Monday, September 29, 2014

Chicken, Leek and Parsley Pie And A Roundup for Cheerio Nigel!

"Cheerio Nigel", the theme for this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs (IHCC). This is our final week of cooking with Nigel Slater. We will be starting with our new featured chef, Diana Henry, starting Oct 5th next week. Want to join us? Get the full details here. Well, it has been a wonderful six months cooking with Nigel Slater's recipes. But it certainly is not goodbye, as I will definitely be cooking from his books from time to time. 

To say "Cheerio" to Nigel, I've made Chicken, Leek and Parsley Pie, and it was so, so, delicious!

Firstly, let's harvest some leeks from the garden pot! 

I have a few leek plants growing in my small potted garden. Only two leeks are ready to be harvested, the rest are not quite ready to be harvested yet, will reserve that for other recipes :)

First make the filling. I have used chicken breast meat, instead of chicken on the bones, which I've seasoned with salt and pepper (even though Nigel did not season the chicken pieces), and baked in the oven at 200C for 30 minutes until cooked through. Leave to cool, cut into bite-sized pieces and used as directed in the recipe. The 2 leeks from my garden pot is not enough, so I have bought 2 more to add on. The leeks are cooked till soft, then some flour is added in, with some hot stock, cook until the sauce thickens, add in the chicken pieces, bay leaves, chopped parsley, bay leaves, salt and pepper. I have forgotten to add the chopped parsley as I did not take it out from the refrigerator. Obviously, "out of sight, out of mind"!  LOL!

The filling is so yummy, that I can't help thinking that serving this over pasta would be lovely indeed!

This chicken pie is baked in a pie dish as one large pie, but I have used the ramekin moulds to make individual pies, which makes serving easier. Each person has one pie all to themselves. Besides, I don't want to share my pie! Haha!

Brush the top with some egg wash and bake till the the crust is all golden and crispy. I served the pie with some steamed corn and salad greens.

This is so delicious! The filling has that wonderful delicious taste of soft sweet tender leeks and soft, moist, tender chicken chunks. Of course, the crispy buttery puff pastry makes it all the more perfect. Yummy! Will definitely make this again. Now I got to plant more leeks!

Chicken, Leek and Parsley Pie
(adapted from "The Kitchen Diaries II", Nigel Slater)
800gm chicken pieces, on the bone (1-1/2 piece of large chicken breast meat, season with salt and pepper)
4 leeks
a thick slice of butter
3 heaped tablespoons plain flour
650ml hot stock
3 bay leaves
a small handful parsley
375gm sheet all-butter puff pastry
beaten egg and milk, seasoned for brushing

Set the oven at 200C (Gas 6). Put the chicken pieces in a roasting tin and bake for thirty minutes, till golden. Remove from the oven, leave to cool a little, then remove the flesh from the bones in large, bite-sized pieces and set aside. (I used 1-1/2 piece of large chicken breast meat, season with salt and pepper and bake in the oven for 30 minutes).
Thinly slice the leeks, wash them thoroughly, then cook them with the butter and about 100ml of water till soft and brightly coloured. It is essential not to let them colour, so keep a lid on and don't have the heat too high. When they are soft, stir in the flour, leave to cook for a few minutes, then gradually pour in the hot stock, stirring as you go. Continue to cook, letting the leek mixture simmer for ten minutes or so, till you have a thickish sauce. Add the cooked chicken, bay leaves, chopped parsley and some salt and pepper and continue cooking for a good five minutes. Try not to let the chicken break up too much.
Spoon the chicken and leek filling into a pie dish. Unroll the pastry and place it over the top of the dish, letting it overhang the sides. Brush the pastry with the seasoned beaten egg and milk, cut 3 small slits in the top to let out the steam and bake for twenty-five minutes or until the pastry is crisp and golden. (I made in ramekins for individual servings).
Enough for 6.


