Blueberry Chiffon Cake

This must be the longest record for a hiatus I’ve had from the food blog. I still am very in touch with the foodie scene (self-professed claims aren’t very convincing, but my foodie friends can assure you of this!), I’m just getting lazy and not writing about them. That, plus uni is getting more and more hectic as the years go by… Although my procrastination is still going strong wahaha! I just spent the past few days watching Masterchef almost non-stop, which I suppose is the catalyst behind igniting my desire to come back here to gratify a need for some self-indulgent blogging. I was kind of gawking at how little blogging I have done regarding nutrition or dietetics, considering I’m spending the bulk of my time (supposedly, anyway!) studying about it. I’ll get to it soon, so stay tuned with some fascinating insight and commentary about nutrition!

I wanted to share a recipe that I love: a blueberry chiffon cake that my now sister-in-law taught me. It is a delightfully light, fresh-tasting cake, that, if executed well and with some TLC, will not fail to impress. I did not have a chiffon pan at the time so it doesn’t look as tall or appealing as it should be, but it still tasted amazing. I was also too lazy to make the cream but the cake still tasted really good without it.

It is a recipe from a Japanese cookbook, and the cake certainly exudes the dainty and delicate art of Japanese cake-making, although my version is an unfortunately crude attempt, as my pictures show… The blueberries impart a soothing blue tinge to the cake as well as a subtle fruity aroma.

Now’s my chance to shine with some insider knowledge about food science! The recipe states not to grease the cake tin, and the reason behind that is so that the cake can ‘grip’ on to the sides of the pan to achieve maximal height, which would not be possible if you greased it with oil and make it too slippery for the poor batter to hold on to as it wants to rise to fame in all its chiffony goodness. That also probably is the rationale behind the existence of that ‘holey’ thing in chiffon tins: the more support the cake gets, the higher it rises. I think, anyway. Which is the reason behind the dismal heights achieved in my cake. No matter, it still tasted good.

Although the batter was grey, the cake’s flavour was anything but dull! I hope you enjoy making and eating it as much as I did 🙂

 

Blueberry Chiffon Cake

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

3 egg yolks

100g blueberries/strawberries (about less than one punnet (125g).

30g sugar (1/8 cup granulated sugar)

5 cc. (mL) lemon juice (1 tsp)

Few drops of vanilla oil (essence)

50 cc. (mL) vegetable oil

80g plain flour (low viscosity) (2/3 cup flour = 80g)

2/3 tsp baking powder

Whites:

4 egg whites

1/10 tsp cream of tar tar

60g sugar (¼ cup)

Surface cream:

250mL fresh cream (whipping cream)

25g icing sugar (10 tsp)

10mL orange liquer (preferably) or brandy

Decorations: crushed almonds and mint

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 160°C (gas).

  2. Cook blueberries, sugar and lemon juice together in a small saucepan. Simmer a little till berries start to leak and colours the syrup slightly. Cool down completely.

  3. Sift baking powder and flour into a bowl.

  4. Put egg yolks into a large bowl. Mix with an electric beater/whisker till fluffy and creamy coloured (you may need to tilt the bowl to make it whip). Add in blueberry syrup and mix it in with a hand whisk.

  5. Put egg whites and cream of tartar into a separate bowl. Use a (clean) electric beater at low speed first, then progressively go towards the highest speed, while also simultaneously gradually adding sugar, beat till thick and fluffy (if you move the whisk up out of the egg white, the tip of the egg whites droops down very slightly (ie. Not horizontal, not drooping down a lot). Soft peaks.

  6. Using a hand whisk in one direction, gradually pour oil into the blueberry and egg yolk mixture, gradually adding one at a time and mixing till fully incorporated.

  7. Add flour and beat briefly on electric beater till combined (can use the beaters used to beat egg whites, even without washing).

