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Chicken Korma

My search for good Indian cuisine recipe continues even though I don't blog a lot these days. I have made a few dishes like chicken/prawn vindaloo, chicken tikka and chicken tiikka masala, etc. recipes that I have found from my cook books or on the net but sadly, none of it makes it to our list of 'Family favourites'. That is until I stumbled upon a video of an Indian lady showing us how to cook chicken korma - the dish that Pierre and Little One love. I checked her list of ingredients and it looked promisingly good. On top of that her instructions are also very clear.

From what I understand, korma is type of curry made up of yogurt, cream, or coconut milk and seed paste. It has both vegetarian and non-vegetarian version. This dish is a Mughlai cuisine of Northern India and Pakistan. And it is a very popular dish in Pakistani/Indian restaurants in Europe and even in Singapore.

This recipe is definitely a keeper and I truly encourages you to make this. Your guests will definitely rave about it and you won't regret it.

Sorry, there isn't any picture here as the photos that I took that night was really too ugly to be seen and posted here. I will take a good one when I make this again.

Chicken Korma
Ingredients
  • 75 g raw cashew nuts (soak in 150 ml of hot/boiling water for 30 minutes)
  • a pinch of saffron threads (crush it with your fingers and soak it in 3 tbsp of hot milk for 20 minutes)
  • 700 g chicken breast, cut into chunks or big cubes (remove skin and fats)
  • 125 g plain yogurt (if you have greek yogurt, it is best as it has less water in it.)
  • 1 tbsp gram flour (chickpea flour)
  • 2 tsp garlic paste
  • 2 tsp ginger paste
  • 150 ml single cream
  • some ghee or unsalted butter or vegetable oil
  • 5 pcs green cardamon pod, bruised it with your fingers
  • 5 cm cinnamon - break it into 2
  • 4 pcs cloves
  • 1 large onion (red or yellow), finely chopped
  • 1 pc green chilli (finely chopped), optional
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
Chicken Korma
Directions
  1. In a small bowl, mix yogurt (drained your plain yogurt in a muslin cloth to get rid of some water), gram flour, garlic and ginger paste together. In a ziplog bag, marinate the cubed chicken pieces with this mixture, making sure that every pieces is well coated. Leave it in the fridge for about 4 - 6 hours or overnight.
  2. Blend your cashew nuts with the soaked water and single cream until it is a puree.
  3. Heat up your wok or pot with some ghee or unsalted butter. I use vegetable oil.
  4. When wok is hot, stir fry the chopped onions together in cloves, cardamon and cinnamon for about 5 - 6 minutes (this is to remove the moisture in the onions).
  5. Stir in chilli powder and coriander powder until blend. Lower the fire.
  6. Add in the marinated chicken pieces. Turn up the heat to medium high and cook until the chicken pieces are opaque.
  7. Add salt and pour in 150 ml of warm water to cook the chicken. (Do not use cold water as it will impair the flavour and taste of dish.) Cover it and let it cook for about 15 minutes.
  8. Stir in the creamy cashew nut puree and let it simmer uncovered for about 6 minutes. Let it simmer longer if you prefer a thicker consistency.
  9. Add in the saffron milk. Reduce heat.
  10. Once the chicken is done, turn off the fire and stir in garam masala. The garam masala will enhance the flavour of this dish.
  11. Serve hot with saffron rice or plain rice.
Chicken Korma
The Verdict

Very aromatic, creamy and smacking good. The chicken pieces have fully absorbed the flavour of the spices so with each bite, one can smell and taste their aroma. The garam masala really brings out this dish to its full flavour. Hubby loves it and had second helping. He even had it for lunch the next day. The only complaint he has is that gravy isn't as thick as he likes it. But overall, he loves this dish. My picky Little One loves it too. It's the only Indian dish that she tucks in heartily without whining about it being too spicy or too aromatic for her.

You can spice up this dish by adding one finely chopped green chilli to it just before serving.

Notes

The yogurt tenderise the chicken. From what I understand it is best to use Greek yogurt as it has less water content. However if you have only normal plain yogurt, just drain it in a muslin cloth. I made mine using normal plain yogurt.

For the above, I didn't have single cream so I used whipping cream (the Internet says it's the same ... maybe not?). My gravy didn't thicken, so I added 1 tsp of cornstarch to thicken it but it had little effects (yes, I cheated a little). I will try coconut cream next time instead of whipping cream.

I'll also replace cashew nuts with candlenuts as candlenuts is cheaper.

Please do not cook this dish with chicken skin on it. The skin prevents the spices from penetrating into the meat.

Chicken Korma
5 comments on this post.

Rich Moist Brownie

Brownie has always been my favourite dessert for a long long time... since I was a teenager. That was until I baked my very first brownie in 1999. I remember being so elated when I saw a TV program showing the viewers how to make it. It was so simple that I couldn't believe it. Immediately the next day, I went out and bought the necessarily ingredients. Happily and excitedly I measured and stirred the batter. All the while thinking to myself : 'Gosh, my very first brownie. I can eat as much as I want without having to pay a bomb for it.' Everything was going smoothly until it suddenly sank hard in my brain how much sugar, not to mention butter was in the batter. Well, that's basically it. It literally killed every desire or craving I have for brownie from that day onwards. Honestly, I didn't even took a bite of my brownie. My family loved it although they find it a bit overly sweet. I swore off brownie, really.

Even to this day, I don't crave for it. But what do you know? Life is funny. A few years later, I met my brownie match... in Pierre. He loves brownie to bits. Well, I think cheese cake takes 1st place. And now, our Little One loves brownie too. Over the years I have made a few brownies but none tasted as good as this recipe. Yes, I broke my brownie swear and tasted it for all of you - it was awesome! So good that I even forgot it was calorie loaded and ate more than I should. It's very addicitive.

