave making a soufflé here, any tiny error could mean disaster!"

I braved it today and decided to make Lemon Soufflés following a recipe by none other than the queen of baking herself - Mary Berry!

Mary Berry's Hot Lemon Soufflés Recipe from BBC Food website:

(There is even a video where Mary Berry shows you how to make the soufflés!)


Preparing Ramekins

Preparation Method:

1. Brush the insides of four ramekins with butter. Add a small amount of sugar to each and turn them to coat the sides and bottom, shaking out any excess. Set aside to chill in the fridge.

Coated with butter and sugar

2. Use a fine grater to zest the lemons – grate the yellow outer skin, but be careful not to grate the white pith underneath (the pith will make the soufflés bitter). Cut the lemons in half and squeeze the juice. Add the zest to the juice and put to one side.

3. Separate the eggs – crack each egg in half and tip the contents between the two shells, allowing the whites to slide through into the bowl beneath while the yolks stay in the shells.

4. Put four egg whites into a large bowl and two of the yolks into a separate small bowl (the left-over egg yolks can be saved for scrambled eggs or custard). Add 6 tablespoons of sugar to the small bowl with the egg yolks.

5. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan assisted)/350F/Gas 4. Put the baking tray into the middle of the oven.

6. Put the cream, flour and cornflour into a medium-sized bowl and whisk to a smooth paste.

7. Warm the milk in a large saucepan over a medium heat until just boiling. Remove from the heat.

8. Mix the hot milk into the cream, flour and cornflour mixture with the whisk – add a little to start with and mix well until the mixture is smooth like really thick cream. Press any lumps to the side to break them up. Then add the rest of the milk.

9. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and put it over a gentle heat. Beat vigorously with a hand whisk until it’s thickened. It’s important to keep whisking all the time so that the mixture doesn’t stick.

10. When you feel it thickening, remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the lemon juice and zest a little at a time. The heat of the pan will continue to cook the mixture.

11. Use a wooden spoon to beat the egg yolks and caster sugar together in the small bowl. Beat them into a thick paste.

12. Add this paste to the mixture in the saucepan and mix well until smooth. Put the saucepan back on the hob to thicken again. Whisk until it begins to bubble and then take if off the heat – the mixture should look like custard. Put it to one side to cool before adding the egg whites.

13. Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl using a hand whisk or electric hand mixer. Before you start, make sure the bowl and whisk are completely clean and grease-free, and make sure there’s no yolk with the egg whites or they won’t whip to full volume. Whisk until soft peaks begin to form – the egg whites should look like clouds.

14. When the mixture in the saucepan has cooled you can add the egg whites. Check the temperature of the mixture before you add the egg whites – it should be body temperature or cooler. Add one large spoonful of the egg whites and beat well with the whisk to make the mixture less stiff. Now use a large metal spoon or spatula to very gently fold in the remaining egg whites. Use the spoon to go round the outside and cut through the middle – the aim is to fold in the air bubbles slowly, without breaking them up. Continue until it’s a pale yellow mixture with no streaks of egg white.

Filled with mixture

15. Fill the ramekins to the brim with the mixture and level off with a spatula or palette knife. Run a thumb nail around the inside rim of the ramekins (this helps the soufflés rise evenly without catching on the sides).

16. Place the ramekins on the baking tray in the middle of the oven for about 14 minutes until risen and turning golden. Don’t open the oven during cooking. Time and watch the soufflés carefully – take them out as soon as they’ve risen and are starting to go golden. If you’re using smaller ramekins you’ll need to reduce the cooking time by a few minutes (5 or 6 smaller soufflés will need about 10 minutes).

17. Dust with icing sugar and serve immediately.

Hot Lemon Soufflé

Following through the very long preparation method, it can be rather labour intensive as it is very important to follow each and every step to the word because any errors would result in a failed soufflé. However, I did enjoy each and every step of making the soufflé, especially the 'beating the egg-white part' until I got a fluffy cloud of egg-white - beautiful! And of course, the part where I take them out of the oven.

The soufflés has RISEN!

14 minutes in the oven, no more, no less. Although it would have been perfect with a touch more browning to the surface with just a couple more minutes in the oven, but I was too concerned about getting them burnt!

