April 29, 2008

Bollywood Cooking from A New Zealand Kitchen

Oh, poppadams are so hard to find in the supermarkets we usually go to. They've changed the International alley several times and I think they've forgotten to put on where the poppadams were. Great. The show must go on and so we enjoy Indian cooking without poppadams, pitily.

The famous Meeta of What's For Lunch, Honey?, the creator of Monthly Mingle is organizing Bollywood Cooking for us to experience and share Indian cuisine. Not that I am unfamiliar with Indian cooking, but yeah it is nice to get together where bloggers around the world sharing their favourite Indian foods.

I usually cook Indian food with adjustment to the ingredients and the amount of spices suitable to our digestive system. My stomach can't really take spicy food anymore due to the typhus I'd had twice when I was a student. Every spicy food will give burning impact in my stomach followed by diarrhea. Not nice, really. However, I am keen on tasting the 'real' Indian spicy food. I am having it a go.

the whole package

Bombay Lamb Curry

Source: Family Circle: The Complete Asian Cookbook.

I add chunky potatoes into the meat when they meat is simmered and I used beef instead of lamb. This dish is simply hot and spicy. I had to have yogurt soon afterwards, or else. It's just nice to really have a taste what it's like. I quite like it, although I have to reduce the amount of spices next time. We eat this curry with basmati rice.

bombay beef curry

1.5kg leg lamb, boned,
2 Tbs ghee or oil,
2 onions, finely chopped,
2 cloves garlic, crushed,
2 small green chillies, finely chopped,
5 cm piece of fresh ginger, grated,
1 ½ tsp turmeric,
2 tsps ground cumin,
3 tsps ground coriander,
½ - 1 tsp chilli powder,
1 – 1 ½ tsps salt,
425g can crushed tomatoes,
2 Tbs coconut cream

Cut the meat into cubes, trim the fat and sinew. Heat the ghee or oil. Cook the onions over medium-high heat until golden brown. Add garlic, chillies and ginger. Keep stirring until fragrant but not burnt. Mix turmeric, cumin, coriander and chilli powder with 2 Tbs water to make a paste. Add into the onion mixture. Keep stirring and add in the meat, a handful at a time. Brown the meat and add more meat when they are all browned and coated with spices. Add salt to taste. Stir in the tomatoes. Bring to the boil, cover and reduce to simmer for 30 minutes. Add in the coconut cream and simmer for another 30 minutes or until the meat is tender. (at this stage, I added the potato chunks). Serves 4-6.

We finish the meal with rice khir. This khir I have seen on the Taste magazine when the reporters were having dinner with an Indian family in Christchurch. The wife served rice khir in the end of the meal and I want to try it out, unfortunately, the magazine does not provide the recipe, yet the hints of 'pistachio, saffron, and almond' would give me an idea.

Rice Khir with Pistachio, Saffron and Almond

I am guessing from the photo of the doctor's wife pudding on the magazine that the pudding is still a bit runny. It looked really delicious with hints of saffron and pistachio on the surface of the pudding. I am using evaporated milk as I believe it will make the pudding creamier, and I only added saffron towards the end of cooking. The flavour is improved within days. This dessert is also great eaten cold! You can flavour the milk with saffron and leave it overnight, I suppose. My Indian friends can give me suggestion on the best way to cook rice khir, can't you guys?

rice khir

¼ cup long-grain rice, rinsed and drained,
1 can evaporated milk + 600ml water (I add fresh milk when needed or when the pudding is becoming dry),
white sugar (didn't measure, simply pour in and taste it. I made it not too sweet),
blanched almond, diced or slivered,
a pinch of saffron

Put the milk mixture in a heavy pan (I use my iron cast saucepan) and boil until bubbly. Reduce to simmer and add in the rice and sprinkle a little pinch of salt. Stirring occassionally until the rice is cooked and the pudding is still saucy. Add in the chopped or slivered blanched almonds and saffron. Remove from the pan and let the saffron steeped for a little while. Served sprinkled with pistachio and extra saffron, if desired. Serves 4-6 (really, we have it in a little portion).

April 27, 2008

Homemade Tempeh: Tempeh Making

In the sequence of tempeh goreng tepung for Beautiful Bones, I was having this tempeh fermentation ongoing. I was not really sure if they were going to be a success because the tempeh starter was sent to me a year ago by a friend who once lived in Christchurch. The tempeh I made was a bit dry. I think it was because we set the incubator temperature too high for the fermentation (the reason we use incubator that our weather is unpleasant, you know, Autumn is full of promises of gusty wind and frosty mornings). I should have done this in Summer, however, we learn a lot from this.
Anna, thanks so much! I finally am using this starter and enjoying tempeh more than just a block!
This is what I do to make home-made tempeh as an entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Anh of Food Lover's Journey this week.

