Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Baked salmon with black pudding

I know the idea of combining fish and black pudding sounds a bit bizarre but they actually compliment each other quite well.
A few weeks ago we went to a food festival in town where we was introduced to an interesting idea-black pudding with scallop. Initially I was wondering if the contrast in texture and taste between salty scallop and rich, fatty black pudding would be too much to take. So we decided to do a dish with fish and black pudding that weekend :D
2 salmon steaks
soft cheese
black pudding
salt + pepper
asparagus: 1 bunch
babycorn: 100gr
lambs lettuce
olive oil + lemon + mixed herbs for dressing

Preheat oven 200C, season fish with salt and pepper
Fry skin side of salmon steaks for 1 minute then transfer onto a baking tray
Spread enough soft cheese (about half an inch thick) evenly on the two pieces of fish
Sprinkle with breadcrumbs
Bake until done (check after 25-30 mins depending on how thick the steaks are)
Meanwhile, saute asparagus and baby corn with a knob of butter and some herbs, season with salt and pepper
Also, fry 2 slices of black pudding until done

To serve, put a bit of lettuce in the middle of a plate, put the fish on top and then the black pudding slice on top of the fish. Veg can go on the side of the plate and last but not least, drizzle dressing to decorate.

If you're brave enough, try it out and let me know. Enjoy.

Sunday, 7 October 2007


This recipe is from a book I picked up a while ago called"The gourmet's guide to French Cooking by Alsion Burt". If you're into French cooking then I highly recommend this book. Not only that it is authentic, it is also super duper easy to follow.
Saying that, all of the recipes we have sampled have been made by the hubby so my personal recommendation is actually based on the lovely end-results I have tasted so far :D
The recipe is pretty much similar to Wandering Chopsticks' coq-au-vin. The recipe will be posted probably tomorrow.
Enjoy :D

Thursday, 6 September 2007

My own soon dubu - Spicy Korean tofu soup

I finally got myself a tub of gochujang. The recipe for this spicy Korean tofu stew/soup is from The Budding Cook and the only change I made was that I used shittake mushrooms instead of enoki mushrooms (due to shittake mushrooms being twice as cheap as the other one).
So I have just added another recipe onto my quick meal recipes collection.Super easy to make and guarantee to be mouth-watering :D

1 tablespoon sesame oil
A couple tablespoons of garlic
2 tablespoons Hot Pepper Paste (Gochujang)
2 tablespoons Hot Pepper Powder
1 bunch of enoki mushrooms
1 egg
about 7 oz of beef, chicken or veggie stock
1 package of tofu

Pour about 1 tablespoon of sesame oil into pot. Add garlic and sautee. Then drain the tofu and place into pot w/ 2 heaping tablespoons of hot pepper paste. Mix tofu up breaking it into bits and mixing w/ hot pepper paste. Add just enough beef stock to cover the tofu. Add 2 tablespoons of hot pepper powder for a more spicy flavor. Allow mixture to boil. Wash enoki mushrooms and cut off the ends. Add enoki mushrooms just at the end. Make sure to cover them in the stew. Then just before serving crack a egg into the mix. Serve over white rice.
(From The Budding Cook- thanks)

Monday, 20 August 2007

A merry weekend

My apologies to the few readers who drop by frequently (if there are any). I have been up to my ears in my work since I started working full time, thus, I haven't had much time devoting to cooking. However, the hubby and I have been quite self-indulgent every weekend by making an effort to make a different dish every week and if only I had enough energy to write, I would have done so.
Last week, after my 6-day week we made Vietnamese spring rolls . Recipe is (once again) from Wandering Chopsticks, whose recipes have always turned out beautifully (thanks Wandering Chopsticks x)
Dessert, as can be seen, is a simple yet satisfying stem ginger sponge pudding .

The food was washed down with a can keg of German lager (I swear we didn't drink all of that -)
Overall, we had a good weekend and since we're going away pretty soon, there'll be more holiday food to come on this blog. Have a good day everyone. x

Friday, 29 June 2007

Creme Brulle

Admittedly I can't do crème brulee :D, the hubby is extremely good at things like this when all I could do is to stare, admire and later on, enjoy :D
The recipe is from a Welsh restaurant. Since I didn't post the recipe on the last post and nobody requested it, I'm doing the same with this post. If recipe is requested then it'll be posted. Otherwise, enjoy what you cook in your kitchen and bye for now.