Rich Moist Brownie

Adapted from 'Je veux du chocolate!' by Trish Deseine

Ingredients
  • 100 g dark brown sugar
  • 125 g sugar
  • 120 g dark chocolate
  • 90 g butter
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 90 g plain flour
  • 50 g walnuts, roughly chopped
Rich Moist BrownieRich Moist Brownie
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (375°F - gas mark 4).
  2. Grease a square baking pan - about 20 cm in diameter. Set aside.
  3. Melt the dark chocolate in microwave oven or bain-marie. I melt mine over a steamer. Let it cool a little.
  4. Stir in the beaten eggs, then the sugar and lastly the plain flour.
  5. Add in the roughly chopped walnuts.
  6. Pour the batter in the greased pan.
  7. Bake it for about 30 minutes. It should be crispy on top but moist on the inside.
  8. Let cool a bit before savouring it slightly warm with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.
The Verdict

Crispy on top, rich & moist inside... sinfully delicious. Full of chocolatey flavour with a bit of crunchy nuts in the mix. Top it with a layer of chocolate icing ... sends you to chocolate heaven. One can never get chocolate intoxication, can we?

Rich Moist Brownie
Notes

The original recipe uses 225 g of white sugar - it might be a wee bit too sweet for non-sweet tooth people. Instead of walnuts, use other type of nuts, especially hazelnuts.

Rich Moist Brownie
6 comments on this post.

Thick & Fluffy Pancakes

Time flies fast. It is almost a year since I last wrote an entry on my blog. So what had happened to me, you might wonder? In short, I was depressed for quite a while after we moved to Singapore. Why wouldn't I be happier in my homeland surrounded by friends and family? Theoretically I should be but sadly, I only felt lost and lonely. Everything was familiar yet unfamiliar at the same time. I don't know how to explain that feeling. I was happy to find my old friends yet somehow I couldn't seem to connect with them anymore. Strangely, however, I connected better with my new expatriat friends, with lots of things to share and talk about. Besides that, I also had problems with cooking in Singapore: I don't know how to cook anymore - products are different here. Also, to cook western food is a very expensive affair. It is much cheaper to eat out than dine in. With Asian produce easily available now, one would think I would have dived right in and cook up a storm of Asian cuisine. Nope! The craving or inspiration wasn't there at all. Neither did I have any baking spirit. It was like suddenly everything zapped out of me.

What zapped me out of it all this is work. I have to thank my better half for pushing me to that direction. I didn't like the idea at first as that meant I would have less time with Little One and I was afraid of neglecting her. I still do fear that but on the brighter side, I found myself again - the independent, carefree & happy Cooking Ninja with a zest for life. I have started baking again and now I itch to cook again... feed who? My little family & my new colleagues, of course.

To celebrate the newfound me, I would like to share with you this delicious pancake recipe that I found online but I adapted it a little. Everyone loves it, young or old, except Little One (much to my disappointment). Why? Because it is too soft in the middle, mummy. Erhm...that's the way it should be, sweetie!

American Pancakes - Thick & Fluffy

Serves 4 peoples

Ingredients
  • 1 2/4 cup milk
  • 4 tbsp apple cider vingear or white vingear
  • 2 cups plain flour or half plain, half wholewheat
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tbsp melted butter (optional)
Directions


  1. Mix milk and vingear in a big bowl and let it stand for 5 minutes. This is to sour the milk.
  2. In another bowl, combine all the dry ingredients together (flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda & salt).
  3. Whisk eggs & butter (optional) into the milk.
  4. Slowly stir, little by little, the dry mixture into the wet ingredients. Whisk until there are no more lumps.
  5. Let the batter stand on the kitchen counter for 5 minutes or more.
  6. Heat up your pan with a little oil over medium fire, spread a scoopful of batter or 2 table spoonful of batter on the pan.
  7. Cook until bubbles form on the surface of the pancake. Flip it over with a spatula. Let it cook for a minute or until light brown on the underside.
  8. Serve hot with either maple syrup or Nutella.

Pancakes - Thick & Fluffy
The Verdicts

These pancakes are thick, light and fluffy - just what I craved for. They are so good and addictive that my better half could simply eat all of it even though he was already full. They are quite stuffing however as they are so thick:-)

Notes

The pancakes taste better if you let the batter stand for awhile before cooking it. If you are short of time, then ahead to make them immediately after everything has been combined. They still taste good.

I have made it with or without butter and I didn't find any difference in taste. So these days I just omit butter when making them.

You can replace the milk and vingear combination with buttermilk. As for vingear, if you don't have apple cider vinegar, try it with white or any other fruity vingear, but not balsamic vingear.

Pancakes - Thick & Fluffy
7 comments on this post.

Pan-Fried Potato

2 Great News to announce!

You can now install The Cooking Ninja free application on your Android phone (if you have one obviously) and access my blog & recipes easily from your phone. Just search for "cooking ninja" on the Android application market.

And we have finally decided on our love nest. It's only about 5 minutes walk to Little One's school. That means Little One gets to sleep for another hour before getting ready to go to school. The only down side of the deal is that we'll need to take a bus to the nearest train station (10 minutes away) to go down town. But hey, it's what is best for our kid that counts the most right? Boy, we are so ready to move in right away as Little One (not just her, us too) is exhausted from waking up like 6.30 am to take the train and bus (about an hour of commuting) to school every morning and back. Yesterday night, she was so tired that she hardly ate her dinner and went to bed at 7.30 pm. Anyway, the apartment isn't ready until next month and we don't have any furniture at all. So there are lots of things to sort out before we can settle down and feel home. And I hope to satisfy my baker & cook itch in me soon. Pierre (so do Little One), needlessly to say, is dying for a nice western (French) home cook meal.

Now today's recipe has very much to do with this month's book choice The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaeffer and Annie Barrows' for our « This Book Makes Me Cook » club. Read on and you will soon know why.

This book came highly recommended by my mother-in-law at the beginning of this year, who went on to buy a copy for her own library. Before I sat down and read it, she warned me that it is not written in the ordinary book way but in a form of series of letters and that if I can get it beyond that oddity, I would fall in love with book like she did. What can I say, this book is indeed a gem and how right she was!

