Sunday, February 21, 2010

Weekend Herb Blogging: Red Dates Tea

Chinese New Year had been a busy round of spring cleaning and visiting. After one week of hiatus from WHB, the Pancakes are back again! Cinzia from Cindystar is hosting this edition of Weekend Herb Blogging and this week's feature will be none other than red dates!

Dates contain easily digested carbohydrates with a high sugar content of 60%. They are also an excellent source of fiber and trace elements like copper, potassium, manganese, magnesium, iron and phosphorus. Dates are often served with milk in the Middle East to make it a complete meal and they are also served alone or in desserts.

Dates are usually harvested in late autumn and early winter, but they store quite well and is available all year round. The dates used here are from China, and dried version is usually used by the Chinese in soups and nourishing desserts.

The extra large fruit you see, comparatively with the rest in the bowl, was brought back from Xi'an by my parents late last year when they went for a trip there. They are amazingly sweet, especially after adding them to a soup.

Red Dates Tea is considered nourishing and because of the colour (ruby-red) it is considered good luck to drink it, especially during this festive season (Lunar New Year).

Apart from red dates, dried honey dates and dried longans were used to add sweetness and give a much mellow taste to the whole drink.

You will need:

50 dried red dates
3 -5 dried honey dates
3 dried longans (large) / 8 dried longans (small)
1 large knob of ginger, smashed
8 cups water
1 medium piece rock sugar

Simply but water to boil and add all ingredients to it. Put over low heat overnight and viola! I used a slow cooker here.

The longer the brewing time, the more ruby red the tea will be. The larger dates were cut up to release the flavours to the water. A more direct way to make this drink is to boil a kettle of water (3/4 full) and once the water is boiling, throw in all the ingredients to make the water level up to the 'full' mark. Leave it overnight or place under low heat. 

Serve warm or chilled.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Weekend Herb Blogging - Pineapple Roll Cookies

Simona from Briciole is hosting this edition of Weekend Herb Blogging. The rules for taking part can be found here.

As promised, this week's entry will be on pineapples. It's Chinese New Year (Lunar New Year) or CNY and it's pastry and snacks time! My favourite CNY delight has got to be pineapple tarts.

Pineapple tarts comes in many forms. The tarts, with cookies and pineapple jam on top is the more common type. There is also the pineapple rolls and pineapple roll cookies where the pineapple is enclosed by a buttery roll. My favourite go to be the pineapple roll cookies.

The pineapple is a tropical fruit with a rather unique taste of apple, strawberry and peach mixed together as some would claim. The pineapple is an excellent source of vitamin C and some forms of vitamin B. Unknown to many, pineapple also contains the trace mineral manganese, an important cofactor in certain enzymes production.

One trick to keep pineapple fresh and retain its taste and juiciness, is to store them in air-tight containers with some of its juice in the refrigerator.

This is not the typical type of jam used on breads. The pineapple jam used here is dry, instead of jello like. This recipe is adapted from a cooking class that I attended with my wife.

Pineapple Jam

You will need:
4 small pineapples (honey pineapple)
1 large Sarawak pineapple
50g cane rock sugar - to give the jam a nice brown colour
150g caster sugar
50g sugar
2-3 cloves + 1 small piece of star anise (to be removed after 10 mins of cooking.)
1. Grate the honey pineapples, including the core.
2. Chop the Sarawak pineapple finely. This will provide the fibre.
3. Drain off pineapple juices, DO NOT squeeze off the juices. You will probably need 2 hours. You will need the pineapples to be really dry. Use the drained juice as a drink or make a cocktail!
4. Add all ingredients into a pot. 
5. Cook on low heat until syrupy and slightly brown. Stir at least once every 15mins to prevent sugars from burning. 
6. You will notice that the pineapple will change to a dark yellow colour as it cooks.
7. Remove cloves and anise. Cool in room temperature.
8. Store in fridge. If cooked properly, this jam can be stored for up to a year in the fridge.
Take note that no water should be allowed into the mixture as it spoils the jam.
Butter Cookie Dough (courtesy of a friend's mum)

You will need :
60g Salted Butter
65g Unsalted butter
160g plain flour
1 egg yolk
12g milk powder
25g caster sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla essense
1/8 tsp vanillin powder
1. Mix the butter and sugar. Add in egg yolk
2. Slowly mix in flour, milk powder, vanilla essense and vanillin.
3. Roll out dough and put in the pineapple jam.
4. Brush with egg yolk wash.
5. Bake at 180C till golden brown.

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