Tuesday, December 31, 2013

cabbage rice

One-pot meals are life savers for homecooks like myself. So many days I would wake up and wonder what to cook for dinner. On days like these, I would always turn to meals that I can cook in one pot and the bonus would be if I could make it in advance and leave it to keep warm in the rice cooker.
Cabbage rice is one of the dishes that everyone at home simply loves. Yep, even the LAM likes it.

My cabbage rice recipe is pretty standard. It really is my Mom's recipe. I use the ingredients that my mom uses, and I have not made any changes to it. Why fix something that doesn't need fixing right?

I sliced Chinese sausages (buy the good ones), rehydrated Shitake mushrooms (reserve the soaking liquid) and lean pork (which I seasoned with light soy sauce, sesame oil, white pepper and corn starch). These were set aside. I also soaked some dried prawns in hot water to soften them.
I cut one Beijing cabbage into wedges. These were then washed, drained and set aside.
In a heated wok, I added some vegetable oil. I sauteed the minced garlic for about 30 seconds, then added the drained dried prawns. I stir-fried this for another minute or so, and added the pork.
When the pork had turned white, I added the Chinese sausage, mushrooms and rice. I stirred to mix.
I added light and dark soy sauce, as well as white pepper.
The rice was then transferred into the bowl of a rice cooker.
 I added the mushroom water, and topped up the difference with plain water.
Then I placed the cabbage on the rice and cooked.
When the rice was about 3/4 cooked, I used a wooden spoon to stir and mix the rice and the cabbage (which would have wilted by now).
The cabbage would release some water as it cooked, so at the end of the cooking process, check the doneness of the rice. If you prefer softer rice, add a tiny little bit of water and cook some more. Do not add too much water at once unless you like mushy rice.
This is definitely one of my go-tos from my list of "Fabulous Home-cooked Food".

Cabbage Rice (Serves 4-6)

3 cups rice, long-grained, washed and drained
300g lean pork, seasoned with 1/2 teaspoon light soy sauce, 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil, a dash of white pepper and 1/2 teaspoon corn starch)
1 Beijing cabbage, cut into wedges
2 Chinese sausages, thinly sliced
6 pieces dried Shitake mushroom, rehydrated and reserve liquid, and thinly sliced
50g dried prawns, soaked in hot water and drained
3 cups water (or water + liquid from soaking mushroom)
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
2 teaspoon minced garlic

1. Heat oil in wok, saute garlic for 30 seconds. Add dried cook, stir-fry for 1 minute.
2. Add pork and cook until the meat turns white. Add Chinese sausage, mushrooms and rice.
3. Add light and dark soy as well as pepper. Stir to mix. Transfer to bowl of rice cooker.
4. Add mushroom water (and water if insufficient). Place cabbage on rice. Cook.
5. When rice has been cooked for 3/4 of the cooking time, stir the cabbage into the rice mixture.
6. Garnish with chopped chives or spring onion and serve hot.

Monday, December 30, 2013

chocolate charms (shortbread)

Continuing with my cookie-baking marathon, I wanted to include a simple shortbread cookie in my Christmas cookie gift box. Because for this year, I could only do most of my baking after the kids had gone to bed, I decided to make everything simple by using an ice cream scoop to dish out my cookies. Hence these cookies are round instead of the more traditional wedges or rectangular shapes which shortbread cookies tend to come in.

Shortbread cookies are really, really simple to make. It really is a matter of mixing the (very few) ingredients, letting the dough rest in the fridge and then shaping and baking.

I made one batch of dough and got about 50 cookies.

To make these, I started by beating the butter for about 5 minutes, until it turned fluffy. Then the sugar was added, and the mixture was beaten for another 2-3 minutes, until it became very light in colour and fluffy.

I added vanilla extract, and sifted the flour, coca powder and salt.

The flour was added to the mixture in 3 additions, and I combined the flour and cocoa powder on low speed, until it was just incorporated.