1 kg soy beans,
1-2g tempeh starter,
grape leaves for wrapping (use plastic bags or banana leaves to substitute)

Equipment for fermentation
incubator (not in Summer or hot climate, I don't think)

Prepare the soy beans. Soy Beans can be purchased at Tofu Shop, if you're in New Zealand. These are the main ingredients to make tempeh. I am not sure about tempeh starter in New Zealand, but it is available in Indonesia, the original rhizophus.

Wash the soy beans and cover with clean water. Leave it overnight.

The next morning, these beans will become softer. This is to make hulling the beans a much easier work. My children were helping me hulling the beans. I know I am a perfectionist, I just wanted them all hulled, perfectly, without any hulls remain. So it took me about 4 hours to get all done, in between home-schooling, morning tea, and lunch (mind you, we're talking about 1 kg of soy beans!). Actually, you do not need to worry if there are a few beans are not hulled thoroughly. The easiest way to hull them is that you press the beans like kneading a dough, then let the hulls to come up on the surface of the water. Discard the hulls and then do it again until finally change the water and make sure the hulls are not there anymore.

Cover the hulled beans with clean water. Cook until cooked. The beans will remain their shape although they are cooked (I love the smell!). Drain the water. Put them on to a wooden tray. If you have banana leaves, you can line the tray with banana leaves. Scatter the soy beans on top and let them a bit cooler. In this picture, I put the soy beans in a bamboo steamer, lined with paper towels.

Meanwhile, prepare the grape leaves (or plastic bag, or banana leaves). I remember my late grandmother used to use daun jati (teak leaves) to replace banana leaves, but we don't grow teak trees here. I thought I can use grape leaves instead. Clean the outer and inner part of the leaves with tea towel. Set aside.

Transfer the cooked beans on a bowl or a container. Sprinkle the tempeh starter and mix until all used and well combined. Take a tablespoonful in the middle of the leaf, then wrap it like you're wrapping a spring roll. Although, my late grandmother used different style of wrapping, I think this is the easiest way to wrap it with grape leaves.

Put these wrapped tempehs on to the trays in the incubator and keep them at 37C (this is too high, perhaps 30-35C would be suitable) for 2-3 days. When they are a success, the rhizophus will cover the whole cakes beautifully in white!

April 24, 2008

Tempeh for Beautiful Bones

The first time I introduced tempeh to my family and friends here in New Zealand was at one occasion way back two or three years ago. I thought they would not eat them, but to my surprise, they kept coming to the table for more and kept asking me what it was. Many of them have heard about tempeh but only a few have actually eaten it.

It is probably not an item every Western household would keep in the fridge, but I am sure it is well known to vegetarians as well as tofu. They are made from the same beans but treated differently. Tempeh is more like a cake of cooked whole soybeans which then is fermented using a tempeh starter or an agent, rhizophus.

My late grandmother used to make tempeh herself and sold them in the market. Like many Javanese people, she was a hard worker. She had to make a living because my grandfather was way long, long gone before I arrived in the world. I was told he was died in a battle when Indonesia was in the war with the Japanese.

Making tempeh is practically time consuming when you do it traditionally, although today this can be adapted by sophisticated machinery a Western household may have. My grandmother was doing it by hands: she rinsed the soy beans, left it overnight, then the next early morning she would start splitting the beans before cooking them. She would then stroll along the garden and chuck out some of the finest banana leaves from her backyard. Her favourite seat was on a little hut she built herself when she was having a rest. I would be sitting there with her and helping her splitting the banana leaves to a certain size wide enough to wrap the tempeh. We would come back and she worked on the tempeh while I was watching her. I was too small to be involved in tempeh wrapping, she said. She was spoiling me but I didn't buy that. She would then give me a little bit of her fermented soy beans and let me wrap mine. It was the smallest tempeh of all.

Susan of Food Blogga announces Beautiful Bones event to raise awareness for osteoporosis. I am cooking tempeh as an entry for this event. The nutritional facts about tempeh: high in protein, and its content of isoflavones is excellent for your health. On the list of 100g tempeh, look how much calcium, phosphorus, and potassium are provided on this nutritional facts list.

Tempe Goreng Tepung (Fried Tempeh in Batter)

In New Zealand, you can find organic tempeh from any leading supermarkets or health stores. Tofu Shop in North Shore might have it as well. I like using celery leaves because they highly contain of Vitamin C, potassium and calcium as well.

