Wednesday, January 29, 2014

mushroom mini-pies - an impossibly easy mini-pie recipe

It's been a while since I made an impossibly easy mini-pie.

So today I thought I would make some mushroom pies for one of my sister's oldest and closest friends, E, who is a vegetarian, and whom I have known since they were in JC.

I wanted to make the filling as aromatic as possible since I was using only mushrooms. So I re-hydrated some dried Chanterrelle and Porcini mushrooms in boiling water for about 15 minutes. These mushrooms were then drained, chopped and set aside. Dried mushrooms pack a punch, so a little goes a long way! If you do not have these mushrooms, you can omit them. The pies will still be good, just not as good!

I then got on with making the filling for the pies. In a heated pan, I sauteed some diced onions for about 2-3 minutes until they became soft and slightly translucent. Into this, I added minced garlic and continued to cook for 30 seconds then in went the fresh mushrooms that had been sliced. I cooked those for 3 minutes or so, and added the dried mushrooms.

It does not take long at all to cook. I seasoned the mushrooms with some salt and black pepper, then transferred them into a bowl to cool. (This makes a great base for a mushroom pasta or risotto too!)

While the mushrooms cool, I got on with the batter.

It cannot be any simpler.

In a bowl, I added the Bisquick mix, milk and eggs. I whisked them together.

Into each hole in a greased muffin pan, I added a scant tablespoonful of batter.

Then a 1/8 of a cup of mushroom filling, followed by shredded cheddar.

Finally, I topped this with another tablespoonful of batter, and some freshly ground black pepper.

These were baked for 30 minutes.

And because they freeze really well, they can be placed in air-tight containers, kept in the freezer until needed. They are really great for breakfast!

If they last that long!

Mushroom Mini-Pies - An Impossibly Easy Mini-Pie Recipe (Makes 12)

For the filling:
10g dried Porcini mushrooms, rehydrated
10g dried Chanterrelle mushrooms, rehydrated
250g fresh button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 cup shredded cheddar
Salt and Pepper to taste

For the batter:
1/2 cup Bisquick pancake mix
1/2 cup milk - this can be whole or low-fat milk
2 eggs

1. Soak dried mushrooms in boiling water for about 15 minutes. Drain and chop. Set aside.
2. Heat skillet. Cook onion in extra virgin olive oil for about 2-3 minutes, until the onions become soft and translucent. Add garlic, cook an additional 30 seconds.
3. Add fresh mushrooms. Cook for about 3-4 minutes, then add dried mushrooms. Cook an additional 2-3 minutes before adding salt and pepper to taste. Transfer into a bowl and set aside to cool.
4. Mix together Bisquick mix, milk and eggs. Add a scant tablespoon of the batter into each hold of a greased 12-hole muffin pan.
5. Add 1/8 cup of filling, followed by cheddar. Finally top with another tablespoon of the batter, and pepper.
6. Bake at 180C for 30 minutes, until the pies have turned gold brown.
7. Cool completely before storing in fridge (2-3 days) or freezer (up to 3 months).
Note: Thaw in fridge over-night if storing in freezer before re-heating,

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

kung pao chicken (宫保鸡丁)

The LAM likes Kung Pao Chicken (宫保鸡丁) a lot. In fact, I only knew this dish existed because of him. I had never ordered it before in restaurants before I met him.

For many years, I would buy tubs of kung pao sauce from a certain brand. I really liked the taste. Then one day, this was no longer sold in the supermarkets. I don't know what that happened, but I was really annoyed. Without much of a choice, I bought kung pao sauce from various other brands but I didn't like any of them.

For some bizarre reason, it never occurred to me to make my own kung pao sauce. In my mind, it had to be some complicated recipe because kung pao sauce has quite a complex taste. Finally, out of sheer desperation, I thought I would google the recipe for the sauce. What I didn't expect to see was how easy it was to put together, and the best part of the whole thing was that I have all the ingredients for the sauce in my pantry.


There are many variations of this dish, largely due to its popularity. In the original version, Szechuan peppercorns were used. Since many cannot take the heat from these peppercorns, many cooks simply omit them. Some times I would add cashew nuts when I cook this, but since I did not have any, I left them out. You can also add peanuts if you wish.

To make the dish, I started by cutting the chicken thighs into small pieces. Traditionally, the chicken (usually breast) is diced, but I prefer little strips of chicken thigh. I seasoned the chicken with a little ginger juice, Shaoxing wine, light soy, sesame oil, white pepper and corn starch. This was set aside.

I also soaked some dried chilli in boiling water for about 10 to 15 minutes before draining them. I would normally use more chilli, but I was a little worried that the kids may not be able to take the heat, so I halved the quantity of chilli used. The chilli was also set aside.

