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Dec 27, 2012

Guest Post: Little Miss Sunshine

Here I was, thinking I wasn't going to be able to come up with a post until the end of the year with all that's been going on, when a little ray of sunshine popped out of the darkest clouds that were looming over my head ... in the form of my niece. Such a great support. Thank you, dear girl, for carting away my cake pans, messing up my kitchen., and "trying" to clear my fridge. That would take many visits, *hint*.  

How can this not cheer anyone up? And if the looks alone doesn't get you, those little sour bursts from the cranberries will! I loved the tartness of the fruit in this and the crunch of the almonds with the caramelization from the sprinkling of sugar. 

Everyone, I'm sharing with you today .... my personal ray of sunshine with her Cranberry Bottom Cake.

My aunt's pantry is a bajillion times better stocked than my own bare-bones, gotta-cart-it-to-a-new-apartment-every-few-months one. Every time I come over I'm itching to bake or cook and take advantage of her ridiculous supply. I've already got several ideas for my next trip so she better be prepared to do some serious eating!

I love the tart explosiveness of cranberries, but I haven't had any of the fruit since my last Thanksgiving in the States 3 years ago (I've been working abroad since). When my aunt mentioned that she had some in the freezer I jumped at the opportunity to bake something with it and promptly found this recipe from the Beantown Baker that I had to adapt a bit (not fully melted butter and coarse sugar), resulting in a thicker batter and thus more of a cake-y-ness than the pie/macaron-ish texture she described. It's fast and easy and the sugar/cranberry/almond bottom resulted in a caramelized coating. The cake itself was just light enough and not too sweet, letting the cranberry's flavor and zest shine through. 



2 cups raw cranberries (fresh or frozen)

zest of half an orange

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1 & 1/2 cups white sugar

2 eggs

3/4 cup (~170g) butter, melted

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 cup all-purpose flour


1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (160 C). Grease a 10-inch pie plate or 8-inch square pan.

2. Wash the cranberries, leaving some water on them (thaw first if frozen). Combine the cranberries with the almonds in the pie plate. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the sugar. It was basically enough for a layer of almonds and then a layer of cranberries.

3. Cream the remaining 1 cup sugar with the eggs and butter. Stir in the almond extract and zest. Add the flour and mix well. Pour/spread over the cranberries.

4. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until a tester inserted near the center of the crust comes out clean. Let cool slightly before serving warm, or serve completely cooled. This would go well with some whipped cream or ice cream.

Happy holidays everyone, enjoy the cranberry cake!

Dec 21, 2012

Down Time

I apologize for the long silence. 
It's been a little hectic with losses of loved ones since August. 

I'm looking forward to a whole new and happier (and I really mean Happier, with a capital "H") new year in 2013. 

I would like to thank everyone who had been so supportive in their different ways ... guest posts, friendship, emails, spiritual support, moral support, patience.

A Merry Christmas to all. 
This year's Christmas will be a very quiet affair for us .... to reflect and to heal.
Here's wishing a better one to you and yours.


Dec 16, 2012

Guest Post: Homemade Ricotta

Hey everyone!  
Shannon's blog-sitting for me while I'm caught up with one crisis after another. (I can't wait for this year to end ... seriously). 

If you haven't met her by now, hop over to her mostly gluten-free blog, JustAsDelish ... totally healthy and inspiring and get acquainted with one of the sweetest people I've met. 
She's also the reason behind my falling in love with quinoa! And she recently came out runner-up in the Nutriplus baking competition with her fancy mushroom quiche! I can tell you she'd had a better year than I did. Yay for her! 

So, enjoy reading her wonderful post, get inspired and run off to your kitchens and try your hand at making homemade ricotta. 

Here she is ....

