Overdoing It

Wow this backlog of blog posts is a bit overwhelming. I don’t even know where to begin anymore! All I can say is, there’s a lot of pork!

Pulled Pork on Crispy Polenta

First there was Pulled Pork, which I made in a slow-cooker with root beer and a bunch of spices like cloves and aniseed but I really didn’t like the taste of this dish. I hated the crispy polenta as well. it really didn’t compare to my creamy polenta and the root beer kinda killed the flavour of the pork for me. I must get a different recipe and try that one out.

Chickpea and Tomato Salad

The salad however, was brilliant. It was a really simple thing I threw together. Chickpeas, cherry tomatoes and some finely diced parsley. Try it, I swear it’s one of my favourite salads ever.

Pork Meatloaf

I don’t really remember where I got the recipe now or if I just consulted a basic meatloaf recipe and made it Sophia Style. It was basically pork mince, spicy pancetta, spicy salami, homemade breadcrumbs, carrots, celery, spring onions, shallots, garlic and red wine. There was ketchup on the top before it baked as well and I served it up with thyme Paris mashed potatoes. It was goooood. Pork overload!

Roast Pork Sandwich

Then there was that time we made roast pork and there was plenty of leftovers and I knew I had to make a sandwich with the leftovers. I sauteed the apples in a little bit of butter, sauteed some onions, spread some amazing chutney on the bread, topped it with some pancetta and baked the entire monster. The bread was heavily buttered too, of course. I think I brought some over to Joyce and let her eat it before we had a massive dinner, too. We’re such gluttons. But they don’t make such crazy sandwiches in restaurants!

There are a few more pork dishes which I think I will save for proper entries with actual links to recipes. If I can still remember them, that is. I have a huge list of food I want to make this coming week too so that’ll be really fun to update you guys on. I’ll be back! Promise :)


A Pork Day’s Night

Pork Chops on Creamy Polenta

Spicy Pork Ragu Rigatoni

Winter has well and truly descended upon us and with the cooler temperature comes the usual cravings for heartier meals. I’ve been more than a little slack lately and have mostly been using up the scraps in our freezer to make meals. I discovered some pork chops that I simply marinated in Worcestershire sauce, BBQ sauce, some rosemary and salt and pepper. It was then baked then seared on a hot pan. The baking tray was deglazed with red wine and we got some killer gravy from that. The creamy polenta was made with some homemade chicken stock and lots of butter and cream cheese. I’d never been more excited to have polenta before.

The spicy pork ragu rigatoni was a recipe from Delicious magazine. I finally bit the bullet and subscribed to both Delicious and Gourmet Traveler. I’m glad I no longer have to pop by the newsagent for my monthly copies. I live right opposite one but I like to pretend that I’m so hard done by such a tedious task. I improvised the recipe, as I usually do, and I made it a lot spicier than Delicious suggested but I’m Malaysian, what do you want from me? It was 2 Tbsp of chilli flakes to the suggested 1 tsp. Pft, 1 tsp is something you can barely taste!

I’m currently down with my first winter flu of the year. I am grumpy and lethargic and I wish my immune system would buck up already. If you need me, I’ll be wallowing in self-pity in bed… where I’ve been for the past three days.


All Ruffled Up

In recent times, I’ve been alive and well but just extremely lazy when it comes to updating my little site. However, I hope you noticed the awesome header from my talented and gorgeous friend Jiayueh. I am in need of a new layout very desperately, once I sit down and figure out how to do it (I want to throw money at this problem, tbh), and then I can properly credit her for it.

Biggest news of the moment is that my brother got married a little under a month ago and out of nowhere my mum thought it would be a good idea for me to make them their wedding cake. I accepted the challenge gladly although I was very nervous as I hadn’t touched fondant for over a year and things like that is all about practice!

It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be, though. I mostly worked after midnight with the air-cond on full blast to combat humidity, much to the puzzlement of my family. Actually, they were so stressed out and worried for me, they were constantly asking me if I would be able to finish the cake. So little faith! My biggest concern was covering the bottom cake, which required me rolling out a 1+kg of fondant into a 22″ circle and hoping it didn’t tear as I gingerly placed it over the cake. It took me an hour to cover all three cakes with fondant, surprisingly. I was shocked as I really haven’t handled fondant in too long and even when I used to, I wasn’t the best at covering the cakes without it looking bumpy but I fared well, if I do say so myself.