Monday, 25 June 2007

I think I'm turing Korean

Foods over the weekend.
1. Tried and tested GALBI from Wandering Chopsticks
Guaranteed to be soft, slightly sweet and juicy. Once you've tried it, I'm sure you'll get addicted to it :D Thanks Wandering Chopsticks for the recipe :D
2. HODDEOK from My Korean Kitchen

These Korean pancakes are lovely treats and the brown sugar, cinnamon and crushed walnuts go together beautifully. Surely will do it again in the near future.
Recipes will be posted tomorrow. Have a good day.

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Long time no food

I haven't done much cooking recently due to my hectic work commitment and thus, I've been so lazy that instant noodles was the only thing I've had constantly for a whole week.
It's now the weekend and having just got back from my weekly shopping, I've decided to try out 2 recipes, one of which is GALBI from Wandering Chopsticks and the other one is HODDEOK from My korean kitchen.
I've never attempted to do galbi before so it'll be interesting to find out if marinating ribs in pear puree will make a significant difference. I made some hoddeok (sweet pancakes) last week for the hubby and they all disappeared before I could take any pictures so I guess I'll have to do another batch this weekend.
So for now, that's my meal planning for this weekend. Cooking is my passion even though I can't do elaborate food. But hey, how can one get better if one doesn't try?

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Cá kho tộ (fish braised in caramel sauce)

This is the first time I've tried a recipe which doesn't particularly state the amount of spices and seasoning. The recipe is from Ms Nguyen Dzoan Cam Van, the equivalence of Nigella Lawson of Britain :D.
-season fish (any type- I use cod, the best type is catfish)with salt+ pepper+ sugar and set aside
-heat up pan, add oil +1.5 tbsp sugar +fish sauce -> wailt till the fish sauce and sugar have dissolved and thickened, then add fish fillet + more fish sauce +sugar +1tbsp sesame oil
-add enough water to cover fish and cook on medium low heat for at least 30 minutes, then turn heat up to thicken sauce
- add spring onions + chopped chillies and more pepper
-serve with steamed rice
My maternal grandma (ba` ngoai) is the best cook when it comes to making ca kho to and other quintessential southern Vietnam dishes. :sigh: I miss her cooking so much...

Monday, 11 June 2007

Wonton soup

Somehow my wonton soup never tastes as good as my mum's. When I was small, I remember seeing my dad eating wonton with left-over rice and since I didn't have any egg noodles in the house today I decided to try wonton soup with rice. Yuk! It's truly horrible. I haven't got a clue how my dad seemed to enjoy it immensely. Maybe he was just very hungry. Thank God I only tried it with a bit of soup and thus managed to save the rest of the wonton soup :D
Wandering Chopsticks has a nice post on wontons which is worth a look if anyone is interested in making wontons.

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Mango bread

I've got to be the first one who try out wandering chopsticks mango bread recipe.
The only thing I would do differently next time is to add more sugar (I only put over 100g sugar for 1 loaf this time and it was no where near sweet enough for my sweet tooth)
The hubby's not keen on mango so I'm taking the loaf over to a friend's tomorrow. Mmm. Special thanks to Wandering Chopsticks :D

Easy-peasy pasta salad - Nicoise style

I got the inspiration for this dish from a recipe for Salade Nicoise, which basically includes flaked tuna and boil eggs in the ingredients. However, as there was no tuna nor egg in the kitchen, I decided to make my own salad in the same style with different ingredients.
It's super duper easy and since it came from the novice cook's kitchen,it is fool-proof.
round lettuce
chopped crab/seafood sticks
black olives
chopped tomatoes
cubed hard cheese (I use Cheddar cheese)
cooked and drained pasta (75g for each person) -seasoned with salt and pepper
sliced cucumber
handful of fresh parsley
Vinegairette dressing, made from 2 part white wine vinegar + 1 part of olive oil + 1tbsp honey + pinch of mixed herbs
Coleslaw (you can't see it in the picture because I only remembered to add it after the picture was taken)