Hello, all you Ping's Pickings readers! I'm Shannon from A gazillion thanks to Ping for asking to me guest post on her fabulous blog. As this is my 1st guest post, I was pretty nervous when she asked. I'm very honoured to do so but I was undecided on which recipe to share because she's such a fabulous cook & baker. Hmm.. what recipe for Ping?
One of the things I enjoy is making food from scratch.. food that is sold in the jars/cans - like condensed milk, peanut butter, yogurt. If a factory can produce them, there should be a recipe for me to try at home. There's nothing more satisfying to me than making them fresh. So what's more apt than sharing a "made from scratch" recipe - Homemade Ricotta Cheese.
Ricotta is a soft Italian curd cheese, light and creamy with a slightly grainy texture and delicate flavour. Making fresh cheese is easier than you think.  If you know how to make Paneer (Indian Cottage Cheese), the recipe is almost similar with milk & an acid (lemon juice or vinegar). Making ricotta needs 2 extra ingredient - plain yogurt and cream. Adding cream did indeed give an even richer edge. It's also possible to make ricotta with just milk, it will be less indulgent & 'healthier'. 
When I suggest to my friend Tracy to make her own Ricotta cheese for her ravioli, she look at me dumbfounded. Making Spinach & Ricotta Ravioli calls for a large amount of ricotta, and a very good 200g ricotta costs RM30 (USD10). She don't believe me how easy (and cheap) it is until I demonstrated to her. In 10 minutes with very little effort, we have a lovely mound of freshly made, still warm ricotta for the price of 1 liter of milk. We tested 2 batches of ravioli with store-bought & freshly made ricotta, and the ones with homemade ricotta win hands-down!
Homemade ricotta makes a wonderful base for Italian cheesecakes, ravioli fillings, and lasagna. Serving slightly warm ricotta over berries or peaches with a drizzle of honey makes a lovely dessert.
For the upcoming Christmas dinner parties & year end celebration, try serving freshly made ricotta accompanied with some stewed fruit compote or poached fruits. Trust me, your guests will be very impressed.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese
Makes: about 200g Ricotta Cheese


1 liter whole (full cream) Milk
1/2 cup (125ml) plain Yogurt
1/2 cup (125ml) Cream - Optional
1 teaspoon vinegar (or lemon juice)
1/2 teaspoon salt


1. In a large pot, bring the milk, yogurt, cream (if using), and salt to a soft boil. 
2. Add in vinegar (or lemon juice) and boil for 1-2 two minutes, or until the milk curdled.
3. Meanwhile, line a strainer with a few layers of cheesecloth and set it over a deep bowl/pot.
4. Pour the milk mixture into the strainer and let drain for 15 minutes. Gather the cheesecloth around the curds and squeeze gently to extract any excess liquid. And you have warm fresh ricotta 

* Homemade ricotta is best served slightly warm, or keep it refrigerated for up to three days, if desired.

* The liquid that is drained out is whey. You can throw it out, or I save it to use in place of milk for my cooking & baking.

Dec 7, 2012

Organic Baby Steps

Organic food never really caught my attention. Probably because there wasn't a need for it, and probably because I've always thought it was boring. Unfortunately, eyes are opened to these things when one gets some sort of allergy to regular foodstuff, or a need to avoid all the preservatives and chemicals that are in practically everything we buy off the shelves these days ... or unless one is a health nut ... or ok, just wanting to be healthy ... the right way. 

A while back, I was put into a situation where I had to guest post something healthy. And was I in a fix! I realized then how little I know about eating healthy besides the couple of vitamin pills that I pop every now and then .... whenever I remember. (I have absolutely no discipline when it comes to these things). 
So I made a quinoa something-or-other for the guest post, and got totally hooked to it ... hubby still says it's rabbit food and refuses to have anything to do with it. 
But whaddaya know? Healthy food can be tasty. 
I need to learn more about this organic culture. Just out of curiosity. 

I was fortunate to be invited (thanks to Veronica @ Quay Po Cooks) to spend half a day with some fellow bloggers and the local media to experience a very educational session about Ozganics, a homegrown, award winning Australian brand, founded by Anni Brownjohn. Such a bubbly lady ....
She had 2 other chefs (Chef Ryan and Chef Loke) assisting her in a cooking demo ... great job, guys! 

There's a wide range of products, these are just a few (the lemon chicken sauce was used in the cooking demo). You can find more at Jaya Grocer.

Chef Ryan whipped up the most delicious tasting Organic Sprouted Wheat Multigrain Bread ... I could eat the whole loaf. (Note to self: must make this soon!)

The bread went beautifully with my favorite dish of the day .... Moroccan Chicken with Lemon and Olives. And the sauce was right out of a bottle! Who needs to be a cook-from-scratch snob when this is so easy and so delicious! This dish was also very well paired with quinoa ... yes! quinoa! ... that healthy thingy that I'm so in love with! Will amazement never cease!