Roundup of Nigel Slater's recipes which I've cooked for the past 6 months with IHCC

This post is linked to I Heart Cooking Clubs (IHCC), the theme for this week "Cheerio Nigel!"


Friday, September 26, 2014

Apple Cake

Little Thumbs Up event, ingredient for this month is Apple, hosted by I Lost-In-Austen, reminds me of this Apple Cake which I have not baked for years! I used to bake this cake quite often (almost two decades ago!, wow how time flies!) and it was well liked by my office colleagues and friends. This cake was the most requested. And I even had orders for office gatherings, birthday and farewells parties from neighbouring offices, and I was not even selling cakes at that time!

About three years ago, when I bumped into one of my ex-colleagues, and after chit-chatting for a while, she asked me, "Do you still make the Apple Cake? I missed eating that cake! I wanted to order from you as a gift for a friend, but I lost your number!" After all those years, and she remembered! What is it about this cake that everyone seems to like? Maybe it is the buttery, moist and tender crumbs that makes eating this cake a pleasure. This is really such a simple cake, without all the heavy frostings, yet still a winner with those who have tried it. And the apple makes it all the more interesting and delightful to eat, especially if one likes a simple cake without any frostings.

Apple Cake, as described in the book "Apples are baked on top of a melt-in-the-mouth butter cake, then glazed with apricot jam.  The cake can be served warm as a dessert with whipped cream."

The recipe is from "Cakes & Slices Cookbook" by Australian Women's Weekly or you can find it from their website, here. I borrowed the book from my sister once upon a time ago, had almost all the recipes in the book copied and typewritten on A4 papers and kept them in my file folder. Here, it is, my file of almost 20 years old. The Apple Cake recipe is right on top, naturally!

This is just one of the files. I have a few more, which I've separated as "Cakes & Baking" and "Cooking & Dining"! LOL! I was sort of clearing my old files and thought of discarding most of them, but somehow I find myself putting them back in my cupboard! I guess all the hours spent collecting the recipes over the years, some are typewritten, some are handwritten, pieces of papers with notes and scribbles on them, and others in clippings from newspapers and magazines pasted on A4 paper for easy filing, all the efforts that went into it, seems such a waste if I discard them. Besides, as I browsed thru the files, there are interesting recipes which I've not tried before.... well, don't even know whether I'll make them, but just in case! LOL! Kinda sentimental value to me, I guess!

Apples are peeled, quartered and cored. Make lengthway cuts into the rounded side of apple quarters, cutting them 3/4 way through (not all the way). The apple quarters are then placed all around the baking pan, onto the batter with cut side up, arranging them close to the pan. I have used Fuji apples instead of Granny Smith. For the batter, I have reduced the sugar slightly to 120gm. 

The cake was baked at 175C for 50 minutes until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Tent the top with foil if browning too fast. Once the cake is done baking, let stand in pan for 5 minutes and gently invert the cake onto a wire rack. For the glaze, I have used 1 tablespoon apricot glaze, which I warmed with 1 teaspoon of water, then brush the warm glaze over the hot cake. Let cake cool, and slice to serve. 

A simple buttery cake, soft, moist and tender. The apples still had the slight crunch to it which is nice eaten with the cake. It can be served as a dessert with whipped cream as mentioned in the recipe, but it is good enough on its own.

Apple Cake
(adapted from "Cakes & Slices", Australian Women's Weekly
180gm butter (I use salted butter)
2 tsps grated lemon rind
2/3 cup (150gm) sugar (I use 120gm)
3 eggs
1 cup self-raising flour (1 cup plain flour + 1-1/2 tsps baking powder)
1/2 cup plain flour
1/3 cup milk
2 medium apples
2 tbsp water
1 tsp gelatine
2 tbsps apricot jam, warmed

Grease 20cm springform tin or deep 20cm round cake pan, cover base with paper, grease paper.

Beat butter, rind and sugar in small bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, beat until combined. Transfer mixture to large bowl, stir in sifted flours and milk, spread into prepared pan.