  8. Place 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter. Use a hand whisk to fold it in slowly and gently till combined (with the whisk at right angles vertical to the bowl, use a circular motion to make one semi-circle of the bowl in one direction, first surrounding the edge of one half of the bowl, then cutting through the middle. Repeat on the other semi-circle). Add a further 1/3 of the egg whites and continue folding in using the same technique, this and subsequent times using a plastic scraper to fold it in to combine (‘cutting’ the half with the ‘blade’ of the scraper). Add the last 1/3 and again fold in with plastic scraper.

  9. Prepare a chiffon tin (do not grease). Use a spoon to put a layer to cover the base of the chiffon cake tin (to prevent large bubbles). Pour the rest in, careful not to let any onto the edges (otherwise it will burn).

  10. On a piece of cloth on a hard surface (counter), bang the tin 5 times to get rid of big air bubbles.

  11. Place the cake in the oven for 40 minutes, or until skewer comes out clean.

  12. Invert immediately on a metal rack and leave to cool.

  13. Ice with chilled surface cream and decorate with berries.

Cream

Place icing sugar and cream into a glass bowl. Place this bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cold water. Beat this with an electric beater on low speed for about 1 minute till a little thick. Add 10mL of orange liqueur/brandy, then beat again on electric beater starting with low speed, then gradually high speed, beating until thickened (thick but still liquid enough that if you lift up the whisk, some cream should drop down). Chill. Frost cake with a flat spatula.

Source: Yoko

Rating: *****

Jackfruit Seeds – pine, ash wood, and mahogany

My three month lull in recipe-posting has come to an end, that is, if you can call this a ‘recipe’. It’s probably more of an introduction to an interesting food, than a recipe per se. Come to think of it, that marshmallow post wasn’t a recipe either. Whatever. 

jackfruit-seeds-1

If you love the flavour of banana, mango, papaya, lychee, longan or pineapple, you’d like jackfruit, because all these fruits have been likened to the multifaceted flavour of jackfruit. But the good thing is that it doesn’t have that gross mushiness of banana and papaya, or the tart tongue-burning effect of pineapple. The texture is a bit harder to describe, but I can tell you, if you are fond of peeling off the little peely cheese sticks, one by one, you’ll love doing that to jackfruit. So imagine strands of peely cheese, with a mouthfeel not unlike firm longan. Jackfruits come in an interesting morphology: the main eating component are lunar-shaped units, which, after gauging out of the very thick skin (a process which would require the barrier of gloves, as they produce an incredibly sticky ‘resin’), leaves many strands of fibrous thingies still attached and resembling a bed of anemone, edible, but requiring a knife to cut out and also very chewy). The main drawback lies in the aftertaste: a rather pungent odour that lingers for a day, and on rare occasions, jackfruits can have a foul, detergent-like taste.

 jackfruit-seeds-2

The seeds are also edible, surprisingly (isn’t googling random things so good as a procrastination tool?!). They are similar to chestnuts, but less moist, less starchy, less sweet and a little more savoury/acidic, with a hint of jackfruit notes. Every time you eat a jackfruit sac, one of these little seeds, with a beautiful pinewood-like pattern, are encased within. Pop it out of the membraned pouch and rinse with water; there will still be a sticky film of slime, that’s okay. Place in a container, storing it for several days (up to two weeks, and the seeds were still fine, but they become a washed-out ash wood grain rather than the deep pinewood when fresh, as the photo juxtaposes), until you have accumulated enough seeds to cook with. I boiled them in water for 10-20 minutes (more towards 20, if you like it a bit more soft, and the acidic flavour also fades with more cooking)… but apparently you can roast them or stud them on rice in the rice cooker (works well), and used in the manner of potatoes for mash or curries.

 

jackfruit-seeds-3-waterA most peculiar thing happens to the water it’s boiled in: it turns to a crimson liquid like it’s for X-ray developing, which must have leached out of the mahogany-hued inner skin (isn’t it amazing how the colours of the seed can exhibit features of such a variety of wood species?) (I don’t think X-ray developer is actually crimson-coloured. Being a dental assistant, I should know it’s actually brownish. But oh well, first imagery that came to my mind for crimson water was X-ray liquid. My mind is rather strange).

