Sunday, 28 March 2010

Spring In Action

Lately the weather has warmed up significantly and always gifted with clear blue sky in the morning. Before the April shower sets in,one should enjoy the best weather while you can. After all, English weather is truly unpredictable.
So I decided to check out the Daffodil dale near astronomical ground in Cambridge. With my regal Pashley Princess, I cycled all the way to Cambridge and urged my buddy to go and enjoy the lovely flowers and spring weather. This year the arrival of daffodils are late by roughly 4 weeks due to extreme cold we had in winter. They're such a cheery flowers, they break the winter gloom and telling us spring is in. Even my garden daffodils are up too :-).
After the daffodils, I went to town to do some marketing. I passed by a lovely bakery shop, Fitzbillies along Trumpington Street. Yes, I heard of their famed Chelsea bun but had never try it before. This bakery dated back to 1922 and at times expect ques to get this lovely bun. And if you've craving for sweet things......go for it with a cup of tea. I bought two buns and brought it home with me. Indeed, this is one of the best Chelsea bun one could hope for- nice mix of cinnamon, berries, sweet syrup. So next time if you're around Cambridge do remember to go to this bakery and get this lovely bun and give it a try.
And yes we've switched to BST (British Summer Time). We've to change our clock to an hour earlier as day are getting longer. Yes, the whole season cycle begins again................

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Green Apple with grated sour plum

I can smell spring. Indeed spring is in the air. So much to look forward to..... in short, anticipation. I've been so busy lately as gardening calendar year is starting here again. Few achievements - like erecting a rose arch for my climbing rose (to last count I've 19 different rose varieties in my garden), enlarging my flower borders single handedly, grow my own grubs, weeding, lawn repair, cleaning up after winter etc. Some of you might think why the hassle ...... I tell you honestly,reap the reward in summer with a fantastic display of colors and bountiful harvest ..... sit and enjoy the labor and effort you put in during late winter/early spring. I don't mind a glass of Pimms on a hot summer day though.
Here is a nice little healthy snack to have on a hot day. I find that sour fruit will easily quench one thirst and open up ones appetite. This is so easy to prepare and in no time you'll snacking away on healthy bite.

Green apple with grated sour plum
Ingredients (serve 2)
  • 3 Granny Smith green apples
  • 3 dry sour plum
  • 1/4 tsp of salt
  1. Wash, peel and diced the apples. Place them in a bowl/plate. Rub them with salt to prevent browning of apples.
  2. Use a grater or knife to grate the dry sour plum flesh onto the apples.
  3. You can cool it in fridge or serve them immediately.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Sunday Roast

This is a classic British meal served on Sunday for lunch. It's normally consist of a type of roast meat (chicken, pork, lamb, beef) and served with roast potato, with sides of yorkshire pudding, vegetables, stuffing and good gravy.
I wouldn't say NO to this classic meal anyday of the week, imagine the flavorsome chicken with it's delicious crispy skin plus the perfect golden and crispy roast've got the idea.
My British friend always invited me over for lovely roast dinner, am gosh their roast potato is to die for. So I learnt a bit of skill from them on how to create that lovely roast potato and for the chicken-the oven will do justice for me I hope. :-)
So I thought, I will experiment with this classic dish, off to supermarket to get a medium size free range chicken (1.5kgs), king edward potatoes and some vegetables.