1 block tempeh, quartered and then sliced thinly,
1 cup Healtheries Gluten-Free Simple Baking Mix (or you can use ordinary flour),
1 tsp ground turmeric,
1 small garlic clove,
1 tsp coriander seeds,
2 Tbs chopped celery leaves,
salt to taste,
water, enough for mixing,
rice bran oil for deep frying

Crush the coriander seeds with a pinch of salt and garlic in the mortar and pestle until it's smooth (you can use ground coriander for no fuss—I just like using fresh coriander seeds for more fresh flavour). Put the flour in a medium bowl. Mix in the coriander and garlic paste into the flour. Pour some water to make a thick paste. Add water to thinning a little bit, but not making the batter too runny. Mix in the chopped celery leaves. Heat the oil until hot although not smoky hot. Dip the thinly sliced tempeh in the batter, and deep fry until golden brown on each side. Serve warm. Makes 16.

Another recipe for tempeh: Sambal Tempeh (Fried Tempeh with Sweet Soy Sauce)

April 20, 2008

Click: Au Naturel

Brrrrr... We're receiving Southerlies this morning and we have to light the fire! In the middle of Autumn? Fancy that! The wind can be really, really icy, giving dry blow to your face when it's coming from the South. Perhaps it is a good time to stay inside and enjoy hot drinks.

Approaching Winter is always some natural resources to be enjoyed. Rhubarb is growing massive, tamarillo trees are fruitful, unfortunately, some of our hens are not being productive. However, we're still collecting 3-6 eggs a day, and that is rather good for a small household supply. We keep the breeds birds for hatching in the incubator and then sell the chicks, while the ordinary eggs are kept in the fridge for daily use.

The beauty of eggs are often captured by many of you and I do believe there's always a character of each shot. This is one of many shots I have done on eggs and I'm sending this as an entry for Click Photo Event: Au Naturel, created by Bee and Jai.

And here's one of the shots of rhubarb I have taken.

So, rhubarb and eggs, what are they going to be?
Here's the recipe to be sent for HHDH#19, hosted by my friend down in Christchurch, Bron of Bron Marshall.

Donna's Rhubarb Clafouti
Source: Canvas

350g rhubarb, washed and trimmed
3 eggs
1/2 cup caster sugar
sea salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup plain flour, sifted
30g butter, melted
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup cream
icing sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 160C. Cut the rhubarb into 3cm lengths. Lightly grease a 20x25cm ovenproof dish and dust with sugar and add the rhubarb (in the step, I coat the rhubarb with caster sugar by toasting them in the sugar). Whisk the eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla until pale and frothy and whisk in the flour. In a separate bowl, combine the butter, milk and cream, pour into egg mixture and whisk until smooth. Pour the mixture over the rhubarb. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until just set. Cool for 10 minutes then dust with icing sugar and serve with ice cream.
Serves 4-6.

More on rhubarb:

Donna's Rhubarb Scones

April 17, 2008

SHF Asian Sweets Invasion: Klepon

Indonesia is a large country which spreads its islands from east to west, north to south, across archipelago. Each island brings different cultures and customs, including regional languages, dialects, and food. Although there are similarities of ingredients or the finished products, there are some kind of differences in the process and cultural aspects.

Jacki Passmore wrote in her book Asia: The Beautiful Cookbook describes Indonesian cuisine as “the heady, haunting aroma of spices, chilies and coconut; the kaleidoscope of bright colours and the overlay of contrasting textures; the myriad flavours to tantalize the palate; the simplicity of a family meal or the beauty and extravagance of a festive spread.” p. 217.

I am very impressed of how western people try to bring the adaptation on Indonesian culinary to the wide world's kitchens as I do believe not many of you have been familiar with. Those who travel a lot to Southeast Asia might know Bali, but it is only one island of cultures out of at least 12,000 islands with each different cultures in Indonesia! It's not enough to explore Indonesia for only a week or so because the diversities are massive. I am an Indonesian and I'm still hungry to taste more other cultures in my own homeland which, other than those I've known, I haven't experienced in my whole life!

I haven't been to Borneo and I envy the famous chef in New York ever has visited the inland people “The Dayak”, stayed with them and experienced their cultures and food! I haven't been to Celebes island, either and I'd love to taste lalampa, freshly made from Minahasan kitchens. I have been mostly in many cities and towns in Java island which I do love Bandung (West Java)--love the climate and food, and I also enjoy Jogjakarta (Central Java)--the historical place where I can sense the powerful ancient kingdoms spreaded invisibly in the air... I do love its cultures, the famous Borobudur and Prambanan temples, the beautiful Keraton dances performed by delicate arms and hands of the Javanese girls, and I could read various Wayang stories million times which I have known by heart by now. Jakarta is the place to admiring the vastness of development and also the greediness of political issues from many corners of the streets to the tallest fancy buildings which each of them is seeking conclusions and solutions.