Wash the lettuce leaves and line them at the bottom of a bowl.
Top with the rest of the ingredients, mix well with vinegairette dressing and coleslaw.
EAT. (Yep, it's that easy)


Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Suon nuong xa - Pork chops grilled with lemongrass

Please ignore the colourful rice and the steamed mange tout. I was feeling a bit too adventurous at the time and only found out when I tasted it that sometimes things just don't go together. Admittedly this dish is much better served with white rice and lightly stir-fried veg e.g. pak choi saute with garlic.
The pork (1 chop) was marinated with:
1 stick of lemongrass -chopped
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp sugar
salt + pepper
1 tsp chilli paste
1 spring onion - chopped

-Crush lemongrass and chopped spring onion into a rough paste using a pestle and mortar. Add fish sauce, sugar, chilli paste, salt and pepper and marinate the chop in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
-Either grill or shallow fry until done.
Here is a close up picture:

I don't know why but the pork turned out to be very tender and full of flavour. The fragrant smell of lemon grass is simply irresistible. I'm thinking of doing another batch for our BBQ this saturday.
A very similar recipe can be found at Playing with my food
To my surprise, I found out that lemongrass is actually a herb, which can be used not only in cooking but also in drinking. The oil extracted from lemon grass can also be used in treating athlete's foot and back pain. More wonderful information about lemon grass can be found here
This is also my entry for this week's Weekend herb Blogging , which is sponsored by Kalyn from Kalyn's kitchen and hosted this week by Ulrike from Kuchelatein .

Friday, 1 June 2007

Back to basic: Bacon and Mushroom Pasta

I feel like a student all over again. This is what I used to make at least 3 nights a week when I was a student. The plain and simple reason is because a) it is cheap and b) it is quick and most important of all, it is fool-proof.
Ingredients: (For 1)
75g pasta -cooked and drained
1-2 rashes of smoked bacon - chopped
1 onion- sliced thinly
5 button mushrooms - leave wholes or cut in halves
dry mixed herbs
grated Cheddar Cheese
Worcester 's sauce
chopped fresh parsley - reserve a few sprigs

1. Lightly fry the chopped bacon in a bit of olive oil until done. Set aside.
2. Heat a knob of butter +1tsp olive oil, stir in onion and mushrooms + 1tbsp water, season with salt + pepper + mixed herbs + chopped parsley, leave on medium heat for 5 minutes.
3. Stir in pasta and cooked bacon. Add a few splashes of Wostershire sauce.
4. Sprinkle grated Cheddar cheese, mix thoroughly.
5. Pour out on a plate, serve hot with a few sprigs of parsley for decoration.

So this is my entry for Presto Pasta Nights
. I know it's nothing fancy or elaborate but it is extremely handy if you're a student or if you are, like me, simply on a tight budget.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Comfort re-creating a dish that reminds me so much of my childhood.
As the first child in the family, my parents spoilt me as a kid and I was indeed very picky in what I eat. My mum told me that sometimes it took her over an hour just to get me to eat a bowl of rice. I still remember myself trying to 'escape' all the time when it comes to dinner time and my mum would chase me down the street with a bowl of rice in her hand and almost every single time she would find me at the local pet shop. The pet shop owner was a kind Chinese man who would let me play with his fish while being spoon-fed. Sometimes he even gave us free goldfish to keep so I wouldn't run down to his shop during my dinner time (it didn't really work as I was more into his colourful tropical fish so I always ran down whenever I had the chance :D). Anyway, as picky as I was, one of the dishes that I never had the urge to run away from was PRAWNS IN CARAMEL SAUCE.
I have always loved sweet and savoury dishes. Things like thit kho tau (pork braised in caramel sauce) or thit kho tieu (peppery pork slices) always made my mouth water :D. Prawns in caramel sauce is no exception. The shallots were saute quickly with garlic and sugar to create a caramel coating, then prawns were tossed in and fish sauce was then added. I used sweet soy sauce as an alternative for caramel sauce since I couldn't be bothered making caramel sauce this time. The end result was a sweet yet savoury dish where shallots just melt in your mouth and the sauce is so thick that you can devour every little bit of it.
I guess nothing is better than food that reminds you of your childhood memories.
P.S: proper recipe will be posted if requested.

