Monday, 30 August 2010

Chocolate Pear Cake

One of the good things about my work is that I don't work Mondays. Hence, no 'Monday Blues'. I could just veg out or bake a cake.

It was a perfect day here in Melbourne. I was motivated to do something creative and delicious! I started off thinking that I'd bake us a chocolate brownie. But that's too boring. Everyone can bake a brownie! I needed something challenging. Something that would expand my baking repertoire.

I remember eating this chocolate bar that has tiny pieces of pear in it. It tasted fantastic. Chocolate and pear are a match made in heaven. I did some research, and the recipe I've got is a mixed of several different recipes. But the core of the recipe started here. I adore this blog, the writer is simply a genius.

I added a frosting of Chocolate Buttercream Frosting to polish off this decadent cake. It was so good I had to stop myself from eating the whole frosting.

I also doubled the ingredients to make a two layer cake.

Chocolate Pear Cake

Adapted from Elra's Baking

1 cup unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

6 eggs

200 grams dark Chocolate

1 1/2 cup plain flour

2 1/4 baking powder

pinch of salt

2 Beurre Bosch pears

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease two 9" pans. You can either melt the chocolate in a microwave or a bain marie. I own neither so I melt in the sink filled half way with boiling water. Sift together plain flour, baking powder and salt.

Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time until well combined. Add the melted chocolate. At this point I have abandoned my hand held mixer and used a spatula. Beat the chocolate into the egg mixture until well combined. Add the flour mixture in two portion until just combined.

Put the sliced pears into the pan and pour the cake mixture in. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 - 40 minutes.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

3/4 cup milk chocolate, melted

180 grams unsalted butter

2 1/4 icing sugar

Beat the butter until light and fluffy. Incorporate the icicng sugar until well combined. Add the melted chocolate.

The fun part is when you get to go crazy frosting the cake hehe


Sunday, 22 August 2010

Hey Jambalaya!

Dear Ms Blog,

I'm sorry I haven't updated for a gajillion years! This is due to a new hectic schedule that sees me waking up at the break of dawn. It is so painful but so worth it as the job means more monies. Money means a brand spanking new cast iron frying pan!

YEAH BABY! Come to meeehhhhhh..

I have been lusting over this baby for ages and every good thing they have said about it is true. The food tastes better and the heat is distributed so damn evenly which just makes me a happy girl. Although I think I may need a chiropractor to give me a wrist massage every now and then. It is heavy.

So to christen this new bad boy, we decided that a very Creole Jambalaya would be just the thing. Went to the market this morning and it was fresh food everywhere my friend. I think Spring is early :)

The meal was scrumptious. I just need to remind myself every time I feel like dining out, that we have Michelin star meals in the comfort of my own home.

Adapted from Taste website

2 tbs olive oil
150g (medium) smoked sausage, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 onion, chopped
1 red capsicum, seeds removed, diced
1 carrot, julienned
1 red chilly, sliced thinly
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika*
250g basmati rice
2 bay leaves
500ml tomato passata* or canned crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 cups (375ml) chicken stock
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
500g green prawns, peeled, de-veined, tails intact
3 tbs chopped flat-leaf parsley
6 shallots (spring onions), sliced

Heat oil in a large frying pan and cook the sausage until golden on both side. Set aside. Fry the onion until soft, add the garlic, chilli, capsicum, carrot, sausage, and rice. Cook for 3 minutes or until fragrance. Add paprika, cayenne, bay leaves and crushed tomatoes. Cook for 2 minutes and add the stock. Season well. Bring it to a boil and turn the heat down to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Add prawn, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Add the parsley and stir well.

Oh Jambalaya!

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

FotW: Waratah

I have never seen this flower before I came to Australia. Australia is a land teeming with its own unique blend of flora and fauna. For this week's flower of the week, I introduced the gorgeous Waratah Flower.

Aren't they beautiful? I might get some tomorrow to liven up the apartment :)

Salmon and Leek Quiche

I love all kinds of quiches, tarts and pie. Savoury or sweet. I also love how easy they are to whip out. We had this quiche the other night and it was delicious. Although the asparagus is technically a spring vegetable and is quite expensive at the moment. I thought it was worth it. It was the glue that bind this whole quiche together.

