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Jan 30, 2012

Cardamom Cheese Biscuits

I think I've died and gone to cheese biscuit heaven!
And the fact that this also has the gorgeous aroma of cardamom in it, makes it even more heavenly! (Is there anywhere better than heaven?)

You know how it is when you're looking at a ton of recipes and then one suddenly jumps out of the page and grabs you by the ... uh ... chompbuds, and you just need to make that straight away?
That's how this happened.
Also because I'm a sucker for cheeses.
And a sucker for cardamom.
Double whammy!
I'd cardamomize everything if I could. Cardamom room freshener, cardamom lip balm, cardamom shampoo ... you get the idea.

Go check out Veronika and her brain and her original recipe for this. She calls her's "puffs" altho mine didn't puff as much but still very light and flaky, so I renamed it "biscuits". I did some minor changes as well (as expected), since I know she's adjusting for her egg white allergic, tall, not-so-blond and handsome.

I've also taken the easy way out by using the food processor. Hard-core bakers .... head out to Veronika's.

Meanwhile, back at Lazyville ....


1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cardamom (I'd suggest a little more for a more pronounced aroma)
125 g cold salted butter, cut into cubes (if using unsalted butter, add 1/4 tsp salt)
1 1/2 cups grated cheese (I used something called Calico, which is a blend of Cheddar & Monterey Jack and some Pecorino. You can use your own favorite mix)
1 egg


Preheat oven to 200˚C.
Place flour, salt (if using), cardamom and baking powder in a food processor. Give it a buzz or two to mix.
Add in cold butter and buzz until you get a sandy mix.
Add in cheese. Buzz to mix.
Add in slightly beaten egg and buzz again until you get a nice soft dough.
Remove from food processor, wrap in plastic and leave in the fridge for about 10 mins.
Roll out to about 1/2 cm thick.
Cut out into shapes using a cookie cutter or just cut into squares or triangles.
Bake for about 10 - 12 mins until cookies are just about turning brown at the edges.
Eat warm or freeze and reheat.

Jan 22, 2012

Gong Xi Fa Cai & Tight Jeans

Gong Xi Fa Cai, everyone!

It's that time of year again where we stuff our faces with all possible shapes, flavors and colors of cookies and cakes! Wait .... isn't that an all year affair?
What did you expect from a non-traditional?
We even had our reunion dinner on the eve of the eve of Chinese New Year. That's how non-traditional we are. We aren't turning our backs on our culture and heritage ... oh no, definitely not. Abolish the thought. Just maybe a little eccentric.

Tomorrow's the big day. The first day of the Chinese New Year. Where everyone goes to their senior relatives' homes to give good wishes and gifts and leave with good wishes and gifts. Yes, it's a never ending process. I give, you give, we all give ... now if only my jeans would give a little.

On the 2nd day, the whole process continues with visits to friends'. I give, you give, we all give. Now if only my skirt would give a little.

The gap between last Christmas and this Chinese New Year is rather close this time around. So baking of homemade goodies for the ceremonial "I give you give" is at a minimal... for me, anyway.
I've made the ever traditional Pineapple Tartlets and the not so traditional Chocolate Chip Cookies and Food For The Gods and some Almond Squares which I didn't have time to take some shots of ... yet. There'll be another batch up soon and I'll be sure to get some pictures and post about them.

So, in the meantime, take a gander at this:


and this:

and then tell me why my jeans won't give?

Jan 19, 2012

Lemon, Sour Cream Fan Tans

(Improv Challenge: Lemon & Sour Cream)

Otherwise known as New England Buttermilk rolls or Yankee Buttermilk rolls.
Why do they call this a "fan" anyway? Ok, maybe it's because it fans out like a, well …. fan. But I think it looks more like an open book. Maybe I should just rename it, Flippin' Page Rolls! (Notice the yellow pages for props?)
And what's with the "tan" bit in the name? I googled it and found zip. Did a Mrs Tan create this? Or is it because the buns got tanned in the oven? Can somebody please enlighten me before I go nuts.

Anyway, the basic recipe calls for buttermilk (why else would it be called buttermilk rolls? Duh).
I didn't have any buttermilk so I've replaced it with sour cream and added an extra zing with some grated lemon zest to waken some senses at breakfast.
*Note: You can always make your own buttermilk. 1 cup milk to 1 tbs white vinegar. There are various other ways besides using white vinegar but that'll have to be another DIY post.