Peel, quarter and core apples. Make lengthways cuts into rounded sides of apple quarters, cutting about three-quarters of the way through. Place quarters, rounded side up, around edge of cake. Bake cake in moderate oven about 1 hour or until browned. Stand 5 minutes before turning onto wire rack.

Heat water in pan, sprinkle over gelatine, stir, without boiling, until gelatin is dissolved, remove from heat, stir in jam. Brush jam mixture over top of hot cake, cool before cutting.

  • Recipe can be made a day earlier
  • Storage : Airtight container
  • Freeze : Not suitable
  • Microwave : Not suitable


I'm linking this post to Little Thumbs Up event, organized by Bake For Happy Kids and My Little Favourite D.I.Y. and hosted this month by I-Lost in Austen



Wednesday, September 24, 2014

White Bread with Chocolate

Fancy a bread with half a bar of melting oozing chocolate right in the middle? Well, you can have it, in this lovely bread. It is really a white bread, stuffed with half a bar of chocolate right in the middle, well, the recipe uses only 120gm of chocolate bar in total for two loaves, but I have used 100gm for each loaf, totalling 200gm in all. I divided the 200gm bar into two and used it all up. Hey, nobody's gonna complain about the extra chocolate, at least not in my house!  

Here's how the bread is made :
For a start, this bread is made with an overnight sponge.
(This recipe makes two small loaves. I've used two loaf pans sized 7"x4")

The night before, prepare the sponge by stirring together 3/4 cup hot water (120-130F), yeast, and ginger powder. I have however used cinnamon powder as I did not realize I have ran out of ginger powder! Stir the mixture well, add in 1 cup flour with a wooden spoon to make a thin batter. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to work overnight.

The next morning, stir down the sponge (it would have risen and fallen by then), see the second photo above, the sides of the bowl are traces of the batter that has risen and fallen by next morning.
Add hot water, dry milk, sugar, salt and butter, and stir in the flour, 1/4 cup at a time until dough is a rough, shaggy mass. I transferred the dough to the bowl of the stand mixer and used the dough hook to knead the dough about 15 minutes until smooth. In total I've used 3-1/2 cups of bread flour. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turn to coat, and cover with greased cling wrap, keep aside to proof for 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.

Punch down the risen dough, knead gently for a few minutes, divide into two balls, cover with kitchen towel and let rest for 5 minutes. Working one ball at a time, press dough down and shape into a flat oval, roughly the length of the baking pan. Lay half the chocolate pieces down the center of the dough. Fold the oval in half, pinch the seam to seal, tuck under the ends, and place in the greased pan, seam side down. Cover with greased cling wrap and leave to rise until the dough has risen 1/2" to 1" above the rim of the pan, about 40 minutes.

Preheat the oven about 20 minutes before baking.

Bake the loaves for about 35 minutes until golden brown and the bottom of the loaves should yield a hard, hollow sound when tapped.

Remove loaves from pans and let cool on wire rack. Serve warm if you like oozing chocolates!

According to Bernard Clayton, slicing into the bread with a bread knife would smear the chocolate, and best way is to tear the bread by hand! I sliced the bread!  Texture of the bread is soft and with the melting oozing chocolate, yummilicious! We finished one loaf on the day itself, and I reheated the second bread by wrapping the loaf in foil for our breakfast the next morning, because we want oozing chocolate! Chocolate for breakfast, now you know what you are missing! 
I would suggest using semi-sweet chocolate, as you want it a little sweet but not too bitter. 

If you want a plain white bread as a toast for breakfast, simply omit the chocolate, as mentioned in the book "These loaves are small so they may be torn apart with forks or by hand rather than cut (which smears the chocolate). Without the chocolate, this is a fine bread for toasting. Perhaps bake one loaf with and one without".