I am so looking forward to making lots of pies and quiches this spring/summer. All the fresh produces in abundance waiting to be incorporated into all these lovely dishes. Alas, it feels so far away. Especially after the gloomy day we had today. FortuneCat and I got rained on, all the way back home from work. Even though we were cold and wet, I love the fact that we have each other and I wouldn't change a thing ;)

Salmon and Leek Quiche
Adapted from Homelife Website

1 sheet (25cm) ready-rolled shortcrust pastry
1 tbs wholegrain mustard
20g butter
2 leeks, white part only, thickly sliced
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
300g hot-smoked salmon, coarsley flaked
3 eggs, lightly whisked
1/2 cup (125ml) thickened cream
1 tbs coarsely chopped dill
1 tbs fi nely chopped chives

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line the quiche dish with pastry and trim off excess. Place in the fridge for 15 minutes to rest the pastry.
Cover pastry with baking paper and fill with pastry weights. Blind bake for 10 minutes. Remove paper and weights and bake further for 6-8 minutes or until golden. Reduce the temperature to 160°C. Spread the base of the pastry evenly with mustard.

Heat up the butter in the frying pan. Add the leek and cook for 5 minutes or until soften. Remove from heat.

Chop the asparagus coarsely and combine with leek and salmon. In a bowl, with a balloon whisk, whisk eggs, dill and cream. Pour over salmon mixture and bake for 45 minutes or until filling is just set. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Happy Baking!

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Lamb stew

Our new dining table and chairs are getting a workout since we got it last week. After the Malaysian Feast, we had Holly and the Chapman sisters over for dinner. I decided that I needed to cook something with minimum prep time. So we had Lamb Stew with Mashed Potato. I had some pumpkin leftover so that was just roasted as a side.

We love having stews during the cold months of winter. This dish is hearty and a great comfort food. The best thing is that your stove will do all the work for you!

Holly made a decadent Chocolate brownie for dessert. It was so good, I have to remember to ask for a recipe next time.

We enjoyed the evening immensely. Nothing says comfort like a big plate of Lamb Stew and good company :)

Lamb Stew
Adapted from Stephanie Alexander, Irish Stew

8-10 thick cut lamb neck or shoulder chops
freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
2 large parsnips, peeled and cut into big chunks
3 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
2-3 cups beef or lamb broth
1 sprig thyme
2 sprigs rosemary
2-3 stalks of parsley

Add the oil into the pan and brown the lamb on each side well. Set aside.
Use the remaining oil and heat up a big stainless steel pot on the stove. Add the onions and allow it to soften and become golden. Add the garlic and fry until aromatic or for 2 minutes. Pour any juice or oil from the pan into the pot. Add the browned lamb and carefully pour in stock to cover the pot content. Tie the thyme and rosemary spring with a piece of string and tuck it into the pot. Reduce the heat and simmer for an hour. Usually in a traditional lamb stew you would layer the meat and vegetable together. I like my vegetables with a bit of a bite to it. After an hour add the vegetables into the pot and continue cooking for another hour.

With a metal skewer test whether the meat and vegetables are tender. When tender remove pot and allow stew to settle for about 15 minutes.

I served the stew on top of the mashed potatoes I prepared and finish with chopped parsley on the top.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Good coffee and absenteeism

Yes, yes...I have been neglecting Saya Nak Makan. I just can't write anything at the moment. I think I'm having writer's block (LOL) and lacking enthusiasm from exhaustion.

FortuneCat and I have been searching for that great cup of joe lately. Having been burnt, literally by coffee made by incompetent hands. Yes we have become one of those coffee snobs. I think I understand why those people are snobs now. You are paying good money for a cup of coffee. The last thing you want is to get burnt and left with a bitter and disgusting after taste in your mouth.

Melbourne is well known for the plethora of good food and drink. If you ever find yourself on a visit to Melbourne, don't forget to try the coffee! We found this review site online and have began drinking our way around town. Our first choice Brother Baba Budan did not dissapoint. When we arrived the place was packed with the morning rush waiting for their caffeine hit. The decor was... interesting, I kept hoping the chairs on the ceiling won't come crushing down on me.

My long Macchiato was admittedly too hot to drink at first, but after the coffee cooled, I was hit by a caffeine party in my mouth hehe...

FortuneCat and I agreed that they really need to replace their lids on the take away cups. We were both doused by our coffee a lil' :(

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Friday is Date night!

