Rojak (Malaysian fruit salad)

Rojak is a widely available hawker food in Malaysia. It is a burst of sweet, spicy and tangy flavours mixed in with fresh pineapples, cucumber, jicama and tofu. The different ingredients give the dish the range of textures and sweetness. Fruit rojak is very different from Mamak rojak (pasembur), which comes with prawn fritters, vegetables, hard-boiled egg, and topped off with thick peanut sauce. Incidentally, the word ‘rojak’ is ‘mix’ in Malay, and is used frequently as an adjective, such as ‘ They are speaking rojak, mixing languages together’, which incidentally, is how Malaysians normally speak.

Rojak paste (sambal) is made from sweet soy sauce, prawn paste, belacan (fermented shrimp paste), sugar, lime and chillies. However, there is no seafood taste at all. Luckily, there is very good rojak sambal paste available (I purchased mine from E-PACS in East Tamaki), which makes this moreish dish very easy to prepare.

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Jordan Rondel’s Pineapple upside-down cake with crème anglaise

Jordan Rondel, aka The Caker, is so sought-after, she has published a well-regarded cookbook just 3 years after starting her baking business. There are so many simple, gorgeous desserts in the cookbook, I poured over several recipes before picking this to bake for a small party of blogger friends coming over for lunch.

The Caker’s recipes depend on the best possible ingredients, and luckily, to do this justice, I’d just been gifted a dozen fresh eggs from my friend N’s farmlet. And wow, organic, farm-fresh eggs are nothing like the free-range eggs I’d been used to. Their massive bright golden yolks lend a beautiful richness to the cake.

Baked pineapple has a mellow sweetness, and the caramel gives the cake a wonderful crust. This cake is rich, but surprisingly light textured. This is a spectacular cake, in both appearance and taste. Continue reading

Orange syrup cake

I didn’t think you could make a cake that was gluten-free, dairy-free with no added oil and have it still taste great. I was proven wrong. Superlatively wrong.

Many people have watched Nigella on television purring seductively while she made a flourless clementine cake. I remember thinking what an odd cake, and filed it to the back of my mind. At the recent Auckland Food Show, the Food Hub stand was giving away oranges and recipe cards. This recipe was on the card, and I was intrigued enough to take a closer look. When I got an invite to a Lesley’s house for a food bloggers’ afternoon tea where there would be gluten-intolerant blogger in attendance, I gave decided to give this a chance. Continue reading

Blueberry breakfast – smoothie and blueberry ricotta pikelets

I was a rebel at university. Seriously. I majored in biology, and toyed with the idea of doing postgraduate study. My father was dismayed. Every other Malaysian Chinese student in the early/mid 90’s took engineering, law or accountancy. That is, if you didn’t have the grades for medicine. Dad wanted me to do business studies, one of those general degrees where you can work in a variety of industries, and was more ‘appropriate’ for a woman. I should mentioned that I come from a family with very traditional values.

What kind of a degree is biology? Where is the job security?

In retaliation, I did a Masters in plant biotechnology. And took 5 months to land an entry-level research job. While my friends quickly scaled the career ladder and tax brackets, I floundered in a dead-end position for 4 years, which paid little more than minimum wage. It was a hugely interesting job, and I learnt a great deal. To their unfailingly supportive credit, my parents never once said ‘I told you so’. Long story short, I have changed careers several times, and am in a stimulating and challenging job, which I love, and I’m even on a respectable wage. Both Dad and I got our ways, – I am in a role which combines biology & business.

And guess what? I work at a research institute which among other roles, also breeds blueberries and studies their functional benefits. I would have enjoyed blueberries regardless, but I certainly have a huge appreciation of them now. The rabbiteye varieties grown in NZ have very high levels of antioxidants, higher than varieties bred and grown in the Northern Hemisphere countries.

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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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Spiced red wine poached pears with chocolate ganache and sugared macadamia crumbs

Poached pears always seemed like such a posh adult dessert to prepare. I pictured it as something you serve people you need to behave around, – your parents’ generation and bosses.

Then I realised how surprising easy is it to make poached pears. Most of the ingredients are pantry staples, and you can make it days in advance. Once poached, the pears can keep in the fridge to be served with whatever accompaniments you like.

To make 8 poached pears for a dinner party; I used a bottle of red wine (750ml) and added more water to the poached liquid to cover to cover the fruit. Continue reading

Sablé Breton galette with summer berries

I was browsing Dorie Greenspan’s Around my French Table cookbook for a summer cake to serve my lovely colleagues who were coming over for a girlie afternoon tea. Once I spied this, I knew what I was making. My version is not as beautiful as Ms Greenspan’s stunning galette (you must have a peek at her cookbook to see what I mean), but I’d like to think it tasted just as good.

Sablé Breton is a salty butter cookie from Brittany, and this inspired adaptation pairs it with lemon curd (homemade or store bought) and juicy summer berries. Continue reading

Watermelon and feta salad

Now that the holiday season is drawing to a close, I’m searching for healthy (and lazy) antidotes to the festive indulgences. This delicious watermelon and feta combination is the perfect refreshing salad for a hot summer’s day. The sharpness and saltiness of the feta complements the cold sweetness of the watermelon brilliantly.

This Ottolenghi recipe from his Plenty cookbook takes no time at all to assemble (20 minutes if you dawdle), and is a welcomed addition to a barbeque or a potluck dinner. I have changed the quantities slightly to adapt to NZ standard packaging. It is best to purchase the watermelon the day before so it can chill in the fridge. Continue reading

Peach and pistachio crumble

Don’t you hate it when a simple dessert, hurriedly put together, trumps the main dish you slaved over? So do I, but at the very least, your guests leave mightily impressed (until they read this).

This crumble is superbly easy, and goes into the oven just as you are sitting down to the main course. The original recipe came from Nigel Slater’s Tender Volume II; I reduced the quantity and replaced the apricots with peaches (which I had in the pantry). I think this would be delicious with any canned fruit. I also used a food processor, which took the prep time down to around 10 minutes. Continue reading