Thursday, 31 December 2009

Braised Duck Legs/滷鸭腿

The thought of having braised dishes over a bowl of rice is just so tempting. And moreover I have stocked up several duck legs over the festive season. To make braised meat with my newly acquired volcano orange Le Creuset enamelled cast iron pot seems ideal. I really like Le Creuset cast iron pot ranges, if only I could be an unofficial spoke person for Le Creuset , maybe I will be given the pots for can only dream......
Le Creuset had been around since 1925, started in France and the cast iron pot is still being handmade individually by skillful artisan. I totally agrees that this product is of high quality, many serious cooks will definitely have one or more of these lovely pots in their kitchen. I've bought a cheaper cast iron pot before at a fraction of price of Le Creuset but am totally disappointed after few uses, as the enamel chipped off and became rusty. So I decided to splash a bit more for good quality stuff and a brand like Le Creuset which stand the test of time. I know in particular back home in Singapore and Malaysia, not many people own Le Creuset pot, mainly because it's quite expensive. This pot is really versatile and could last you a lifetime, so in the long run it's a good investment considering many comforting food can be churned out from this pot. And its addition to your kitchen would definitely stands out with its cheerful colors. I've my eyes on more Le Creuset ultensils like the cast iron wok, tangine, grillet, etc etc....

Braised Duck Legs/滷鸭腿
Ingredients (good for 2 persons)
  • 2 duck legs (approximately 400-500 gm)
  • 5 tbsp light soya sauce (*)
  • 3 tbsp of dark soya sauce (I use Cheong Chan dark caramel)-(*)
  • 3 tbsp sugar (*)
  • 2 tbsp Chin Kiang black vinegar (*)
  • 1 tbsp shaoxing wine (*)
  • 200 ml water
  • 6 big dry shitake mushroom-soaked and quartered
  • 2 star anise
  • pinchful of cloves
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 inch of ginger
  • 3 hard boiled eggs or more
  • 1/2 tbsp of vegetable oil

  1. Put the duck legs into a pot of boiling water for 5 minutes to remove any blood scum and excess fat. Drained.
  2. Marinate the duck leg with the (*) ingredients overnight.
  3. Next day heat a pan with 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil. Once hot, add in the garlic, ginger, star anise and cloves to fry till fragant. Then add in mushroom to stir fry as well for a minute.
  4. Then add in the marinated duck leg plus marinating juices, stir fry. Turn the heat to medium, then pour in the 200ml water and let it simmer for 5minutes. Add in the hard boiled eggs as well.
  5. Pour everything into Le Creuset pot and on low heat cook for about 2-2.5 hrs until meat is tender and soft. Let the meat soaked up the sauces as it simmer. Remember to turn over the duck legs + eggs to coat up the sauces about every half an hour.
  6. Granish with spring onion and served over a bowl of hot rice. The braised sauce can be kept for making braised duck noodle.
I know many of you wish for a Le Creuset pot now :-) .
And Happy New Year 2010 to all my readers ....... at least I'm not in freezing cold London to usher in 2010 :-) .

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Fu Qing Sweet Potato Dumpling

Today I'm going to talk about sweet potato. They're the survivor food during the World War II back in South East Asia. The price of basic necessities like rice increased drastically due to hyperinflation. The local can't afford these staple food anymore. Therefore root plant like tapioca, sweet potato, taro were replacing rice as staple food. Moreover these can be grown in the farm land or even in the backyard garden. I remembered, my grandad used to tell us the stories of how the people survived just on sweet potato, 3 meals a day during those war period back in Malaya. Thanks to this humble root plants that provide so much nutrients to stave off starvation back then.