In West Java, I usually went to Sumedang and Subang, two different climates in one region. Can you believe that? Sumedang tends to be hotter than Subang. Surely, there would still be paddy fields found in some areas in Sumedang, but Ciater's tea plantation is a stunning view! I usually went to Subang to go hiking with my friends on Sundays, walking kilometres away in between the patches of plantations, which then we took a long, long walk to go up to Tangkuban Parahu, one of tourist destinations in West Java. I also loved climbing the Papandayan Mountain, again with a group of friends to enjoy the magnificent sunrise. I missed it! I missed it a lot.

Perhaps, your imagination of Indonesia with its political issues may hold you back from traveling my homeland, but believe me, in its ordinary lives, apart from those fanatic politicians and corruption fames, ordinary people are very hospital and friendly. You can expect people will greet you whenever you go, because you are our tamu (guests). People in Indonesia still keep the term 'guests are the kings, so serve them right' and you can take it for granted. I am supporting Visit Indonesia Year 2008, to send you an invitation to come to Indonesia.

My own hometown, Palembang, is located in South Sumatra. If you have a map of Indonesia, look at the upper left of Java island, you can find Sumatra Island. Palembang has a golden era where the Srivijaya kingdom was reaching the pinnacle of fame and territories. Food wise, Palembang has its specific food called Empek-Empek which is popular nationwide.

Well, yes when I am missing my home-country, I would try my best to cook them in my New Zealand kitchen. Often am frustrated as the ingredients are not always available at times I want it, however there's always something to substitute. These little coconut balls which are stuffed with palm sugar are only some of my favourite sweets I've always come back for more.

I am sending these little coconut balls to you to enjoy on SHF: Asian Sweet Invasion event, hosted by Amrita of Le Petite Boulangette.

Kueh Klepon (Coconut Balls)

Source: Jacki Passmore. Asia: The Beautiful Cookbook. p. 237.

It is much, much better if you can find brown palm sugar. Dark brown sugar is called gula Jawa, literally means Javanese sugar. It is have darker colour than palm sugars from Vietnam or Thailand. The texture is much smoother than dark muscovado sugar although the latest can be used as the substitute.

My late grandmother used to grind the glutinuous rice to be flour using her traditional wooden mortal and pestle made from a log of wood which is shaped like a mortar with a hole in the middle and the pestle is carved to resemble a huge rolling pin. The pestle usually has a little curve in the middle so she could hold the long stick in balance while she's grinding the rice. This stick is very heavy which I believe its weight is used to be able to break, crush and grind the rice. I don't know if this mortal and pestle still is available in the modern kitchen. I just want to see it again. It is a traditional value which many of us don't keep anymore. But, I will keep it if I can find it. It's precious.

1 cup glutinuous (sticky) rice flour,
¾-1 cup thin coconut milk,
½ tsp salt,
24 small cubes of palm sugar or several tablespoons dark brown sugar,
1 cup shredded coconut
(I used a drop of pandan paste to make the balls green and also to enhance the traditional flavour in the balls)

Mix the flour and coconut milk together, adding the salt. The dough should be firm enough to mold without sticking to the fingers. Form into 24 small balls of equal size. Push the poin of a finger into each one to form a hollow and press a piece of the palm sugar (or a scant half teaspoon of brown sugar) into each. Pinch the dough up and around the filling to compltely encase it, ensuring that the edges are firmly sealed together.

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Drop in about 8 of the balls at a time and simmer until they float to the surface, then cook for a further 1 ½ minutes. Lift out with a slotted spoon and drain. When all of the kueh kelepon are cooked, toss them in shredded coconut until thickly and evenly coated. Serve cold. Makes 24.

More on traditional Indonesian Sweets:

Bubur Sumsum,
Putri Mandi
Lapis Surabaya,
Spekkoek (Lapis Legit),
Martabak Manis,
Bubur Candil,
Bubur Injit

April 13, 2008

Banana and Coconut Pudding: A Taste of Yellow #2

I am sending this photo of Banana and Coconut Pudding for A Taste of Yellow: Photo Competition. Congratulations to anybody who wins!

When I sent my entry to Barbara for A Taste of Yellow, I did not intend to send the photo as an entry. The reason was that I bought the wrong wristband to be eligible for the photo competition. I mentioned it to Barbara and then I was generously sent the LiveStrong wristband, the 'correct one' directly from Queensland, Australia. Now, there's no reason for me not to send my photo for the competition. I think Barbara means so.