Set in London and Guernsey Island, the story is about an author, Juliet, in search for a new inspiration and angle to write a new book, who became friends with the inhabitants of the island shortly after the end of World War II through correspondence. She was rather intrigued by the name of a book club 'The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society'. Least to say, not just her but us, the readers are rather curious about its name sake too. I love the way the author create each characters, giving them each an unique voice that endear themselves to the readers, making them so real and the depths of friendship and relationship that binds the characters in the story. This book evokes both happiness and sadness in the readers as if we were right there living with the inhabitants of Guernsey and making the reader sad that it has come to an end.

For this book, I would like to introduce a super simple French classic side dish called 'Pommes Rissolée' that is often present on the table in every French household with either steak, fish or pork. It's a big favourite among the young and old. Thank you Michèle (mom-in-law) for showing me how to make this.

Panfried Potato (Pommes Rissolées)
Ingredients
  • 5 medium/big potatoes (peeled & diced)
  • olive oil or butter or duck fat (oil from leftover duck confit)
  • 1 or 2 garlic (finely chopped - more if you prefer lots of garlic)
  • salt for seasoning
  • a prig or two of parsley, chopped (optional)
Pan-Fried Potato
Directions
  1. Peeled and diced your potatoes into small cubes. Rinse and towel dry them. This is to remove the starch from the potatoes after cutting it. If you don't wash them, the potato will likely stick to your wok/pan later.
  2. Heat the wok/pan with some oil/butter or duct fats.
  3. Once the oil is hot or butter is melted, add in the diced potatoes. Let it cook for about 10 - 15 minutes or until the bottom is browned under medium heat.
  4. Turn the potatoes over and let it brown on the other side. Add more oil if needed.
  5. Season it with salt. Toss now and then to get even browning of potatoes.
  6. Once the potatoes are more or less brown all over, toss in the chopped garlic. Stir to mix it together with the potatoes and let the garlic flavour infused with the potatoes under low heat about a few minutes.
  7. Toss in the chopped parsley (optional) onto the potato just before serving.
  8. Enjoy it with a steak, fish or chicken.
Pan-Fried PotatoPan-Fried Potato
Conclusion

It's unbelievable how such a simple dish like this can taste so good and full of aroma - crispy on the outside, tender on the inside. With or without the parsley, this dish still smell so good but of course the parsley bring it to another height in flavour.

Most of the time I only panfried it with olive oil but on the occasion when I have some duck fats (leftover oil from duck confit), I can't resist pan fry the potatoes with it. It's heavenly awesome. Try it and you'll know what I mean by it.

Notes

Some slice the potatoes instead and pan fry them the same way.

Pan-Fried Potato
12 comments on this post.

Chocolate Velvet Pound Cake

A new year a new beginning... so the saying goes. Seems like it is ringing true for us right now.

When we left France for our summer holidays in Singapore, little did we know we will be staying here for good. You see, Pierre's application for his Employment Pass (EP) to work in Singapore has been dragging on for nearly a year without any fruitful outcome. Would you believe that even on the day we went to collect his precious EP, the lady officer scrutinized the approval documents from top to bottom again, letter to letter, as if trying to hunt for another potential flaw that would make the EP null and void. Now collecting that little green credit size card stating Pierre is now a legal alien at another counter took less than 30 seconds (I kid you not). Needless to say, Pierre could hardly believe his eyes, kept saying 'pinch me, please. This is not a dream right. This card is not going to disappear over night right.' Slap him I did.

So what have we been so busy next? Well, last minute rushing here and there, getting documents done to enrol Little One into the French school. Why not a local school? you might ask since Singapore education system is one of the best in Asia. We would dearly love to (and it would cost a lot less) but sadly we couldn't as within 2 months here, Little One had already partially lost the ability to converse in French with her grandparents on the phone and she couldn't even remember simple words like "bird", "I love you", etc. in French. In the event that we had to move back to France in a year or two, getting her back into the French system would be a real issue. So French school it is for her, no matter if it costs us an arm and leg!

And now we are busy house hunting for our nest. So far it is either the apartment/house isn't to our liking or the asking rental price is way too high - classic. Tomorrow we have another viewing of an apartment. Let's hope we will find a place that fits us soon!

To celebrate this beautiful new beginning of our life here in Singapore, I present you this delicious chocolaty cake with chocolate ganache. I learnt to how to make this cake from Kim Cabe of our little ateliers culinaires group in Clermont-Ferrand.

Chocolate Velvet Pound Cake

(Adapted from The All-New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook)

prep: 15 minutes
cook: 1 hr, 5 min
other: 15 minutes
serves: 12

Ingredients
  • 1½ cup (200g) semisweet chocolate or dark chocolate bars, 54% cocoa
  • 1/2 cup (113g) butter, softened
  • 1½ cup package light brown sugar or ¾ cup light brown sugar, ¾ dark brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs (I used 3 medium eggs)
  • 2 cup plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup (8 oz) container sour cream or Bridélice, crème légère, 15% or crème fraîche)
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Chocolate Ganache

  • 12 oz (200g) package semisweet chocolate (dark chocolate, 54%)
  • 1/2 c. whipping cream
  • 3 tbsp butter
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F - gas mark 4).
  2. Melt chocolate in a bain-marie ie. using a bowl and pan/pot. (Make sure the bowl fits snugly over the pan) Break the chocolate into pieces and place in a heatproof bowl. Place the bowl on top of the pan/pot containing hot water. The hot water mustn't touch the bottom of the bowl. Bring the pot of water to a simmer. Stir gently as it melts with a wooden spoon or spatula. Remove from heat once all chocolate pieces are melted. Gently stir until smooth. Set aside.
  3. Whisk butter and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer for 5 minutes or until well blended.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just combined after each addition.
  5. Stir in melted chocolate, whisking just until combined.
  6. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Beating at low speed, add flour mixture to chocolate mixture, alternating with sour cream (or crème fraîche) - beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix until blended after each addition.
  7. Gradually add 1 cup hot water in a slow and steady stream, beating at low speed until just blended. Then stir in vanilla.
  8. Pour batter into a greased and floured 10-inch tube pan. Bake at 180°C (350°F - gas mark 4) for 60-65 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
  9. Cool in pan on a wire rack 15 minutes. Remove from pan, and let cool completely on wire rack.
  10. Just before serving, garnish it by dripping small spoonfuls of choclate ganache around edge of cake.
  11. Enjoy!