Here is the Wiki explanation on the nutrients rich sweet potato:
Besides simple starches, sweet potatoes are rich in complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, beta carotene (a vitamin A equivalent nutrient), vitamin C, and vitamin B6. Pink and yellow varieties are high in carotene, the precursor of vitamin A. In 1992, the Center for Science in the Public Interest compared the nutritional value of sweet potatoes to other vegetables. Considering fibre content, complex carbohydrates, protein, vitamins A and C, iron, and calcium, the sweet potato ranked highest in nutritional value. According to these criteria, sweet potatoes earned 184 points, 100 points over the next on the list, the common potato.(NCSPC)
Sweet potato varieties with dark orange flesh have more beta carotene than those with light coloured flesh, and their increased cultivation is being encouraged in Africa, where vitamin A deficiency is a serious health problem. Despite the name "sweet", it may be a beneficial food for diabetics, as preliminary studies on animals have revealed that it helps to stabilize blood sugar levels and to lower insulin resistance.[13] Some Americans, including television personality Oprah Winfrey, are advocating increased consumption of sweet potatoes both for their health benefits and because of their importance in traditional Southern cuisine.
A 100g root is reported to contain 108-121 calories, 68.5-72.3 g water, 1-1.7 g protein, 0.2-0.4 g fat, 25-31.0 total carbohydrate, 0.7-1.0 g ash, 21–36 mg Ca, 38–56 mg P, 0.7-2.0 mg Fe, 10–36 mg Na, 210–304 mg K, 35-5,280 µg beta-carotene equivalent, 0.09-0.14 mg thiamine, 0.04-0.06 mg riboflavin, 0.6-0.7 mg niacin, and 21–37 mg ascorbic acid.
The peptic substance (0.78 percent total, 0.43 percent soluble) present in fresh tubers contains uronic acid (60 percent) and methoxyl (4 to 5 percent). Other constituents include phytin (1.05 percent), two monoaminophosphatides (probably lecithin and cephalin), organic acids (oxalic acid), phytosterolin, phytosterol, resins, tannins, and colouring matter. Sweet potato contanins calcium, 30; magnesium, 24; potassium, 373; sodium, 13; phosphorus, 49; chlorine, 85; sulphur, 26; iron, 0.8 mg/100g; iodine, 4.5 µg/kg; manganese, copper and zinc are present in traces (Hug et al., 1983).
When buying sweet potatoes, select sound, firm roots. Handle them carefully to prevent bruising. Storage in a dry, unrefrigerated bin kept above 15deg Celcius is best. DO NOT REFRIGERATE, because temperatures below 15deg will chill this tropical vegetable giving it a hard core and an undesirable taste when cooked.Sweet potatoes add valuable, appetizing nutrients and color to any meal.
My mum used to make this little bite size sweet potato dumpling with fillings which is of 福清(Fu Qing-a clan in Foochow) origin. My mum is a person who make lovely food just with ''agak-agak'' (estimation) recipes. I made them today and will upload the recipes later. They tasted real good as they look......
I wander if these little delicacies can suitably call itself dim sum ? :-)

Fu Qing Sweet Potato Dumpling
Ingredients (make 20-24 pieces)

  • 300 gm sweet potato-cleaned, peeled and cut into pieces
  • 120 gm tapioca starch + additional 30 gm tapioca starch for dusting
  • 50 gm wheat starch
  • 1/2 tbsp lard/vegetable shortening/vegetable oil
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp icing sugar (optional-depend on the sweetness of your sweet potato)
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil- for brushing after steaming
  • 250 gm mince meat-chicken/pork
  • 4 stalks of spring onion-finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp preserved sweet turnip/radish (Chai Po)-optional
  • 1 tsp of finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp shaoxing wine
  • 1 tbsp light soya sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tbsp dark soya sauce
  • 1 tsp of sugar
  • 1 egg-only use the egg white
  • 1 tsp of corn flour
  1. Mix all the filling ingredients in a bowl and let it marinate over night.
  2. Next day, place the sweet potato into a pot, top up with water to cover them, boil for 15-20mins till soft. Use a fork to poke the potato, you should be able to poke through easily all the way through.
  3. While the sweet potato is boiling, in a mixing bowl seive 120gm tapioca starch and 50gm wheat starch. Add in the vegetable oil/lard/vegetable shortening , icing sugar and salt.
  4. Once the sweet potato is cook, drain immediately and add them into the tapioca, wheat starch mixture. Use a fork to mix and mesh the sweet potato with the starch. Continue to mix well. Once the dough is slightly workable with your hand, knead to combine well. If it's too sticky, dust with some additional tapioca starch so that it's workable. The dough should feel soft but not mushy. Let it rest for 15minutes or so covered with a damp towel.
  5. Divide the dough to 20-24 portions. Roll with your hand each of them into a small ball. Press using your palm to form a circular shape wrapper, about 4mm thickness. Scoop about 1 tbsp of filling onto it, wrap like you would as wrapping pao. Repeat until done.
  6. Prepare bamboo steamer, let it steam for 10-15minutes on high heat until cook. Remove from heat, brush the dumpling with some vegetable oil, this will ensure the skin will stay soft and glistening.
  7. Garnish with some black sesame seed. Served with some soya sauce mixed with pickled ginger.
Enjoy of course.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Merry Christmas to all Apron's Delight Reader