White Bread with Chocolate
(adapted from "Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book Of Breads", Bernard Clayton)
1-1/4 cups hot water (120-130F)
1 package dry yeast (I use 2 teaspoons)
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger (1/2 tsp ground cinnamon)
3-1/2 to 4 cups bread or all-purpose flour, approximately (I use in total 3-1/2 cups bread flour)
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt (1-1/2 teaspoon)
2 tablespoons shortening (I use butter)
4 1-ounce sweet or semisweet chocolate squares, broken in half

Baking Pans : 2 small (7-1/2" x 3-1/2") loaf pans, greased or Teflon

Preparation - Overnight :
The night before, prepare the sponge. In a medium bowl measure 3/4 cup hot water, the yeast, and ginger. Stir well. Blend in 1 cup flour with a wooden spoon to make a thin batter. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to work overnight.

In the morning turn back the plastic wrap and stir down the sponge, which will have risen and fallen during the night. Add 1/2 cup hot water, the dry milk, sugar, salt, and shortening. Stir in the balance of the flour, 1/4 cup at a time, first with the spoon and then by hand or mixer, until the dough is a rough, shaggy mass that cleans the sides of the bowl. If the dough is slack and moisture breaks through, add sprinkles of flour.

Put the dough under a mixer dough hook, or turn onto a lightly floured work surface and knead by hand with the rhythmic motion of push-turn-fold. Add sprinkles of flour if needed. The dough will become smooth and elastic. Continue kneading for 8 minutes by hand or with the dough hook.

Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover tightly. Leave at room temperature until the dough doubles in bulk and is puffy, about 1 hour.

Now the chocolate is added :
First, punch down the dough and knead for a moment to press out the bubbles. With a sharp knife, divide the loaf. Shape into balls, and let rest under a towel for 5 minutes.
Form each loaf by pressing a ball under the palms into a flat oval, roughly the length of the baking pan. Lay half the chocolate pieces down the center of the oval. Fold the oval in half, pinch the seam tightly to seal, tuck under the ends, and place in the pan, seam down. Repeat with the second ball of dough.
Cover the pans with wax paper and leave until the center of the dough has risen 1/2" to 1" above the edge, about 40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375F, 20 minutes before baking.

Bake the laoves for about 35 minutes, until the loaves are a golden brown. Tapping the bottom of each loaf should yield a hard, hollow sound when done. If not done, return to the oven in their pans for up to an additional 10 minutes. Midway during baking and again near the end of it, shift the loaves so they are exposed equally to the oven's temperature variations.
(If using convection oven, reduce heat 40 degrees).

Remove the bread from the oven. Turn the loaves onto a metal rack to cool.
This bread is absolutely delicious served warm, but expect to smear the chocolate if you cut the slices with a knife. To tear by hand is best.


I'm linking this post to "My Treasured Recipes #2 - Dough Starter Breads (Aug/Sept 2014)" hosted by Miss B of Everybody Eats Well In Flanders and co-hosted by Charmaine of Mimi Bakery House.


Monday, September 22, 2014

Pumpkin and Tomato Laksa

"Ladle It Up", the theme for this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs (IHCC).

For this week, I've selected Pumpkin and Tomato Laksa, recipe from The Kitchen Diaries. I have some leftover pumpkins which I needed to clear, and some tomatoes too in my fridge. In the recipe instructions, the pumpkin is peeled,  and cut into chunks, then steam for a few minutes until tender, where they will be added to the laksa gravy towards the end of cooking time.  I feel that this is an unnecessary step, as pumpkin gets cooked really fast. I omitted the steaming and simply added the pumpkin chunks along with the tomatoes into the laksa gravy, and cooked for about 8-10 minutes until they are soft and tender. 

