Saturday, November 28, 2009

Weekend Herb Blogging - Lotus Rotus with Black Wood Fungi Stir Fry

The Pancakes are still on a high after last week's post on WHB#210. I am submitting this recipe for this week's Weekend Herb Blogging#211. This week event will be hosted by Lynne from Cafe LynnyLu. WHB is a weekly food blog event that showcases information and recipes about herbs, vegetables, fruits and other plant ingredients. WHB is now organized by Haalo ofCook(almost)AnythingAtLeastOnce. The rules for taking part can be found here. Take part and share! The more the merrier!

This week will be on this simple and yet nutritious recipe.

Lotus roots originate in Asia. It has a white, crisp flesh with a lacy texture and very mild flavour.  After cleaning the root of mud, peel and slice it.  Put the slices in a box and chill it in the refrigerator.  They will make a cool, refreshing snack.  The lotus slices can also be candied and serve as sweet treats.

This recipe that I am sharing here is a easy stir-fry, an appertiser from my Mum's recipe book for vegetarians.


Lotus Rotus with Black Wood Fungi

You will need: (Serves 2-4)

½ lotus root (6-8 cm)
6 black wood fungus
2 slices ginger
1 cup water
cooking oil
10 dried sze chuan pepper
1 red chilli

For the cold dressing
½ cup white / rice vinegar
3 tablespoon sugar
¼ cup water
fish sauce (optional)

This is supposed to be a cold dish entrĂ©e but it can be tweaked to be served as a main dish too.  Highly nutritious and easy to prepare, this dish will go down well with the busy urbanites.

1.  Wash the lotus root and cut into thin slices.  Prepare the black wood fungi by removing the tough stem and wash under tap water.  Chop up the fungi to 3-5 cm wide.

2.  Cook sliced lotus and fungi in boiling water for 3-5minutes.  Remove once fungi are slightly softened but still crunchy to bite into.  Remove and leave aside to drain off excess water.

3.  Heat cooking oil and add in ginger slices.  Once ginger slices are browned, add in the cooked lotus slices and fungi.  Add 1 cup water and simmer under low heat for 10 minutes.

4.  Heat 1 teaspoon of oil on a skillet. Add sze chuan pepper to the hot oil under medium heat. After 10 mins, remove the peppers and keep the oil.

5. Add sliced chilli and sze chuan pepper oil before serving. (Boiled sliced carrots were used as garnish here.)

Variation: Cold Dressing

Dissolve sugar in water. Add vinegar for the tartness and sour taste. Add salt to taste. Adjust taste as desired. Mix well with drained lotus slices and fungi. Chill and serve cold.

Drizzle sze chuan pepper oil all over before serving.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Potato Peeling - Fast Forward

Super cool way to peel a potato. Keeps the nutrients because it was boiled with the skin intact and it saves time!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Weekend Herb Blogging - Avocado

I am submitting this recipe into this weeks Weekend Herb Blogging#210. This week event will be hosted by Winnie from Healthy Green Kitchen. WHB is a weekly food blog event that showcases information and recipes about herbs, vegetables, fruits and other plant ingredients. WHB is now organized by Haalo of Cook(almost)AnythingAtLeastOnce. It is such a informative ingredient blogging event, and the Pancakes decided to submit a first time entry and hope that this will be selected. *keeping fingers crossed.*

Anyway, let's begin.  Mr Pancakes had always been fascinated by the fruit avocado.  It's velvety taste and strange looking skin had intrigued Mr Pancakes since young. As it is expensive (SGD1.65 for a fruit), Mr Pancakes hardly has the chance to really taste it.... until he's 20.

The avocado is also widely known as the alligator pear. It is grown from the fast growing Persea Americana tree. Avocados can contain as much as 20% fat (Haas variant), of which is largely monounsaturated, including oleic acid and linoleic acid.  They are also an excellent source of potassium, vitamins B and E. 

Gentle pressure should depress ripe avocados slightly.  Do not select over-ripe avocados as they have brown, mushy meat and taste weird.  Allow avocados to ripen (18 to 24°C) and they can be kept in refrigerators for up to a week, if it has not been sliced.  The skin darkens as the fruit ripens.  Avocados sell at a range of SGD 1.30 to SGD 2, depending on the season. Peak season is typically in December.  *DO NOT try to eat unripe avocados. They taste bitter and leave a horrid aftertaste in your mouth, tongue AND throat.