I chilled the dough for a few hours (minimum 1 hour), and using a small ice cream scoop, I dished the cookies and placed them on lined baking trays.

I baked them for about 20-25 minutes.

These cookies are crunchy and not overly sweet.

Absolutely delicious!

Chocolate Charms Shortbread (Makes 48-50)
Adapted from Martha Steward's "Cookies"

2 cups plain flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (plus more for dusting - I skipped this)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (250g) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)

1. Sift together flour, cocoa, and salt into a bowl.
2. Place butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes.
3. Add sugar, and beat about 2 minutes more, until very light in color and fluffy, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
4. Add vanilla, if using. Add flour mixture, and combine on low speed, scraping with spatula if necessary, until flour is just incorporated and dough sticks together when squeezed with fingers.
5. Form dough into a flattened disk; wrap in plastic. Chill until firm, at least 1 hour.
6. Preheat oven to 165C. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
7. Using a spoon, form dough into 1-inch balls; place on prepared baking sheet.
8. Bake until firm, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating halfway through.
9. Cool completely on wire rack.
10. Dust with cocoa powder just before serving.

Note: Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.

This post is Part 3 of my 4-part post on Christmas cookies. Do look out for the recipes for the remaining cookies in the following weeks!

The recipe for Part 2 (Dark Chocolate and Cranberry Cookies) can be found here.
The recipe for Part 1 (Old-Fashioned Lemon Sugar Cookies) can be found here.
The recipe for Chocolate Chip cookies can be found here.

I am submitting this recipe for Cook-Your-Books hosted by Joyce from Kitchen Flavours.

Friday, December 27, 2013

deep-fried prawn fritters - cucur udang

I made prawn noodles and had some prawns left. I was wondering what to do with them - the possibilities are endless since I simply adore prawns. Then I thought about this prawn fritter recipe that I had read a while ago.

I have been eating prawn fritters since I was a kid. My aunts would bring me to the hawker centres when I was little and I would stand at the stalls watching the hawkers cook. The old lady frying prawn fritters fascinated me to no end because it was amazing how fast she was able to dip the prawns in the batter and get the fritters into the oil and each and every one of the fritters would be perfectly shaped.

With the arrogance confidence brought about by experience from years of cooking, I decided to make these fritters. After all, I had seen how they were made countless times. It could not be THAT difficult, right?


My goodness! Getting the prawn to sit prettily on the batter was NOT easy at all.

In fact, there was a lot of splashing and hissing from the oil, then the batter would not leave my ladle without a fight. I got splashed on, and I got burnt.


The fritters I made were delicious. I mean, even though most came out not very pretty, they tasted good. The fritters were by no means ugly, but I really wanted to have my prawns sitting prettily on top of the fritters. I think my biggest mistake (yes, there were many learning points from this experiment) was using prawns that were way too big. The smaller prawns would have worked much, much better.

The second mistake I made was not heating my ladle properly and not using a metal ladle in the beginning. I was too eager and starting frying too soon. What happened was the batter sticking onto the cold ladle. Hence, the splashing and hissing as I was trying to pry the batter off the ladle.

Thirdly, it pays to coat the ladle well with hot oil. This would have made it much easier for the batter to slip into the oil.

So if you are still game to make this, you would be rewarded with really super yummy prawn fritters.

It is worth the effort.

Just don't make the mistakes I did.

I started by removing the feelers and legs from the prawns. Then I blanched the prawns for 30 seconds in salted boiling water. The prawns were dried with some kitchen towels and set aside.

I sliced the chilli, finely chopped ginger and chopped spring onion as well as rehydrated shitake mushrooms.

In a bowl, I combined plain flour, baking powder and half of the water. The batter was set aside to rest for 15 minutes before I stirred in the rest of the water as well as the oil. After mixing, I rested the batter for 5 more minutes.

I added all the ingredients (except the prawns) as well as the seasonings into the batter and stirred to mix.

This was where mistakes were made. Firstly, you need to heat your oil and your metal ladle. Only when both are hot do you scoop some batter and place the prawn on the batter. (Ignore the ladle used in this picture.)