The other 2 dishes on the menu: Thai Pumpkin Soup and Watermelon and Feta Salad. The soup and salad also had sauces and dressings from a bottle ... Ozganics, of coz.
We had a taste of 3 different kinds of dressing for the salad ... garlic, lemon myrtle and avocado. I honestly thought I'd prefer the avocado before I'd tasted it, but the feta overpowered the mildness of it as well as the lemon myrtle that in the end, the garlic dressing was a better compliment. 

Waiting for those dishes to be ready was the most agonizing part ... thank goodness nobody heard the orchestra doing a crescendo in my tummy.

~ Feeding a hungry horde ~

And for the more inquiring minds ....

Definition of Organic:
(sourced from wiki)

~ no human sewage sludge fertilizer used in cultivation of plants or feed of animals (organic meat). The livestock must be reared with regular access to pasture and without the routine use of antibiotics or growth hormones.
~ avoidance of synthetic chemical inputs not on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (e.g. fertilizer, pesticides, antibiotics, food additives, etc.), genetically modified organisms, irradiation, and the use of sewage sludge.
~ use of farmland that has been free from prohibited synthetic chemicals for a number of years (often, three or more).

And having authentic Organic Certification means:

~ keeping detailed written production and sales records (audit trail).
~ maintaining strict physical separation of organic products from non-certified products.
~ undergoing periodic on-site inspections.

In some countries, certification is overseen by the government, and commercial use of the term organic is legally restricted. Certified organic producers are also subject to the same agricultural, food safety and other government regulations that apply to non-certified producers.

So, even if you get a product that has a bunch of logos plastered on the label, that doesn't really mean it's certified organic. To be certified organic, products must be grown and manufactured in a manner that adheres to standards set by the country they are sold in. And in this case, Ozganics is certified by NASAA (The National Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Australia) and holds international recognition.

I came out of that session much smarter than I went in. There's still much to learn about organic foods. And I specifically am interested mainly in the dishes I can whip up with it. The only downside about organic products is that they're costly, and I don't mean a smidgen in difference, but quite a significant one. Hopefully that'll change sometime soon.

Thanks again to the organizers, Anni Brownjohn, Chef Ryan, Chef Loke, Jaya Grocer @ Empire, Nourish!, QuayPo Cooks for the invite and fellow bloggers who contributed to an enjoyable afternoon. Nice meeting all of you!

Nov 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Roasted Duck & Sundried Tomatoes Pasta

Okay, so I cheated, and used a store bought roasted duck. 
Hey, Thanksgiving isn't even celebrated big time here. It should, if not just to remind everyone to be thankful and doesn't have to be about any country's traditions and shmaditions if you don't want it to be. Gratitude is the keyword, not stuffing, yams or turkeys .... or even pasta ... well, it can be, but gratitude comes first, and then stuffing, yams and turkeys ... even pasta.

I'm thankful, even after several months of sadness, mishaps and not-nice whatnots, I still have some sanity and strength left in me. Thankful that I still have some time to make and post this. Thankful that you are reading this. Thankful to be here. 
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

I've never had to roast a duck (I'm thankful for that too, altho I'd like to try do so one fine day). People seem to like giving me roast duck. I get this quite often. I love roast duck ... any which way. I'm happy.
I was given this, I said thanks. Thanks-given. Thanksgiving ... get it? Oh well ...
This one was roasted in the Cantonese style, with a strong flavor of five spice. You can use any kind of roasted duck meat.
The usual way we enjoy this is with fluffy steamed rice and perhaps some vegetable side dish. 
I like teasing off the meat and using them in all sorts of concoctions. This is one of our favorites.

Notice I don't have any measurements. It's up to you how much you stuff you want in your pasta. Just toss everything in.


Roasted duck meat, sliced
Garlic, finely chopped
Sun-dried tomatoes, sliced (if not using those already packed in oil, soak dried ones in hot water until soft)
sweet basil leaves
salt, to taste
chilly flakes, optional

prepared pasta (I used Vermicelli, the finer spaghetti)


Saute chopped garlic in a little oil until fragrant but not burnt. (If you have duck fat, it would be awesome!)
Stir in chilly flakes, if using.
Add in duck meat. 
And then the tomatoes.
Stir fry for a couple of minutes.
Toss the prepared pasta to mix evenly with everything.
Season with salt to taste.
Finally add in the sweet basil leaves just before serving.

