Rapturous Raspberries

Sometimes I get a little restless and long to create something a little strange. I’ve been thinking about a thyme-infused panna cotta for a while now, which I’m sure I will get to eventually; and I’ve been wanting to use up the frozen raspberries in my freezer. It wasn’t long before I decided I would make muffins, even if I usually detest them. To be specific, I detest the ones that are in most cafes that are rock-hard and dry and tastes a lot closer to cardboard than any form of baked good.

Raspberry Muffins

Raspberry, Pistachio & Star Anise Muffins

I ran into some issues with executing ideas in my head, as you do. Firstly, I have no muffin recipes on hand. Secondly, I wasn’t content with just plain ol’ raspberry muffins (which I’m sure will be yummy) but I wanted some sort of herb in it and some crunch. Talk about wanting to run before even learning to walk!

Thank heavens for Smitten Kitchen and her endless archives of awesome recipes. I’ve always admired her blog but had never attempted her recipes, but found her Perfect Blueberry Muffins recipe and knew it was the right base to bounce off. It is called perfect, after all.

I would like to take all credit about the use of pistachio and star anise with the raspberries but I had some help. Namely from The Flavor Bible which is a book I could not recommend enough. It’s excellent if you’re like me and fancy yourself to be better than you really are and would just like to make something that’s in your head into actual food. Based on the suggestions in the book, star anise and pistachios pair well with raspberries. I assumed they meant individually but I wanted them all together because I live on the edge like that.

More importantly, I was dying to test out my Beater Blade, which was sent over from my friend Karen from USA (Thanks, Karen!).

Beater Blade

Pink Beater Blade to match the pink KitchenAid – I’m a pink nerd

Raspberry, Pistachio & Star Anise Muffins
Yields 8 muffins
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

71g unsalted butter, softened
100g sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup sour cream (or plain yogurt)
1/2 tsp lime zest
191g all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp grounded star anise
105g frozen raspberries (unthawed)
A small handful of pistachios, grounded

1. Preheat oven to 180˚C. Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.

2. Add egg and beat well, then add in sour cream and lime zest.

3. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and star anise together and sift half of it over the batter. Mix until incorporated then sift remaining dry ingredients and mix until flour disappears.

4. Gently fold in raspberries and pistachios. The batter will be dough-ish and it will be easier to disperse with an ice cream scoop. Fill up the lined muffin tray or lightly oiled muffin tray with the batter and bake for 30 minutes, and a tester comes out clean when inserted into the center of the muffin.

Beater Blade in action

Beater Blade in action

So the Beater Blade is pretty amazing stuff. I loved that I didn’t have to scrape the sides of the bowl anymore and I felt like it took a lot faster to cream the butter and sugar too.

Microplane

Microplane love

I figured my Microplane deserves an honourable mention as well. Words cannot describe how much I love all my Microplane graters and how much easier they’ve made my life. I love them. I love them. I love them! I’ve lost some skin off my fingers in my haste many times before but even such accidents display the greatness of this tool because my wounds are so fine and I can actually see the shape of the grater on my finger. Too much? Seriously, one of absolute must-have kitchen tools.

Wet batter

Wet batter

This was when I knew the muffins would be amazing. After I added the sour cream and before the dry ingredients, the texture of the batter was amazing. So fluffy and creamy!

Oven-ready

Ready for the oven

The aroma of the muffins were so overwhelmingly delicious when they were baking. The smell of star anise came through really prominently but encapsulated by the sweet scent of the raspberries had me pacing my tiny kitchen staring impatiently at the cute little magnetic Daschund timer I have on my fridge.

I popped these babies out of the oven and pretty much dived right into one, anxious to taste how my silly little experimentation went and I became a muffin convert right then.

Pillowy soft

Pillowy soft texture

I loved the surprise interior of red and purple streaks and the little dots of green from the lime zest and grounded pistachios. The combination of star anise with raspberries was sensational, and the crunch of the pistachios? Crazy good.

Herbs in sweets may sound a little bizarre but they are so, so good together.


Miso Delicious

I hardly ever cook Asian food as you might have been able to deduce from all my blog posts. I’m usually a one plate dinner sort of cook, even if there’s many components on that plate. But with Chinese food you gotta keep washing a wok about three different times and it just isn’t as seamless (or maybe it isn’t for me).

