A blade shines in the darkest of the nights
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!
Serves 4 peoples
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
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.
It's strange how food craving can drive one to do things that he would never thought of doing, like learning how to cook Char Kway Teow (a local favourite dish in Singapore), or my mom's Nonya Chicken Curry, mutton curry, Assam Fish, Steamed Fish (Teochew Style), Sweet & Sour Pork, White Peppered Pork Slices (my childhood favourite), Chinese Steamed Buns, etc. Had I still been living in Singapore today, I would have never learned how to cook all these dishes as they are easily and cheaply available at home. The things we easily take for granted until we live overseas!
A few weeks ago, I had a sudden craving for a home local jam called Kaya (coconut-egg pandan jam) - my childhood favourite jam. Making this jam at home requires hours of standing, stirring and watching over it on the stove, letting it cook slowly and thicken like a thick custard. It can easily get scorched if one gets distracted from the job. I have seen my mom make this before at home and trust me, it's a very long process. I don't know why but I found myself talking about Kaya on twitter with Davina & Su-yin. Sweet & lovely Su-yin upon learning my plight kindly shared with me her secret Kaya recipe. To say I was overjoyed is an understatement... I was over the moon about it! So excited I was when I got her recipe, that I immediately set out to make it, only to realize that I had no coconut milk in my pantry. Arggh! I was so determined to have my jam that I just went ahead and made it with full cream milk. That's how desperate I was. LOL! When one is that desperate and craving for their home food, nothing gets in the way!
I only have this to say: Thank You, Cravings! If not for you, I wouldn't have discovered this delicious gem 'Pandan Jam' which I'm so addicted to right now. LOL! So readers, food cravings is definitely good for you - it spurs you to explore, create & improvise with whatever you have in hand and a new dish is born. Below is the recipe of Pandan Jam adapted from Su-yin's recipe. I love the colour of this jam - it reminds me of my wonderful 2 weeks vacation in Ireland in '97. Tomorrow is St Patrick's Day and we are celebrating Paddy's Day Food Parade over at The Daily Spud.
It's surprisingly very good. Rich in pandan flavour (that's to be expected of course) ; the texture is very smooth like a very thick custard as it should be and deliciously good. I was hooked on this jam immediately and couldn't stop eating slice after slice of bread with it. The aroma of this jam even rouse Pierre out of his office upstairs to check it out. Little One loves it too.
Right after the jam is done, it tastes a wee bit too sweet for my taste. However, after it has been refrigerated, strangely it doesn't seems to be overly sweet anymore - I have no idea why. If you don't like it to be too sweet, do reduce slightly the sugar quantity in above recipe.
Yesterday we celebrated mother-in-law's 65th birthday. Little One was all excited wanting to put on her best dress - the chongsam that my sis bought for her to wear during Chinese New Year. So she was all pretty and dressed up, patiently waiting for grandparents to arrive and playing on her own while I was tackling lunch. What a little sweetheart!
For the Aperitif, we had Hummus & Pita. I had made Hummus a day or two ago so that's chilling in the fridge, but nearly forgot to make my Pita. Phew! My parents-in-law loved both but they marvelled at my delicious Pita the most, asking me for the recipe. Hehehe! For the entrée, mom-in-law brought 3 ramekins of snails bathed in... mmm... delectable... butter, garlic & herbs. Only 3 of us had this delicious dish while Pierre stayed clear off it. He doesn't like snails or oysters - 2 of my favourite & yummy friends. LOL!
Then came the Main Meal, I made Szechuan Prawns & stir-fried Brussels Sprouts with rice . As mom-in-law wanted something exotic & spicy, Pierre suggested this dish as it has been a year or so since I last made it, plus his parents like this dish very much. This time around, I used ready-cooked prawns bought from the supermarket and used chives instead of scallion/spring onions. Chives are less flavourful than spring onion but it's a good alternative. I tried cooking both prawns and brussels sprouts & rice at the same time but ended up in a slight disaster with frying pan slightly over turning with hot oil on counter top. With limited space for wok, pans'n pots on the same stove top, it's not surprising! So I ditched that multitasking plan and finished cooking rice & prawns before tackling the vegetables later on. I sincerely don't know what's so bad about brussels sprout that a lot of people don't like: it's fresh, crunchy and delicious like cabbage. Little One hardly ate her lunch because she had too much of hummus & pita but all the same, she ate the brussels sprouts that I put on her plate (she refused to eat it during dinner however), while Pierre avoided it like the Black Plague.
