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Jun 27, 2011

Apple Sauce & Memories

I remember when I was little, Mum used to take me to a place they called a "snack bar". It was a semi-sleaze joint where they also served great food. And when it came to good food, mum would turn a blind eye to the scantily clad girls hanging around half drunks who are trying real hard to hang on to their bar stools and not fall off. I guess I was too naive to realise what kind of "snacks" they were serving. Don't knock mom for taking a kid to places like these. She was a prim and proper lady used to champagne lunches and fancy joints, but like I said, she had a weakness for their food. And, I had a weakness for their pork chops with their homemade apple sauce. Where they'd got their chef from, I have no idea, since most of their evening customers don't even know what they're eating anyway. The lunch crowd was mostly office folks working around the area and we weren't the only family enjoying their good food during the daylight hours. Kids from the schools nearby, would be there for their superb milkshakes when school lets out. But when night came, it's forbidden for us to even be seen 100 feet from the place. What a turnaround. It was, um... educational.

Now, I was talking about the apple sauce they served with the pork chops. This was not from the can nor the baby food stuff that's bland and boring. It complimented the chops so well, and when they closed down (I wonder why?) I could not find another person who made it the same.

I'd made these to go with other pork dishes but I'd have to admit .... it's nothing like what I remembered. Sigh ... memories.


About 1.5 kg apples (I used a mix of granny smiths and some reds)

Juice of 1 lemon

Peel of 1 lemon (large strips)

1 cinnamon stick (abt 2 - 3 inches long)

1/4 cup brown sugar (you can reduce this if you want it more tart)

1 cup water

1/2 tsp salt


Remove core from apples, peel and cut them into wedges.

Plonk all ingredients into a large, deep pot. Stir to mix well.

Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer and cook for about 20 - 30 mins.

Remove pot from heat. Discard cinnamon and peels.

Mash with a potato masher or cool a little and puree in a food processor. At this point, you can decide if you want your apple sauce chunky or smooth.

Serve hot or cold. Good with pork dishes or with vanilla ice cream. Or blend it together with your favorite smoothie.

Keeps well in freezer.

Jun 20, 2011

East Meets West Char Siew / BBQ Meat

I have to admit this isn't the regular Char Siew / Chinese Sweet Bbq Meat recipe. I had discovered this combination of ingredients due to a spur of the moment inspiration (also due to a lack of the proper ingredients in my pantry) and it seemed to work really well together. There is the super Chinese ingredient (Dong Quai/Chinese Angelica) and then there's the super non-Chinese ingredient, Liquid Smoke (I'm not claiming it's American, altho I was introduced to it in the States, coz I'm not too sure where this originated from).... hence, East meets West, and formed a great alliance.... world peace :D

There are many versions of this roast meat, even chicken meat have been used in place of pork for the non porky people but I'll have to say that it's just not the same. The fat in the pork belly is actually what gives the moistness and richness in the taste and of course the kind of "sweetness" that only pork fat can give.... yumminess!

Here goes ... some Chinese folks will be shaking their heads at this ... oh well....


1/2 kg pork belly (not too fatty, skinned)

2 tbs hoisin sauce

2 tbs thick caramel soy sauce

1 tsp ground white pepper

1 tsp food grade rose water (it's suppose to be rose wine but I didn't have that)

1 tsp liquid smoke (this can be replaced with Worcestershire sauce & is optional, it's just to give it a smoky flavor)

1/2 - 1 tsp ground Dong Quai / Chinese Angelica herb (also optional)*

*(you can also substitute the Dong Quai with 5 spice powder altho it will result in a different flavor)


Divide belly into 2 - 3 strips. (The thicker the strips the longer it takes to cook).

Put everything into a baggy, coat the meat well and leave to marinade overnight in the fridge.

When ready, preheat oven to 200˚C.

Remove strips of meat from the baggy, saving the marinade for basting. Place meat on parchment-lined baking tray. Roast for 15 mins. Turn meat over, baste with marinade and roast for another 10 - 15 mins. Remove from oven.

Heat a non stick pan or grill pan, brush the meat with the leftover marinade. Char meat a little or as much as you like, baste and char other side. Remove from pan and leave to rest for 10 mins before slicing.

Jun 15, 2011

Strawberry Jam Ice Cream

I had great plans for the strawberry preserves / jam from the last post. In fact, each time I make this, I plan to use some of it to put in between some sponge cake or to make some jam filled donuts or as a topping for a cheesecake or ... or .... but it never happens. It gets finished so quickly ... so much for my big plans. This time however, I managed to hide away a small bottle before anyone noticed. Not enough for a big portion but just enough to satisfy my ice cream crave.

I don't usually crave ice cream. When I do, I'll have a couple of mouthfuls and I'm satisfied. By the time I get another crave for another mouthful, the whole tub's gone. Sigh ....

Anyway, this isn't the regular ice cream recipe (what is regular in this blog of mine?) as there aren't any eggs in it. Also, I don't have an ice cream maker so I've come up with a simple concoction that requires no churning at every so often.

There are 2 recipes here. One is just using purely cream resulting in a texture that is ultra smooth and rich. The other has some milk added, which gives it the slight crunch of ice crystals that my family prefers.



1/2 cup strawberry jam

1 cup double cream / whipping cream


Divide the cream into 2 parts.

Stir one part of the cream together with the jam.

Whip the other part f the cream until fluffy but not too stiff.

Fold into jam mixture.

Pour into tub and freeze until firm. (I didn't check how long it took. I left mine overnight in the freezer)

Thaw a little for easy scooping.