Christmas vacation has started for me. I'm off till 4thJan, and foresee myself to enjoy this holiday season. Cold yes but it's alright.
This is the time when kids are the happiest-loads of presents, sweets or candies. A season when the hambug would be scrooging and grudging all about Christmas :-) .
I wish all of you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Of course it's not complete without a lovely recipes to wake up to on Christmas morning.

Orange Carrot Spice Muffins
Ingredients (make 12)
  • 280 gm plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp soda bicarbonate
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp each of ground cloves and nutmeg
  • 1 egg
  • 90-120gm caster sugar
  • finely grated zest from one orange
  • 180 ml freshly squeezed orange juice (aprox 2 big oranges)
  • 150 gm finely grated carrot, soak overnight with 90ml of orange juice from above
  • 85 gm melted butter or 90ml vegetable oil
  • 50 gm raisins/sultanas
  • 50 gm pecan/walnut finely chopped
  • Toppings-100 gm cream cheese, 60gm icing sugar, 1 tsp vanilla. Blend well.

  1. In a mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, bicarbonate soda, salt and spices.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat egg with fork till lightly fluffy, stir in sugar, grated orange zest, orange juice, orange soaked carrot and butter/oil.
  3. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry mixture, stir to blend well. Add the raisins and pecan nut, lightly mix just to blend. The batter should look thick and lumpy.
  4. Preheat oven to 190C.
  5. Prepare muffin tins. Scoop the batter into the muffin tins. Bake for 20-25minutes. Remove and cool.
  6. Once cooled, scoop 1/2 tbsp of topping onto the muffin and spread. You could top with a pecan nut for decoration.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Potsticker wrapped with white radish

Ahhh.....time to clear old stock from my fridge before replenishing with new ingredients. Well, I still have- use by 26thDec minced pork, half of white radish, some water chestnut and spring onion. Alright, just the right ingredients needed to whip up potsticker with white radish as the skin. I've seen somewhere of this recipes before but have not try it. So it seems high time to give this recipes a try.

Radish skin wrapper
  • 1 big radish-chose one with at least having the top with 2.5-3inches diameter
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 litre of water
  • 1 tsp corn flour
  • 150gm minced pork
  • 6 chestnut-finely chopped
  • 3 stalks of spring onion- finely chopped
  • 1 tsp of chopped ginger
  • 2 tsp of shaoxing wine
  • 2 tsp of white pepper
  • 1/2-1 tsp of salt
  • 2 tsp of sesame oil
  1. Sliced the radish thinly using mandolin or if you can sliced thinly with knife to a thickness of less than 2mm. Make about 30 slices.
  2. Add salt to the water in a big bowl. Stir to dissolve. Place the radish in the bowl and let it soak for 2 hours or until the radish skin can be easily folded half.
  3. Drained and rinsed. Pat dry the skin with paper towel. Then dust one side of the skin with corn starch. This is to ensure the filling will stick onto the skin.
  4. For the filling ingredients, add everything and let it marinate for at least an hour.
  5. Place a teaspoon of filling ingredients onto a piece of radish wrapper. Fold half. Repeat until all the wrappers done.
  6. Heat a pan, grease lightly with some vegetable oil. Once hot, place the potstickers onto the pan and cook. Turn to low heat to let it cook slowly. You don't have to add water onto the pan as radish will excrete juice from itself. Cover with a lid for5-7 minutes. Check if the side has browned, if yes, turned all over and cover with lid and let it cook for 5 minutes or so until browned.
  7. Once cooked and nicely browned, removed from the pan. Garnished with some sesame seed and served with ginger in rice vinegar.
To me this little snack is healthy, the radish gives a crunchy bites and the moist minced flavor blended well with radish.