Regardless, to me, they looked beautiful, had a super light texture and was filled with acidic lemon flavour cutting through the sweetness of the sugar.

The inside

For me, a rather good first attempt at making a soufflé, and I am looking forward to the next one! Maybe a savoury one...... 

Monday, 28 November 2011

Honey Dew Sago

A quick post about a truly Asian dessert...

If you like coconut, if you like sago...wait till you add sweet honey dew melon balls and syrup!

One of my all-time favourite dessert is this Honey Dew Sago!

I used the recipe from 'My Wok Life' blog.

Serves 5 - 6 bowls
1 medium-sized ripe honey dew, peeled and deseed. Cut half of the melon into big chunks, and use the other half melon to make small honey dew balls (using melon ballers) or simply dice into small cubes
5 tablespoons of tiny sago (about 60 grams)
5 tablespoons of sugar
200ml of water, plus 50ml more for cooking sugar syrup
200ml of coconut milk (cream)
3 - 4 leaves of pandan leaf, tie into a small bundle

1 pot of water (for boiling sago)

1) Pre-boiling of tiny pearl sago: Place sago into a pot of water, and place the pot on stove to boil over medium-high heat. Let the sago boil for 5 - 7 minutes, or until it turns almost transparent. Stir occasionally. Heat off and cover pot with lid to let it stand for another 5 minutes. Thereafter, drain sago on a fine sieve over running tap water. Place the cooked sago in a bowl of half-filled boiled water (about 50ml). Set aside.

2) In another pot, place sugar, pandan leaf bundle and 50ml of water. Cook sugar into syrup over low heat. Remove pandan leaf. Set sugar syrup aside to let it cool.

3) Place chunky honey dew and 200ml of water into the eletrical blender and blend into honey dew juice. Pour juice into a large serving bowl. Stir in sugar syrup and coconut milk. Then, spoon sago into the coconut milk solution. Lastly, add in honey dew balls. Stir gently to well combine all ingredient. Place honey dew sago dessert in the refrigerator to chill. Serve chilled.

Honey Dew Sago

Extremely easy to make but with amazing results!

The dessert is best served chilled. Each mouthful comes with sweet, fragrant coconut flavour, then you get the melon-like honey dew to chew on. Then comes the slightly chewy sago adding another dimension of texture to the dessert.

Simply delicious!

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Christmas Cake

Sing:"Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive Her King......"

Thank you Jesus for coming to the earth 2011 years ago to save us all!

Christmas is coming soon! The cold wintry weather has started and perhaps we will have a white Christmas this year!

This year, I am attempting to make my very first Christmas Cake with lots and lots of fruits and of course brandy!

I first got the idea of making this cake when I was flipping through my monthly subscription of deliciousmagazine. There were many, many wonderful dessert and cake recipes like the chocolate Christmas Yule Log in the December issue and it was the beautiful Christmas cake that caught my attention!

I never liked the Christmas Cakes I had many years ago back home as I found them too sweet and all they tasted of was sweet, sweet and sweet sugar. However, one of my housemates made one 8 years ago and I fell in love with Christmas Cake as it had so many wonderful flavours in it with all the different fruits soaked in brandy and the fragrant spices like cinnamon, clove and nutmeg - the wonderful taste of Christmas!

So hopefully, my very own Christmas Cake will turn out perfect and I will know in a month's time!

You can find the recipe in the December issue of deliciousmagazine.

You can also find a slightly different recipe in the Tesco Real Food Magazine.

Just by looking at the many wonderful ingredients made me want to have a taste of the Christmas Cake ASAP!

Dried Fruits

Mixing almost 1.5kg of different dried fruits with self raising flour,nuts and the spices, I thought that must make a HUGE cake! And that was before I even added the creamed butter with sugar and eggs!

Spices and Brandy

The rest of the ingredients and Self raising flour

There was so much cake mixture that I had to use a big mixing bowl and my baking tray to mix them thoroughly but it was still super fun making it!

When I finally added the brandy to the cake mixture, the aroma was so wonderful and I couldn't wait for the cake to finish baking!

Preparing Baking Tin

Making the cake mixture was the easy part, what I found tedious was preparing the baking tin!

The recipe calls for a DEEP 20cm round baking tin lined with 2 layers of baking paper then wrapped on the outside with another two layers to prevent the cake from burning.