Making Chocolate Ganache

  1. Melt chocolate pieces and whipping cream in bain-marie. Whisk until smooth, then stir in butter.
  2. Let stand for about 30 minutes. Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer for 3-4 minutes.
Chocolate Velvet Pound CakeChocolate Velvet Pound Cake
The Verdict

The cake on its own is very chocolaty and velvety - soft and moist like a dense sponge cake. Each bite of this cake with the chocolate ganache gives you an orgasmic chocolaty bliss! OK so maybe I'm pushing it a little, but it's really good:-)

I have made this cake twice and each time, it was a total winner with everyone young and old. The 1st cake was for home and it was quite massacred by me (I turned it out a wee bit too early when it was not cooled down yet) but nobody minded the ugly presentation. And the cake was devored in no time at all! The 2nd one was for Little One to celebrate her birthday in school with her teachers and classmates. I made 2 cakes and it was all polished up. The teachers loved it and asked me for the recipe.

Another idea is to make this into a layered cake with the chocolate ganache. It'll be the ultimate heavenly chocolate cake. Can one get enough of chocolate! Clearly NO.

Notes

If you don't have large eggs but have some egg whites sitting in your fridge, use 3 medium sized eggs and a few tablespoons of egg white for this cake and it will turn out marvellously good too.

I have baked once in a 10 inch tube pan and the other time, it was in 2 smaller heart-shaped baking pan. However with smaller pan, please adjust the baking time accordingly.

For the chocolate ganache, I didn't let it stand for 30 minutes. Once it is done, I spread it all over the cake. Alternatively I used a 64% or higher dark chocolates and add 1 tablespoon of icing sugar (powdered).

Chocolate Velvet Pound Cake
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Green Papaya Curry

This month, the 4 Velveteers picked an easy challenge theme: 'Fruit' as in fruits fruits not the vegetables that are technically speaking fruits (so hold off your tomatoes). To spice up the challenge, it had to be a savoury dish. If fruit salad comes to your mind immediately, strike that out - it's the forbidden dish of the game. Ha Ha! We thought of everything.

For this month's challenge, I thought of making something with pineapple or mango or jackfruit or apples. Pierre kindly suggested Pineapple Rice but I have already posted that 3 years ago and have also done a simple stir-fry Pineapple Prawns, Coriander Pork with Pineapples and Rolled Roasted Pork with Dried Fruits . On top of that, my mom has been cooking pineapple savoury dish lately so I don't think my whole family wanted to eat another pineapple dish. Now jackfruit: the taste and texture is rather special. When I was a little girl and we were still living in a kampung (village), my mom used to cook this delicious jackfruit curry often, however that practically stopped once we moved to a housing flat. The last time she cooked this dish was back in the late 80s! The other childhood dish that I fondly remembered is green papaya curry. My mom used to cook it very often too as papaya plants were aplenty in our front and back garden. Back in the old days, a childhood friend of mine used to climb up our papaya plant to pluck the fruit for me. And she was very fast & agile too. I often wondered even till this day, how she managed to do that. I think if I ever climb one, I will snap it into two! For the life of me, I can't even climb a tree least a plant to save my life.

So I asked my mom to show me how to make this dish, however for some odd reason we couldn't find any green papaya in the markets nearby. In the end, we settled for one that looks the greenest among the sea of ripe papayas. My mom learnt how to cook this Green Papaya Curry from my paternal grandmother who used to make lots of delicious nonya dishes.

Before we proceed to the recipe, here are some information about papaya:

  • It is an excellent source of fibre, vitamin C, E & A.
  • Its seeds are edible (bet you didn't know that!) and have a sharp, spicy (pepperish) taste. According to Internet sources, the seeds are sometimes grounded and used as a substitute for black pepper.
  • It has quite high amount of pectin.
  • Young leaves of papaya can be steamed and eaten like spinach.

Green papayas are usually cooked in curries, stew or eaten as salads. Choose papayas with reddish-orange skin and that are slightly soft to the touch if you are eating it on the day of purchase. A few black spots on the surface are ok as they will not affect the taste. However avoid those that are bruised or overly soft. Store ripe papayas in the refrigerator and eat it within a day or two. For those that are green with some yellow patches, leave them at room temperature and they'll ripen in a few days. To speed up the ripening process, place them in a paper bag with a banana. (yeah, really!)

Green Papaya Curry
Ingredients
  • 1 small green papaya (peeled, deseeded, sliced or julienne)
  • 400 ml coconut milk (add milk if you prefer to have more gravy)
  • 10 shallots (peeled & quartered)
  • 3 garlic (peeled & quartered)
  • a bit of dried belachan/dried shrimp paste (optional)
  • 1 lemongrass (bruised)
  • some dried shrimps (optional)
  • ¼ tsp tumeric
  • pepper, light soya sauce & salt (for seasoning)
Green Papaya Curry
Directions
  1. Peel, cut the papaya into half and take out the seeds. Thinly slice the papaya or cut it into julienne (thin match stick size). Set aside.
  2. Soak the dried shrimps until soften. Then pound it a bit to mash it.
  3. Blend shallots, garlic, dried shrimp paste and tumeric together in a food processor into a paste. Set aside.
  4. Heat wok with some oil until hot.
  5. Stir fry the paste with the dried shrimps and bruised lemongrass under medium heat until it changes colour (the paste will turn light brown). It'll take about 15 minutes.
  6. Add in the sliced papaya, stir to mix the paste with the papaya.
  7. Season the papaya with light soya sauce, pepper & salt.
  8. Once the papaya soften, pour in the coconut milk.
  9. Let it boil a few times until the papaya is cooked (according to your liking - al dente or well cooked). Taste and adjust seasoning of dish to your preference.
  10. Serve hot with white rice.
Green Papaya CurryGreen Papaya Curry
The Verdict

Very aromatic with the sweet-spicy pepperish taste of coconut milk gravy. The papaya slices were cooked just right - not too soft and I could still taste the slight flavour of the papaya.