Here's some of my FOC decoration for Christmas....

Cut the holly berry from a park

My holly wreath - I just tied them together....

Mistletoe given by friend. I've not seen mistletoe before coming over here. It is meant for couple to kiss underneath the mistletoe, hence the song "I saw Mummy kissing Santa Claus underneath the mistletoe."

Friday, 18 December 2009

First major snowfall

The snow did arrive in large quantity in Cambridgeshire and is going to do so over the weekend. As the weather still struggling to go above freezing point, we've a really crisp winter morning. Imagine having a blanket of white all over, almost picture perfect of wintry scenery. I did take some shot in my village and did go to Cambridge city to get some nice shot....and mucking around in the snow of course. Enjoy the picture...... I really hope we'll have a white Christmas....finger crossed. :-)

View from St. John college
Got hit by a snowball
Doing the angel act
Brave soul still punting along River Cam
St. John college
Icicle on a conifer
View from my village green
Lovely white scenery around my area
Holly Berry
My front garden carpeted in white

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Finally it has arrived

Oh I'm so happy today, finally my new multifunction oven has arrived. I had ordered it online a week ago and thought I've to wait a further 28days before they could actually deliver. Having the festive season just around the corner, and no oven to bake with, I could feel a bit restless if I'm inviting guests over for dinner, unless I would only served drinks (I mean alcoholic drinks) :-) .
Well, I've been researching awhile which oven to suit me and my kitchen, finally I decided for NEFF series 3 oven, German made, elegant stainless steel finishing and fit well into my built in cabinet. I'm really looking forward to start my baking again ..... the thought of freshly bake aroma of cakes, pastry, bread, pizza, pudding etc ..............
All begins with oven installation DIY before I could actually use it....luckily I have my friend to give a helping hand to do the wiring.
It has been so cold since yesterday, the temperature barely stay above freezing during the day. It's forecasted to snow tomorrow and well into Friday-about 10cm of snow expected. Stay tuned for some shots of snow.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Build up a little winter fats

Especially in cold winter month, one can be forgiven to complaint a lot about weather and craving about having rich food ( the reason is to store up some ''healthy'' winter fat for heat insulation).
It has not cross my mind to make siu yuk (Chinese roast pork) before, until I discover this recipes which require no roasting at all ( as some of you already knew that my oven is already on it's last leg). This recipes produces crispy crackling/skin through frying the skin .
I have tried and tested this recipes and my verdict: Yes, I will try making them again if I've craving for siu yuk..... minus the oily mess.