Sounds simple? I can tell you, the sun-dried tomatoes, basil and the roasted duck goes perfect with each other! 
This is actually similar in method to the shrimp/seafood pasta recipe, just a twist to the ingredients.

                         ~ Thank you for being you ~

Nov 15, 2012

Palm Sugar and Coconut Cream Sago Pudding (Sago Gula Melaka)

The bare basics .... 
Just sago, coconut cream/milk and palm sugar syrup.
Simple, easy, minimalistic, yet a favorite among the locals and many non-locals who have tried it. An evergreen recipe. One that I'm not even going to "twist". It's just too perfect. One that can put a happy grin on my man's handsome face at any time. That's perfect!

Sissi of With a Glass made a comment on the previous post (Mango Pomelo Sago thingy) about having bought a packet of sago pearls (just because they look so cute) and wondering what to do with it. Here you go, Sissi, this one's for you. (PS: that comment really made me smile). 

Sago pearls come in different sizes and colors. I like using the tiny white ones. The greens are probably pandan flavored or colored and the pinks .... hmm ... 
Lately I've seen some yellows. Since I've no idea what is being used to color those things, I'm sticking to plain.


1 cup sago pearls
5 - 6 cups water (the more water you use, the less likely the sago will stick to your pot)
coconut cream / coconut milk
palm sugar syrup (or chopped palm sugar melted over a water bath)


Bring the water to a rolling boil.
Sprinkle sago pearls into the boiling water.
Boil for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent the sago from sticking at the bottom.
Switch off heat and put a lid on the pot. At this point, you'll still see some white dots.
Let sit for another 10 minutes.
Sago should look translucent and starchy.
Using a sieve, strain sago over cold running water, stirring to remove excess starch.
Spoon into molds, refrigerate until set. 

To serve:

Remove sago from molds. 

Drizzle over coconut milk and palm sugar syrup ... as much as your sweet tooth will allow, and ...
Dig in!

(Alternatively, you can just put the sago into nice serving bowls, let it set and just pour on the coconut milk and syrup to serve).

Nov 5, 2012

Mango Pomelo Sago Dessert

What a mouthful for a dish.
How do I make a one-word name for this ....
Mangelo Dessert? Pomango? Pangelo?

Oh heck, whatever you call it, it isn't an original so perhaps I shouldn't change the name. Pretty boring tho, don't you think? For something so delicious, I'd call it something a little fancier ... like maybe, Golden Mango Puree with Pomelo Jewels and Sago Pearls .... oh, good grief! Cheesy!

I first tasted this in a Hongkong styled restaurant in Singapore. Totally fell in love with it! Very refreshing!
Altho it's very much in the Hongkong dessert trend, the Singaporeans claim it's created by them. 
Whatever. I've just recreated it and ... have added my own twist as well ... you know, my usual.
I've found a sprinkle of finely sliced sweet basil actually compliments the dessert beautifully. Those who aren't into basil, you can omit that. I personally think it's adds a certain sophistication to the flavors. 


2 medium-sized ripe mangoes
200 ml coconut milk 
200 ml water
pomelo flesh, amount depends on how much you want to put into it (Separate out the sacs. This takes some doing but I find it quite therapeutic)
1.5 cup sago pearls

simple syrup (see below for instructions)
finely sliced sweet basil leaves (optional)

*Note: You could substitute the pomelo sacs with grapefruit. I haven't tried it ... yet. Will keep you updated on that. 


First, prepare the sago.
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Sprinkle in the sago pearls and cook for 10 minutes. Stir every now and then to prevent sticking.
Turn off heat and cover the pot. Leave for 10 minutes.
Drain into a fine wire sieve and rinse with cold running water to remove excess starch. Leave aside while you prepare the other ingredients.

Peel and remove flesh off mangoes. 
Place in a food processor or blender together with the coconut cream and water. Blend til smooth.
Add sago to the puree, stir to mix and refrigerate. 
When you're ready to serve, add the pomelo sacs (about 1 or 2 tbs to each cup, or more if you prefer) and simple syrup to sweeten.
Serve cold with a sprinkling of sliced basil and extra cubed mangoes (if there are any left).