I did send my Mango Smoothie and I should have to redo the photo, which I don't think it's possible. When there's the mood to take a picture, you can give the whole of yourself to focus on one main object. If you're not in the mood to do so, you can't repeat the mood which is captured in the photo the second time. When I asked Barb if it's alright to send another entry, she said 'Yes!', then well, let's do it!

I thought I could do it sooner, but again, there's always something coming up. We have to say goodbye to our 12 year old Paige. She was so old she had to suffer from arthritis. She died last night. I was very upset because, although I don't really fancy dogs, I loved Paige (I have a traumatic incident when I was a kid, about 8 years old. It was Saturday—I could remember the day because students in Indonesia always wear girl/boy scoutts uniforms on Saturday and I was a member of the school's scoutt--I was bitten by a stray dog on the way to school—fancy to have my shirt and skirt was all covered in blood?- and was injected 14 times. I had to go to the hospital to receive the injection every day since the day I was bitten. Wasn't fun as the shots were getting deeper with bigger needles towards the end of the 14th day. Gosh). She was my little company. She was always there around me anywhere I went. She even was always sitting down nicely under the tree when I was weeding out in the sun, mind you, she was a corgi, could not stand in the heat! She was watching me putting the washing out. She was always rushing when she noticed that I had biscuits on my hand. When her hips were still alright, she would be racing with us, running around the paddock. She used to be rounding up sheep and I was told she was good at it. When she hurt her hips, she could just watch the sheep painfully and made a little din down her throat. She was always a good company and always loved affection. She loved being stroked. She was a friendly dog.

However, she might not be feeling any pains now. One thing to be remembered, I suppose. Farewell, Paige darling. We certainly will miss you. (Until today, I still expect her to come to me when I stroll along the garden... it's kind of hurt to find she's not going to do that anymore. There's something missing.)

Back to the kitchen, I made banana and coconut pudding. I was home alone while my children went to see their beloved Nana (grandmother) and John was enjoying his new computer. Fancy, there's no delay when watching Leonard Cohen from YouTube, he could listen to Cohen's songs for hours while browsing some satellite channels! Well, that's going to be my personal hours and I have to make the most of it, don't you think I am lucky!

First shot was this. Have you noticed that I've forgotten something?

I took a hundred and twenty shots for different styles, but I only chose 4 of them. The first 50 shots I had to delete because I forgot to include the wristband. I just realized it when I was about to upload to the computer, I looked at my wrist and there was the answer of the unforgotten item. Swear not, I could not delay any more hours to prepare and take shots, so I just did it straight away.

I am only an amateur and a learner. I do enjoy doing photography, either it is food, nature, flowers, insects, or landscape/outdoors. I do much food and nature more than other fields this art is offering. I find it fun, interesting, and scientific. For food photography, I am using natural light, that's what I have, with only standard kit lens 18-55mm, there's so much thing I can do. Although, people might think my gadgets are basics, that's what I need at present and I am making the most of it. I don't use studio lights to create fancy bright appearance. What I often do is just to adjust where the sunlit spots are available in the house. I sometimes take a picture in our bedroom, and often do in the kitchen. These shots I took on my benchtop.

I am dreaming to have my own studio and have good clients who appreciate my works. Maybe, one day. Even though it will remain a dream, it is just a nice dream.

Updated 14 April 2008.

Here's the recipe.

Banana and Coconut Pudding
Source: Donna Hay Magazine. Winter. Issue 28. p. 70

1/2 cup caster (superfine) sugar
1 cup (4 fl oz) (single or pouring) cream
1 Tbs plain (all-purpose) flour, sifted (I replaced the flour with gluten free flour)
3 eggs
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
4 bananas, sliced
1/4 cup coconut flakes (I could not find these, just used desiccated coconut instead)

Preheat the oven to 180C (355F). Place the sugar, cream, flour, eggs, coconut and vanilla in a a bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.

divide the banana slices between four 1-cup (8 fl oz) capacity ovenproof dishes and pour over the pudding mixture. Place the dishes on a baking tray and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the pudding is set and the top is golden. Sprinkle with the coconut flakes to serve. Serves 4.

April 10, 2008

Cooking to Combat Cancer #2: Gado-Gado and Blueberry Yogurt

My concern for cancer kids in Indonesia is going within this event. I thought I can organize an event to help the Indonesian Care for Cancer Kids Foundation people by organizing a charity program, but I have to re-think and re-organize the plan. Perhaps, there's the need of Plan B because Plan A is way impossible. Perhaps, it's not the program that I, alone, can do because I don't have the power to do so. However, I know there's always a way to help. I am preparing the Plan B and I will be very grateful if you can kindly help me to help these children.