Note

For a spicy taste, you can replace pepper with one or two long red or green chili (deseed). Just cook it together with the paste.

Green Papaya Curry

The 4 Velveteers

The 4 Velveteers (started by Pamela, Aparna, Asha, and Alessio) are a group of food bloggers, who are passionate about a new dish/ style of cooking/ cuisine and food in general. Each month, we will share with you our recipes, experiences & verdicts on our blogs. If you are interested in joining The 4 Velveteers! in our monthly adventure, please feel free to drop by our food blogs and leave a comment.

Do, check out what other Velveteers have created:

Alessio - Recipe Taster
Aparna - My Diverse Kitchen with her Eggless Vegetable Nut Loaf with sweet
Asha - Fork, Spoon & Knife
Ken - Hungry Rabbit NYC with his Skillet Roasted Sweet n Sour Pork
Madhuli - My Food Court with her Raw banana Cutlets & mix fruit chutney

11 comments on this post.

Homemade Fresh Pasta

I know I have been sadly neglecting my blog ever since I came back to Singapore (my 2nd home) and I'm honestly quite ashamed of it. Frankly I thought I would have more time to spent on writing and cooking for my blog but I was sadly mistaken. I had completely forgotten one very important factor: Little One is on summer vacation - that means she has no school 5 days a week for 2 months!!! And that means it's 'mommy! mommy! mommy!' from 7 am till 10 pm (strangely she can't seems to go to bed early like she did in France). Lucky me, I just happen to have a kid who is a morning riser no matter what time she goes to bed. Initially I thought 'no problem, I can occupy her, cook and blog at the same time. After all I did it before when she was little and she wasn't school then. It shouldn't be any different.' Ha! I found out the hard way that as Little One grows older, the more time and attention she commands of me. There goes my first-time mum theory of 'as they grow older, they'll be more independent and will play more on their own.' The first week in Singapore were new and exciting for Little One - language barrier didn't even posed a problem for her. Frankly she didn't even care if the other person or little kid didn't understand French. She just carried on blabbering to them, much to the amusement of the locals and kids. I have to say she did try her very best to think of French words in English and speak it but wasn't very successful. However within a week in an English speaking environment (or Singlish, depends on how one sees it), she now speaks English very fluently and can carry a long conversation with strangers on the street or train. I also encourages her to speak in French with me or Pierre so that she doesn't forget her other language.

As predicted, the excitement of being in a new environment quickly wore out and she got bored at home with no kids to play with (all the little kids in Singapore are either back in school or in full day care centre while their parents are at work). So I decided to enrol Little One in a local kindergarten for 3 hours each day so that she can at least play with little kids and at the same time, learn Mandarin (she's very keen to learn that) and English in an local environment. She loves her new school and looks forward to learning Mandarin every day, except writing Chinese characters which she finds it very hard and difficult. Who can fault her on that? Even I, at my age, find it hard to write certain characters. Learning how to speak Mandarin is a lot easier than learning how to write and read Chinese.

Now today's much awaited recipe was taught by a lovely Italian lady to Little One and her class during one of her many school excursions. The older kids visited the Chadieu Castle while the little ones like poppet got to learn how to make fresh pasta. We, the adults (teachers and parents volunteers for this outing) were frankly more excited than the kids! The kids were asked to of course wash their hands first, then each took turns to 'play' with the dough. Some cracked the nuts while others grated the cheese. And at the end, all the kids enthusiastically set to work, pinching, rubbing, churning out little pasta worms. (yes, we are horrible child labour exploiters!) Boy, did they do a very good job and they couldn't wait to taste their hard work. While the pastas were cooking, the teacher's assistant distracted the kids by asking each one to grace us with a song. You should have seen how every kid was tucking it in hungrily and savouring it to the last (not that they were hungry but they sure have gourmet taste buds). Little One loved it so much that she asked for another serving. All the kids went home all excited at the prospect of making pasta at home with their mum. The next day, some mum I met at school curiously asked me what exactly did their kid made during the excursion because she/he was excitedly talking about making something with flour, water, nuts, cheese etc. I guess this shows the pasta making session was a great success!

Made this delicious pasta with Little One I did, not once but twice at home. Well, Little One got bored pretty fast and I was left to finish the rest myself. Be warned, if you are doing it alone, it's quite labour intensive!

Homemade Fresh Pasta (with Pesto Sauce)

Serves: 5-6

Ingredients

Making Pasta

  • 500 g durum wheat semolina/hard wheat flour (Semoule blanche de blé dur, fine)
  • water

Pesto Sauce

  • 1 packet Fresh Basil leaves (a bunch)
  • some hazel nuts or pine nuts or walnuts or almonds or macadamia nut (roughly chopped or broken)
  • 1 or 2 garlic (roughly chopped - add more if you wish)
  • a small block of Parmigiano-Reggiano (Parmesan - roughly grated or broken up)
  • Olive oil
  • salt & pepper for seasoning
Homemade Fresh Pasta
Directions

Making of Pesto Sauce

  1. In the food processor or blender, put the basil leaves, roughly chopped nuts, garlic, some parmigiano-reggiano and a lot of olive oil together. Season it with salt & pepper.
  2. Blend/process it until it is a puree. Stop and scrap down the sides in mid process if necessarily, to ensure that it is well mix and blend.
  3. Adjust the amount of olive oil according to your desired final consistency (thicker or thinner) ie. more olive oil if you prefer thinner consistency.
  4. Your pesto sauce is now ready to be mixed with your pasta.
  5. Store the sauce in an air-tight container with a thin layer of olive oil on top if there is any leftover or if you are not using it immediately. The pesto sauce keep well in the refrigerator for a week or more.
Homemade Fresh Pasta