And when you have a tennis elbow that refuses to get any better, the trusty bread machine comes to the rescue!


1/2 cup sour cream + milk to make a total of 200 ml (or 200ml buttermilk)
30 g melted butter
375 g high protein flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
grated zest of a whole lemon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
2 tsp active dry yeast

20 g melted butter, for brushing


Plonk first 8 ingredients into bread machine bin in the order they're listed (unless your bread machine instructions tell you otherwise).
Poke the dough setting.
Go have a nice cuppa coffee and make some nice comments on someone's blog post. You'll find out how time flies when you're doing that.
When the machine yells at you that it's done (the dough should have risen to twice it's size by then), remove dough from the bin, knock it around a bit for yelling at you and let it rest for another 10 mins.
Preheat oven to 200˚C. Butter muffin tin.
Roll out dough to a rectangle of sorts (I could never get it looking like a rectangle … more like a wreck-tangle) of about 20" X 13" X 1/8".
Brush with the extra melted butter.
Using a pizza cutter, cut wreck-tangle into 5 even strips of about 2" - 2 1/2" wide (if you can cut it into 7 strips, even better, that's the traditional number for the roll).
Place the strips in a stack, then cut them crossways into 8 even pieces.
Pinch the bottoms to seal. Place sealed side down into buttered muffin tin.
Leave to prove until doubled in size, about an hour or so.
Before dumping them in the oven, separated the layers a little so that the "pages" open out nicely. But be careful not to deflate the puffiness.
Bake for 20 - 25 mins or until golden.
Cool slightly on rack. Serve warm with lashings of butter!

* This was submitted to the Improv Challenge hosted by Kristen. January's theme is Sour Cream and Lemon.

Jan 10, 2012


Definition: pencil-sized breadsticks. (I have very large pencils).

More munchy things.

When I'm happy, I munch.
When I'm depressed, I munch.
When I'm bored, I munch.
When I watch tv, I munch.
When I read, I munch.

And I don't think I can stand too many carrot and celery sticks.

I salute those of you who started off this year with all your healthy resolutions. (Notice I said "started"). I won't even bother to make such a resolution since I know I'm going to break it anyway.
Fortunately, I do love my salads and have been having avocado/walnuts/apples salads for quite a number of meals in the last week, mainly inspired by Sissi's post and helped by the fact that the nearby fruit shop was selling avocados cheap.
I shall eat in moderation whatever I feel like eating. If and when I do a diet, I always start craving for something after a while and then go on a binge … that's not good, nope, not at all. The idea is not to start a crave. But if it does happen, I'll just have a bite and stop at that … enough to satisfy the cravebuds. I'm trying.

I'd made these to dip into the Ajvar for the Christmas Eve buffet as an appetizer. And as usual, I tend to make more than needed. I've always made sure to have more food than not enough especially when I'm entertaining. Turned out good for me and mum. I get to have this with just about every dippable (dip-able?) thing in the house … leftover ajvar, peanut butter, spiced chocolate banana jam, soups …. and mum's happy dipping them into her coffee every morning. Munch, munch …

And these were fun to make as well.

Just a basic pizza dough and shape it to however and whatever you like.
I've kept this grissini plain but you can always add chopped olives, grated cheese, sea salt, etc.

As always, I've enlisted the capable blades of my bread machine to do the kneading.


250 ml water
40 ml oil (I used grapeseed)
500 g plain flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp active dry yeast


Put all ingredients into bread machine bin in the order they're listed or according to your bread machine instructions.
Use 'dough' setting. (If you're adding chopped olives, add it in during the final few minutes of mixing.)
When cycle is complete (this should also include the first rising), preheat your oven to 180˚C.
Remove dough from bin and knock it around a bit to get the air out.
Roll out to a thinnish rectangle and cut into strips or pinch a dollop of dough and roll it into a long sausage or stretch it out and twist and turn it into whatever shape you like.
(If you're sprinkling salt, brush grissini or spray with a little oil and sprinkle before baking. I've left mine plain to dip into a variety of stuff. Can't imagine mum dipping olive grissinis into coffee. Eck).
Bake for about 25 - 30 mins or until golden brown.
Cool and store in an airtight container.
Munch away!

Christmas Eve Buffet 2011

Jan 5, 2012

Rambutan Jam & Country Style Ribs

Is it rambutan season already? Gosh.
Some folks feel the years go by from the changes in weather. In this part of the world, we get that from the fruiting seasons. And I believe we get rambutans twice a year.