I have two 20cm round baking tins but they were shallow ones. I put my cake mixture into both and was still left with quite a bit of the cake mixture, so I took out a loaf tin and put the rest of the mixture into it.

After 4 1/2 hours of baking at low temperatures, the cakes are ready!

The aroma of fruits and brandy filled the warm kitchen, it was absolutely wonderful!

Sneak peak


Unwrapping the cake was like unwrapping Christmas presents! Such beautiful things!

Because my cakes were not made in a deep cake tin, they were not as tall as they should be, so I hope that they will be moist on the inside when we eat them in a month's time.

Two Christmas Cakes!

After the cakes were completely cooled, they were wrapped in baking paper and foil then stored in a cool, dry place.

Brandy will be poured over once a week for four weeks, and it will be just in time for Christmas!

Christmas Cake!

When the cakes are ready in a month's time, I will be decorating them with icing and Christmas watch this space!

Seafood Tagliatelle

Looking for a quick and simple dinner to cook on a cold Saturday evening, I went for this simple yet delicious Seafood Tagliatelle in Creamy Sauce!

I was not joking when I said that it was simple to cook, it was super easy!

Not only was it easy to cook, it only requires a few ingredients which are very easy to prepare. All I used was a bag of frozen mixed seafood from the supermarket, dried tagliatelle, chopped flat leaf parsley and double cream.

The tagliatelle was boiled in salted water for around 9 minutes or until al dente.

While doing that, caramelise some chopped garlic in olive oil and butter on a hot pan, then add the mixed seafood to fry. Then add the double cream and some chopped parsley, season with salt and pepper then let it shimmer for 3-4 minutes.

Lastly, drain the pasta and add to the sauce. Mix them together and the pasta is ready to be served!

I like the rich creamy sauce with tasty mixed seafood of squids, small prawns and mussels. Silky tagliatelle that has absorbed all the goodness of the sauce. The chopped parsley added some depth to the flavour of the sauce -  lovely!

PS: The sauce I made was a little thick and rich, if you like a more diluted sauce, add some of the water used to cook the pasta. Also, it would  be even nicer if you have some white wine at home that you can add to the sauce!

Seafood Tagliatelle in Cream Sauce

A nice, hot meal ready in less than 30 minutes and absolutely delicious!

I have made something similar before, and you can find it here.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Peanut Drumsticks

A recipe inspired by an amazing cookbook published almost 30 years ago - The Colour Library Book of Creative Cooking.

One Saturday in work, my colleague brought this cookbook into work. As we were not that busy, I went through the entire 470 pages and tagged quite a few recipes that I would like to try.

The Peanut Drumsticks was one of the recipes that I tagged and it was the beautiful photo of these crunchy and delicious looking drumsticks that drew my attention.

As my housemate bought two packs of drumsticks the other day, I decided to try this recipe today.

The recipe (from cookbook):-

8 Chicken drumsticks, skinned
75g Peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
1 Egg, beaten
75ml Milk
200g Plain potato chips
50g Plain flour
Salt and ground black pepper
Vegetable oil, for greasing


First, coat the skinned chicken drumsticks in the flour.

Peanut Mixture
Then coat with peanut mixture.

The peanut mixture is made by mixing peanut butter with the egg and milk then seasoned with salt and black pepper.

Crisps crushed in freezer bag

Finally, coat in the crushed crisps.

PS: Since it was quite impossible to find plain potato crisps in the UK, I went for the lightly salted bag.

Once the drumsticks were evenly coated, line them on the greased baking pan then put into the oven for 45-50 minutes at 190 Degree C until crisp and lightly brown.

Crisp and lightly browned drumsticks

Peanut drumstick

The peanut drumsticks can be served hot with some side dishes or cold with a relish.

I served the drumstick hot on a bed of sweet potatoes mashed with grated cheddar cheese, butter, milk, salt and pepper.  Also with a side of buttered, boiled green peas.

The drumsticks were delicious. Crunchy and crisp outside with a succulent and juicy meat. The slightly salted crisps added saltiness to the slightly (but not sickeningly) sweet peanut coating. The peanut butter was not over-powering, instead gave the drumsticks a smooth texture and added some sweetness and richness to it.

