Weekend treats!

How are you these days?
We are on the cool-side of the weather here in Phnom Penh these days which is lovely, considering the heat in the past few months.
Hope all is well with you.

As mentioned in my previous post, my husband and I have embarked on a semi-paleo diet that began two months or so ago. From then on, we both lost 10% of our body body weights from this diet. And so, we’ve decided to treat ourselves for the weekend.

We began with a cheese sandwich for breakfast. Getting acquainted with my husband’s favourite fares, like this cheese sandwich with Branston pickle, is exciting.

Branston pickle relish - sweet and tangy, like an Indian chutney. Definitely livens up the cheese sandwich!

Branston pickle relish – sweet and tangy, like an Indian chutney. Definitely livens up the cheese sandwich!

Crusty bread, freshly-baked from Comme à la Maison, smeared with butter, cheese wedges, and a dollop of Branston pickle relish. To those who don’t know, Branston pickle is a sweet and tangy jarred condiment made from a variety of tiny-diced vegetables. It is the English’s answer to an Indian chutney. It serves as a brilliant support to the sharp taste of the aged edam cheese and for sure, to any other dishes. We found this jarred gem of a condiment (and even the Irish butter) in Phnom Penh’s Thai Huot Grocery, Tuol Kork branch.

And for supper, we had this delicious bacon pizza! Homemade, of course. When it comes to making pizzas at home, my husband takes the cake!

[youtube]http://youtu.be/rEF8q3og08A[/youtube]

That’s my husband adding his special touch on the smoked bacon pizza – toasting the cheese.
The crust is wonderfully soft and light. I don’t know what’s his secret to a soft and light crust, something that I should find out if I were to make pizza myself. I also love the burnt taste of cheese.

Mmmmmmmmm. I can still smell and taste it!

Home made tea recipes

As a passionate cook like me, you are sure to love whipping up your favorite meals or treats for your family and friends. Every cook has their own signature dish or speciality, whether it’s baking delicious batches of brownies, or sizzling a steak to perfection, but not many people know how to make tasty and fragrant herbal teas off the top of their heads.

Making tea may not require a lot of complicated cooking skills, but it does require knowing your spices and herbs well in order to brew up something brilliant. Not only do these beverages make a nice change from sipping on English Breakfast Tea while you play at FoxyBingo.com and watch TV, but they also make a great drink to offer at dinner parties or even afternoon teas. Below are a couple of interesting tea recipes you might be keen to try.

Chai tea

You will need:

2 cups of water

4 black tea bags

1/4 cup honey

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cinnamon stick

5 whole cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1 pinch ground nutmeg

2 cups milk

Directions:

In a saucepan, bring the water to boiling point before adding in the tea, honey and vanilla. Next, season the tea with the cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, ginger and nutmeg. Allow the tea to simmer for 5 minutes before pouring in the milk to make the tea creamy. Remove from the heat and drain to get rid of any leaves. Serve hot and enjoy!

I love spiced chai with just the right amount of cinnamon. I make them myself.

Hot Cranberry tea

You will need:

4 cups of water

12 ounces of cranberries

2 cups white sugar

2 oranges, juiced

2 lemons, juiced

12 whole cloves

2 cinnamon sticks

Directions:

In a saucepan, mix together the water and the cranberries and bring it to the boil. After simmering for half an hour, add in the sugar, orange juice, lemon juice, cloves and cinnamon sticks. Leave the tea to simmer for another half and hour before straining. Pour into mugs and enjoy.

How to tell if an egg is fresh or not

We love to have an endless supply of fresh eggs at home because use them all the time. My husband loves them scrambled and/or over easy. I use them to bake cakes, and other pastries.  So here’s how to tell if an egg is fresh or not:

A simple and easy way to test the freshness of an egg.

Easy, yes? There’s also another way that was taught to me by mother but that’s for the next post.
I forgot where I took this illustration from (my bad) so whoever recognizes this and knows the source, please let me know so I can give proper attribution to the owner.

Food Trip Friday 089: Mixed berries tarts

I’m back again after being out of commission for more than three weeks. Nothing new here on my side except that, apart from baking breads and tarts, I’ve taken up sewing on the side as well. I’m teaching myself, thanks to the tuts that I found over the net so I’m excited!

