A blade shines in the darkest of the nights
Last Christmas Little One was a little too young to understand all the fuss about Christmas. Now that she is a little older, she is more curious about it - she even helped me set up and decorate our Christmas tree. My sister-in-law not only taught her to sing 'Petit Papa Nöel' a week before xmas (she has been singing this song non stop since then ), she also talked to her about Papa Nöel (Santa Claus) and how she has to be a good little girl or else Papa Nöel won't bring lots of gifts for her. Mémé (grandmother), bless her sweet heart, bought a Santa suit and got someone to give Little One a surprise visit on the eve of xmas. Little One took a look at Santa and ran hide behind mémé's legs and refused to look at Santa no matter how much coaxing from him or mémé. It was only when he took out a present from his bulging santa sack that Little One started to warm up to him and even gave him a kiss on his cheeks for the present. After Santa left, she couldn't stop talking about Santa.
No festive holiday is complete without cookies, especially when Santa is expecting some, so here's the cookies that I did bake for this occasion.
It turned out pretty good - very aromatic and crunchy but a wee bit too sweet to our taste. - I love the combination of the coconut and pandan flavour with those bits of dark chocolates and nuts.
For those who like their cookies just nice and not too sweet, please reduce the sugar quantity from the recipe.
Little One has made an amazing progress in her vocabulary during these past few weeks. She still can't make out a phrase but she just learnt how to say her name the other day at the park (well, not exactly accurate but her name is kinda difficult for her to pronounce at her age). She can understand both languages - in French and English. I'm still working on Chinese as I seldom speak to her in Mandarin, however I take the occasion to compensate that by reading Chinese story books to her. Hope that works too.
She has also learned to shout A table (literal translation 'at the table' meaning 'dinner is served') whenever a meal is ready. And when papa is still not there yet, she would shout 'papa, à table!' 'papa, à table' till papa sit at his place. hehehe She surprised us a month or two ago when she can associate which object around the house belongs to who - e.g. muffins- papa's, tool box - pépé (grandfather), which laptops belongs to who etc. She also has been playing tea party with her toys and feeding her teddies. Sometimes she would make a cup of tea (imaginary of course ) and serve it to each of us. Too cute for words. She also loves reading her books (well, mainly look at the pictures) and for bedtime, she will chose which books she wants us to read to her.
Oh ... she has a new favourite word besides gateau (cakes): 'cartoon'. Now that the weather is warm enough to set up her baby pool in the backyard, she keeps asking for piscine (swimming pool) even at night. Unfortunately she caught a chill. Thought it was just a normal runny nose and a slight fever which lasted for 4 days. Poor kiddo, her runny nose has caused her a right ear infection. With the medication, she is getting better however it is a real hide and seek when it's time for medicine - she would quickly either hide under the table or chair or behind the curtains and sometimes in the closet. Well, it is not always like this, sometimes she takes her medication bravely without resisting for she knows it to get rid of the 'little mouse' in her right ear.
Now back to food. It has been a while since I last baked something so I decided to try out this recipe that I have found in my cooking book but I did some modifications and tried two different methods of making it.
Preheat your oven at 180°C (350°F, gas mark 4) and prepare a greased round 20 cm diameter (approx) cake tin.
I find it to be light, moist and fluffy. The aroma of the orange, butter and coconut icing is a delicious combination. I was initially worried that the whole cake might turn out to be too sweet because of the icing but it tastes just nice - not overly sweet. I simply love it so did the rest of the family members.
The cake turned out to be light but dense and we can taste the bits of shredded coconut in the cake. It is equally delicious. Everyone likes both versions, however for me, I prefer the light and fluffy version above.
For method 1 : I would reduced the milk quantity a little bit.
To make your own self rising flour - for every 125 g of plain flour, add 2 tsp baking powder. Then sift the flour several times.
The weather has been acting weird for the past few days. We had weeks of very sunny spring weather and flowers were blooming everywhere, including the fruit trees in our backyard (we don't know what kind of fruit trees we have in our garden so that will be a surprise. ) Then suddenly end of last week, it started to rain for 2 days... and turned into snow.... gasp! Within half an hour, our garden was all covered with snow. The scenery was actually very pretty. Little One (LO) saw snow for her first time, and when the snow flakes hit her face and little hands, her expression was truly priceless ... It was like 'hey...what was that?' with a serious frown on her little face. We went on the balcony and let her play with snow. Since she never had snow fight before, I decided to gather a little snow ball and threw it at her ... hahaha ... she was like 'Mommy, why did you do that?' Sister-in-law joined in the fun and soon LO got the idea, however instead of her throwing her tiny snow ball at us, she threw it off the balcony. hahaha Apparently she enjoyed watching it falling down and making a splatter on the floor. Too soon, it stopped snowing and the sun came shinning and melt all the snow.
To chase away this cold weary weather, baking is the way to go : filling up the house with cookie aroma - mmm... yummy ... this recipe is (heavily) inspired by my previous Choc-Hazelnut Scrolls.
My sister-in-law took the first bite and exclaimed 'This is really good. Can I have the recipe please. Super yummy.' I was really taken by surprise and went : 'Really?' :O ... Pierre took one and didn't say anything ... he just chomped down another one, yet another. Little One was happily devouring hers. So I sank my teeth for my first bite... it is really good. Crunchy but not overly crunchy - a bit like shortbread. The coconut aroma just swamped my senses. I have to say the nutella or any chocolate spread goes very well with coconut.