As for the dessert, birthday girl wanted Tiramisu for her birthday cake. Originally I wanted to make it from scratch but in a simpler version, then I realized the day before that they were coming for lunch on Wednesday instead of Thursday as I thought. So changed of plans and made everything with store bought sponge fingers & mascarpone. I made this tiramisu in 22 cm springform cake pan lined with baking paper on bottom and sides, and it turned out more beautiful than I thought. We could clearly see the pretty built-up layers of the tiramisu. It was scrumptious as expected but poor Pierre complained that it was not sweet enough for him (I think he had too many of DB's tiramisu challenge).
We almost forgot the presents for her. Unfortunately mine didn't arrived on time. Shh... I got her Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day. Hope she likes it and is able to use it sans problem (don't forget she's French and reading texts in English isn't easy). So we only have Pierre's gift to present to her... She opened it, looked at it thoroughly, looked back blankly at Pierre 'What is this thing? Are you sure it's for me and not something for your dad?' LOL! The look on her face was priceless! You see, Pierre got his mom a small external hard drive for her to backup her data from her laptop - a very useful gift. When we told her what it is, she said 'You got to be kidding me, right? I don't even know how SMS works, how am I going to use this?' Guess either Pierre or my father-in-law have to give her some crash course on using her gift.
So what has all this got to do with today's recipe? There's no connection really. Just thought since we are talking about this delicious full course lunch, might as well add in a heavenly breakfast that I did a while ago. I found this recipe last year online and decided to try it out. Boy, was I glad to have found it - it's the best waffles I ever had in my life. I tried turning this into pancakes one day but it didn't turned out as well as waffles. Guess it is just a waffle recipe. If they are this good, what took me so long to blog about it you might asked. Well, each time we made this, we kept stuffing our face too fast to remember to take a picture for the blog, that's why. LOL! Pierre made a little sacrifice for this, waiting patiently for me to finish photographing his waffles before chopping it down in seconds. Below recipe is my adapted version. Do try it today ; I promise you won't regret it!
They are perfect, soft if you cook them a short time, crispy if you wait a little bit longer. Heavenly with Nutella spread...just can't stop eating these waffles. Be warned, they are so good that you might over eat and ruin your appetite for lunch!
The batter remains good and makes delicious waffles in the even after sitting out on the kitchen counter top the whole day. I have also kept the batter in the fridge overnight and it still stays good. If you are living in a tropical climate, it's best to keep the batter in the fridge rather than leaving the batter in the kitchen the whole day like I did.
When I was growing up, I never had any yoghurt, didn't know what it was nor taste like till I saw my elder sis giving it to my nephew (when he was little). Yes, yes ... call me mountain tortoise (singlish equivalent to a country pumpkin) ... then again, I did grew up in the countryside. Anyway, ever since I started living in France, I see yoghurt of every imaginable kind in the cold section and I mean a really really wide range of it and they even have sections especially for kids alone. :0 (Ok, note to self: I have to stop yapping like an ignorant idiot) I even started to like the flavoured ones - quite tasty actually - but I haven't quite acquired the taste for plain yoghurt yet ... until I made my own. To me, the plain ones are just too sour for my taste. On the other hand, my in-laws and little one are big fans of plain yoghurt.