1/2 cup strawberry jam

1/4 cup cream

1/4 cup milk

1/2 cup cream, whipped as above recipe


Stir together jam, 1/4 cup cream and milk.

Fold in whipped cream.


Nom nom.

Jun 8, 2011

Strawberry Preserves/Jam

Kinda adapted from Nigella Lawson

Jams, jellies, preserves or spreads ....

When I was little, Mum used to buy marmalade coz that's what she likes with her toast every morning. I know of very few kids who like the bitter peels and I was one of those who did not (my tastebuds have grown up since then and I like lots of peel in my marmalade now). She'd bought some strawberry jam for me to shut me up, but back then the only good quality ones were imported from England and good as they were, I still complained there weren't enough fruit in it. Then I had my first PBJ sandwich in the US of A and complained there wasn't ANY fruit in it. Then I learnt of the differences between jams, jellies, preserves and spreads.

In short:

- Jelly is made from fruit juice

- Jam is made from pureed fruit

- Preserves are made from whole fruit

- Spreads are made from whole fruit and/or pureed fruit

All I know now is, jelly is not for me. You can't convince me it's made from fruits unless I see some fruit in it.

We only used to get imported strawberries on our shelves. Since then our local highland folks have been doing a lot of R&D and initially turned out with some very stunted looking berries .... but that was years ago. Lately, things have improved, maybe in such a way that I really don't want to question too much how they've managed to come up with gorgeous, red, sweet and luscious strawberries that can give the imported ones a run for their money. A friend went uphill for a weekend retreat, to get some fresh air, she claims (yeah right, with all the tour buses) and returned with baskets of large, beautiful berries. Making strawberry jam before had been an expensive indulgence, but now .... Yay!

(I would have loved to post the pic of those lovely strawberries but I can't seem to find where I stored it or if I'd accidentally deleted it ... aarrrggh!! Will do another post when and if I do find it.)


3 cups ripe strawberries (rinsed and hulled)

2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tbs lemon juice (abt half a small lemon)

1 tsp balsamic vinegar

( Don't be surprised by the addition of the balsamic vinegar. It actually accentuates the "strawberryness" of the strawberries. Don't believe me? Try it out :D )

*Note: the proper ratio is 1 cup fruit to 1 cup sugar. The ratio I used is about as reduced as it should get or it won't gel ... without using artificial pectin.


Quarter or halve the strawberries if they're large in size. (Some folks puree half the amount of fruit but I like mine unpureed with big chunks of strawberries)

Combine fruit, sugars, lemon juice and vinegar in a deep stainless steel pot.

Stir to mix evenly.

Simmer over low heat until sugar is melted.

Increase heat and bring to a boil.

Lower heat to medium and simmer without stirring for about 20 mins. Drag a wooden spoon gently around the bottom of the pot to make sure there's nothing burnt and sticking ... do not stir vigorously.

While the jam is simmering, put a ceramic plate in the freezer. After 15 mins, put a small dollop on the cold plate, let it come to room temperature and if it's formed some wrinkles, it's done. Otherwise, simmer for another minute or 2 or 5 (it all depends on how juicy the fruits are) and check again.

Skim off white foamy bits. (Actually there's nothing wrong with the foamy bits, it's still jam, just not too appetizing to look at)

Leave to cool 20 mins.

Store in clean, sterilized jars.

If jars are not properly sealed, store in refrigerator.

*Note: This isn't too gel-like, just a little runny and spreads easily.

Jun 5, 2011

Sweet Sour Beef with Fennel

I know, I know ... sweet sour pork is the traditional Chinese dish. I just like changing things around ... again. I love sweet and sour pork but unfortunately, today, when I was so craving for it, I didn't have pork in my freezer but these 2 pieces of wahyu tenderloin. Didn't feel like running out to the shops either ... let's improvise!

There's always a bulb of fennel in my fridge. Why not?

Guess what? It worked! Well, I wouldn't have tried it if I didn't think it'd work in the first place .... I mean, Wahyu beef ... Hellooo ...


*Note: Sorry for the lack of measurements, but I really just threw this together and Chinese cooking is all about a dash of this and a dash of that anyway. Taste the sauce as you go along, adjust as you see fit.

beef , cut into cubes (you'll want to whack them silly later)

fennel, cut into wedges

onion, cut into wedges

about 1/4 cup tomato ketchup

vinegar (whatever type you have on hand, I used white vinegar, balsamic would've been good too) (in ratio to the ketchup, maybe 1 tbs unless you want it more sour than sweet)

dash or two of oyster sauce (a couple of tbs)

mustard (I used American style mustard and not the English blow-your-head-off mustard)

cornstarch for dredging

cornstarch + water mixture (to thicken sauce)



Pound the beef cubes using the back of a heavy meat knife or a meat mallet until you get nice, even, flat pieces.

Dredge the meat with cornstarch, shake excess off and shallow fry them in hot oil until slightly crisp. Remove.

In a clean pan, saute the onions lightly in a little oil (I like it with a bit of crunch), stir in fennel. Cook until slightly translucent. Stir in oyster sauce, ketchup, a good squeeze of the mustard bottle and vinegar to taste.

Add about a half cup water. Bring to a boil, simmer to reduce a little and add in cornstarch and water mixture to thicken the sauce.

Stir in beef pieces to coat evenly.

Garnish with some fennel fuzz if you like.

Serve hot with fluffy white rice.

*Did I confuse you enough? :P

I really should remember to measure out my stuff, it's just that I didn't think I'd be posting this until I tasted it. Alternatively, just use a basic sweet and sour recipe and substitute it with the beef. There! Easy peasy.