The laksa paste smells really nice. Made up of red chillies, garlic, ginger, lemon grass, lime leaves, coriander roots and leaves, which are all blended into a fine paste. I've added half a teaspoon of turmeric powder. Nigel has used only half the amount of the paste and he says to keep the other half for another day's use. I have adjusted the amount slightly to cook for only one meal. The paste is supposed to be cooked briefly in a saucepan, and he did not mention about using any oil at all. I have however, cooked the paste in some cooking oil, which I heated first, and fry the paste until they are fragrant, about 5-8 minutes. Then add in some stock and coconut milk (I've added the coconut milk at the last step of cooking). At this stage, I've added in the chopped tomatoes and pumpkins. Season to taste with some lemon juice, fish sauce and salt, let it simmer for 8-10 minutes until the pumpkin are soft and tender. I added in some fish balls during the last few minutes. And the coconut milk is added in, let the gravy come to a simmer, and ladle into bowls of pre-cooked noodles of your choice. I've used rice vermicelli. And garnish with some chopped coriander and mint leaves, and hard-boiled eggs, just because!

Simple and easy to cook. Though it does not exactly taste like our local laksa which is really rich and spicy, this bowl of mild laksa makes a nice meal. This is the first time I'm using pumpkin in a noodle laksa, and it makes such an interesting ingredient. The hard-boiled eggs and fish balls are my addition. Some cooked chicken meat may be added for a more substantial meal.  

Pumpkin and Tomato Laksa
Did not realize how messy the bowl looks after I stirred the laksa until I see this photo much later!

** my changes listed in blue
Pumpkin and Tomato Laksa
(adapted from "The Kitchen Diaries", Nigel Slater)
250gm pumpkin, unpeeled weight
5 small, red bird's eye chillies (I use 4 fresh red chillies)
4 cloves garlic
a lump of ginger the size of your thumb
2 plump stalks lemon grass
6 lime leaves
5 or 6 coriander roots
a large handful coriander leaves
1/2 tsp turmeric powder (my addition)
a little vegetable oil
500ml chicken or vegetable stock
400ml coconut milk
24 cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons nampla (Thai fish sauce)
the juice of half a lemon
100gm dried noodles, cooked as it says on the packet
a large handful mint leaves

Cut the pumpkin into large chunks and place in the top of a steamer (alternatively, steam them in a colander balanced over a pan of boiling water). The pumpkin should be tender in twelve to fifteen minutes. Remove from the heat. (I omitted this step, I simply add in the pumpkin chunks along with the tomatoes later)
Chop the chillies, removing the seeds first if you wish, peel the garlic and ginger and chop roughly. Put them all into a food processor. Discard the outer leaves of the lemon grass and roughly chop the inner leaves, shred the lime leaves, then add them to the chillies. Scrub the coriander roots and add them to the chillies, along with half the coriander leaves and stems. Blitz them to a pulp, adding a little vegetable oil if the mixture needs it to go round.
Place a fairly deep pan over a moderate heat, add half the spice paste (keep the other half in the fridge for tomorrow) and fry it, moving it round the pan so it does not scorch. Do this for a minute or two, then pour in the stock and coconut milk and bring to the boil. (I heated some oil, fry the spice paste for about 5 minutes until fragrant before adding in the stock)
Cut the tomatoes in half and add them to the soup (together with the chunks of pumpkin), with the nam pla and lemon juice. They will take seven to ten minutes to cook. Add the chunks of pumpkin and continue cooking for a minute or two. (Add the coconut milk, let it some to a simmer). Place a swirl of cooked noodles in each of four bowls, pour over the laksa and add the mint and the remaining coriander leaves.
Enough for 4.


I'm linking this post with I Heart Cooking Clubs (IHCC), theme for this week "Ladle It Up"



Saturday, September 20, 2014

Sambal Telur (Egg Sambal)

During the last book sale in December, I bought three cookbooks, series of "The Best of Singapore's Recipes" by the late Mrs Leong Yee Soo, who was most popular for her Peranakan also known as Nyonya cuisine in Singapore, especially during the 1970's. I have not tried any of her recipes before, but have heard about her recipes which are popular and well-received. Being a Peranakan (Nyonya) myself, originally from Malacca, I do have my own family recipes which I cooked at home, but it is interesting to see other versions of Nyonya cuisine. BTW, I have not been to Singapore before, gasp!!!. I know, unbelievable! I remember when I was really young, each year, one neighbour or another would go to Singapore during the school holidays and they would come home, with some new umbrellas and towels, each trip, each year! No idea why it was always umbrellas and towels, reason was, these items are pretty cheap in Singapore back then. 