Making Pasta

  1. In a big bowl, mix fine durum wheat semolina with some water. Continue to add water bit by bit while stirring until it forms a dough. If it is too wet, add a bit more durum semolina. If it is too dry, add a little bit of water.
  2. Knead the dough until it is smooth and soft.
  3. Take a small portion of dough off and cover the rest with a cloth.
  4. Lightly flour your working surface or your plate/dish and your hands too. Pinch a really small bit of dough off, roll it in between your palms. It should form a small noodle strand that looks like a worm. Drop it on the flour surface or plate. Continue to do the same with the rest of the small portion of dough.
  5. Once your plate is filled with pasta, sprinkle a little bit of flour on them and delicately mix them up without flattening them or distorting their shape. The flour prevents them from sticking to each other, forming a big lump.
  6. Continue rolling the pasta until all the dough is used up. Once all the pasta are done, set them aside.
  7. Bring a pot of water with some sea salt in it to boiling point, put in the pasta and let it cook for about 15 minutes or until al dente.
  8. Serve it hot immediately with freshly made pesto sauce and some freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano on top of it.
  9. Bon appetit!
Homemade Fresh PastaHomemade Fresh PastaHomemade Fresh PastaHomemade Fresh Pasta
The Verdict

This home made fresh pasta is simply the best I have ever tasted - most notably their texture feels definitely better in the mouth. It is so good. I'm terribly lousy at describing taste and texture so you'll just have to take my word for it and try it yourself to believe it!

Bottled pesto sauce never really did a thing to me. Frankly I never cared for it... that is until I made and tasted home made pesto sauce - it ROCKS! So totally different from the flat taste bottled sauce. The home made pesto is strong and tasty (full of flavour).

The whole family (parents-in-law, sis-in-law plus Pierre & Little One) loves it very much. Everyone went for 2nd helpings until nothing was left in the pot.

Notes

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For the pasta, I didn't think to measure the water volume when I made this as that is how I learned it from the Italian lady at Little One's outing. I'll try to measure it next time when I make this again.

For the pesto sauce, I didn't give an exact amount because I also forgot to measure it. In any case, this sauce is rather flexible. You add the garlic, parmigiano-reggiano, nuts & oil according to how much you want in them. Add more garlic if you want it more garlicky. You can also toast the pine nuts before blending them together with the sauce.

Homemade Fresh Pasta
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Tofu Onde-Onde

What to do with my home-made tofu? That question that has been floating in my head for days - awake or in sleep mode (yes, that's how dedicated I am with my food). Don't worry, I'll spare you the juicy details of what I did with my tofu in my dreams. I did thought of making curry out of it but I have already made my tofu curry in my earlier post. So strike that out. How about stir-fried tofu? Nah...too plain and uninteresting. Now the idea of turning tofu into something sweet is actually quite appealing and challenging. So many sweet desserts started floating in my brain: 1) Tofu Cheesecake: now this is out because my mom's place doesn't have the necessary equipment. 2) Tofu Ice Cream: don't have any ice cream making machine. 3) Tofu cake or muffins: Too hot to bake in Singapore. What to make? What to bake? The pressing question with no answer. Oh dear, the 4 Velveteers' dateline is drawing very near like TODAY!...then out of the blue, my inner bulb just went 'blink!' - Tofu Onde-Onde! Tofu what??? Yes you heard me right - Onde-Onde made out of tofu. I'm not explaining myself clearly, am I for those of you who haven't the faintest idea what this is. But for those who had this before, I can see you rubbing your eyes with disbelief at the title of this post. Is that even possible? Well, you already know the answer to this question or else you wouldn't be reading this, would you?

Onde-Onde (pronounced ‘on-day') is a Peranakan dessert made up of glutinous rice flour with pandan leaves flavour, filled with palm sugar and coated with freshly grated coconut flesh. It can be eaten at any time of the day - be it for breakfast, tea time or as snacks. This is one of my favourite childhood dessert.

Tofu Onde-Onde
Ingredients
  • 100 g freshly grated coconut
  • a pinch of salt
  • 100 g Gula Melaka (Palm Sugar) (finely chopped)
  • 100 g silken or firm tofu (homemade tofu in my case)
  • 100 g glutinous rice flour
  • water (if necessary)
  • A few drops of pandan essence
Tofu Onde-Onde
Directions
  1. In a bowl, mix the freshly grated coconut with a pinch of salt together. Season it to your liking and set it aside.
  2. In a big bowl, mix the silken/firm tofu together with the glutinous rice flour well together with a few drops of pandan essence. Knead to form a dough.
  3. Add in a little bit of water if the dough is dry. If dough is too wet, add a little bit of glutinous rice flour. The dough should not be too wet nor dry.
  4. Pinch a small portion of dough and flatten it lightly on your palm.
  5. Fill the center of yourl dough with some palm sugar and close it by bring the edges together.
  6. Roll the dough in your palm to form a smooth ball. Set the little ball aside on a plate and continue to make small little balls like this with the rest of the dough.
  7. Bring a pot of water to boil. Drop these little balls into the boiling water.
  8. The tofu-rice balls are cooked when it floats to the surface. Remove them with a slotted spoon and shake off the water.
  9. Roll each ball in the coconut/salt mixture.
  10. They are now ready to be served and eaten.
  11. Enjoy!
Tofu Onde-OndeTofu Onde-OndeTofu Onde-Onde
The Verdict

It's very soft and slightly chewy like a mochi with the delicious oozing palm sugar in the middle. One definitely can't taste the tofu in them. My mom said it is as good as those made completely with glutinous rice (that is after I managed to convince her to try it. You should have seen my mom's doubtful look on it when she finally popped it in her mouth because I was standing right in front of her waiting for her verdict. LOL!). Pierre, who isn't a big fan of such Asian dessert, admitted that it was pretty good. As for me, I like this version very much and will definitely make it again.

Notes

For the flavours, I didn't have pandan essence or leaves at home, so I used vanilla essence. The flavour didn't quite come out but it still tastes good all the same. You may also omit the flavours and make it plain. Or you can make it plain with out any fillings or flavour and serve it with some sauce on top of it.