Friday, 25 May 2007

Kimchi Noodles

I haven't had instant noodles for ages and this time I made an effort to 'dress up' my normally modest instant noodles. It's also incredibly easy to make and would make a perfect supper or a meal for one of those days when you just can't be bothered cooking.
1 hard-boiled egg (sliced in half)
3 prawns
3 cherry tomatoes
3 shitake mushrooms
2 spring onions (finely chopped the green parts)
3 tbsp frozen pea
a handful of chopped white cabbage
napa cabbage kimchi (as much as you can take :D)
1 packet of kimchi flavour instant noodles

1. Boil water, add the seasoning from the noodle packet.
2. Add prawns and boil for 3 mins
3. Add mushrooms, peas and white cabbage and continue cooking for another 5 mins.
4. Add tomatoes and spring onions.
5. Add noodles and continue cooking for 3-4 mins
6. Top with boiled egg and kimchi
7. Devour :D

This dish somehow reminded me a lot of the time when I first left home for college. Admittedly instant noodles are not good for you but it's an integral part of being an Asian :D

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Victoria sponge

110g/4oz butter or margarine
110g/4oz caster sugar
2 medium eggs
110g/4oz self raising flour

1. Heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
2. Line 2x18cm/7in cake tins with baking parchment
3. Use a hand mixer to cream the butter and the sugar together until pale.
4. Beat in the eggs.
5. Sift over the flour and fold in using a large metal spoon. The mixture should be of a dropping consistency - if it isn't, add a little milk.
6. Divide the mixture between the cake tins and gently spread out with a spatula.
7. Bake for 20-25 minutes until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
8. Allow to stand for 5 minutes before turning on to a wire rack to cool.
9. Sandwich the cakes together with jam, lemon curd or whipped cream and berries or just enjoy on its own.

TIP: use a pinch of baking powder as well to help the cake rise.

Monday, 21 May 2007

Ayam Masak Merah

Special thanks to Melting Wok for the amazing Spicy honey chicken recipe
Minor alteration include:

1. I marinated the chicken with 2 tbsp of fish sauce + turmeric instead of salt and turmeric. I believe the fish sauce goes into the chicken better than salt (be careful though because fish sauce is quite salty itself)
2. I deep fried the chicken instead of pan frying it. It takes a bit more effort because we haven't got a deep fryer at home so we had to use the wok. However, the chicken was crispy and very very tasty.

Except for those above changes, everything else was done in the same way. The hubby was more than impressed with the dish. Admittedly I've got to give him credit for helping me a lot in doing this dish.

Here's the end result. The novice cook proudly presents:

Spicy Honey Chicken served with sweet cabbage in oyster sauce and a bit of kimchi

French cuisine

First of all I'd like to thank my personal chef hubby for sharing with us this great idea. He's passionate about French cuisine and is capable of making various elaborate dishes that I can't help falling in love with. Maybe it was fate that a hopeless cook like myself ended up with a naturally talented cook like the hubby :D

The main course is called Co^te de porc Normande, which in my language, translates roughly as pork stew in cider and apple.

The potatoes accompanied the dish is called Pommes Duchess; which I believe, is basically mashed potatoes + 2 egg yolks + cream and then baked in the oven for 15 minutes.
This dish is similar, yet very different from chicken in cider. The sweet apples go perfectly well with pork and since the pork was cooked slowly in the oven, herbs and spices have more of a chance to incorporate into the meat.
Yum yum, I love the weekend when I can eat 'restaurant food' at home.
P.S: recipes will be posted if requested.

Friday, 18 May 2007

Blanketed Rice

This bizarre dish is a cross between teczcape 's Tom Yum Rice ...