 

There are two layers of husk: the tough outer husk that you need to peel after it’s cooked (which is usually effortless with just your hands, because it usually cracks a little when dried raw (as you can see from the photo above)), and the thin skin that’s edible, albeit chewy (like the peanut skin).  

 

A word of warning though: like baked beans, it is recommended this food is consumed in well-ventilated areas. 😛

jackfruit-seeds-4jackfruit-seeds-5 

The Art of Marshmallow Roasting

This is the one food activity that evokes heartfelt nostalgia within me. What Hong Kong child would not have most looked forward to the grand finale of a barbecue; vigiliantly guarding the precious bag of marshmallows to use on the lingering flames when the honey smearing, meat spearing, and carnivorous rituals are over? While we are at it, I might as well describe the way Hong Kong people barbecue. Unlike the famous backyard ‘barbies’ of Australians, this activity usually occurs in countryside parks with concrete or brick stoves already at your disposal. Instead of a portable grill with metal racks to lay the meat on, the stoves in HK become the enclosure of a mini campfire, and instead of one or several cooks assigned the cooking flipping with tongs to serve to the idle guests, each person gets to be their own chef with a two-pronged fork used as the tool to hover individual pieces of meat over the open flames. Honey is liberally slathered over the pieces of meat when they are nearly done. Surrounded by nature, returning to the most primitive form of cookery; it is truly bliss.

img_2997

I have a comical narrative to tell. On one of these BBQ trips in Aberdeen Country Park (next to the reservoir), the family was happily engaging in the usual Hong Kong barbecueing, blisfully unaware that our most anticipated part of the feast was about to be stolen away, literally. The vigilant marshmallow-guarding must have been put on a temporary hold, because the next thing we knew, a monkey furtively grabs the bag of marshmallows, briskly fleets away, and climbs up a tree, all the while biting onto the plastic packaging with its mouth. I think that must be the most memorable and amusing story anybody could have with the usually predictable barbecue!

I digress. There are two ways of eating roasted marshmallows: by themselves, or in s’mores. If you’re looking at the title and sniggering at the thought of being taught how to stick a marshmallow onto fire, there is actually a technique. The type of roasted marshmallows I adore is the one with a skin charred to crunchy perfection, with the golden brown casing craftfully peeled layer by layer, thus maximising the crusty satisfaction able to be derived from your marshmallows. Apparently that is also the technique my mother did as a child. If you are one of those who prefer their marshmallows a-la-sucking-out-gooey-liquid style, I suggest you stick to your own devices (suspending the marshmallow a long long distance over the fire results in a minimally browned skin with totally liquefied centres, but you would need a lot of patience!).

The type of marshmallow does not matter too much, although the larger it is, the easier it is to char the skin without softening the entire marshmallow. Mini marshmallows would also serve this purpose well, although it would defeat the enjoyability of the process.

  1. First, maintain a low, steady fire or mildly red-hot embers of coal. This will ensure the greatest chance of not burning the marshmallows yet enough heat to effectively singe the marshmallow exterior without rendering an overly soft core. If you don’t want to bother with a barbecue, you can roast marshmallows to the same effect on a gas stovetop: on the lowest setting, but place the marshmallow farther from the flame.
  2. Spear one or two marshmallows onto the barbecue fork, piercing through the entire marshmallow (this is important, or else the marshmallow will just fall out).
  3. Hold marshmallow over fire or coals, poised 0.5cm above the heat source, basically as close as possible without any risk of ashes tainting the soft little gem/catching fire.
  4. Rotate marshmallow when the underside has been tinted golden brown. Continuously do this until the whole marshmallow is speckled with this crunchy crust (much like hardening molten lava!), charring as fast as possible whilst minimising the melting on the interior.
  5. Remove the utensil from the fire. Very carefully, gently pinch the tip of the marshmallow with your fingers (beware, it is hot! If you dont have tough skin, be sure to cool the marshmallow first), and slowly pull this casing away from the still-solid core. Immediately devour.
  6. Repeat steps 6 and 7, until a tiny little spheroid not capable of any more shedding remains. Of course, char this little morsel until golden brown as well! You could probably do two to four lots of skin peeling if skilled.