Two years ago we got Michèle (my mom-in-law) a yoghurt maker, much to her delight and she did put it to use straight away. However, after they moved to another city, she never quite managed to get her yoghurt right like she did in Nantes. She tried it in Paris - it didn't work. Tried it at my house, didn't work too. She tried several times using different quality of milk (even to the extend of getting fresh milk direct from the local farm) and putting it at different location in her house - didn't work too. She finally gave up and retired her yoghurt machine. Funnily, all this got me very intrigued by this yoghurt making business. To be honest, I was kinda peeved on Michèle's behalf that all her persistent attempts to get her beautiful yoghurt failed. I was determined to prove it can work. There I set out to find out how to make my own yoghurt using the most simple stuff that you can find at home. The most exciting part of this experiment is that it really does works. You should have seen me jumping up and down like a crazy woman early in the morning shouting 'It works. It works, honey. I can't believe it, I have yoghurts.' This went on and off for the next few hours. hahaha
Now before we get to the recipe, let's have a look at why yoghurt is good for us :
The great thing about making your own yoghurt is you can be sure that there isn't any preservatives, artificial colors or flavorings in them unless you add some flavours yourself. It is also cheaper than buying it at the supermarket. Lastly I feel they just taste better.
Making yoghurt is basically growing specific bacteria (hence why we need a yogurt to produce more yogurt). There are many different ways of incubating your yogurt but I chose this method because it's the simplest, hassle free and all the apparatus needed in this process making are easily found in your own home.
Disclaimer: I in no way claim to be health nor yoghurt expert. The below steps are what I gathered and learned from sources on the Internet. I have made yoghurt using these steps a few times with success and my family suffers no unwanted effects from it, however you should know that since the process of making yoghurt involves growing bacteria, it carries some risks.
Making Yogurt in Tropical Climate
The texture is very rich, smooth and creamy like a smoothie. It tastes just right - mild, not too acid. I simply love it. Normally I don't eat yoghurt at all because I find them too sour for me, but the home-made version has really converted me. It is delicious on it's own or savour it with fresh fruits, some nuts, jam, or cereals etc.
You can alternatively put some jams or syrup at the bottom of the jar before filling it up with the yoghurt mixture.
For those who are using a thermometer, the milk should heated up to 82°C (180°F) - beyond this temperature, you'll scorched your yoghurt giving you a bad taste. Once it reaches this temperature, remove it from the heat and let it cool down to 40°C (105°F ). Follow the above steps as usual.
As my kitchen is rather cold, I place my covered cooler bag next to my kitchen heater. Mine took about 11 hours to set and firm up. If your place is warm, then probably you can leave the cooler box uncovered and your yoghurt might only need 9 hours to set.
Some yoghurt recipes add milk powder to make the yogurt thicker. I don't use it. I like the way how this yogurt turns out as in the texture and taste. It is said that the longer you leave the yogurt to incubate, the more acid/sour it tastes.
The issue of yoghurt not thickening
There are several reasons why your yoghurt didn't set, here are the possible reasons:
The very first cornbread muffins I tasted was at Dan's Ryan Chicago Grill restaurant, Singapore : they serve some of the most delicious muffins in town. Ever since, I have always wanted to try my hands at making this muffin but never really had any motivation to do it until I saw a cornmeal challenge online last week. Although it was too late for me to enter the challenge, the idea has since stuck in my head to make something out of cornmeal. So I went through my small library of cooking books and found this book that my sister-in-law gave me from USA.
The muffins are crusty on the outside, somewhat moist and soft inside, but sadly they didn't seem to react to the baking powder and look rather flat and compact. To me, it still taste OK, not as bad as I initially thought it would be but not 'wow' either. Pierre likes it so did my 1 year old. In fact she rather eats this than her lunch.
This is the first time I'm making this cornmeal muffin so I'm no expert in what the final result is supposed to look or taste like. Another thing is that I have tried to find out what exactly is cornmeal in French but no luck. From the internet, it says polenta (as used in italian cuisine) but Pierre doubts it. Anyway I decided to try it out using polenta.
As for the preparation, I happened to have US measuring cups (another gift from my sister-in-law) - 1 cup polenta = 163 g (I measured it on my scale but one internet site said the conversion of 1 cup cornmeal should be between 128 - 130 g) and 1 tbsp butter = 15 g. I have halved the recipe because making a dozen is just too many for us to finish.
This recipe uses no flour. According to the book, beating the egg whites lightens the muffins, making it not too heavy.