The Caker’s Nutella Banana Cake

I’m still in my journey of making cakes from Jordan Rondel’s The Caker. In my defense, the recipes are so nostalgic and simple; I often already have all the ingredients handy.

Banana and chocolate are a match made in heaven, so it is surprising that I haven’t seen recipes combining these two key ingredients more often. Chocolate brings a richness and sophistication to banana’s starchy flavour.

I have not followed the recipe exactly though. The Caker’s recipes typically ask for the oven to be set at fan bake, but I bake all my cakes on normal bake setting. This recipe uses Nutella as a pre-made frosting, a marvelous hack. I used roasted hazelnuts crumbs for decoration, but you could use The Caker’s suggestion of banana slices and praline. Continue reading

Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s potato and parsnip latkes

I have always loved fried grated potatoes; hash browns, rostis and latkes. The crispy, slightly salty shreds of potatoes must sit right up there in the list of comfort foods. But it took Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s Jerusalem cookbook to convince me to try making them. And wow. These. Are. Good. Supremely good. So good, that I made them two weekends in a row. (All the accolades you’ve heard about Jerusalem is true, it’s a stunningly beautiful cookbook with fantastic yet accessible recipes).

I will say that unless you have a food processor, the grating task might actually put you off the recipe. I took a slight liberty with the recipe, only because my chive plants will not grow, whilst my parsley plants are taking over the garden.

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David Chang’s Miso Corn

Fresh sweetcorn is one of the crops that heralds in summer in my kitchen. They are amazing this time of the year when they are abundant at the greengrocers, so sweet and bursting with deliciousness that you could eat them raw off the cob. And I do. Seriously. Even Sam, the beagle, gets in on the act.

Strangely enough, we don’t get much sweetcorn back in Malaysia. What we do have are delicate and crisp baby corns. The tinned versions are a poor substitute, so I seldom bother with them.

David Chang prepared this dish on his PBS series Mind of a Chef episode on Soy. So simple and clever, I had to give it a go. I later realised that a version of this was published in his Momofoku cookbook (instead of cooking from it, the cookbook has been propping up my laptop…oh the shame!)

Like Chef Chang, I love corn on the cob but only when I’m on my own as they are messy to eat (I steam them and slather with butter) and it’s not the most attractive look when bits of corn get stuck between your teeth. This recipe gives the best of everything, you get slightly smokey, buttery corn with such a great umami taste (no one will guess there is miso in there), you have the cob to gnaw the juicy heart of the kernels and no messy diners.

This version of Miso Corn comes from Gourmet magazine, adapted for NZ ingredients, and my laziness. Although we don’t get smokey bacon from Benton’s here in NZ, I’m sure they don’t have Manuka smoked bacon over in NY. So there. Continue reading

Red Velvet Birthday Cake

For Mi’s birthday, I wanted to make a (easy) cake with pizzazz. I think no other cake makes more of a statement than red velvet cake. And Mi is a quite a lady herself. Happy Birthday Mi!  If you can take your mind off the bright carmine colour, the cake is absolutely delicious. It is made with buttermilk and cocoa powder, is not-too-rich, slightly crumbly and superbly moist. Red velvet cakes are traditionally iced with  cream cheese frosting, but I have seen some recipes using vanilla butter frosting.

Mi surrounded by the little people

My American friend, E, tells me that red velvet cakes are typically only found in the Southern States of the US. It’s surprising that red velvet cakes are not more popular among Chinese. After all, the colour red colour is a colour of prosperity in the Chinese culture; symbolising joy and good fortune. Brides wear red, red firecrackers are lit during Chinese New Year, and kids are given hong bao (red packets filled with money).

I have seen numerous images of red velvet cakes, but I had never tasted it, or seen one up close. So, I was surprised by just how vibrant this cake is, and how colour gets even more vivid after baking. Continue reading

Brown sugar-Pecan Shortbread Cookies

I am a quasi-food blogger. I have no desire to make it a life calling, prose doesn’t come easily and I haven’t the skill, courage nor conviction to create recipes. I wish I could write like Mel of Treehouse Kitchen, be a mistress of my foodie domain like Alli of Pease Pudding or have creative nous like the Brash sisters of Greet & Eat.

My goal is simply to be a better cook, and learn from those more accomplished. I just want to entertain well, and be one of those people who can whip up a delicious feast for 8 with a 2-hour notice. I am not there yet, but I am certainly closer than I was before I started the blog.

Writing a blog has enabled me to learn new flavour combinations, try new cuisines, ask more questions and for some obscure reason, allowed me to acquire 12 wooden cooking implements. It’s such a uniting topic; – everyone is happy to talk about food, be it their favourite restaurant, a family recipe or just a food memory. There is no right or wrong food preference, though I concede that there are odd and intriguing ones.