Another delicious way to enjoy molten marshmallows is the smore. While this has remained much of a hidden secret from Australians, it is hugely popular in the U.S. I was introduced to s’mores when I was at a Brownies camp, Year 5 in Hong Kong, where we encircled the campfire while eating gooey marshmallow sandwiched between melting chocolate digestive biscuits. Hmm… all my favourite flavours conglomerated into one dessert!

Roast marshmallows, not using the peel-layer-after-layer method, but the one that yields totally liquefied centres without burnt skin. Place a slab of milk chocolate on a digestive biscuit (peanut butter also adds variety). Alternatively, use chocolate digestives. Pull the marshmallow out of the stick and place onto the digestive biscuit, then squish the other biscuit on top, thereby spreading the goo’s surface area. The residual heat would melt some of the chocolate. Enjoy this crunchy, gooey, chocolatey treat hot.

Stir-fried Chicken with Creamed Corn (粟米肉粒飯)

Here is the first recipe on my blog: it’s been a long long while but I am just not into (or good at) taking pictures of food, which seems so essential for a food blog. Yes, I’m such a lazy food blogger for not taking pictures of food, but really, why don’t we just leave that to the professional food stylists?! The dish isn’t particularly photogenic either so why don’t you just imagine pieces of tender chicken swimming in a pool of hot, creamy corn sauce (I’m not so eloquent at making things sound appetising either!). I thought about just plonking on any picture I find on the net, but even with referencing there might be copyright/plagiarism issues there, so I’ll stay on the safe side. Here’s a picture nevertheless.

This is the first dish I learnt to cook, about 5 years ago when I was 14, and my mother decided I needed to do some housework. I actually rather enjoyed cooking, even back then, not really a troublesome chore to me. I’m so glad that I was ‘forced’ to cook once every week, because now I’ve got hundreds of recipes in my collection (including many family recipes that create exemplary versions of dishes (I know, I know, everybody says their mother’s cooking is the best…), and a firm grasp of Chinese cookery.

I cooked this for 5 weeks in a row before I moved on to another dish, because it’s so simple, fool-proof and yet yields good results much like the cha chaan tengs in Hong Kong. I think I got really sick of it after that, but now the humble dish has earned a place in my repertoire. Don’t expect anything spectacular: it is just an ordinary-tasting, homey dish that would bring any HK expatriate back to hometown. N.B. The “Rating” is totally arbitrary and by no means definitive (purely a personal preference thing) with 5-star meaning a delicious meal, and 1-star indicating mediocreity. Don’t worry, I won’t post any recipes less than mediocre (i.e. failures)! The “Source” is the person I got the recipe from.

If you have bland taste buds like my mother, then you’d complain that sesame oil, garlic, shallot bulb and chilli will only overpower the natural sweetness of the corn. If you have normal taste buds and like to eat intense foods (like me), feel free to be generous in adding as much as you like. Also, use half creamed corn half corn kernels, otherwise you’ll end up with a blob of gooey cornstarch mass lacking in corny crunch (no pun intended). Adding egg will also make a nice texture change, little strings of eggy er, strings.
The hard part about the dish is to avoid overcooking the chicken. You won’t have much of a problem with thighs, but chicken breast is very easy to overcook, so don’t cook the chicken too much when you’re browning it, and don’t simmer for too long.

Last time I looked on the internet there was only one English internet site that mentioned of this dish. Maybe Cantonese people consider it to be a tired cliche (given the ubiquity of this dish, I would have thought there would be at least one fellow food blogger who would talk about it!). Oh well, I shall be the second person on the net to extol the virtues of this dish (in the English sites anyway)! I found a nice article from a Caucasian’s perspective (and a recipe much like mine. I like how he mentions the Chinglish to name to describe the dish :P).

Without further ado, I introduce to you:

Stir-fried Chicken with Creamed Corn (粟米肉粒飯)

400g chicken breast or thigh (diced, marinated lightly)
310g can creamed corn (or half of 420g)
310g corn kernels (or half of 420g) (drained)
2-3 slices of ginger
(optional-if you want the light flavour of corn, don’t add) 2 cloves garlic, 1 large shallot bulb, 1 red chilli (deseeded)  (minced), sesame oil, 1 egg, other vegetables (eg. zucchinni, carrot, peas etc.)