Avocados contain enzymes that encourage oxidation, thus they tend to brown when exposed to air.  Sprinkle with a little lemon juice or vinegar to slow the browning process.  

To prepare, use a stainless steel kitchen knife to cut the fruit lengthwise.  Gently twist the two halves in opposite directions. (It is like opening a bottle cap.)  The seed can be easily removed with a spoon.  Using the tip of the knife, go between the fruit and the skin, separating the flesh from the skin. Use a spoon to slide along the inside of the skin if the flesh is too soft to be cut.

Avocados can be consumed on their own, as shakes, in sandwiches and most popularly in the preparation of guacamole. And Mr Pancakes shares here his favourite milkshake of all time, The Avocado Shake.

You will need: (Serves 4)
2 ripe avocados
     300 ml cold milk (coconut milk[1], evaporated milk will do too.)
·    50 grams gula Melaka[2] (molasses or honey are adequate substitutes.)
·    2 tablespoons of hot water

1.    Grate and dissolve the gula Melaka in the hot water.  Leave aside to cool. (You can do this the night before. The syrup can be kept for several days when stored in a dry, clean air-tight jar.

2.       Remove skin and pit of avocados.  Blend with 200ml of milk.
3.       Add half of gula Melaka syrup. Continue to blend until smooth.  Top up with milk to achieve desired consistency.
4.       In a tall glass or martini glass, pour some gula Melaka syrup to form a thin layer.
5.       Top glass with blended avocado.
6.       Drizzle with remaining syrup and serve.

*This avocado milkshake tastes best when serve chilled.  Do NOT over-blend. Blending heats up your concoction.  Add ice-cubes if you desire, bearing in mind it will thin the drink as the ice melts.

[1] Coconut milk gives a very fragrant taste to the drink.  But do take note of the fat content.  Add evaporated milk for a creamier version.
[2] Commonly known as ‘Palm Sugar’, is made from sugary sap of cut flower buds.

Pairing:  Avocados generally go well with nuts as a snack.  Serve with citrus fruits like orange and kiwi to balance the oily content of the fruit.  Roasted chicken, bacon and ham taste great with avocado slices in sandwiches.  Herbs like lemon balm and basil lift the taste of avocados while milk chocolate and fine creamy cheese like Gruyere pair well with avocados as an after-dinner treat.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Lemon Meringue Cake (Part 3)

The Pancakes were watching Asian Food Channel the other day and saw one of the chefs making a cupcake with lemon curd and meringue on the top, which gave Mrs Pancakes the idea to do it.  This will save all the hassle of having to cut the cake into 3 layers, spreading curd in between and giving herself a hell of a headache.  To solve the meringue problem (being too spongy and moist in our humid weather), Mr Pancakes suggested Mrs Pancakes could make the hard meringue biscuits to top it off instead, and so Mrs Pancakes was "assigned" to try that for Mr K's birthday lunch.

Armed with the same recipe as Lemon Meringue Cake (Part 1), Mrs Pancakes did her own cupcake version of the lemon (meringue) cupcakes.  Due to time constraints, it ended up with no meringue, thus I shall call it lemon curd cupcake.  Instead of using a cake tin, this time around, Mrs Pancakes used muffin trays.  This was how it turned out:

A little too moist this time.  Will do better the next time (hopefully with meringue biscuits) =)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Lemon Meringue Cake (Part 2)

Undeterred, and despite Mrs Pancakes' Sister commenting that the first cake looked ugly (Ha!), Mrs Pancakes decided to make a second go at the Lemon Meringue Cake. Armed with a new recipe and this time a loaf pan (instead of a round cake pan) in hand, she made her second attempt.

Lemon Meringue Cake 2
Makes 1 loaf cake, serving 12

2 1/4 cups cake flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups sugar
About 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons finely shredded lemon zest

Lemon curd
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
3/4 cup sugar
8 large egg yolks

1 cup egg whites (about 8 eggs)
1 cup sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl; set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat sugar and 1/2 cup butter until creamy. Crack eggs into a small dish (do not beat) and add vanilla. Add eggs to the butter mixture 1 at a time, scraping down the inside of the bowl as needed. Beat in flour mixture and milk in alternating batches, starting and ending with the flour and making sure each addition is fully incorporated before adding the next. Stir zest into batter.