Roast chicken with roast potato
Ingredients (serve 4)
  • 1 whole free range chicken
  • some sea salt
  • Rosemary sprigs
  • 2 carrots-diced
  • 1 medium onion-diced
  • 4 large King Edward potatoes-cut into 6 for each potatoes
  • 100 ml sunflower oil (if you prefer, you can do with 50ml sunflower oil+50ml goose fat)
  1. Preheat the oven to 190C.
  2. Clean the chicken and pat dry. Stuffed the chicken cavity with carrots, onion and one sprigs of rosemary. Use a toothpick to seal up the bottom. Rub with sea salt on the skin and top with some rosemary sprigs. Place on a roasting tin.
  3. Pour the oil into another roasting tin. Put the tin into the oven. Also put the chicken roasting tin into the oven as well. Let it roast for 20minutes at 190C.
  4. Put the potato into a pot with lid and parboil for 10minutes. Off the heat. Drained. Pour it back into the pot and close the lid and let itself steam for another 10minutes or so to loose some moisture, the potato should look slightly soft and fluffy.
  5. Take out the oil roasting tin, place the potato into the tin, it should be bubbling away. Use a spoon to scoop up some oil to baste the potato. Place the tin back into the oven.
  6. Turn the oven heat to 160C now. This will ensure the slow cook process of the chicken and retain it's moisture.
  7. Baste the potato every 30minutes. The chicken should be cook after 1.5hrs.
  8. By the time the chicken cook, the potato will be have acquire a golden brown skin. Remove the potato and drained with paper towel.
  9. Place the chicken onto a big serving plate, carved and served with the roast potato and onion gravy. The vegetables in the cavity will taste absolutely gorgeous too.
There you go, Sunday lunch sorted out. :-)
That's a real good roast chicken and successful roast potato too. Yummy.

And here carpet of crocuses along The Backs in Cambridge, and couldn't resist my Pashley against the backdrop of crocuses. Ahhhh....... it's Spring :-)

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Kick start your day with healthy breakfast

There is a wise saying in Chinese, "早 上 吃的 飽, 下午 吃的好, 晚 上 吃的少" [ have a full breakfast, have a good lunch and eat less for dinner] . Most often we're reversing our meal-where we skip breakfast and end the day with a heavy supper. This is not healthy.
I always take my breakfast even if it's just a glass of milk. I felt much more energize if I have a proper breakfast.
So this morning I decided to make a rather healthy breakfast and it tasted light and yet packed with energy to start my day......or rather to conquer the world. :-)

Poached egg, salad with ciabata
Ingredients (served 2)
  • 1 ciabata roll
  • 1 medium tomato-deseed and chop
  • one bunch of lamb lettuce
  • 4 chestnut mushroom-slice
  • 2 cloves of garlic-finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
  • dash of sea salt
  • 3 tbsp of olive oil
  • 2 free range eggs
  • some seeds
  • dash of pepper
  • dash of dry herbs-oregano
  • parmesan cheese (optional)
  1. Heat a pan, add the olive oil, once heated, add the garlic to saute till fragant. Off the heat, add the mushroom immediately and mixed well. Let it to cool.
  2. In a bowl, mix the chopped tomato and lamb lettuce. Scoop 2 tbsp of olive oil from (1), balsamic vinegar and salt. Mixed well.
  3. Prepare the poach egg. Boil a pot of hot water, one boiling, crack the egg one at a time into egg poacher or just drop it into the boiling water. Boil for 1.5-2minutes. Remove from the pot. Set aside.
  4. Slice the ciabata roll. Dab some olive oil onto the ciabata roll. Sprinkle with some oregano. Toast the roll in oven or toaster for 5minutes.
  5. Place the roll on a plate. Top with some mushroom, salad and poached egg. Sprinkle with some toasted seeds and black pepper. Add grated parmesan cheese if you like. Drizzle the plate with balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing.
Enjoy the healthy breakfast.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Onion Bhaji

As some of you might know, I've been churning out soy milk with my new machine. And the by product is the soy pulp. I was thinking what to do with it:

1. Chuck it into the bin.
2. Feed the birds.
3. Using it to make some lovely food.

I think I'll go for option (3).
My mum always make a traditional Foochow fried oyster/prawn cake using the soy pulp, rice flour, oyster/prawn/minced pork, chives and some seasoning. Even Anthony Bourdain tried that special oyster cake at Maxwell Food Centre in Singapore. It was prepared with a special ladle and deep fried to golden brown. The skin is so crispy on the outside and the soya pulp makes the texture inside moist and soft. So next time don't throw away that lovely soy pulp after milking the soy. It can be used for making a lot of cooking, even it is being used a lot in Japanese cooking (known as okara).
As for me, I adapt my own method to churn out onion bhaji in a jiffy. And the end result........ am asking for more ... the soy pulp does make a difference to the texture and it's good for vegetarian friends and do give it a try.