To make the sauce, I simply mixed together light soy, dark soy, sugar, black vinegar, water and corn starch. This, too, was set aside.

In a heated wok, I stir-fried the garlic in hot vegetable oil for about 20 seconds. In went the chilli. The chilli was stir-fried until it was aromatic.

The chicken was added, and stir-fried until almost cooked through. Since I had cut the chicken into thin strips, this did not take very long. If you are adding nuts, this would be a good time to add them as well.

The sauce was added, and because corn starch had been added, the sauce would thicken.

When that happened, the dish was done.

Yes, it really takes very little time to cook kung pao chicken.

Naturally, I would never buy ready-made kung pao sauce ever again.

Kung Pao Chicken (Serves 4)
Lightly adapted from RasaMalaysia

2 skinless thighs, cut into strips (or diced)
1/4 cup cashew nuts or peanuts, if desired
12  pieces dried chilli - I used half of this amount
1 tablespoon garlic, minced

For the Marinate:
1 tablespoon corn starch
2 teaspoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon ginger juice
A dash of white pepper

For the sauce:
1 1/2 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon black vinegar
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon corn starch

1. Soak chilli in boiling water for 10-15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
2. Combine ingredients in a bowl to make sauce. Set aside.
3. Stir-fry garlic in hot oil for about 20 seconds. Add chilli and fry until aromatic. Add chicken.
4. Stir-fry chicken until almost cooked through. Add nuts and sauce.
5. The dish is ready when the sauce has thickened and the chicken is coated with the sauce.
6. Serve immediately, with rice.

Monday, January 27, 2014

review of soup house

Like every good Chinese cook, I make soups for my family. While I know that certain ingredients in soups have medicinal properties, I never really look into these properties. I mean, soups taste good, and they are good for you. What more is there to investigate?

I frequent book stores and ever so often, I would see cookbooks on Chinese soup making. I wondered why anyone would want to buy a book on how to make soups when all one needs to do is to combine a few ingredients, usually with pork ribs or chicken, and boil it for a few hours?

Well, all that changed for me when Jenn from the Singapore Mom Bloggers invited me and a few other bloggers to taste and review the soups at Soup House.

People, forgive me for my ignorance.

Soup making is an art. And ex-director turned hawker (and owner of Soup House) Andy Yuen, is a master. Andy's interest in food started when he was making culinary programmes for TVB in Hong Kong. So when the precious owner of Soup House announced his plans to retire, Andy jumped at the chance to take over the business.

He then spent 3 months learning to cook every single soup, including favourites like Black Chicken Soup and Watercress Soup. In addition to the traditional soups, Andy also concocted new soups like an organic fig soup which has since become his best selling soup.

For our tasting session, we were offered an interesting array of soups - from the light to the heavy to the dessert-like, all without the addition of the dreaded MSG, or even salt.

To start, we tried the Ming Mu Yu Tang (明目鱼湯). I know first-hand that it is difficult to get fish soups done right. So I take my hat off to the chef because this soup was so light, yet so flavourful and sweet, but at the same time, it was not fishy at all.

The next soup we tried was a pork rib and winter melon soup. This is a soup that I am familiar with, as I cook it quite a bit at home. But in this version, barley was added and cooked until really soft. The result was a heavier, but deliciously hearty soup.

Then we tried the yin and the yang - Black Chicken Soup and White Chicken Soup.

Both soups were double-boiled using chicken, but the taste of these soups cannot possibly be more different. The white version, which I was more familiar with, was mild and light. I was convinced that that was my favourite soup until I tasted the black version.

Oh. My.

It was heavier, for sure, but it packed a nice punch. There was a delicious burst of flavour as I took my first sip of the soup, and I was more than happy to finish the entire bowl of soup, and order another, all by myself.

Yes, it was THAT good.

We also tried the shark fin melon soup. When I saw the shark fin melon, I was taken aback by how pretty it it was.

Just take a look at how beautifully the chef had managed to cut the shark fin melon - thin, yet whole, slices with no traces of seeds. This is really a fine example of superb knife skills!

Once mixed, the shark fin melon breaks apart, and the strands of melon resembles shark fin, hence its name.

The final soup was more dessert-like - it was very light, and a little on the sweet side because of the use of fruit in the soup.

The prices of the soups at Soup House range from $3.80 to $4.80. At such affordable prices, it is no wonder that many who come to the shop after peak hours can only ask, "Which soups are left?"

Andy's dedication to his craft is admirable, and his passion for what he loves to do can be tasted in every drop of the soup he lovingly prepares every day.

So, if you happen to be in Whampoa, drop by for some soup. And if you are not any where near Whampoa, do make a trip there for Andy's soups. Trust me, you will fall in love with soups all over again, just like I had.