If you don't like the palm sugar filling, you can experiment with other types of fillings to your liking like peanuts or coconut mixed with palm sugar, etc.

You can also turn the above recipe into soup dumplings by replacing the fillings with red bean paste or peanuts and serve it in a sweeten broth.

Tofu Onde-OndeTofu Onde-Onde
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Homemade Tofu

Guess what? It's the 4 Velveteers' Challenge again! This is an exciting month - firstly, we welcome 2 new Velveteers: Ken & Jaya to our club and join us in our challenge. Secondly, we are going to make TOFU from scratch, plain or flavoured, and create a savoury or sweet dish with it. For those of us who live in Asia, tofu is easily found at the local supermarket everywhere, but for those of us who live overseas, tofu is a rare commodity and even if we do find it in a local Asian store, the tofu doesn't tastes the same as we are used to (sometimes it also tastes funny and smells rather sourish too). So making this challenge is not only interesting for me but a useful recipe to learn. Initially I thought making tofu would be rather difficult but after some research on the Internet, I found it surprisingly easy. Now before we start making tofu, let's learn something about it.

Tofu or bean curd is a soft and cheese looking food (my father-in-law often referred it as Asian Cheese) made from coagulated soya bean milk. Traditionally, it is made using a curdling agent like nigari, a compound found in natural ocean waters, or calcium sulfate, a naturally occurring mineral. However, you can also make it using lemon juice or vinegar. After that, the curd is pressed into blocks.

According to wikipedia, tofu originated from China, during the Han dynasty to be precise. Li Shizhen (1518-1593), one of the greatest physicians and pharmacologists in Chinese history, wrote on methods of making tofu in Bencao Gangmu during the Ming dynasty. Tofu and it's recipe subsequently spreaded to Korea, Japan, Taiwan and other parts of east Asia.

For this challenge, I opted for lime juice as it is a fruit that is easily available in supermarkets in France. Making tofu at home doesn't require any fancy apparatus like you see in documentaries on TV. All you need is a piece of muslin cloth or a big handkerchief or some cotton kitchen towel and a container with holes like a sieve or strainer or you can punch some holes all over the sides of a plastic container. That's all you need - easy enough?

Homemade Tofu
  • 300 g soya beans
  • 125 ml lime juice (about 4 limes)
  • 2100 ml water
Homemade Tofu
Directions
  1. Soak soya beans over night or at least 8 hours.
  2. Drain the beans and with a blender, blend it with 2100 ml of water in several portions.
  3. Scoop the blended soya beans paste onto the muslin cloth/cheese cloth. Squeeze out the juice into a pot.
  4. Cook it for about 10 minutes under medium heat until it is very fragrant. Keep stirring constantly during this whole time. Turn to low and let it cook until it is boiling.
  5. Take the pot off heat and let it cool down until 40°C - (hotter than lukewarm - your finger can do a quick dip in).
  6. Pour in the lime juice and give it 2 stir. Leave it undisturb for 5 minutes or until the mixture sets.
  7. Prepare the tofu mold/container - basically any container than has small holes to drain out the whey. Line it with muslin cloth with some of cloth hanging out on the sides.
  8. Scoop the tofu into the container and fold the rest of the cloth in. Put some heavy cans on top of the tofu container to drain out the whey.
  9. Let it set for 35 - 40 minutes for hard tofu. As for soft/silken tofu, 15 minutes will do the trick and 25 minutes/30 minutes for medium tofu.
  10. The tofu can be used immediately or store away in a container filled with water in the refrigerator. Please remember to change the water every day.
Homemade TofuHomemade TofuHomemade Tofu
The Verdict

Homemade tofu is so fragrant and definitely taste better (yes, tofu has taste !). Since I used lime as coagulant agent, the tofu has a slight acidic flavour in it but once you make savoury or sweet dishes with it, you won't notice it anymore.

Now hop over to my next post to find out what I made with my homemade tofu.

Notes

From my experiment, I found out that the more acidity you use, the firmer the tofu. You can also make tofu using store bought soya bean milk (non-sweeten).

Homemade Tofu

The 4 Velveteers

The 4 Velveteers was started by Pamela, Aparna, Asha, and Alessio, who are passionate about a new dish/ style of cooking/ cuisine and food in general. Each month, we will share with you our recipes, experiences & verdicts on our blogs. If you are interested in joining The 4 Velveteers! in our monthly adventure, please feel free to drop by our food blogs and leave a comment.

Do, check out what other Velveteers have created:

Alessio - Recipe Taster with his Tofu mousse with sesame seeds & matcha green tea
Aparna - My Diverse Kitchen with her Tropical Home-made Tofu Smoothie
Asha - Fork, Spoon & Knife with her Mapo Tofu
Ken - Hungry Rabbit with his To fu or not tofu
Jaya - Desi Soccer Mom

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Strawberry Sour Cream Cake

Everyone of us (yes, you included indeed!), at some point in our childhood been eager to grow up. Impatiently waiting with batted breathe for that birthday to come. Remember how excited we were, jumping with glee and joy, in a rush to blow those birthday candles and wishing our birthday would last forever. We were so proud that we couldn't wait to tell everyone we are a year older. Such forgotten fond memories of the yonder years! Many birthdays came and went, so did my enthusiasm about birthdays until Little One came along. Remembering how excited and determined I was to make her perfect 1st birthday - never mind that the only cake I could bake at that time was Quatre-Quart (French Pound Cake) and it was Pierre who taught me how to bake it. I didn't even know how to make a crème chantilly (Pierre had to teach me that too).

Well, Little One is no different. She was over excited and so desperately wanted to be 4 like her best friend, Lise, that she asked me this question almost every day since January: 'Am I 4 yet, mommy? Is today my birthday?' Each time I would say 'Not just yet, poppet. You'll be 4 in 5 months time.' And then came the same wailing scenario 'Mommy, I want to be 4 now like Lise. Why can't I be 4 now? No, mommy I'm not 3½ years old. I'm 4 today just like Lise because I say so.' I have since learnt to be creative in my reply 'Yes, you are almost 4. In x months or x weeks' to keep my little camper happy.