2. Butter and flour a 5- by 9-in. loaf pan and pour in batter.

3. Bake 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes, then invert cake onto a rack. Remove pan and let cake cool to room temperature, at least 40 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, make lemon curd: In a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan, melt butter with lemon juice over high heat. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar and yolks. Slowly whisk hot lemon butter into egg mixture, 1/2 cup at a time. Pour mixture back into saucepan and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is very thick, 5 to 8 minutes.

5. Transfer lemon curd to a glass or plastic container. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it onto the top of the curd to prevent a skin from forming. Chill until cold, at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.

6. Make meringue: Whisk whites and sugar together in a medium metal bowl. Set over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk constantly until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar feels dissolved, about 2 minutes.

7. Scrape whites into the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk on high speed until light and fluffy and the side of the bowl feels cool to the touch, about 2 minutes.

8. Assemble cake: Preheat broiler, positioning oven rack about 7 in. from the heat source. Using a serrated knife, trim brown exterior from sides and top of cake. Slice cake horizontally into 3 even layers.

9. Place 1 cake layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Spread with half the lemon curd mixture. Repeat with second layer and remaining curd. Top with last layer. Using a spatula, cover the entire cake with the meringue.

10. Broil cake just until top is golden brown, being careful not to burn it, about 1 minute. Using 2 large pancake turners (sliding 1 under each side of cake), transfer cake to a serving plate.

For those who like their cakes more moist and crumbly, this is the cake for you. The lemon curd was not as creamy in comparison to that of the first. Overall, the Pancakes preferred the first recipe. Mrs Pancakes learnt that for beginners, the size of the cake from the bread pan was easier to handle than the one from the round cake pan.

To be continued... Lemon Meringue Cake (Part 3)

Lemon (Meringue?) Cake (Part 1)

Mr Pancakes wanted to eat lemon meringue cake and so he asked Mrs Pancakes to make one. Thus started the journey of lemon meringue cakes. There were 3 different versions of the cake but till now Mrs Pancakes still isn't satisfied with any of them. However, she(or I) shall share the 3 so far.

First try was a couple of months back, where Mrs Pancakes got a recipe from Martha Stewart's website. As it is the first time she tried to make this cake, she decided to stick by the recipe.

Firstly, the cake!

Makes one 9-inch layer cake

2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 cup milk
1 1/4 cups Lemon Curd
2 recipes Meringue


To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans. Flour pans, tapping out excess; set aside. In a medium bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating to combine after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and the lemon zest. Add the flour mixture, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Beat until just combined.

Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven, and let stand in pans until cool, about 1 1/2 hours.

Remove cakes from pans. Using a serrated knife, trim tops of cakes. Slice each cake horizontally into 3 layers. Place one layer on a serving platter. Spread with 1/4 cup lemon curd. Top with second layer of cake. Spread with 1/4 cup curd. Repeat with remaining cake and curd, finishing with a layer of cake. Transfer to refrigerator until ready to use, at least 2 hours.

Remove cake from refrigerator. Spread a thin even layer of meringue over sides of cake. Mound the remaining meringue on top of cake. Use a handheld torch to brown meringue.

As the Pancakes did not have a blow torch, Mrs Pancakes tried to blast the cake in the oven to get the meringue brown. However, the meringue did not turn out as she wanted :(

Next, the lemon curd!
The lemon curd was a success as Mr Pancakes loved it! Ha!
Makes about 3 cups
16 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons

Prepare an ice water bath; set aside.
Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a medium heatproof bowl. Add the lemon juice, butter, and lemon zest.
Place over a pan of simmering water and cook, whisking occasionally, until thick, about 15 minutes.
Transfer bowl to ice water bath and let stand, stirring occasionally, until cool. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd. Transfer to refrigerator until completely cold, at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

And lastly, the meringue.

Makes about 12 cups
2 cups sugar
8 large egg whites (1 cup)
3 freshly squeezed lemon juice

Combine the sugar, egg whites, and lemon juice in the bowl of an electric mixer set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk until sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes.
Transfer bowl to the mixer stand fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium speed for 10 minutes. Increase to high speed and beat until stiff glossy peaks form, 10 to 15 minutes more.