When Grace of Life Can Be Simple is hosting Asian Food Fest (AFF) : Singapore, for this month, this is the perfect chance for me to make use of at least one cookbook from the three that I've bought.

Browsing thru her cookbooks, I noticed there are some similarities in most recipes and yet quite different in some. For instance, this recipe Sambal Telur caught my attention, simply because of the sambal paste that is used. She called the sambal paste as "Chilli Garam Paste", whereas our version of "Chilli Garam Paste" is a little different from hers. She has used fresh red chillies and belacan (prawn paste). In my home, it would be called "Sambal Belacan". Our version of "Chilli Garam Paste" is made up of fresh red chillies and salt (which is called garam in Malay language), some shallots may be pounded together for certain dishes. I have cooked this before with fish, in my older post, here. I suppose the variation in Peranakan (Nyonya) cuisine depends on regional influence. Interesting to see the different variations yet so familiar.

Sambal Telur (Eggs in Sambal Paste)

Originally, the recipe calls for the hard-boiled eggs to be deep fried until light brown and slightly blistered. I did not do this step as I do not like hard-boiled eggs to be fried this way, it makes the outer layer of the whites sometimes rubbery. You would not find me choosing deep-fried hard-boiled eggs from the "chap-fun" stall, even if they look really good cooked in sambal! It is just my personal preference, that's all. If you like your hard-boiled eggs cooked this way, then by all means, follow the recipe, as long as you enjoy it, that's all matters!

The "Chili Garam Paste" recipe given below is for a large amount, so that you could use some now, and freeze the rest for future use. I have however made for one recipe only, enough for 4 eggs. I used 12 fresh red chillies and a small piece of belacan (prawn paste). And I have omitted the MSG. 
Though this dish is nice eaten with rice, I would prefer if there are some shallots blended together with the chilli paste to make it a little "onion-y sweet". This dish is quick and easy, if you are craving for some simple spicy dish which does not takes up much time to prepare. 

Sambal Telur
(adapted from "The Best of Singapore's Recipes : Hot & Spicy Treats", Mrs Leong Yee Soo)
10 eggs, hard-boiled
cooking oil for frying
140gm chilli garam paste (*refer recipe below)
1 level tsp sugar
1/2 tsp MSG, optional
pinch of salt
4 tbsp water
4 tbsp thick coconut milk
  1. Shell hard-boiled eggs and soak in slightly salted water for 20 minutes. Dry eggs on a tray.
  2. Deep-fry the eggs in hot oil until light brown and slightly blistered. Transfer to a plate.
  3. Remove oil from pan. In the same pan, fry the chilli garam paste over low heat until oil separates. 
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients, heat through and pour over eggs. Serve.

Chilli Garam Paste
600gm red chillies 
85gm shrimp paste, finely diced
1 cup cooking oil
2-1/4 tbsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
1/3 cup water
  1. Coarsely pound together chillies and shrimp pase.
  2. Heat cooking oil in a pan, add the chilli paste and fry over moderate heat until fragrant and oil bubbles through.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and stir-fry until moist and oily.
  4. Leave to cool completely before packing into plastic containers. Store in freezer for future use.
  5. Note : When the chilli paste freezes, cut into 4cm (1-1/2 in) cubes, then put them back into the freezer. You can then thaw only the amount you need each time.


“I am submitting this post to Asian Food Fest #11 Sept 2014 : Singapore hosted by Life can be Simple”.

and I'm sharing this post with :


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