We have a huge old rambutan tree in the backyard that refuses to go away to rambutan heaven. When we first moved in, we saw that it could cause a bit of a problem safety-wise if it doesn't get chopped down. So we did just that.
Today, it's half its height but still bearing fruit, not the biggest and juiciest but still sweet and nice. And I believe it's trying to tell us that it's not ready to fold up it's branches by giving us a whole lot of fruit every year.
The squirrels are happy, the civet cats are happy, the birds are happy and most of all, my neighbors are happy. After making everyone happy, I still have a ton of fruit left. There's only so much one can eat and I've given away sackfuls.
And so I do what I always do with too many fruits ... make jam.
Why not? They keep, they make good gifts, they taste great with everything, they're versatile (can be turned into marinades, cordials, sauces, ice cream...).

Strangely enough, eaten on its own, the rambutan tastes pretty good. But as a jam, it tastes just like plain ol' syrup (sugar and water with no flavorings). So I had to liven it up a tad and add some lemon juice. Magic!

This turned out better than I'd hope. Not a jam to be eaten with toast, altho I don't see why not ... just saying what my tastebuds are telling me.
And they're saying this loudly, "MOVE OVER, MINT JELLIES & APPLE SAUCES!"
It went super with our roast rack of lamb this last Christmas and before that, we had it with roasted country-style ribs. Absoverylutely yummerlicious!

The only tedious part of this process is peeling the flesh off the seeds.

I've also included the recipe for the Roasted Country-style ribs here using the brining method. This is a method to be talked about at length in another post (maybe). I've found the results rather satisfying and the process useful when it comes to roasting big chunks of meat (not steaks).


(feel free to double the amount)

3 cups peeled & seeded rambutans
juice of 1 large lemon
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar


Plonk rambutan flesh into a food processor. Buzz until you get a texture you're happy with. I made mine a little chunky as I like a bit of bite.
Put everything into a pot.
Cook on medium heat until all sugar has dissolved.
Lower heat and allow to simmer for about 15-20 mins or until it turns all gooey. (Sorry, I'm not one who uses a thermometer, poor neglected thing) or just do a cold plate test.
Do not allow sugar to caramelize.

(Country-style ribs refers to the meatiest variety of ribs)


2.5 - 3 kg rack of Country-style ribs (in this case, it's pork)
Dry English mustard
2 - 3 tbs molasses
brine solution (see below)


With a small, sharp pointy knife, stab the rack to death! Stab! Stab! Stab! (Watch for the bones tho, don't want to break your knife there).
Rub dry mustard and molasses all over rack. ( I didn't measure how much mustard I'd used but I'd estimate about an ounce or so, enough to coat the rack generously).
Leave in fridge for a couple of hours.

Prepare brine:
Mix together 1/4 cup kosher / coarse salt with 1 cup of water and dissolve over heat.
Leave to cool.
When cooled, mix solution with about 5 cups of cold water (more if needed, to cover meat completely)

Place seasoned meat in a large baggy/ non-reactive container and cover completely with brine. Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight or in my case, 4 hours.

We cooked this in the bbq, covered and on very low heat for 2 1/2 hours. Make sure the temperature at the center of the meat is at 71˚C otherwise it's not safe to eat. (This is pork, remember?)

*Okay: confession time. I don't know whether the brining process worked its magic on the rack this time since pork is already quite fatty and sweet and not prone to drying out too much. I'm just telling it as what we did (we had some fun tho .. all experimental), and whether the dry rub was necessary in this case.
I definitely will be trying this out on other meats and learning more about this process and will keep you informed.

FYI: a basic brine solution would be:

4 cups cool water
1/2 cup kosher salt / coarse salt
1/2 cup sugar

Since I had used molasses, I omitted the sugar in the solution.

Jan 1, 2012

Happy 2012: Simple Gratitude

~ Happy is how you make it ~

Another year, another 5 pounds put on ... LOL!
Those are happy pounds!

Happy New Year, everyone!

Everybody's reviewing their year, looking back ...
I've looked back and seen good and not so good stuff and have decided to look forward instead.
All I can say is that, the past taught me a great deal to cope with whatever's going to come my way and for all the not so good things ... it could have been worse. So, I'm grateful ... for you, for this, for being here, for everything.

Have a great start and put your seat belts on!

HAPPY 2012!