This year Little One celebrated her 4th birthday the big way - a big birthday party at home with her friends (8 kids including her). In France, the parents will drop off their kids with a birthday present at your doorstep and come to fetch them home at the end of the party. Each kid is then sent home with a little goodie bag of gifts & candies (a birthday party souvenir). I like this concept very much as the kids didn't leave home empty handed. So for the next 3 hours or so, you are in charge of X number of kids in your house.

Yes my house was really noisy with kids running here and there! We had everything planned right down to games, gifts, etc...but do the kids really care? NO! Their longest attention span with pinning-the-donkey-tail game (supposedly a game that kids love most) - lasted only like 5 minutes. They preferred to chase each other around the house, playing big-bad-wolf with some kids hiding under the fairy tent while others were upstairs playing in Little One's room. So why bother stressing up myself to baldness thinking up different types of games? One surprising thing that stumped us all was that the kids loved storytelling. They couldn't get enough of that. (Yes, beats me too) They also loved fishing for presents - patiently queuing for their turn. They had so much fun at the party that they didn't want to go home. Then a few weeks later, she celebrated her birthday again in school with her friends and teacher. And Yes! Little One goes around proudly telling everyone who cares (or not) to listen to her: 'I'm 4 years old today.' Never mind that she doesn't even know them at all. What about presents, you might be wondering? APLENTY from family & friends to a point that she now expects more presents to come every day since she is now 4 years old every day. This was her bestest birthday ever... for now.

Now for the birthday cake, as much as I love my chocolaty & moist chocolate cake that I baked for her every year, I felt it was time for a change. So I asked my in-house gourmet, Pierre, who voted for his favourite Sour Cream Cinnamon Coffee Cake from Life's a Feast. I have adapted the recipe into layered cake with crème patissère covered with chocolate ganache.

Strawberry Sour Cream Cake
Strawberry Sour Cream Cake (with crème patissère & chocolate ganache)
Ingredients

Sour Cream Cake

  • 1½ cups sour cream or crème fraîche
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3 cups flour (spooned in and leveled)
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt (omit this if you are using salted butter)
  • 1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter or semi-salted butter (soften, room temperature)
  • 1¾ cup superfine sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Chocolate Ganache

  • 200g (12 oz) semisweet dark chocolate (I used dark chocolate, 54%)
  • ½ cup whipping cream
  • 3 tbsp butter
Strawberry Sour Cream Cake
Directions

Make the French pastry cream(crème patissieère) first before making the cake. That way, the pastry cream can be chilled in the refrigerator and will be ready for laying.

Making Cake

  1. In a small bowl or container, stir the sour cream (or crème fraîche) and the baking soda together and let it stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F - gas mark 4).
  3. Butter two 8 inch heart-shaped baking pan, then line the bottom with parchment paper, and butter the paper.
  4. Mix together the flour, baking powder & salt (omit it if you are using semi-salted butter) in a big bowl.
  5. In another big bowl, whisk the softened, room temperature butter (cut into cubes) until it is smooth and lightened in color.
  6. Add the sugar, 1 or 2 tbsp at a time, and beat it for 6 to 8 minutes until it is light and very fluffy.
  7. Add in the eggs, one at a time, whisking it for 1 minute after each addition, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Stir in the vanilla.
  8. Beating at low speed, add the flour mixture, alternating with sour cream (crème fraîche) - beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix until it is just blended after each addition. Scrape down the side of the bowl as needed.
  9. Spoon the batter equally into two 8 inch heart-shaped baking pan and even the top out, leaving some room on top of pan for cake to rise during baking.
  10. Bake for about 40 - 50 minutes in the preheated oven. The cake is done when it is risen and the top is golden brown and springy to the touch or a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  11. Leave the cake to cool on racks for about 15 minutes before turning it out of the molds. Let the cakes cool completely before filling and covering it with chocolate ganache.
Strawberry Sour Cream Cake

Making Chocolate Ganache

  1. Melt chocolate pieces and whipping cream in bain-marie. Whisk until smooth, then stir in butter.
  2. Let stand for about 30 minutes. Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer for 3-4 minutes.

Assembling the Cake

  1. Place 1 heart-shaped cake on a cake plate.
  2. Using the back of your spoon or spatula, spread a generous layer of pastry cream (crème patissière) on top of the cake.
  3. Delicately place the other heart-shaped cake on top of the filling.
  4. Spoon and spread the top of the cake generously with chocolate ganache, letting it spill naturally over the sides of the cake.
  5. Arrange the strawberries along the edge of the heart-shaped.
  6. Keep the cake in the refrigerator until it is ready to be served.
Strawberry Sour Cream CakeStrawberry Sour Cream CakeStrawberry Sour Cream Cake
The Verdict

In a classic layer sponge cake, it is usually all about the cream and other fillings, and the sponge cake is secondary (who eats plain sponge cake anyway). This cake however, stands on its own - moist, fluffy yet dense and lightly flavoured in taste complimenting the pastry cream, strawberries and chocolate ganache. Even with all the complimentary toppings and filling, this cake remains just nicely sweet. So if you have a real sweet tooth, please add more sugar to the above recipe.

This cake was so delicious that Pierre requested the same to be made for sister-in-law's birthday. Alternatively, you may also include a layer of sliced strawberries on top of the pastry cream as I originally intended to do but in my hurry to get the cake done, I forgot about until I had covered it with chocolate ganache.

Notes

If you don't have large eggs but have some egg whites sitting in your fridge, use 3 medium sized eggs and a few tablespoons of egg white for this cake and it will turn out marvellously good too.

The original recipe bakes in a 10 inch angel cake pan for about 1 hour and 10 minute. I usually roughly estimates the baking time when I bake this recipe in smaller cake pan. And whatever leftover batter I have, I made them into muffins.

For the chocolate ganache, I didn't let it stand for 30 minutes. Once it is done, I spread it all over the cake and then let it chill in the refrigerator.

Strawberry Sour Cream Cake
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