I haven’t the foggiest where this will take me, but so far, the journey has been exciting and fun. The best part is that it has allowed me a peek into the world of foodies, bloggers and artisan food producers.

What does all that have to do with pecan shortbread? Nothing.

I admit that shortbreads are among my favourite baked goods, and pecans are quickly becoming my favourite nuts to cook with; when lightly toasted, they take on a caramel taste. In these cookies, the caramel taste is enhanced by brown sugar. These are comfort cookies, crumbly, buttery, nutty and totally irresistible. I made these 3 days before Christmas, and they never even made it to Christmas.  Continue reading

Ottolenghi’s Roast pork belly with spiced plum, ginger & rhubarb relish

Being a visual learner (and having a memory like a sieve), I find many cookbooks and recipes confusing to follow because there are all words stumbling over each other, and then if you are lucky, a photo of the beautiful end result. Often times my attempts do not turn out anywhere as glorious, and I don’t know what went wrong. Then there are the real disasters; we don’t talk about those. I chronicle my cooking attempts using step-by-step photos as it helps me to remember what I did, and how it affected the outcome. My blog is my online google-able recipe journal.

I first heard about an amazing deli in Notting Hill when I visited London three years ago; I still kick myself for not searching it out. Luckily, all three cookbooks have been frequently called upon and Ottolenghi’s colourful and flavoursome recipes with a twist have garnered new fans of my dinner guests. These two recipes come from the eponymously named cookbook, and are great for a dinner party.

This summer has been a bumper season for plums; friends and neighbours have shared their delicious bounty with me. This relish is a real winner, and if bottled, the summer tastes can go on for months. I make double the recipe which fills 3x 300mL jars. Continue reading

Blueberry Crumb Cake

Happy New Year friends and fellow bloggers! A new year, and a new blogging resolution to write more regularly and to journal a bit more about my journey through this crazy adventure called life. My life seems to be on a never-ending cycle of wash, rinse, repeat at the moment. Punctuated with tasty foodie moments, of course. My resolution is to increase those moments and to savour them.

There have been so many family dinners and dinner parties during the festive season, and I’ve been making a veritable array of desserts and meals (though not blogging). I tend to fall onto my true and tested, but every now and then, when I chance upon a special ingredient, the cookbooks are dragged out. Like these. After a day getting partially sunburnt at the grounds of Goat Island Reserve, we stopped at Matakana for some ice-cream and sorbets, and I spied plump luscious organic blueberries at Nosh Food Market.

This recipe comes from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From my Kitchen to Yours. It’s one of my favourite cookbooks; Dorie has a delightful way with linking stories to her recipes and creates simply sumptuous and aesthetically pleasing foods. Fresh blueberries are best, but given the prices of blueberries and their short availability, I’ve made this with frozen as well, and it comes out nearly as good.

Mini crumb cakes

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Eggplant croquettes

I continue to be smitten with Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty. It is now my go-to cookbook for vegetarian dishes that surprise, tantalise and beguile. I so much prefer how eggplants are called across in the continents, aubergine. Sounds so much more posh and exotic.

The croquettes are crunchy on the outside, giving way to a delicious smokey, savoury centre. Ottolenghi has a tarragon aioli recipe to go with the croquettes, but my lazy hack is to serve these with an easy lemony yoghurt dip.

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World Peace Cookies

This recipe comes from Dorie Greenspan’s ‘Baking from my Home to Yours‘. The buttery, crumbly chocolatey sablés are the brainchild of Pierre Hermé (creator of the famous Isaphan and is the person who popularised macarons) and were renamed World Peace cookies by Ms Greenspan’s neighbour who claimed a daily dose of these will ensure planetary peace and happiness. With a name and story like this, I simply had to try them out. And yes, these are as good as they claim to be.

Cookie dough logs that you slice and bake when required are also one of the best baking hacks. These are great stored in the fridge for up to 3 days, or if you want to store them for longer, cut the chilled logs into rounds first, then freeze for up to 2 months. Continue reading

Bubble-top brioche

Brioche is a decadent bread. It’s a far cry from my usual healthy rye and pumpkin seed breakfast bread (from Paris Berlin bakery at Ellerslie). Brioche is light and buttery, and yes, I spread butter on it. It’s more of a dessert than a bread, and absolutely perfect to serve up for a luxurious morning tea.

I first learnt to make brioche from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking with Julia. It’s my kind of recipe, – bang everything in a mixer and get it to do all the work. It does, however, take time, as the dough needs to rise three times, the second time overnight in the fridge. The bubble-top recipe comes from Ms Greenspan’s Around my French Table. Having individual portions is such bonne idée (a good idea).

Don’t the brioche buns simply invite you to tear them apart and devour them?

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