Carefully slide the batter and prawn into the oil. Work rather quickly so you do not get splashed on. Then fry both sides of the fritters until they have turned golden brown.

The fritters were drained on kitchen towels then all that was left to do was to eat them.

They were so yummy!!

I am making these babies again.

For sure.

With a metal ladle.

And hot, hot oil.

Deep-Fried Prawn Fritters - Cucur Udang (Makes 6)
Loosely adapted from "Old Hokkien Delights" by Tan Yong Hua

6 pieces fresh prawn
2 slices young ginger, finely chopped
1/2 red chilli, sliced
2 pieces Chinese mushroom, rehydrated and chopped
30g spring onion, chopped

For the Batter:
1 cup plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2/3 cup water
1 tablespoon oil

1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon corn flour
A dash of white pepper

1. Blanch prawns for about 30 seconds in salted boiling water. Drain and pat dry with kitchen towels. Set aside.
2. Mix plain flour and baking powder with half the water. Stir and rest for 15 minutes. Add remaining water and oil. Mix and rest a further 5 minutes.
3. Add all ingredients (except prawns) and seasonings to batter. Mix.
4. Heat oil and ladle. Place batter on ladle, and prawn on top.
5. Gently slide batter and prawn into oil. Fry both sides until golden brown.
6. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately.

I am submitting this recipe for Cook-Your-Books hosted by Joyce from Kitchen Flavours.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

dark chocolate and cranberry cookies

When I was putting together a collection of cookies to give away for Christmas this year, I wanted to include a chocolate cookie. It had to be a dark chocolate cookie, because I wanted something that was full of the flavour of chocolate. At the same time, I wanted to add some dried cranberry to the cookie so there is a hint of tartness to contrast with the sweetness and richness of the chocolate cookie.

These cookies are really to-die-for. I don't eat cookies, and people I know who are not really into cookies have texted me to ask for this recipe, so if you are thinking of making some chocolate cookies in the near future, please, do try making these.

They are really simple to make too.

To start, I sifted together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. This was set aside.

In a mixing bowl, I creamed together the butter and both caster sugar as well as brown sugar.

Once this mixture had turn light and fluffy, I added eggs and vanilla extract, making sure to beat until the eggs and extract had been incorporated into the mixture.

Then I added the flour mixture in 3 additions, beating well after each addition.

Finally, I folded in the chocolate buttons and cranberry.

The dough was covered with cling film and placed in the fridge for at least an hour to chill before I baked the cookies.

Using the biggest ice cream scoop I had (or you can use a 1/4 cup measure), I scooped and placed the dough onto a lined baking tray.

These cookies would spread when baking so be sure to leave ample space between them!

When baked, they were left to cool on the trays for 15 minutes before I carefully transferred them onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

I stored the cookies in an air-tight container, and separated the layers using baking paper. They would keep for about 3 days.

But they are so more-ish I really doubt they would last that long!!

Happy Christmas everyone!

Dark Chocolate and Cranberry Cookies (Makes about 36)
Adapted from Martha's Stewart's Cookies

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups (284g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups caster sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
12 ounces (340g) bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups (250g) dried cranberry, firmly packed

1. Preheat oven to 170C. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla extract; beat until well combined. Add the flour mixture, and beat on low speed, until just combined. Do not overbeat. With a wooden spoon, fold in chocolate and cranberries.
3. Form balls of dough, each about 1/4 cup; place balls on baking sheet about 3 inches apart. Bake until puffed and cracked, 9 to 11 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container, at room temperature, up to 3 days.

This post is Part 2 of my 4-part post on Christmas cookies. Do look out for the recipes for the remaining cookies in the following weeks!

The recipe for Part 1 (Old-Fashioned Lemon Sugar Cookies) can be found here.
The recipe for Chocolate Chip cookies can be found here.

I am submitting this recipe for Cook-Your-Books hosted by Joyce from Kitchen Flavours.