...and My Korean Kitchen's omelette rice

The delightful result looked like this:


The only exceptions with the Tom Yum rice were that beans were replaced by cauliflowers, prawns were chopped instead and chopped shitake mushrooms and tomatoes were also included.
This dish is filling enough to make a substantial meal on its own. Thanks to teczcape and My Korean Kitchen for giving us such nice ideas.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

My first (and probably last) attempt to do kimbap

Now if someone out there is kind enough, I'd like to know what is the main difference between sushi and kimbap? I got this recipe off My Korean Kitchen and altered it a bit so that I didn't have to buy anything except for seaweed wraps. The seaweed wraps were on offer for 87p so I couldn't resist anyway :D.
I'd always thought that sushi/kimbap is pretty bland and I thought maybe if I tried to make it at home it would somehow taste better than the store-bought version. I was right in a way. The kimbap I made definitely had a fresher taste than the ones I used to buy from the supermarket. The only thing is, it is still tasteless. It's not like I don't like Korean food because I couldn't live without kimchi and gochujang. I guess I'm more into the hot and spicy side of Korean food.
Mmmm, even though I didn't like it in the end, at least I tried making it once.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Hainanese Steamed Chicken with Hainanese chilli ginger sauce

Wandering Chopsticks' post on her great grand-father death anniversary dinner made my mouth water over the picture of Hainanese Chicken. Admittedly I didn't have a whole chicken to follow the proper cooking process (I eat on my own so it'll be too wasteful to attempt cooking the whole chicken). So I cheated by steaming the chicken thigh and served it with Hainanese chilli ginger sauce. It still tastes pretty awesome :D.
I also did a simple canh (watery soup) with ginger, cabbage and shitake mushrooms, which is my mum's favorite food of all time.

It's super duper easy to make- you only need to fry lightly some chopped ginger, then pour in chicken stock and shitake mushrooms, season with fish sauce and simmer for 25 minutes, then the chopped cabbage is thrown in and simmered for another 10 minutes. Voila.
To be honest my mum's version of this dish is much better since she also uses dried shrimps and pork meatballs. Oh well, I still enjoyed it immensely though so it doesn't really matter.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Herbed chicken in cider

Not only yummy but also nutritious.
The chicken pieces are fried lightly in butter till golden, then mushrooms are thrown into the pot and it is then seasoned with salt, pepper, mixed herbs and simmered in chicken stock and cider for a good hour. Meanwhile, the rice grains are coated with vegetable oil and cooked with chicken stock in the normal method. Side veg i.e. seasonal asparagus spears are saute' in butter/olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
I love slow cooking method as all flavours and spices can incorporate into the food and it is more rewarding to eat something after waiting impatiently for a little while.
As usual, recipe will only be posted if a) I feel like it or b) somebody asks for it.
Also, due to a mini economic recession, the novice cook will have to plan her weekly meals ahead and there will limited trips to China Town supermarkets :sigh: Therefore in the next few weeks or so the food will be pretty basic (erhmm, actually the novice cook's foods have always been basic).Hopefully the novice cook will still find something interesting enough to write about:D

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

First-time donburi

Apparently donburi is a bowl of rice served with one or various toppings. Inspired by Cooking Cute, I decided to make my own donburi today. I didn't expect much but it came out quite nicely. The only thing is that I had a heap of dishes to wash afterwards.
The picture is from Cooking Cute website as my camera was playing up and I couldn't take a picture (:D honest, It's not because my dish is c**p). As I didn't have ground beef (or more precisely, I have to save the ground beef for the hubby's tea tonight) ;I replaced it with dried tofu sheet, which is similar in the way that it's another source of protein. The crispy texture of mange tout goes perfectly well with the soft scrambled egg and saute'd tofu. I also added sliced shitake mushrooms sauted in oyster sauce and soy sauce as I absolutely adore shitake mushrooms. After all, I topped it with a bit of gochujang (another confession, I am also addicted to gochujang) and mix everything together (steamed mange tout, shitake mushroom, scrambled egg and sauted tofu and of course, steaming hot rice.).
Hang on a minute, it tastes too similar to bibimbap. Now I'm confused, what is the difference between bibimbap and donburi then? Maybe I altered the recipe too much it has turned from Japanese food to Korean food with a Chinese twist. Or maybe I'm a novice cook after all and I can't tell the difference between Korean and Japanese food. Oh well, whatever, as long as it tastes nice, it's worth my effort.