This brochure is courtesy from YKAKI

The increasing numbers of cancer children in Indonesia is an impact for a burst development in large cities, cheap labours, with ironically, joint by expensive food to afford where poor people are still suffered from bad nutrition intakes. This massive development which what political leaders say 'going to the better justice and democracy' is leading to prosperity to many low-economic families and you will expect there are many poors living in the dark spots of the cities, especially Jakarta. I am not sure if the policy for better democracy can be a concern of the justice for looking after the poors. The riches can go richer, the poors will still stay the same. Perhaps, getting dropped dead day by day.

The suffocated price for food can be a critical choice for poor families to purchase, let alone to ever think of. Rice, the staple food in Indonesia has been going higher, which is now followed by the lacking stock of oil. How could we not be expecting malnutrition children from this? Poor families are just enough to think what they can eat now, and will look some more for tomorrow, without enough help to fund themselves to eat good food. Let alone, to feed the children. They might not think about good food. How might they if they can't even purchase rice?

Children, whatever poor they are, are going to be the future of the nation. If the country cannot fund them to give proper food, then who else?

These thoughts have been haunting me for days, weeks... months now. I want to help these children. I really do. By entering Cooking to Combat Cancer, I am spreading the words on hoping you would be generously joining me to help the cancer kids in Indonesia. I will let you know if my Plan B is ready, when the Cooking to Combat Cancer #2 and A Taste of Yellow for LiveStrong Day have finished. Please, stay with me.

Back to eating healthy, for this event, I am making Indonesian gado-gado which cabbage and carrots are only some of the ingredients listed to be the prevention food of cancer and have the goodness to protect colon and rectum. I also make Yogurt and Blueberry Semifreddo as the dessert which both have good impacts on healthy life.

I dedicate this entry for my friends at YKAKI (Yayasan Kasih Anak Kanker Indonesia/Indonesian Care for Cancer Kids Foundation) who have been working so hard to help the cancer kids in Indonesia. You are all the most wonderful people!

To my dear friends Chris and Barbara: Stay Strong!

Indonesian Gado-Gado

It's common in Indonesia to include as many vegetables as possible to make large portions in the family. The peanut sauce is always flavoured with kencur, the key ingredient for exotic flavour. However, I haven't found it in any forms in New Zealand, so I just use my usual way to make peanut sauce.


cabbage, carrots, mung bean sprouts, beans (if you can find snake beans, that will be great! And add more vegetables like spinach, ong choy, bok choy, whatever you wish and can)


hard-boiled eggs,
steamed potatoes, if desired,
fried tofu, if desired

Peanut sauce

To make it darker, I use kecap manis (sweet soy sauce).

1 cup crunchy peanut sauce,
1 Tbs hot chilli sauce,
1-2 blocks palm sugar (use brown sugar to substitute),
1 tsp shrimp paste, optional,
3 cloves garlic, minced,
1 tsp ground cumin,
1 tsp tamarind paste diluted with ¼ cup warm water, discard the pulps,
1 Tbs coconut milk,
water to thin the sauce,
salt to taste

Heat a saucepan. Add 1 Tbs oil. Cook the garlic, cumin and shrimp paste until fragrant. Add in the peanut butter, stir well. Pour in the tamarind water, coconut milk. Stir well. Pour in enough water to thin the sauce. Cook until bubbly. The sauce will be thick. Serves sprinkled with fried shallots.

Yogurt and Blueberries Semifreddo

Perhaps, the term semifreddo does not really match the ingredients because I only use yogurt, instead of cream. However, I may 'borrow' the term, don't you think? I serve this semifreddo after gado-gado, it feels cleansing the mouth. I add spoonful of rhubarb sauce and halved passionfruits. My children love them!

1 litre plain yogurt,
2-4 Tbs honey (less or more, depending on your taste),
juice from one lemon,
2 Tbs water,
1 punnet bluberries

Heat the water, honey and lemon juice in a saucepan. Let cool at room temperature. Once cooled, whip into the yogurt. Fold in blueberries carefully. Pour into a square tin lined with plastic wrap. Freeze until required.

My contribution for Cooking to Combat Cancer #1 was Ong Choy Salad.

April 09, 2008

Biscuits for Cole

Holly sent me a message about her recent event Blogging for Babies to spread the words on March for Babies. I'd like to help her through this post.

I don't really have a sad story about my children, unless there was an incident when Sarah, my youngest daughter, was born without breathing. We thought we almost lost her. I tried my best to call her name in her ears and stroke her while the midwife was giving her oxygen and gentle message for her little heart. It was the pinnacle of that early night that she suddenly choked and cried. I cried out the relief. Since that night, I and my hubby promised not to have another child, not that way. I might have lost her if she wasn't find her own strong will to come back to us. I don't think I would be ready to lose a baby.

