Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Perfect Pandan Cake

I finally had the long-anticipated rendez-vous with E, a very nice and experienced cook, who guided me through the essential steps in getting the perfect pandan cake!

I like pandan cake because I like the vibrant green hiding beneath the thin coat of golden brown and the unique and unforgettable taste of pandan. I also like its fluffiness, softness and lightness that take you to the clouds and keep you lying to yourself that this will be your final piece of pandan cake for the day.

"This is a really simple cake. The ingredients for panda cake are relatively little." This is true, you only need self-raising flour, eggs, sugar, pandan paste, oil, milk and cream of tartar. "The trick is to be very accurate." Oh. Accuracy. This is a nightmare! As I told you before, I usually rely on my intuition and never really bother to measure and weigh the ingredients. But having the honour to learn from such an experienced cook, I did as I was told.

The cook was extremely patient and demonstrated to me the whole process of creating the perfect cake. She has all the measurements and procedures remembered in heart and she stirs with so much poise and grace while I struggle and battle clumsily. She makes me realize that cooking should be enjoyable and relaxing, not hectic and chaotic.

Further tips shared by the cook include:

1. Separate the egg yolks and egg whites very neatly. Not a single drop of egg yolk and water is to touch the egg whites.
2. Beat the egg whites at very high speed and very quickly. Never stop until you are done.
3. Extremely fine flour.

Oh and if you have any other tips to add, please let me know! You may also send me recipes that you like or want me to experiment for you!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Swedish Meatballs

Spaghetti bolognese was my favourite dish when I was a child. But I always secretly wondered why people never put meatballs on top of the spaghetti bolognese, that would make it perfect!

I like meatballs with potato but I cannot find many restaurants here that serve these meatballs. Some American restaurants do, but I think the best ones are from IKEA.

So I followed the IKEA recipe and made my own Swedish meatballs! First, you need to boil and mash the potatoes. Mix in the bread crumbs and water until it looks like a cake batter. Pour in and combine the minced beef, minced pork, butter-fried diced onions, egg, milk and water. Season it, then wash your hands again and be ready to shape some nice, juicy meatballs!

I like this shaping process as it reminds me of my childhood, when I always played with clay and tried to shape them into mini hamburgers. It 
is pretty easy and fun to make this dish, but frying them takes some time. Shaping smaller meatballs helps. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Peanut Butter Cookies

I adore peanut butter so very naturally I find classic peanut butter cookies extremely tasty and comforting.

I love peanut butter to an extent that I insist on making my own peanut butter sandwiches so to ensure that all the corners are drenched in the rich, creamy but also chunky peanut butter. Yet this is not the end of the story. After eating my sandwich, I secretly dig my knife into the Skippy peanut butter jar, give it a nice swoop, pull it out, and oh my goodness, I do what Winnie the Pooh does when he finds his "hunny".

I think my first time making this cookie is about 6 years ago, when I took my one and only cooking class at Town Gas with my sister. I still remember how the teacher guided us in creating that classic crosshatch pattern with a fork before shoving the cookies in the oven.

Sweet food is really my weakest area and peanut butter cookie is one of the few sweet food I manage to make properly. I am sure that it is because of my reluctance in following the recipes word by word. I am always too lazy to make really accurate measurements and that is a big NO for dessert-making. This time, I used Martha Stewart's recipe, she is reliable and she even offers around 20 different recipes for adding some twists to this classic cookie.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Linguine con le vongole

I suddenly felt like making this dish, so despite the rain, I went out to the market to pick some nice fresh clams. I have to admit that I usually do my groceries at Park N' Shop or Taste and occasionally at Citysuper, but I know it's best to hit the local markets. They offer the freshest ingredients without costing you a fortune, and the friendly stall owners are very generous in giving you cooking tips. 

As usual, sauté the minced garlic, onion and red pepper flakes. Splash in white wine, lemon juice and chicken broth. Add in the clams, cover the lid and let it simmer for 6 minutes. 

The heated wine intensified and accented the flavour of the clams, it smelled so good! I couldn't wait to open the lid and there, the clams welcomed me with a big wide grin! So pretty!!

Almost done at this stage! Toss in the linguine, season it and mix in a handful of parsley. Finish it off with one more splash of extra virgin olive oil and there you have it! :) 

I dedicate this post to Salina and Patrick, who are huge fans of linguine con le vongole!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Greek Salad

I had Greek salad this afternoon. It makes me happy.

I did not like Greek salad when I was young. I did not like the bitterness of olives and I thought the crumbled feta cheese looked ugly.

Only until 5 weeks ago did I start to appreciate it and quickly fell in love with it. I know it is unusual to think so highly of something so simple, but the herbs, olives and feta cheese do magic and make this veggie salad so extraordinary. I liked it so much that I had it in every meal when I was in Greece. 

To make it as authentic as possible, get fresh Greek feta cheese instead of the packaged, already-crumbled ones. I also chose fresh, unpitted Greek Jumbo Black olives, they taste great, don't cost much and are available in Citysuper or Taste.

My cooking list inspired by my travels

I left my kitchen for a month to travel to Greece, Italy, Spain and France. I did not cook but I tasted, shared and experienced local foods. Quoting Food Network Travel, it was an exciting culinary adventure that "focuses on new flavors, ingredients, and cooking techniques in destinations around the world"!

Having tasted so many delicious, homey and authentic dishes, I decided to re-create some of them. My cooking list is as follows.
1. Greek salad
2. Greek aubergine dip
3. Souvlaki
4. Lamb shank in lemon sauce
5. Linguine con le vongole
6. Lasagna
7. Ravioli
8. Gazpacho
9. Chicken Tajin with couscous
10. Macarons (A cute guy, who ate a dozen of macarons a day, is going to join me with this.)
11. Normandie apple tart
12.  Bloc de fois gras d'oie/ de canard

This week, I'm paying tribute to the wonderful tastes of Greek food!