Disclaimer: While I was invited to a food tasting session, sponsored by Soup House, no other compensation was received. All opinions expressed here are my own.

Friday, January 24, 2014

braised pork belly with ginger, garlic and dried chilli

Until I recover from my intensive cake-baking session, dinner has to be kept simple.

So continuing with my theme of "SIMPLICITY", I am sharing a recipe for braised pork belly today. Pork belly is tasty, but it also has more fat, so if you are not into belly meat, then by all means substitute the belly with prime ribs.

The ingredients for this are really simple. In a heated wok, I added vegetable oil. Into this, I added garlic and ginger and saute them for a few minutes, until I could smell the ginger cooking.

I added the dried chilli which had been soaked with boiling water (for about 10 minutes).

And a little sugar. Stir until the sugar had completely dissolved.

The pork belly was added.

I cooked the pork until all the pieces had turned white. Then I added water, and the light and dark soy sauces as well as the pepper.

This was simmered (covered) on low heat for about 45 to 50 minutes, until the meat was tender.

This was really good, with rice. :)

Braised Pork Belly with Garlic, GInger and Dried Chilli (Serves 2 - 4)
Adapted from "Old Hokkien Delights" by Tan Yong Hua

500g pork belly, cut into thick pieces
80g garlic, skin left on
50g old ginger, sliced
60g sugar
10g dried chilli, soaked in boiling water for 10 minutes to soften, then drained
800ml water
1 tablespoon dark soy
5 tablespoons light soy
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a wok. Fry garlic and ginger for 2-3 minutes, until fragrant.
2. Add dried chilli and sugar. Cook until sugar has completely dissolved.
3. Add pork, continue to cook until the pork has turned white. Add water, light and dark soy sauce, and pepper.
4. Simmer on low heat (covered) for 40-45 minutes, until the meat is tender and the sauce has thickened.
5. Serve immediately, with rice.

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

Thursday, January 23, 2014

old-fashioned pound (cup)cakes with lemon curd and swiss meringue buttercream

The cake picked for this month's bake with The Cake Slice Bakers was Old-Fashioned Pound Cake from the chosen book of the year, "Great Cakes" by Carole Walter.

I knew that I didn't want to make a simple pound cake so I was thinking of an alternative way to present the cake. Then I saw that I had some swiss meringue buttercream left from frosting another cake, and I thought, why not cupcakes?

So I made cupcakes with this recipe, and this was the result.

To make the cakes, I started by creaming butter with sugar until the mixture turned light and fluffy. To this, I added the eggs, one at a time and beat each egg thoroughly into the batter.

In the meantime, I sifted the flour with the baking powder and salt.

This was added in 2 batches to the egg batter which by now looked like it had curdled big time. Don't worry, everything will be okay.

Finally, I added the vanilla extract and milk, and the result was a thick and pale batter.

I dished the batter into cupcake liners, and baked them.

Once cooled, I dug a hole in each cupcake and filled the cuppies with lemon curd.

Finally, I frosted the cupcakes with the buttercream, and that was it!

Pretty and darn tasty. What more can one ask for? :)

Old-Fashioned Pound (Cup)Cakes with Lemon Curd and Swiss Meringue Buttercream (Makes about 9)
Adapted from "Great Cakes" by Carole Walter

Please note: I halved the recipe to make the cupcakes. Double all quatities if you wish to bake the cake in a loaf pan (9-inch-by-5-inch)

113g sifted cake flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
113g unsalted butter
100g caster sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
30.5g milk

Position rack in the lower half of the oven. Preheat oven to 170C and butter a loaf pan and line it with parchment paper. Dust with all-purpose flour and tap it to remove the excess over your kitchen sink.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
Cut the butter into 1 inch pieces and place in the large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with beaters. Soften at low speed. Increase the speed to medium-high and cream until smooth and light in colour for about 1.5 to 2 minutes.
Add the sugar, 1 tbsp at a time, taking 6 to 8 minutes to blend well. Scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally.
Add the eggs, 1 at a time at 1 minute intervals. Scrape the sides of the bowl again. Blend in the vanilla extract. The mixture may appear somewhat curdled but will smooth out when the flour is added.
Reduce the mixer speed to low. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the liquid, dividing the liquid into 2 parts, starting and ending with the flour. Mix only until incorporated after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan(s) and smooth the surface with the back of a tablespoon or spatula.
Bake in the oven for about 65 to 70 minutes or until the cake is golden brown on top and begin to come away. If it browns too quickly, tent it with foil on top. (I baked the cupcakes for 18-20 minutes).
Remove the cake from the oven and place it on a rack to cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Invert the cake onto the rack and remove the pan. Turn the cake top side up onto another cake rack to let it cool completely.

I am also sharing this with Cook-Your-Books hosted by Kitchen Flavours.