As to baking, well, here… it was a spur-of-the-moment idea. The husband had the cravings, raided the fridge and announced to me he’d like to have some tarts for tea. Of course, being the enthusiastic baker that I am, I said yes right away.

Nothing fancy. Just some raspberry jam and my version of the pastry shell… et voila!

Up close with the tart… I used a mixed-berries jam for the filling. You can actually see the strawberry seeds. There were also some black currant and raspberry bits in it. My husband thought the pastry was too thick but to me they’re fine. The recipe I used, by the way, is the  result of  my earlier experimentations in the kitchen using various recipes for pastry shell that I found online.

The pastry is baked till golden brown, buttery and crumbly… just the way I like it.

 

Food Trip Friday 086: Omuraisu

Today is Friday, the day in the week where anything goes at home. I don’t have much in the pantry and too lazy to go out (who wants to with the scorching heat?) to shop so I just made this omuraisu, the Japanese rice omelet that my former housemate taught me how to make several years ago. So here’s my brunch:

Omuraisu is a Japanese dish and a fun way of preparing/eating rice. If your kids are picky or fussy, make them omuraisu.


 Omuraisu is basically an omelet stuffed with fried rice with ketchup as topping. The Japanese sure know how to make omelet and rice fun to eat! Traditionally, chicken is added in the fried rice but you can have anything you like. I use bacon bits all the time and they’re delish. The ketchup really works well with the fried rice. It’s a very simple dish and quick o make and very filling, too. The only problem I have is that I cannot wrap the egg neatly – the rice spills out – and ruin the omelet.

Food Trip Friday 083: Dulce de leche brownie

I’ve been experiencing chocolate and caramel cravings lately and as a result of that I’ve been making all sorts of baked goodies during odd hours. This week’s cravings resulted in this – dulce de leche brownie:

Sweet, creamy, fudgy dulce de leche brownie!

I used David Lebovitz’s recipe for this yummy treat. Although my brownie doesn’t look much and far from the ones that come out of David Lebovitz’s oven, I can attest to its fabulous flavour – the fudgy, chocolatey taste of the brownie plus the oh-so-luscious caramel is a heavenly combination.

***

Luscious dulce de leche!

Many years ago, my Venezuelan friend challenged me to make Venezuelan dishes. Out of that challenge, I was only able to make one, the corn-based snack called arepa. Actually there was one more thing that was in the list that I wanted to make but didn’t get around to doing, a dessert called arequipe, also known as dulce de leche. Dulce de leche is a favourite dessert in all of South America. It is basically sweetened milk cooked slowly until it is thick, golden brown and have a taste similar to caramel.

I made a big bottle of dulce de leche from two cans of milk and, oh my, when I tasted it, I almost ate half of the contents! It is sinfully sweet and sticky and I guarantee you you’d be licking your spoon. Yes, it is that gooooood! I use my homemade dulce de leche as palaman (spread) for my homemade hot pandesal or store-bought nom pang (local baguette). I discovered that vanilla and chocolate ice cream flavours taste more exciting with a dollop of dulce de leche as topping. Promise!! I didn’t stop there, naturally. I had to look for more ways to use dulce de leche and that’s when I came across David Lebovitz’s recipe. Next in my to do-list is dulce de leche banana bars. Can’t wait.

Food Trip Friday 081: Homemade mango pie

I recently began baking pies again and I realised how much I miss making them. I still carry that childhood dream of mine of picking fresh fruits {apples and mangoes, particularly} from my backyard and making pies out of them on a nice summer day. I was inspired by my mum who makes really delicious pies with flaky, buttery crusts.

My homemade mango pie. Yum!

These days, I bake pies mostly for my husband and I, and for a few friends who come to the house for a visit every now and then. Once I started baking, there’s no stopping me. It’s not really doing my diet any favours but, waddaheck, I don’t want to miss a slice of yummy pie. After all, I’m the Queen of Wishful Shrinking, ain’t I? Crazy, eh? Lol.