The lemon curd was perfect!  However, the cake a tat too sweet and the meringue grew watery very easily in Singapore's humid weather :(
Not completely satisfied with the first cake, Mrs Pancakes decided to make a second one....
Lemon Meringue Cake (Part 2) .. to be continued

Friday, November 6, 2009

Lemon Cake

Mrs Pancakes was lucky to be able to have a one month holiday visiting a friend who was studying in the US back in December 2006. She remembers a hot cup of latte in Starbucks which was perfect with a delicious slice of lemon cake which she immediately fell in love with.

Since returning to Singapore, Mrs Pancakes has been desperately looking for the same lemon cake in Starbucks. Even when she went to Australia in 2007, she was still trying her luck at the Starbucks in Sydney, but to no avail.

Finally, Mr Pancakes asked her, "Why don't you bake your own lemon cake." And she did.

Lemon Frosted Lemon Cake
Makes one - 9 inch (23 cm) cake.

Choosing lemons: look for ones that are fragrant with brightly colored oily yellow skins. Lemons should be firm, plump, and heavy. Don't buy lemons that have blemishes, soft spots, or are hard and wrinkled.

Lemon Cake Recipe:
1 cup (226 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Zest of 1 large lemon
2 cups (280 grams) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh lemon juice

Lemon Frosting:
1 cup (115 grams) confectioners' (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees Celcius) and place rack in the center of the oven. Butter, or spray with a nonstick spray, a 9 inch (23 cm) spring form pan and then line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer) cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy and pale in color (about 3 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract and lemon zest.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and then add to the batter along with the lemon juice. Mix only until incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with an offset spatula. Bake about 40 - 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place on a wire rack to cool, then gently remove the sides of the pan.

Lemon Frosting: In a bowl, combine the sifted confectioners' sugar with the 2 tablespoons lemon juice. (You want the icing to be thicker than a glaze but still thin enough that it will just run over the sides of the cake. If not the right consistency add more lemon juice or powdered sugar, accordingly.) Pour the frosting over the top of the cake, allowing the icing to drip down the sides. Let the icing set before covering.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Mrs Pancakes' Muffins!

After marrying Mr Pancakes, Mrs Pancakes was influenced to do her own cooking. She soon realised she has no talent in cooking main dishes and decided to leave that to Mr Pancakes. However, she could make desserts, and thus decided to leave Mr Pancakes to the main dishes and concentrate on dessert-making (which she loves to eat!). :)

After watching The Martha Stewart Show, and watching the special guest make muffins, it seemed easy enough to attempt. Thus, Mrs Pancakes decided to give it a try.

My first attempt: Blueberry Muffins!

This is the original recipe on the website (click here):

Makes 1 dozen
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh blueberries
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees ( 190 degree celcius).

Generously butter a standard 12-cup muffin pan and dust with flour, tapping out excess; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Working over the bowl, toss blueberries in a fine sieve with about 1 1/2 teaspoons flour mixture to lightly coat; set aside the flour mixture and the blueberries.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using a handheld mixer, beat butter and 1 cup sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined. Mix in vanilla.

With the mixer on low speed, add reserved flour mixture, beating until just combined. Add milk, beating until just combined. Do not overmix.

Using a rubber spatula, fold in the blueberries. Divide batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups. If desired, in a small bowl, mix together remaining 1/4 cup sugar and nutmeg. Sprinkle sugar mixture on top of muffin batter.

Bake, rotating pan halfway though, until muffins are golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center of one muffin comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool 10 minutes. Turn muffins on their sides in their cups, and let cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

However, after making the muffins, the Pancakes found this recipe too sweet for our liking. Thus, Mrs Pancakes decided to improvise. Instead of the 1 1/4 cups sugar, Mrs Pancakes only slowly reduced to 1 cup (which was still a tad too sweet), then 1/2cup sugar.

Also, 190 degree celcius for our humid temperature resulted in flat and burnt-on-the-top muffins. Mrs Pancakes then tried it out with 160-170 degree oven. It took longer time but the muffins turned out prettier. :)

The good thing about this batter is that we can add anything to it -- chocolate chips, blueberries, raisins, etc. It is a very basic muffin recipe. Mrs Pancakes even further improvised it by adding earl grey tea bags into the milk (heated up) to stand for about 30 mins, thus creating earl grey tea flavoured muffins with blueberries. Worth a try!

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