Sometimes Jacey and I get massive cravings for home-cooked Malaysian meals. It’s hard to describe because it’s definitely not available in any of the Malaysian restaurants in Melbourne. It’s the food we ate at home when we were growing up and no restaurant in Malaysia would serve it either. It’s things like deep fried fish with soya sauce and freshly cut chillies, chicken curry, soya sauce pork, any leafy greens fried with small prawns and loads of garlic, and other variants.

Two weeks back when we sat down together to plan our weekly grocery list, we decided it would be Asian Week. Due to my social life getting in the way, our biggest event for the week, the Momofuku steamed pork buns got postponed to the following week so we made it Asian Fortnight.

It was pretty cool. The first night we started with Jacey’s steamed barramundi with Shao Hsing wine, soya sauce, ginger and spring onions (mmm!) and fried vegetables. I’m not remembering the dishes clearly now but we had Prawn Mee, Fried Crispy Yee Mee and of course, the meal below.

Dinner

Dinner spread

I was having the biggest cravings for food that my mother would cook so I actually got her on the phone to give me her recipe for her Chinese style chicken stew. It’s a good thing I understand my mother’s recipes because they’re full of, “A little bit of this, a little bit of that, and slightly more of this.”

Chicken Stew

Chinese Style Chicken Stew

I was pretty excited to make this because I just dumped it all in a slow cooker and let it do its job while I went to class. There’s chicken liver in there as well but it completely disintegrated with slow cooking which was awesome, although probably not as awesome for Jacey who doesn’t deal with chicken liver. Everything was falling off the bones and the vegetables were super tender. Tasted just like home, too.

Fish roe

Deep-Fried Fish Roe

This is one of my favourite things about the food I get at home. Usually our fish seller back home just throws it in for free but it’d be the highlight of the meal for me. Who said I have expensive tastes, am I right? ;) These were so cheap at the market, too. They were seasoned, covered in corn flour and deep-fried. Together with the soya sauce and freshly cut chillies it was so good.

I’m just skimming right over the fact that everyone who has seen this picture has mentioned the phallic nature of the dish. To that I say… DELICIOUS ;) Just kidding. Maybe. I don’t know. Let’s move along.

Miso Butter Vegetables

Miso Butter Vegetables

This definitely wasn’t something from my childhood but when I saw the recipe for it in the Momofuku cookbook, I couldn’t help myself. Miso butter?! Are you kidding me? I think I soaked the cookbook with my drool while reading the recipe. This was the week after my lunch at Maze where Joyce and I were pretty close to writing Shakespearean worthy sonnets about the seaweed butter. We almost hatched an Ocean’s Eleven-esque plan to steal the restaurant’s supply of seaweed butter – we were that enamoured.

The recipe called for pan-seared asparagus and miso butter but I wanted Asian mushrooms because it sounded yummier to me. And it was perfect with the asparagus and miso butter. Naturally I had leftover miso butter so the next day I made a vegetarian dish of soba noodles, lightly sauteed mushrooms and the miso butter. It was like a killer creamy pasta but a thousand times more delicious. I now live for miso butter.

As I was saying, photographs of Asian style food hardly ever look nice when I do it. It doesn’t even look half as delicious as it was!

I’ve got some exciting things planned for my kitchen. I recently got a Beater Blade so I need to see how that works, and a lot of sous vide Ziploc bags so that’s going to be fun. I’m also planning to attempt a recipe from the Alinea cookbook, am dying to test out about 3 different macaron recipes to see which is the best, and I want to make duck confit. I need more hours in a day and more mouths to feed (and possibly less uni assignments to work on).


So Porking Good, Part Deux

The weather in Melbourne has finally shifted into gear for spring and I’m getting ready to set aside my flannelette PJs for skimpier cotton options. As much as I have adored everything about winter, I am ready for spring.

This past weekend has been so good to me that I’m typing this with a satisfied little smile on my lips. I kicked it off with a Sophia Day, which is my favourite type of day. I wandered around Dymocks picking up novel after novel compiling another killer wishlist to add to the Book Depository but nevertheless was seduced by the words of one particular book that I had to bring it home with me immediately.