Onion Bhaji
Ingredients (good for 2 persons)
  • 1 large onion- finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp of soy pulp
  • 2 tbsp of rice flour/corn flour
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1 tbsp of curry powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 green chilli-deseeded and chopped
  • 1/2 tsp soda bicarbonate (optional)
  • vegetable oil for shallow frying
  1. Lightly beat the egg, add in the soya pulp, curry powder, salt and rice flour.
    Mix well.
  2. Add in the onion and green chilli. Stir to mix well.
  3. Heat a frying pan with oil for shallow frying. Use medium heat.
  4. Use a tablespoon to ladle a scoop and slowly drop into the frying pan. Repeat to fill up the pan. Fry each side for about 2-3minutes till golden brown.
  5. Remove and drained. Served with ketchup or chutney.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Banana Muffin and a great weekend

This week has been splendid.....lots of sunshine and everyday almost perfect blue sky. Still a little bit on the chilly side, but hey I can't complaint for this lovely weather, it has been a freaking cold winter. Even my spring bulb flowers had been delayed...... I started to see some coming out and some early flowering crocuses and iris make my day. :-)
Initially I intended to bake banana cake but somehow decided at the last minute to bake muffin instead, as I've no access to my laptop for banana cake recipes. Therefore I always fall back on my ole good muffin recipes book on the shelf.

Banana muffin
Ingredients (make 11-12 muffins)
  • 280 gm plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp soda bicarbonate
  • pinch of salt
  • 100 gm sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 3 ripen bananas (weighs around 1 pound)-mashed
  • 85 gm melted butter
  • 90 ml milk
  • 3 tbsp rolled oats
  • a handful of chopped walnut (optional)
  1. Seive the flour, baking powder and soda bicarbonate into a mixing bowl. Add in the sugar.
  2. Preheat oven to 190C-200C.
  3. In another bowl, mix bananas, butter, milk and rolled oat. Pour this mixture into (1)
  4. Lightly beat the egg and mix to (1). Add in essence vanilla and drop in chopped walnut.
  5. Mixed well all the ingredients. Scoop into muffin cups or muffin trays. I use silicon muffin cup (they're brilliant).
  6. Bake for 20-25minutes till golden brown, or when you poke the middle of muffin with knife they come out clean.
  7. You can decorate muffin with glazed banana.
I'm enjoying my muffins with friends on lovely Sunday morning.

I also took some pictures of my early flowering spring bulbs. I'm intrigued whether I could produce saffron from the stamen of my lovely crocuses. :-)

White and lilac crocus
Iris reticulata
Purple Crocus

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Happy Chap Goh May

I'm so looking forward to spring at the moment, I've had enough of this extremely cold winter. This few days weather is warming up, really sunny, the days are getting longer and yes all my spring bulbs in the garden seem to wake up from their dormant period. So much to look forward to..... how I love spring. I'm counting down, officially it's only 3 weeks away from March 21st.
Over the weekend I made sweet potato dumplings with minced meat fillings. I served them over a bowl of piping hot rice noodle soup. It's definitely warming and of course ended the CNY on a high note with sweet potato dumplings looking like gold nuggets....

The recipes of sweet potato dumpling can be found here. One can also replace the fillings with vegetable fillings of your choice if one doesn't like meat fillings.

Wishing everyone a belated Chap Goh May. Anyone out there making a wish and threw mandarin oranges into the river on that nite? :-)