I did homebirths both, naturally. I didn't take any pain killers, whatsoever. I felt the pain, I felt the tearing, and I heard myself crying out. And till the fight was over, the excitement to see the little and wet creature bursting out from inside me, wearing my blood, was all the love to embrace to live. My kids were born healthy and weighed well for their mixed features. The smooth skin, the little nose, wriggly tiny fingers and toes... the wonderful feeling I can always remember. The bond in each breastfeeding is like telling me their unlimited stories what had been going on inside.

Now, they are here. They have become the very parts of my life to love, to care, to cuddle, to kiss, and to be introduced to the world. They are preciously raised and educated.

Talking about babies, I'd like to introduce you to our newest members in the family: Bibbie and Bow Bow. Two little fury kittens. They are all going to be the most handsome Toms ever in the village! Fancy, I have two more babies to look after. Of course, Ben and Sarah have their own recent tasks now: feed and look after them.

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Cookies

These biscuits are developed during Sarah's treatment to eczema, as the symptoms of her allergic to wheat and dairy products. Until today, none of my children drink cow's milk. The only milk their ever drank was my breast milk. I breastfed them until they both were 2.5 years old. We found out that Ben was allergic to wheat when he was a baby, therefore, we were cautious about Sarah's allergic to wheat as well. She got her eczema at her aged 2 years old. We're often consuming Healtheries Gluten-Free Simple Baking Mix to replace the wheat flour. They are all alright with peanut butter, so these biscuits were created, developed and improved. The amount of sugar does not make the biscuits sweet, but it helps the biscuits to retain its texture.

peanut butter cookies

1 cup smooth peanut butter,
1 cup unsalted butter,
1 ½-2 cups Healtheries Simple Baking Mix,
¼ cup caster sugar,
1 egg,
sprinkles (optional)

Preheat the oven to 170C. Beat the peanut butter, unsalted butter and sugar until smooth and fluffy. Beat in the egg until well combined. Fold in the flour. Mix well. Add more flour if the mixture is still wet. The dough should be smooth but not dry. Roll into balls. Spread with sprinkles (you can add raisins or dried apricots, if you like). Flatten a bit the bake for 15-20 minutes until golden. Serves 14-20 small biscuits.

April 07, 2008

Coffee Cupcakes from Singapore

Amrita, my little friend in Singapore, sends me a great recipe for making coffee cupcakes, secretly. Once emailed, I immediately run to my kitchen and do it. Why? Because I love coffee. I love the aroma of it, the taste of it, the strength of it. Although, I have to limit to one cup a day, that is one too many, making these cupcakes are the best excuse to enjoy coffee another way.

I could not find any difficulties in doing these little cakes. I only have to reduce the sugar to a certain amount considered 'safe' for my sugar-level, didn't use the salt, and used 3 eggs, instead of the amount of eggs Amrita suggests on her recipe. I also have to use half unsalted butter and half salted butter. Salted butter makes the sponge too salty to my taste, therefore, I don't use it much in baking cakes. The additional flavour I add is ground cinnamon. I love the aroma of coffee blended with the scent of cinnamon. Sensational!

Amrita uses 17 cupcake holes but I used 6 Texas muffin holes, 6 mini muffin holes, and 12 medium muffin holes. I don't have suitable liners for the medium muffin tins and I think greasing and flouring them will do the trick. It did! For the 12 medium cupcakes, I sprinkle some finely chopped dark chocolate on top. I want to see how it will go with coffee and cinnamon.

Making French coffee icing really worths the effort. This custard-like buttercream is the perfect match for the delicate cake. Puuurrrrfect! It seems that Amrita weighs everything just in right balance that makes a perfect buttercream with damn beautiful consistency. I love it! I really recommend this recipe to be used for adult cupcake-birthday-cake. Perhaps you can play around with some coffee liqueur, Kahlua or Tia Maria? However, I can't post her recipe here because she runs cupcakes business and this is one of her 'secret' success!

Now, because Amrita can't share with us that recipe and I still am wanting a coffee cupcake, I then remember Nigel has one recipe of old-fashioned coffee walnut cake. My mum-in-law recognizes is as the English old-fashioned coffee walnut cake as she's held the similar recipe from generations. We both enjoyed coffee cake and I determine to revisit it again. I brought some slices of the cake when we had a day out in Tauranga. It was really nice with a cup of coffee while breathing the fresh air and viewing beautiful scenery.

coffee cupcake

This is one of the view. You can see the poles of the swinging bridge there. This historical location is called Karangahake reserve park. This river used to be the greatest place for the goldminers in New Zealand back in 1875. You can find useful information (just in case you haven't been here and for you from overseas who are keen on traveling to New Zealand) on Explore Karangahake Gorge New Zealand.