Monday, 7 May 2007

Quintessential Vietnamese food

Thit kho tau -( which literally means pork belly braised in Chinese style) or a more common name in Viet restaurants is pork braised in coconut juice.
This is one of the most popular Vietnamese dish, which is served with white rice and sometimes picked bean sprouts. The meat is marinated and refrigerated for 8 hours ahead of the cooking time, then braised and simmered in a pan of coconut juice for at least 2 hours until all the flavour has incorporated into the meat and the hard boiled egg.
It is a lengthy cooking process but it's totally worth it when you chew into the soft and tender pork pieces which are both sweet (from the use of sweet soy sauce or caramel sauce) and savoury (from fish sauce). Eaten with pickled bean sprouts or picked Chinese mustard leaves as side dishes, it is one of my top ten all time favourite food.
Recipe will be dug up some time later if requested.

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

An English love affair

To be honest I am not too sure whether this originally came from Scotland or England. I got the recipe from an English cookbook and it was relatively easy to follow. All you need is some self raising flour, sugar, salt, butter and milk to bind.
I mean, If I can do it, anyone else certainly can. I have to admit I love baking despite various disastrous attempts I've made so far. It's hit and miss really with the tiny oven I have. I need a bigger kitchen.
Anyway I'm off now for a scone and a cuppa tea. Will be back later.


I initially wanted to use silken tofu, as inspired by Simcooks post on silken tofu with shallot oil. However, I couldn't find any silken tofu from the local supermarket so I had to make do with firm tofu. The end result tasted a bit like mapo tofu to me. The tip of seasoning the mince pork with cornstarch worked a treat. I never thought of it before but it actually enhances the taste an awful lot.
Thanks simcook for the yummy recipe :D

Friday, 27 April 2007

Pot roasted chicken - ga roti

The novice cook PROUDLY presents:

At least now and then there is something decent coming out of my kitchen. This dish has always been my favourite. Ga` means chicken in vietnamese and the word ro^ti is supposedly derived from the French word rosti. When I was at home my mum normally roasted it in a mini oven while my grandma opted for the on-the-hob cooking method. I myself prefer cooking this particular dish in a pot as I love to pour the gravy over steamed white rice. The dish is also accompanied by some fresh tomatoes to give a refreshing taste to contrast the rather heavily seasoned chicken.
The marinade mixture used in this dish (for one person)include
1tbsp sugar, 1tbsp fish sauce, 1tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp five spice powder, 1tsp garlic, 2-3 chopped shallots (or 1 chopped onion)
-Marinate the chicken for at least 2 hours
-Then, lift the chicken out of the marinade and fry in high heat for 7 minutes, just when the chicken starts turning brown.
-Turn the heat down to low, add the marinade, fry for 1-2 mins
-Pour just enough water to cover the chiken, stir and put the lid back on
-cook on low heat for another 45-50 minutes
Note: I also put a star anise in to make it more fragrant and being a mushroom junky means that I also include shitake mushrooms in the pot. The star anise really works wonder but I'm not too sure about shitake mushrooms in this dish. mmm
Anyway, enjoy.

The eyes can be deceiving...

I've wanted to make cassava cake for a while but was held back because there's not a single Filipino shop in town. So my quick thinking told me that I could try making it with tapioca flour instead, based on the premise that tapioca flour is somehow made from cassava roots;therefore, it should be the closest substitute I have in hand.
The result, was supposed to look like this:

Instead, mine looks like this:

D'oh! Don't let the eyes deceive you though. Mine tastes just as good (I would imagine). It is still soft, chewy and pretty moist.
At the end of the day, even though I don't make pretty cakes,at least I'm getting there (eventually).

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Currently craving for...