As it was the drumsticks of a chicken, the meat was very juicy. The coatings also protected the drumsticks from drying out in the oven with a rather long cooking time.

This recipe is old fashioned cooking style but still fashionably delicious. It fulfils most criteria of a delicious dish - combinations of few different textures, tastes and look.

As I am writing about drumsticks, another recipe I ate couple of days ago was definitely worth mentioning.

Drumstick - Chinese style, through and through.

This was what happened to the other pack of chicken drumsticks that my housemate bought.

The Chicken Drummet with Rice Ball Onigiri

Chicken Drummet with Rice Ball Onigiri

The chicken drumsticks were steamed to get the inside cooked, dipped in garlic and soya sauce mixture, then shallow fried until lightly browned.

The rice was boiled then mixed with sweet chilli sauce shredded carrots, shredded courgettes and diced red chilli.

Then the rice was wrapped around the chicken drumsticks until they look like rice balls.

The chicken drummets were absolutely delicious with the refreshing carrots and courgettes, sweetness and spiciness coming through, and the rice absorbing all the wonderful flavours.

The drumstick inside the rice ball was amazingly tasty from the garlic and soya sauce marinate.

Different ingredients and flavours that definitely compliment each other very well. A simply delicious dish!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

La Marina

It was my birthday on Sunday and I celebrated it with a couple of friends on Saturday in this nice seafood restaurant by the sea in Cardiff.

La Marina, located in Penarth Marina is part of the beautiful 'The Old Custom House'. El Peurto restaurant is located on the lower floor of the building while La Marina can be found on the second floor.

Offering stunning view overlooking Cardiff Bay, La Marina is the perfect place to have dinner and relax with friends and family, away from the huzzle and buzzle of the city.

La Marina is a seafood restaurant with a fresh seafood counter displaying fish freshly caught and hand picked!

To start......

Live Oysters

We had the very fresh live oysters on ice. With a spoonful of red onions vinaigrette, the ice cold oyster was very tasty and not a hint of fishiness to it! This shows that the oysters were very fresh and the chefs had treated it very well. A very delightful starter indeed!

Sea Scallops

We also had the sea scallops for starters. The scallops were beautifully seared with a nice browning to the surface but was not over-cooked at all! The flesh was just nicely cooked and tender. With a generous squeeze of lemon to intensify the flavours, the well seasoned scallops bathed in lovely home-made sauce was absolutely delicious!

To Follow.......

Lobster in Thermidor Sauce

All three of us had the day's special - Lobster in Thermidor sauce with asparagus.

The very fresh lobster meat was nicely cooked, sweet and soft. The thermidor sauce was wonderfully buttery with a slight hint of mustard (we did not like the very strong mustard taste to a different sauce when we had our lobsters here last time).

Simply delicious! I'll eat a lobster anytime!

However, I thought the asparagus was slightly over-cooked as it had become a bit tough and stringy.

The Desserts......

Traditional French recipe Crème Brulee

The lovely traditional French recipe Crème Brulee was perfectly made!

It had a super smooth texture that melts in your mouth and the flavour was so subtle and original as it had a slight egg taste to it with a very small hint of vanilla.

Definitely a very enjoyable pot of dessert!

Triple Chocolate Torte

I do not normally have a chocolate based dessert as it is usually very rich.

However, this chocolate torte was absolutely divine!

The Triple Chocolate Torte was surprisingly not too sweet considering that it had three different chocolates in it! It had a very rich, smooth, and slightly bitter dark chocolate taste to it.

The cake was so smooth that it was almost like a chocolate mousse and the very thin layer of chocolate sponge at the bottom just added another lovely texture to the torte.

It also had a nice touch of chocolate flakes on top to add crunch to the whole dessert.


Strawberry Roulade

Perhaps the strawberry roulade is not a dish to celebrate much about as the sponge was a tad too dry.

Not a very easy dessert to make, as I learnt from watching The Great British Bakeoff 2011, hence a very good effort by the restaurant.

But nonetheless, the strawberries were very refreshing and went really well with the cream inside the roulade.

Overall, a very wonderful dinner with good food, enjoyed with wonderful friends!

We will most definitely visit this restaurant again!

Friday, 28 October 2011

Lemon Chicken with Croutons

All wonderfully home-made and very easy to cook!