Coffee and Walnut Cake

Source: Nigel Slater. The Kitchen Diaries. p. 355-356.

First time made this cake was months ago when I was trying out the recipe. I just followed the instruction without reducing anything. This time, I have to reduce the sugar because the cake is going to be iced with buttercream (which is sweet!). I can't eat cake with too much sugar, will give me a headache afterwards and hurt my stomach. However, you can still use the whole lot if it's alright with you. In this picture, I am using French coffee icing that Amrita sends me. It gives great consistency and it tastes even better although it's fridged for a day or two. I add 1 tsp ground cinnamon to the flour.

175g butter,
175g golden caster sugar (I used 125g only),
175g self-rising flour,
3 large eggs, lightly beaten,
1 tsp baking powder,
2 tsp instant coffee granules,
65g walnut pieces, chopped,
1 Tbs boiling water (I replaced it to hot milk)


200g butter,
400g icing sugar,
2 tsp instant coffee granules,
60g walnut pieces

Beat the butter until pale then add in the icing sugar. Continue beating until smooth and creamy. Stir a tablespoon of boiling water into the coffee granules, and mix into the butter cream. Fold in the walnut pieces.

(Iam using the French coffee icing, so I have a different procedure and I don't fold in walnut pieces in. I just sprinkle the pieces on top of the cake).

Preheat the oven to 180C. Prepare two 20cm loose-bottom round cake tins and lined. Beat the butter and sugar until light, pale and fluffy with an electric mixer. Add in the beaten eggs gradually at a time, beating well. Mix the flour and baking powder (plus cinnamon if using) and fold into the butter mixture gently with a metal spoon. Pour in the dissolved coffee. Mix well. Add in the chopped walnuts. Mix carefully.

Divide the batter between the two tins, smooth the top lightly and bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Once cooled, put one cake upside down, spread with the buttercream, then put the other cake on top and spread the remaining icing on top and the sides of the cake. Serves 8-10.

April 04, 2008

Me? Win?

I can't sleep tonight. One part of my mind is full with thoughts for the cancer kids I am trying to help by organizing fund-raising and the other part is full with the excitements and disbelieved that I am one of the winners of Does My Blog Look Good In It March 2008! My entry was here.

I'm speechless. I just can say thank you, I'm honoured!

April 03, 2008

Bakwan Jagung: An Indonesian Way!

We often enjoy corns (zea mays) from the cob fresh and raw. They taste as sweet as honey and very juicy. You can't even tell whether it is a kind of starchy vegetable or just a usual fruit. Back home, I always enjoyed my late grandmother little snacks: simple boiled corn kernels sprinkled with salted fresh shredded coconut and cane/palm sugar.

So simple yet so time-consuming. I remembered she cooked them in a huge pan which the bottom was blackened by the ash. She put it on a hearth. When we went gardening, she would come back to check the corn if it's ready now and then. She would call me to take a break and serve the boiled corn kernels on a cone of banana leaf with all the toppings on. That was a delicacy for me.

Having harvested corns ourselves, it does remind me of my grandmother. She was a very good gardener, never was a moaner. She was a hard worker but also was she a gentle woman I've ever known in my life. I miss her and I miss my homeland.

Anyway, I cook corn fritters this time to send you who's joining Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Kalyn this week. An Indonesian way the cooking is slightly different from the corn fritters I've made before. I use more herbs and no cheese involved. Usually, it is eaten as a part of the main meal or as a side dish. They are often as well sold at sidestreet food stalls together with other kind of 'gorengan' (deep-fried fritters).

Arfi's Bakwan Jagung (Indonesian Corn Fritters)

Using sweetcorns, these fritters taste sweet, savoury and crunchy at the same time. The herbs give more flavour and pleasant smell. We like to eat them with tomato and chilli sauce.

corn kernels from 3 large corns,
3 spring onions, finely chopped,
1 shallot, finely sliced,
2 celeries, finely chopped,
2-3 eggs,
salt and pepper to taste (use garlic salt to give garlic flavour),
oil for shallow fry (you can also deep-dry these fritters)

Put the corn kernels, herbs, salt and pepper in a bowl. Sprinkle with flour (I don't use much flour because we like corns to stay crispy), mix well. Break the eggs, whisk with fork loosely. Pour into the bowl. Mix well. If the mixture is too wet, dredge more flour until the mixture can hold together but is still impossible to roll into balls. Heat the oil. Drop one tablespoon and fry until golden. Flip over and fry the other side. Remove and drain on paper towel. Makes 12-15 fritters.