I started with making the ruffled rosettes. I initially had planned to cover the cake entirely with them so I made 80 of them. It took me a grand total of 5+ hours to make them all. I was worried about the colours being too dark, but I was rather adamant on it being shades of pink. However, I could’ve gone for a more subtle gradience than the look I went for.

Ruffles

I didn’t want them to set too hard like figurines, so it was 100% fondant with no gumpaste at all.

The cakes were a 14″, 10″ and 6″ rounds. My mum and I discussed it and decided we needed a really heavy cake for the bottom tier to withstand the weight of the other two cakes, as well as to remain fresh because we needed to bake it days in advance and we really didn’t want to serve the guests stale cake. So we settled on a Suji (Semolina) Cake, for which the recipe was tripled. So that was 30 eggs and about 3kg of butter. Yeah, healthy stuff!

As for the other two layers, I could bake them closer to the wedding daybut I really didn’t want to do a dark-coloured cake in case my crumb-coating before the fondant layer wasn’t superb and then you could see dark spots under the white fondant. I settled instead for a simple Pound Cake, although I did encounter some problems with baking the cake. I wanted the cakes to be really high as wedding cakes shouldn’t look thin and I really maximised the 4″ height of my cake tins. However, that messed with the cooking time and it was only after I had to slice the cakes in half for the buttercream that I noticed they were still wet on the inside! The horror! I had to re-bake them and it rather devastated me because I think the texture and moistness of the cakes were compromised for it.

So to all the wedding guests, if you’re reading this, I do apologise for the Pound Cake’s texture. I promise I normally make excellently moist and fluffy cakes.

As for the buttercream, I knew that I needed a buttercream with textural integrity that wouldn’t compromise the structure and balance of the cake. I’ve once tried to do a 3-layered cake with too-soft icing and of course the cake slid around and looked horrible. I would not allow this to happen for such an important cake! I also needed the buttercream to set really well so that the fondant layer would go on smoothly. But, it was also desperately important to me that the buttercream taste delicious and buttery. Nothing with too much icing sugar in it and I knew that it had to consist of real butter.

I ended up using a Swiss Meringue Buttercream, which was beautiful! Everyone loved the taste of it, even my mother who usually hates buttercream. It was sinfully silky and rich and the meringue helped with the stiffness of the texture. I was surprised it worked because I was fully prepared to go back to my fail-safe Wilton buttercream, which tastes disgusting and is made with shortening but definitely holds a cake well. Thankfully it never came to that!

Ruffled Up

That is the finished cake. It took almost a week’s worth of work (spread out, of course!) because I was actually pretty slack and only did a few hours’ worth of week each day. Some days even less than an hour.

I didn’t end up using all 80 of the ruffles and they’re still awaiting my return in my parents’ home. I’m planning to use them as cupcake toppers when I get back. The best thing about fondant is that it never goes bad. Well, not anytime soon anyway! I assembled the entire cake at home (not advisable for a 3-tier cake, really!) but as part of the groom’s family, I didn’t have time to get the cake assembled at the venue AND get dressed AND play receptionist so I had to risk it and hope that the cake didn’t collapse on the drive to the hotel. I actually drove the car and got my uncle to hold on to the hefty 10kg cake (it’s not light!) and handed it off to the wedding coordinator the moment we pulled up at the hotel with swift instructions NOT to press onto the cake board’s fondant layer and to be extra gentle when placing the cake down and to avoid refrigeration at all costs. Fondant doesn’t go in refrigerators, FYI, that’s why they’re such hard work because they really do need to be on-the-day sort of work as the cakes can go bad so easily.

Wedding cake on display

The bride giving me the thumb’s up after biting into the cake ;)

I was incredibly proud of the finished product (what a project!) as was my mother. She kept telling me how impressed she was that I pulled it off (again, with the faith!) and she was glad that I had attended all those cake decorating courses. The bride and groom loved it, too and from the reviews I got from our friends, they really loved the taste of the cakes too (even the Pound Cake that I was so worried about!).

What an excellent test of time management and persistent hard work. It’s not the fanciest of wedding cakes but it was certainly personal. The best part was it didn’t cost the bridal couple a single cent (wedding cakes in Malaysia of that size cost upwards of RM1000!). I will admit that I completely understand why wedding cakes cost so much. They’re extremely labour intensive and mine was a simple version. I ended up using about 7kg of fondant and about 10+kg of butter, and I forgot to keep track of the sugar and eggs that went into it all.