This is one of my favourite childhood desserts. In the old days whenever my mom wanted to make this, she would ask us to help her dig out the cassava roots. This was always such a fun field trip even though it is just behind our 'kampong' (village) house. Which child wouldn't want to play with dirt and digging up earth, pulling out the plant roots, chopping up the plant and replanting them after that? I remember that I kept asking my mom frequently about when could we dig up the roots again after replanting it. Then my mom would send us to hunt for a coconut (there used to be lots of coconut trees in front of our kampong house) and start shredding the coconut flesh using the old fashion method (ie. sitting on a long wooden bench with a metal spike at the end). It was such a fun and learning activity that I wish I could do it nowadays with my Little One.
Cassava or tapioca plant or yuca (most people associate it with tapioca flour) is a tall plant that can reach up to 15 feet sometimes. They survive not only very well in dry season (with high humidity) but also in poor soil conditions. Cassava can be easily propagated by cutting the stems into sections and just planting them into the soil before the wet season. Their leaves can be eaten cooked however they are very toxic raw. My mom used to cook these leaves in spicy coconut milk base. As for their tuberous roots, we usually boil them and eat them as they are (without any seasoning) or make them into desserts.
I do not know how to really describe this taste but I'll do my best! The combination of flavours is balanced and one doesn't overwhelm the other. With each bite, you have the natural fragrance and taste of cassava and at the same time, fragrant sweet & salty taste of fresh shredded coconut blend together.
This dessert is best eaten on the day that it is made.
This is a week of strikes - tonight the train is on strike and tomorrow it's the EDF (Electricity) and Paris public transport. Talking about strike, some students of Nantes University are on their 2nd week of strike as well to protest against an education reform. How can students be on strike? That's something that puzzles most foreigners who arrive here, me included. You don't need to go as far as Japan to get "Lost In Translation".
All these strikes bring me to another topic: coconut is my least favourite fruit! (OK, so there's actually no connection whatsoever, but bear with me). I don't like coconut cookies, ice cream or cakes but I love coconut gravies, like curry. Strange isn't it? So why did I make a coconut tart then? Well, one day the cafeteria ran out of sandwiches and all they had were tarts: lemon, chocolate and coconut. I don't like anything that is sourish nor too chocolaty so that left me the coconut tart - no other choice - needed to feed my growling stomach. I was very surprised at how delicious it was. Since then I have been itching to make a coconut tart like the one I have tasted.
Prepare Pie Crust
Prepare the coconut fillings
I was actually expecting a semi-dry filling, but got surprised to get it moist and creamy, almost like a custard. It's delicious though - I ended up covering the tart with a layer of melted chocolate (one side with black chocolate, the other side with milk-chocolate). The combination of coconut and chocolate was really nice - and reminescent of the Bounty chocolate bar.
Of late, our household has been on a "strict" diet (except little ninja) in our effort to shed that few centimeters off our waistline, which is why I haven't been baking much sweet stuff. But when 5 o'clock rings, our mouth really start to crave for something sweet to go with that cup of tea. It doesn't help either that our friends dropped by with delicious pastries. Resist as I might, I caved in to temptation yesterday, browsing excitedly through my pastry books, salivating at each and every cake and cookie (oh gosh, there are so many delicious cakes to make *swooning with pleasure at the photos*). And these little coconut cakes caught my attention - nice beautiful squares looking so inviting and tempting... and coconut plus strawberry? That sounded like an interesting combo.
(taken from Le Grand Livre des Desserts)
Preparation: 40 minutes
Baking: 45 minutes
It turned out very delicious: yummy sweet tasting coconut flavour! However the strawberry jam is probably too thin and remains rather quiet (we do taste it a bit, but the coconut flavour is more pronounced). Perhaps it's because the home made jam I used is thin and runny. I'm usually not a big fan of coconut but this one is really good
These coconut squares are more like a pastry than a cookie or biscuits. It's soft and moist - prefect as little cakes (as the book calls it 'les petits gateaux') for tea or coffee time - just what I was looking for.
I found the dough to be a bit too soft and sticky to roll out onto the baking dish. If I bake it again, I will let the dough sit in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes or more to firm up before rolling it out on the tray.
I baked my dough at 220°C for 10 minutes instead of following the book.
Many years ago a friend of mine highly recommended me this cook book by Mrs Lee Chin Koon (the mother of Singapore's Prime Minister Mentor Mr Lee Kuan Yew). She found the instructions to be very easy to follow and had already tried out a few of the recipes with delicious results. While I was tempted to go straight to the nearest book store to pick it up, I realized that it would end up sitting on the shelf like a white elephant for years: my mom reigns over the kitchen and is a great cook...
Funnily enough, I came upon this book by chance while on vacation in Singapore recently and immediately bought it without hesitation. Out of the many delicious recipes to try out, I opted for a beef rendang: it's really one of my favourite dishes!
For those unfamiliar with this fine delicacy, Beef Rendang is very popular in Malaysia and Singapore - traditionally prepared by the Malay community during festive occasions. The recipe originates from Padang in West Sumatra, hence the name Nasi Padang which is sometimes used as well.
(taken from The New Mrs. Lee's Cookbook: Nonya Cuisine)
Cooking the rendang
The sauce was awesome and tasted as good as I was hoping, but I can't say the same for the beef: it was unfortunately very tough. It seems that I don't have much luck in cooking beef: every time I cook some, the meat never turns out tender. When we are having steak, it's Pierre who cooks it but I so wanted to eat beef rendang. Michèle loved this dish even though my beef was tough. She suggested that I use the normal beef next time as the beef shin takes a long long time to cook for it to be tender. Most likely I didn't cook the meat long enough (that's Michèle's opinion too). If the meat is cooked correctly, it should falls apart and melt in your mouth.
I can't get any freshly grated coconut here so I replace it with 750 ml of can coconut milk.