1) Cabbage Kimchi

2) Instant noodles

3) Tofu

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Chicken pie

Being a Brit, my hubby is incredibly fond of pies. This is the first time he's tried puff pastry though. Normally he makes his own short crust pastry but today he tried using the ready-to-roll puff pastry. The result was way beyond my expectation. Unlike short crust pastry, the puff pastry doesn't taste as buttery and heavy. Combined with chicken, leek and veg, it's a perfect lunch/dinner on a cold day.
I love my hubby's cooking...

Monday, 23 April 2007

Searching for a REAL gingerbread man recipe

Ok, I broke the rule of not baking ever again :sigh: Instead of my 45 minutes yoga session I was burying my head in doing gingerbread man. The recipe I got is from The Great British Kitchen, which, judging by the name, has to be the most original. So I followed the instructions:

"Serves: 16

350 Gram Plain flour (12 oz)
1 Teaspoon Bicarbonate of soda
2 Teaspoon Ground ginger
110 Gram Butter, diced (4 oz)
175 Gram Soft light brown sugar (6 oz)
4 Tablespoon Golden syrup
1 Egg, beaten
Currants, to decorate


Makes 16

Pre-heat oven to 190 °C / 375 °F / Gas 5.

Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and ginger into a mixing bowl. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs, then stir in the sugar. Beat the syrup into the egg, then stir into the flour mixture. Mix together to make a smooth dough. Knead the dough until smooth, then divide in half. Roll out, half at a time, on a floured surface until about 5 mm ( 1/4 inch) thick.

Using a gingerbread man cutter, cut out gingerbread men until all the dough has been used up, re-rolling and cutting the trimmings. Repeat with the second half of the dough. Place the gingerbread men on greased baking sheets and decorate with currants to represent eyes and buttons. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown. Leave on the baking sheets to cool slightly, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container."

Two things I notice:
1) baking at 190C is far too high, which resulted in half of my men (the ones on the inner part of the oven) being totally black and completely unpalatable.
2) the stated amount of sugar is far too sweet for my likings, so next time I would prefer to cut it down by half.

Except for the small incident of cremating half of my men, this little baking job has shown me that with a little bit of patience and COMMON SENSE, I can get back to learning to bake again...

Thursday, 19 April 2007

Banana loaf

The novice cook officially announce that banana loaf is going to be the last baking project for now. Since the novice cook's repeated attempt to make cookies ended disastrously, the novice cook has decided it's now time to call it quits. From now on the novice cook will leave all the baking jobs to the professional chef a.k.a the hubby.
Recipe for banana cake:
10 oz ( 275 g ) self raising flour; 4 oz ( 100 g ) butter or margarine; 6 oz ( 175 g ) soft brown sugar; 3 eggs; 2 large bananas; 1 level teaspoon cinnamon; 3 to 4 tablespoons milk; 4 oz (100 g) chopped apricots or walnuts ( optional )

Cream butter and sugar, add mashed bananas to mixture. Add beaten eggs one by one, add milk. Fold in flour and cinnamon. Bake for one hour at 350F degrees/ 180C degrees/gas mark 4, in a 2 lb loaf tin.
P.S: I always put tinfoil over the loaf tin after 35-40 mins to prevent the loaf being burnt on top

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Korean fusion food - or is it just a crazy idea from the novice cook?

Teczscape's udon stir-fry gave the novice cook an inspiration to try stir-frying udon for the first time. Thing is, the novice cook also wants to play with her food and in the true style of Ready Steady Cook, the novice cook was determined to make a mouth-watering dinner from random ingredients found in the novice cook's fridge, which include:
a packet of udon noodles, shitake mushrooms, pak choi, coriander, asparagus, chillies and prawns
The novice cook came up with the idea of marinating prawns in a soy sauce + oyster sauce + salt + pepper, then stir-fry the prawns for 3 mins, then set aside. All the other ingredients were stir-fried together, in the order of shitake mushroom-asparagus-pak choi- coriander then the cooked udon noodles were mixed in and the whole thing was seasoned liberally with sweet soy sauce + fish sauce + 1tsp oyster sauce.
Another 30 seconds and voila, the end-result actually tasted much better than what the novice cook had expected.
Mission accomplished. Who says playing with your food is not fun...