*Not to be kept too long as the mango flesh tends to turn brown due to oxidation. Still ok to eat but not too pretty.



1.5 cup sugar
1.5 cup water


Place both ingredients into a saucepan and heat on low until sugar has melted.
Cool before use.
(You can even do this in the microwave using a microwave safe container)

*I've found this amount to be enough for the above dessert portion. But if you have a sweeter tooth than I, just double up the amount or remember the 1:1 ratio of sugar to water.

For those who aren't too familiar with the fruit, you can check it out here:
It's similar to a grapefruit, 3 - 5 times bigger, milder, less bitter and have bigger and juicier sacs.
Darn, I should have taken a pic of the fruit before I massacred it!

Oct 29, 2012

Happy Halloween !

Have a happy halloween, everyone! 

Do you like my carved pumpkin? No, seriously, that really is a pumpkin, all decked out in its halloween pepper costume! 

It's hard to get into the halloween mood these days. Parents are terrified of their kids getting kidnapped. Grownups are getting fearful of muggings. I guess if you live in a gated community, there would be a lot more fun going on. That's how it is with the world today ... a new kind of halloween, where the spooks and ghouls are scared of the new world evils. People should now dress up as computer viruses, kidnappers, muggers and politicians.

We cope. 
We can only be safe, be aware and be smart.

Happy Horrorday!

In case you have too much pumpkin leftover than you know what to do with, here's a couple of not-so-usual suggestions that might interest you:

~ Pumpkin Roasted Duck Meat Steamed Kuih
~ Pseudo Chinese Mid-Autumn Pastry
~ Spiced Pumpkin & Tomato Soup Chicken
~ Fried Pumpkin Indian Style

Otherwise, just steam the flesh, mash it up and store it in the freezer. Very useful during non-pumpkin season.

Oct 23, 2012

Chocolate Banana Cake Un-Griped

No more gripes, people!
And another thing before I go on ... if you happen not to like a subject that I'm talking about, just skip right to the recipe. Don't get worked up just because I'm worked up. That's an advice, not a gripe.

I'd seen this recipe and pix at Yee Ling's and Quay Po Cooks and salivated at each. Gotta make it! 

Made it, ate it and loved it! Of course, being true to my can't-leave-a-recipe-well-enough-alone self. I had to change it around (just a little this time, after a major bingka boo-boo phobia) and am happy to show off this cake in all it's moist, bananasome! Awesome! Yummisome! Gimmesome!

Well, that certainly put me in a good mood. 

Chocolate, the all-time feel-good food.

For the original, untweaked recipe, visit Yee Ling.
For the cupcake version, visit Quay Po Cooks.

And if you trust this isn't another boo-boo, read on ...


240 g plain flour
300 g caster sugar
75 g cocoa powder
1.5 tsp baking powder
1.5 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
120 ml milk
3 medium sized eggs
120 ml flavorless oil (I used grapeseed)
4 medium sized, very ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup warm water
1.5 tsp vanilla extract

sliced bananas to garnish


Preheat oven to 180˚C.
Line a 9" X 9" pan with parchment.

Mix together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl.
In another bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, oil, mashed bananas, water and vanilla extract.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk until combined.
Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake 35 - 40 mins.
Cool before slathering with ganache.


220 g bittersweet chocolate, chopped (you can use milk chocolate if you like)
180 ml cream
15 g butter


Place chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl.
Heat cream and butter in a saucepan. Turn off the heat just as it starts to boil.
Pour into chocolate pieces and stir until smooth.
*(If you have difficulty melting the chocolate, place the bowl over a pot of simmering water and continue stirring until you get a smooth, glossy mixture ... water bath)
Cool completely. Mixture will be thick and spreadable. 

(I couldn't wait to eat it and didn't wait for it to cool to a frosting consistency, that's why it looks all gooey and oozy. Just as good!)
Eat by the spoonfuls .... uh, I mean, spread onto cake.


Split cake into two. Spread some ganache onto bottom half of cake, layer sliced bananas onto that, top with upper layer of cake, spread with ganache and devour!
Or put more banana slices over the top if you like. 

Go Bananas!