I have been watching a new TV show called 'Barefoot Contessa' presented by Ina Garten.

A very entertaining cooking show where Ina cook her meals and shows you how to decorate and set up tables in her beautiful home.

Ina was cooking this lemon chicken with croutons on one episode, the roasted chicken looked so shiningly delicious that I decided to cook it today!


Minimal ingredients for heart-warming, belly-filling cooked dinner!

For a large whole chicken you would need two lemons, but if you are using a small chicken like I did, as I later found out, all you need is just ONE lemon. Other ingredients included 1 onion, olive oil, butter, salt and pepper for seasoning. The loaf of sliced bread is used to make home-made croutons but if you can find a nice whole loaf of sour dough bread or baguette, the texture would be much better!

Recipe taken from Food Network website:

Ready for roasting

For the chicken:
1. Slice the onion then toss with a little olive oil in a roasting pan.
2. Sprinkle the inside cavity of the chicken with salt and pepper.
3. Place the lemon inside the chicken.
4. Pat the outside of the chicken dry with kitchen towels.
5. Brush it with melted butter then sprinkle salt and pepper.
6. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wings underneath the body.
7. Place the chicken on the onion then roast for 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes.
8. Wrap the chicken in foil and rest for 15 minutes.

Lemon Chicken

For the croutons:
1. Dice the bread into cubes.
2. Heat a large saute pan with 2 tablespoons olive oil until very hot.
3. Turn the heat to medium-low and saute the bread cubes, tossing frequently until nicely brown.
4. Add more olive oil if needed, season with salt and pepper.

Finally, put the croutons on a large plate then place the cut-up chicken pieces on top then serve.

Croutons and Brocolli

I decided to add some greens to the meal, therefore boiled some brocolli and seasoned with salt.

Chicken pieces on croutons

The chicken looked beautiful with nicely browned skin and gave out nice lemon fragrance.

However, the chicken meat was unfortunately too dry as I mis-read the cooking time as 1 hour 45 minutes (at least!). A big mistake my part, as I should have even reduced the cooking time more as I used a small chicken rather than a large one!

The chicken could have done with a tiny bit more seasoning after resting (sprinkle more salt!). However, the lemon taste was wonderfully refreshing and the croutons soaked up all the nice juices of the roast, which made it a bit too soft. I prefer croutons to be more crisp, perhaps I did not fry it long enough...hhhmmm....

Then the brocolli was too soft as I boiled them a tad too long.......

Even though it is a very easy recipe to follow, it does need some attention to details and more care with cooking.

I will try and cook this dish again another time, when I feel like having a nice hot roast dinner!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Home-made Scones (Take 2)

Remember this?

Home-made Scones

My very first attempt at making scones did not turn out as I hoped that it would. Not only did they not look the way they should have, they did not have the texture of a normal scone!

Although they tasted nice, they were rock hard on the outside and the inside were not loose enough. One of the reason was because I used plain flour instead of self-raising flour (and to see other reasons for the failed attempt, see here).

Seeing that I have lots and lots of self-raising flour left in the cupboard, I decided to make another attempt in baking some scones!

This time, I used Jamie Oliver's recipe from his cookbook 'Jamie's Ministry of Food', which sounded much more logical and giving much more chance of making beautiful scones. Also, remembering NOT to do everything that I done wrong the last time.

After 12-15 minutes of waiting with anticipation, the scones were finally ready to be taken out of the oven......


Hooray! They had all risen well and looked everything like how a proper scone should look!

With the tops browning beautifully and the middle had risen until you can see that they want to separate into halves. Perfect~!

More scones

Now, all I had to do was cut them into halves, add a dollop of strawberry jam then add another dollop of clotted cream - simply irresistible!

Strawberry jam and Clotted cream

Add a few fresh strawberries, get the tea ready and I have a nice afternoon tea, a proper English tea!

With some fresh strawberries 

The scones had browned properly and they had a very nice firm texture that breaks easily with each bite. Needless to say, the sweet strawberry jam and rich clotted cream was just fantastic with the lovely scones.

NB I used Hartley's strawberry jam as they make delicious jams and had strawberry pieces in the jar.

A simple English teacake made with three key simple ingredients ie flour, milk and egg. Delicious!