Siu Yuk (Chinese Roast Pork)
  • 1 pound of pork belly
  • 1 tsp of ginger powder
  • 1 tsp of Chinese five spice powder
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 2 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • oil for frying
Siu Yuk Sauce
  • 1 tsp of oil from pork frying
  • 1/2 inch ginger-minced
  • 1 tsp of black bean sauce
  • 1 tsp of dark soya sauce
  • 1 tsp light soya sauce
  • 100 ml of chicken stock/water
  • 1/4 tsp of sesame oil
  • 1 tsp of sugar
  • 1 tsp of corn starch+ 1 tbsp water
  1. Wash the pork. Immersed in a pot of boiling water and turn to low heat and simmer for 30-40minutes. Drained.
  2. Using a sharp knife, stab the meat. This is to ensure you the marinating ingredient could be absorbed deeper into the meat.
  3. Rub first ginger powder then five spice and pepper, no need to rub the skin just the meat.
  4. Scored the skin side with sharp knife. Rub the meat and skin with salt. Cover them with cling film and let them marinate overnight.
  5. Next day, heat a cast iron pot with some vegetable cooking oil (sunflower oil). Make sure the oil is deep enough to fry the skin bit. Once hot, place the meat with skin down, you've got to be real careful as the frying process will have oil splash. Once in, quickly cover the pot with heavy lid to avoid oil splashing. Turn the heat to medium, fry for about 8-10minutes till the skin is golden brown. Then quickly turn onto the side and fry for 1 minute each on the side (close the lid).
  6. Once done, removed and drained with paper towel.
  7. Chopped the meat into slices.
  8. Scoop 1 tsp of oil from pork frying onto a sauce pan, fry the ginger till fragant. Add all the other ingredient for sauce except corn starch. Bring to a boil. Add corn starch solution to thicken sauce.
  9. Served with rice and drizzle with sauce and cucumber.

P/S: Need to be extra careful when frying because of oil splash. Therefore cast iron pan with heavy lid is recommended.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Wanton noodle soup

A bowl of piping hot wanton noodle soup on a cold winter day, it's so invigorating to the core. It's tasty broth and homemade little morsel of wanton and egg noodle is just my kind of comforting food on a dull winter's day. I like it with some minced garlic+vinegar sauce over my soup.

Wanton skin wrapper+filling recipes can be obtained here

Egg noodle recipes can be obtained here

  • 800 gm pork bone/chicken + 1 handful dried anchovies
  • 2 liter water
  • 1 thumb size ginger-smashed
  • 5 cloves garlic-smashed
  • 1 thumb size rock sugar
  • salt to taste
  1. Put all the ingredients for broth in a pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat and let the broth simmer for 3 hrs.
  2. Remove the bone from the pot and filter the broth onto another pot.
  3. Heat the broth when you wanted to serve.

  1. In a pot boil enough water, once boiling, drop in the wanton and let it cook. Once cooked it will float to the surface. Use a spatula to scoop them out and drained.
  2. Then add the egg noodle to boiling water and cook. Once cooked, remove the noodle from the pot and wash under running cold tap water. Add some water to the boiling water in the pot, once boiling, add the noodle back and cook just to heat it. Drained and served in bowl. Top up with wanton, scoop the broth onto it and garnish with some spring onion, fried shallot, pickled green chillis and lettuce. Sprinkle some white pepper to serve.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Save the best for last

We've the first frost on Tuesday and it's bitterly cold in the morning. The frosty scene is quite Christmasy at times, for me it's officially winter now. Colder days ahead.
It's always warming the thought of having a cup of hot chocolate drinks plus a bit of booze in it to give it some kick, I really like having this drink on a cold winter evenings.
Having said that, I saved the luxurious Irish Butler's chocolate gift from sister way back in July. As I put it, save the best for last. Indugence............

For one serving

Hot Chocolate Drink with Brandy
Ingredients (serve 2)
  • 450-500 ml full cream/semi skimmed milk
  • 2-3 Butler's chocolate cube
  • 2 tbsp brandy
  • equipment-milk frother
  • chocolate powder for dusting
  • cinnamon powder (optional)
  1. Warm the milk in a sauce pan on low heat. Do not boil as milk will curdle
  2. Pour 200ml warm milk from (1) onto milk frother. Turn on the frother to make milk foam/froth.
  3. Add the chocolate cube onto the milk and continuosly stir to ensure chocolate is melted and blend well. Always ensure is on low heat. Add the brandy and mix.
  4. Once is well mixed, pour the portion into two mugs. Then pour the milk foam over each mug. Dust some chocolate powder/cinnamon powder over the drink.

    The tune of Michael Buble "saving the last dance for me" was playing on the radio and it always got me into doing a bit of ''cha-cha'' . :-)