The rest of my weekend was a blur of delicious morsel after delicious morsel, and the fact that I surfaced from my food coma to type this is a testament of my strength but please pardon me while I wear elastic banded bottoms for the next two weeks. It was well worth it though, being surrounded by amazing company and beautiful food.

Momofuku Pork Buns

Momofuku Pork Buns

Perhaps one of the reasons why the weekend was so good was because we launched into it with a fantastic dinner of steamed pork buns on Thursday night. It was one of those fantastic meals where I didn’t believe I had made what I was eating because it tasted too damned good to be true.

The recipe is from the Momofuku cookbook by David Chang whose name is almost eponymous with pork, to be honest (a man after my own heart!). The recipe is available here because I am way too lazy to ever type that out.

It was pretty labour intensive for a weekday meal but if my insane persistence on making everything from scratch results in a luscious meal, you best believe this is a madness worth ignoring.

It started the night before, where a 2kg slab of pork belly was cleaned and skinned. I tried asking my butcher to remove it for me but he gave me an incredulous look that can only be described as, “Are you fucking kidding me?” that I had to do it myself. His exact words to me were, “But pork belly is not pork belly without the skin!” I hear ya, man, I hear ya. But the fat would still be left on – just the skin that’s gone. He still gave me that strange look that I had to admit defeat and allowed the pork belly to suffer at the hands of my meagre knife skills.

And by suffer I truly mean I need to apologize to the pork belly for it was skinned unevenly. Forgive me, fellow pork lovers. That was sacrilege. It was then rubbed with salt and sugar, wrapped up and abandoned in the fridge. The next day it was unwrapped and all the juices that the salt drew out was poured away.

Pork belly

Poor uneven pork belly

It was then chucked into the oven while I went about the most labour intensive part, making my own buns. I definitely could have bought them but where’s the fun in that? All that labour also yielded us with 50+ buns so really, I’m not complaining.

Dough

Steamed bun dough

I also pickled the cucumbers but that was so easy and quick that I forgot to photograph it.

Then the pork belly emerged from the oven and it had to rest before it was sliced into.

Roasted pork belly

Roasted pork belly

Jacey and I circled the pork belly like vultures, impatiently staring at the clock. Slowest ten minutes ever.

But golly, it was gorgeous on the inside.

We steamed the buns and had our set up ready.

Side note: My mum saw this picture and asked, “Why are your buns so shiny?” *immature sniggering ensues* But in all seriousness, I have no clue. Life’s Greatest Mystery #90480. Report back on findings, please.

At this point, it was getting pretty late and I was afraid Jacey was going to strangle me out of frustration because the smell of the roasted pork belly had permeated through the entire apartment and the sounds of our growling stomachs were becoming embarrassingly audible.

Steamed Pork Buns

The buns were spread with hoisin sauce, luscious pieces of pork belly were placed within along with a few slices of pickled cucumber and thinly sliced scallions.

Then it was total silence. I think we were trying to process the party in our mouths but our brains simply weren’t catching up. I think we managed some faint “mmmmm”s.

We obviously had enough for leftovers and the next day I tried some with a few dots of Sriracha chilli sauce. Oh, man. That’s all I have to say.

Life can be so ridiculously porking good.


Niggles

I’m having a strange little day where my head is not screwed on quite straight. My sleep was really messed up and I felt horribly exhausted the whole day so I spent most of the day in some strange zombie state of dysfunctionality but my brain is on full-speed and well, it’s an off-kilter day.

Sometimes I wish I had a mute button for my brain.

One of my biggest problems is once I get an idea in my head, it’s near impossible to wrench it out unless I see it to fruition. A nice way to address that would be to call it drive or motivation; but in all honesty, it’s probably because I’ve lived a life where I’ve gotten almost everything I ever wanted. No? What kind of word is that?

Chicken & Mushroom Quesadilla

Chicken & Mushroom Quesadilla

We’ve been having Asian-only meals in our household for the past two weeks. It’s been fun if messy to photograph. I can’t explain it but I can’t make Asian meals look pretty. I try my darndest and I will probably post those photos up at some point but trust me when I say they won’t look as pretty as they tasted. Hats off to anyone who makes Asian food look pretty. Not an easy task!