Monday, 16 April 2007

Food misconception - some people think they do but they don't know anything about Chinese food

We went to a Chinese buffet on Sunday night and I had to say I doubt it very much that I would ever come back there again.
As someone who comes from a Chinese/Asian background, I know how lazy restaurants over here are and how much they have compromised in Chinese/Asian cuisine just to suit Westerners' taste. The buffet dishes include:
1> siu mai
2> scotch egg
3> noodles (3 varieties)
4> fried rice (2 varieties)
5> veg stir-fry (4 varieties)
6> sushi
7> crispy roast duck
9> ice cream
10> mango pudding
Except for siu mai and mango pudding, nothing else is Chinese food in my opinion. The hubby was utterly disappointed with the supposingly crispy roast duck ,which turned out to be so dry and tough that I'd rather eat newspaper sheets than the so-called roast duck. And why on earth do they have to do CHIPS at a Chinese buffet. And what the hell is scotch egg doing in there anyway.
They're not Chinese food and they shouldn't be there. Grrrrrr :frustrating:
The veg stir-fry was also a flop, with most varieties of stir-fry being doused in a generic sauce which makes each dish tastes exactly the same.
I gave up eating after the 3rd plate (only because I had to pay for it so I had to make the most of it - a way of thinking that has been imprinted in my mind thanks to my mum)
I mean, my dear hubby has been to Asia and he knows how different REAL Chinese food is. He wouldn't even sniff at a Chinese takeaway these days. Meanwhile, my sister-in-law wouldn't know that the stuff she normally got from the takeaways are not REAL food. :sigh: I wonder how many Western people actually think Chinese/Asian cuisine only have roast duck, fried rice and stir fry.
I wonder if there is anything I can do to show people that Asian food is much more better than the Westernised junkversion of Chinese food over here...


It is pretty unusual for the weather to reach the high 20s in Manchester. To make the most of the sunshine, what is better than a BBQ.
The chicken is marinated in a honey+soy sauce+ a pinch of 5 spice powder for at least 30mins. The longer the better actually.
I heart BBQ

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Discovery of the year

Picture is illustrative only
I am totally addicted to dolsot bibimbap. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that making bibimbap at home is not as difficult as I'd thought. The first time I tried Korean food was a few years back and for some reasons I didn't have a very good impression of their cuisine. At the time I thought Korean food is just a passing craze popularised by Korean dramas. Kimchi was the only Korean dish that I loved then.
The second time I tried Korean food was when some Hong Kong friends organised a farewell party at a Korean cafe in Manchester and I had the chance to try cold buckwheat noodles then and I had to say it kind of cemented my serious doubt about Korean food. I just didn't understand how can something so tasteless like that is so much loved by many people. In hindsight, I suppose it wasn't a good idea to eat cold noodles in the middle of the winter so that could explain why cold noodles were so tasteless to me.
The third time I tried Korean food was we went on holiday to Hong Kong last year. We had never tried bulgogi before and it was so good that it made me completely change my mind about Korean food.
Needless to say I've been converted since and have also added udon, Ojingeo sundae (Tofu, egg, sesame, chili and vegetable wrapped with 1cm-wide pieces of steamed squid) onto my favourite food list and of course I am very eager to discover more about Korean cuisine.

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Banh mi lover

I have just discovered a useless fact that the 'butter' I had been eaten as a kid in Vietnam wasn't actually butter. The soft, spreadable yellowy stuff that they normally spread on banh mi was actually ghee, an Indian clarified butter.
Apparently ghee was made by simmering butter in a pan until all water has boiled off and protein settled to the bottom. It does taste slightly different from normal butter.
Since I have been in the UK I have never attempted to make a proper banh mi. I have eaten baguettes as a substitute for banh mi but for some reasons ham and cheese baguette still doesn't taste as good as a banh mi cha lua. I suppose it's mostly to do with the fact that it is always more comforting to eat your 'childhood food'.
When I was at junior high school my grandma always made me banh mi for my lunch. The fillings were varied, ranging from the simple cha lua to siu mai in tomato sauce and sometimes spicy beef. Yummy. Just thinking about it made my mouth water again.

banh mi