Method
1.Heat oil in wok over high heat.
2.(optional) Fry optional vegetables until tender. Remove.
3.Fry ginger (and garlic and shallot bulb etc.) for a little.
4.Add chicken and stir-fry for 1-3 minutes until browned, occasionally leaving it without stirring to char a little.
5.Pour in creamed corn (scrape clean) and corn kernels. Stir-fry for another minute or until chicken is done, simmering over medium heat.
6.Make a thickening sauce of 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water. Stir into sauce until thickened to desired consistency. Alternatively, beat 1 egg and gradually pour in a steady stream into boiling sauce while stirring slowly.
7.Serve with rice and (optional) garnish with spring onion and Knorr soy sauce.

Source: Mama
Rating: ****

Marinating chicken for stir-fries

After months of procrastination I decided I should probably add some recipes to this so-called ‘food blog’ that I have been neglecting. 😀 What kind of a food blog doesn’t have recipes in it?!

The vast majority of what I cook are family creations or heirloom recipes from my parents’ friends. I am all for maintaining the integrity of ingredients: so you won’t see many fancy game jus or lobster mousse or other flashy dishes with a never-ending list of ingredients. Besides, it must be the trend now, with all those “4 ingredients” cookbooks around. Not that I am being a sheep, but that’s just the way I have rolled for a long while. Simple is best.

Since my family is of Chinese heritage, the cuisine they cook and have taught me is mainly Chinese. Consequently, it will be the feature cuisine in my blog. Recipes that were acquired from family members will be categorised under “Family Recipes”.  I think Asian food is, in general, tastier than Western food. They know how to harmonise flavours and texture subtly to great effect, creating a huge array of dishes with unique characters, harnessing the myriad of seasoning and ingredients that the continent was lucky to have been endowed with. Delicate yet tasty, the food is not only pleasing to the mouth, but leaves a feeling of comfort and satisfaction after you have eaten: that is the hallmark of Asian cuisine.

However, I do enjoy the occasional cultural change, often taking inspiration from other food blogs, and when I foray into the culinary art of other cultures, I aim to be authentic in doing so. Having said that, I am not one to stick to a recipe rigidly, adding a personal touch with a few tweaks here and there won’t mean a kitchen disaster, in fact they are sometimes the springboard to new inventions. So you will see a lot of “(optional)”s scattered about in my recipes; just do as your instinct guides you to, anything that takes your fancy, add or omit anything you like. Follow recipes as a guideline, not by the book.

I wanted to post a recipe on 米肉粒飯 (Stir-fried Chicken with Creamed Corn) but then I realised all my recipes just say “marinated” with the assumption everybody knows. I thought I should start from the very beginning so that it’s all clear. So here is a ‘tutorial’ on how to marinate chicken breast or thigh for Chinese stir-fries. This is just a standard marinade for generic Chinese stir-fries, specific recipes may call for different flavourings. If using whisky, it imparts a beautiful smoky-sweet fragrance on the chicken that the usual choice of rice wine lacks.

Typical standard marinade for stir-frying chicken

For about one fillet of chicken breast or thigh: salt (not needed if using soy sauce) and white pepper, 1 cap (teaspoon) of Johnnie Walker whisky or Chinese rice wine, 1 tbsp light soy sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil,

(optional) 1 tsp sugar, 1 tbsp cornstarch, 1 tsp baking soda, oyster sauce, black pepper, worcestershire sauce, ginger juice, garlic, spices, herbs, honey etc.

Method

Wash, dry, trim excess fat and cut chicken into desired size/shape.

Apparently baking soda tenderises the meat if you apply it for 15 minutes, but you have to rinse it off and then add the other ingredients afterwards.

Mix pieces of cut chicken with the above ingredients in a bowl, marinate from a day in the refrigerator to 10 minutes, covered (longer means greater flavour absorption).

Marinating Chicken Breast