It’s weird as it’s even transferred over to my dining out. I’ve been having Asian meals when I head out too. I guess there’s some cosmic force at work ensuring I stick to this Asian Fortnight we have going. Naturally I started craving non-Asian food and the thing I had the biggest craving for was quesadillas.

I don’t claim to have authority on Mexican or TexMex food in any way. I mean, I’m Chinese. I grew up in Malaysia. I’m the furthest away from Mexican cuisine as I could possibly be but it seemed easy enough. Toasted tortilla, some sort of mixture with lots of cheese, served with sour cream and jalapenos? Done and done.

Chicken, Mushroom & Corn Quesadillas
Serves 2 not-very-hungry people, or one ravenous person

100g sliced mushrooms
100g shredded chicken (confession: I was desperate enough to buy the roasted chicken from Coles)
100g corn kernels
Good melting cheese (every American recipe said Monterey Jack, which I’m not even sure we get in Australia but I had Gruyere on hand so I used that – yes, fancy quesadilla!)
2 tortillas

1. Saute the mushrooms in a pan with a little bit of olive oil, then add the shredded chicken and corn. Season to taste.

2. Remove from the pan, add to a bowl and grate cheese into the mixture. Gently stir through.

3. Put a clean frypan on the stove, place a tortilla in, top with filling, and cover with another tortilla. Cook for 2 minutes or until brown, then flip (with great skill and patience that I sorely lacked for my filling spilled boohoos!) and heat the other side for another 2 minutes.

4. Serve on a plate, cut into quarters, top with sour cream and jalapenos and dig in.

Actually, I was feeling fancy so I made a special sour cream. Also cos I can’t leave things well enough alone.

Cumin & Cilantro Sour Cream
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon ground cumin
A handful of chopped cilantro

1. Put ingredients in a bowl, stir with a spoon.

It’s nice to know that with some things that get into my head, I can execute and put an end to the craziness. Some other things… not so easy.


Cherry Topper

It may come as no surprise that I’m a homebody. I find pleasure in tinkering about the apartment or just curled up on the couch with a teapot of tea warmed up beside me and my laptop on the armrest of the couch. Other times I’m happy to be curled up with my throw and a book.

Afternoon tea

One afternoon…

That was taken one afternoon almost a month ago when I was feeling particularly fancy. I whipped out a Wedgwood teacup.

Wedgwood teacup

Wedgwood Harlequin “Ribbon & Rose” teacup

Another of my mum’s influence on me as she’s an avid teapot and teacup collector. But I digress.

I’m having one those days today. Enjoying being home on a miserably cold day. I was trying to figure out what to do with an opened can of sour cherries (from a Black Forest Gateux which I should blog about…) and was thinking of making muffins but it’d require me to brave the cold to hit the supermarket for some ingredients and anyway, I didn’t really feel like eating a muffin for lunch.

Vanilla French Toast

Vanilla French Toast

I’ve been meaning to consume the wholemeal loaf of bread we have sitting on our counter but never got around to it. I really wish they’d sell half loaves at the supermarket. In a two person household of girls who don’t really eat bread on a daily basis, our bread intake is never enough to warrant an entire loaf. Then comes the mad rush to use it all before it goes bad. Sandwiches, bread and butter pudding, French toasts… I actually had two Croque Madames for dinner two nights ago.

Today I decided it was time for some French toast, which I usually love with some cinnamon sugar or maple syrup.

I’m not really sure this warrants a recipe but here it goes, something quick and easy. In and out of the kitchen in 10 minutes and ready to shove forkfuls of delicious bread into my eager mouth.

Sour cherries

Sour cherries and syrup

Quick & Fuss-free French Toast
Serves 1 very hungry girl

4 slices of bread, cut into half diagonally
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
A pinch of salt
1 Tbsp butter, plus extra to serve
Sour cherries, syrup reserved

1. Beat the eggs, add the vanilla extract and salt to it.

2. Heat up butter in a small skillet over low-medium heat. Dip bread slices into egg mixture, fry in skillet until brown. Turn over and repeat for other side.

3. Serve up on a plate with a bit of butter, top with sour cherries and drizzle reserved syrup all over.

4. Dig in and thank me later.