Anyways, so here’s one of my favourites – and my husband’s, too. A homemade mango pie. Mango fruits are in season here now and they are getting cheaper as we go deep into the summer. A missus has got to take advantage of that!  I thought I’d be facing a challenge in making the pie crust since I haven’t done this in years, but with the help of online recipes, it was a smooth-sailing experience. For me, the pie crust is as important as the filling and it should be flaky and buttery. Period.

Without further ado, here’s my before and after shots… as if, lol. The top crust is a bit burned but to me it adds more flavour.

Lovely mango pie. I wanted to make a peach-mango pie but couldn't find canned peaches in my neighbourhood grocery store.

Food Trip Friday 080: Bicol Express

Also shared here:

A few days before Christmas I had a strong craving for Bicol Express. After a few minutes searching for a recipe over the Internet, I found one that is not too fussy and easy to follow. It took less than an hour to make this:

This is my version of Bicol Express, mildly hot and spicy so that my husband can enjoy it, too.

Bicol Express is pork bits (or slices) cooked slowly in coconut milk, with ginger, onions, chopped lemon grass stalks, and lots and lots of red chillies. I could not find alamang (preserved shrimps) in the market so I just added more fish sauce for seasoning. Also, I reduced the amount of chillies recommended in the recipe by 50% because my husband could not tolerate very hot and spicy dishes. The result is a creamy dish with mild heat. Needless to say, I broke my dieting regimen all over again. The amount of rice I consumed with this dish is just unforgivable, lol.

Food Trip Friday 079: Birthday profiteroles

Also shared at (first entry):

Two weeks ago we celebrated my husband’s birthday at home and with just the two of us. It has now become a “tradition” of sorts between us (and possibly will continue on as we build a family) to make the celebrant choose what he/she wants to do on his/her birthday instead of throwing a party (which he/she doesn’t really want, anyway) that we usually do on this occasion. So my dear husband just wanted to have a barbecue dinner with beer. As simple as that. And I thought of something to give him as a surprise, nothing fancy but at the same time, something that he would love and remember. Hence, the birthday profiteroles I baked for him:

My husband's birthday profiteroles. I would've wanted a luscious chocolate sauce pouring down on them but birthday boy likes chocolate frosting - made with dark chocolate and cream - so be it. It's his birthday, anyway 🙂

It took a lot of guts on my part to make them, to be honest. My husband and I love profiteroles and I’ve been wanting to make them for ages but the idea of making the choux pastry is V-E-R-Y intimidating. Who wouldn’t be? This pastry is classic French and very light that if the (very delicate) dough isn’t treated properly then everything will be a disaster.

Profiteroles with vanilla ice cream and chocolate frosting. Next time I'm going to try the choco-custard filling and dip it in chocolate ganache. Obviously, we are a couple that's big on chocolates 🙂

I made a leap of faith at that moment because it was something that my husband wanted for his birthday and not a birthday cake. Just imagine how many times I prayed to the baking gods and goddesses to guide me in preparing a perfect dough to make the choux pastry. Once I’d gathered all the ingredients and started the procedure, this home-baker actually found it doable! It only takes confidence. Kumbaga, palakasan lang ng loob! So these were the results (above). And as mentioned above, be careful with the dough, otherwise, they will puff prematurely and deflate once taken out of the oven. I was glad my profiteroles came out just right the first time. Was it beginner’s luck or what? You be the judge.

P.S. There are lots of recipes to choose from online.

Food Trip Friday 078: Oh my, siopao!

Oh my, indeed! I had this huge craving for siopao after watching a TV program about Hongkong. One of the things featured were HK’s culinary delights. I was so drooling at the food, especially the steamed buns that I was compelled to make some tonight. As a first-timer, I was understandably nervous about the outcome. I found a simple and easy to follow recipe online and checked my cupboard for the ingredients. Luckily, I had all the items needed to make siopao.

For some reason, they all turned brownish after steaming. But it didn’t have any effect on the taste 🙂

It took a lot of kneading work on my part before I was able to produce a smooth dough. I also had a bit of issue with the yeast – it took more than the required ten minutes to rise – so I concluded that this might be the reason why I had the same issue with my dough. Nevertheless, with lots of patience and arm strength (for kneading!), the siopao came out better than I had expected. I am happy that they turned out alright! I also made a batch of toasted siopao, one of the more popular food snacks in Naga City, that I sorely miss.