Sometimes on the weekends, FortuneCat and I dress up like two cool cats and go out for a date :)

A couple of months ago, we moved to the beautiful suburb of Ivanhoe. Its pretty awesome here, leafy green surrounding and a charming shopping street. There are many cafes and restaurants we want to try. So last Friday we went to Va Tutto. It is dubbed a Modern Italo-Australian Restaurant in a review by the Epicure.

I had high expectations for Va Tutto and the meal we had that night did not let me down. It was a gastronomical experience. The prices were pretty reasonable for a fine dining restaurant. We were definitely not complaining because everything that we ordered was absolutely delicious.

I had the Potato Gnocchi with Lamb Ragout and FortuneCat decided that he would have the special that night which was the Wild Barramundi with Caramelized Soy Sauce, Fishcake and Asian green. The Gnocchi was great but the star of that night's meal was the Barramundi. Maybe it was my Asian tastebud but I ended up finishing FortuneCat's dinner for him, poor thing hehe :p

The Gnocchi, was little fluffy pillows of potato coated in tomato sauce and chunks of lamb. I don't think I've ever had Gnocchi this good but I think next time I would get the entree size instead of the main. The wild Barramundi tasted really fresh and the delicate balance of the Caramelized soy sauce and fishcake made this dish perfect. It was satisfying and by the end we were pretty full.

But not too full for this!! :)

From the very start we know we had to have dessert! We are both sweet tooths and I asked FortuneCat to choose our sweets for us. We had the Lemon Tart with caramelized top and Lemon Ice Cream. The only thing I can come up with when describing this taste sensation was 'orgasmic'. Yes, it is that fantastic. Other Lemon Tart would find it hard to top the one we had at Va Tutto! I would come back here just for this treat.

I wish I had a better camera to show how beautiful the food was - we just took these on an iPhone.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

The Tale of Shara's Chaotic Kitchen

Last night I cooked a Malaysian feast of epic proportions! It was quite silly of me tho. I went through the day thinking it'll be fine. I don't need that much time to cook this stuff. Right?


For all those novice cooks out there to put three main dishes + dessert: Chicken Rendang, Satay Sauce, Stir fried Vegetables and Sago pudding with Palm sugar and coconut milk on the table you need the WHOLE day. Or else you can just think about getting hired help or something. I started cooking at about 3 pm and my guests were coming at around 7 pm. I am the world's worst organiser but somehow I managed to cook everything from scratch! I think I would have done really well on one of those pressure tests on MasterChef haha..

I am quite AWESOME. I should crown myself Queen of all dinner parties! Why do I indulge in this self gratification, you ask? Its because I cooked and prepared four complicated dishes without any help! OK OK..I should stop gloating hehe.

I think the longest and most tedious part of the adventure was preparing all the ingredients. I never realized how much shallots these dishes required. Seriously how did the women of the days long gone manage to whip all of those goodies? Just imagine all that effort put into crushing and grinding the spices. I just turned my trusted blender ON and there it goes...crush crush, mix mix, grind grind...BBRRKK BRRKKK! Haha...thats the sound of my food processor nearly dying on me from a rock hard galangale (make sure you get young fresh galangale). Right in the middle of the most crucial part of preparing the food! I almost cried and was at the verge of giving up and wanting to just roll around on the kitchen floor crying out I've had enough! Yes I am that dramatic hehe...

OK enough venting! On to the food. After all of that preparing I finally started cooking...The Rendang was happily bubbling away on the stove. It didn't look that attractive but the taste was sublime! I remember how long it took my Mother to cook the rendang, everyone has their own preference of how wet the rendang should be. I like mine quite dry, I think all the flavour tend to have developed more at this stage.

This was particularly true with the Satay sauce. At its earlier stage it tasted quite wrong! I started to worry and thought about how much ingredients I have wasted if it didn't turn out OK. With the help of my trustee Kitchen Sidekick (FortuneCat) I persevered and adjusted the seasoning (4 tablespoons of sugar + 2 pinches of salt). It tasted great after a little bit of tinkering, especially the next day when we had it for lunch.

Unfortunately with the whirlwind of it all, I forgot to take pictures of the end product of my cooking adventure. I think I was distracted by the food and the cuteness of our friend's baby, Alicia. The only photos we managed to take was of the rendang in the wok. Oh well.. next time!

This picture not nice lahh...

Don't be disheartened by my rantings. Despite the challenges everything turned out great. My guests were happy, full and satisfied. There's nothing I love more than to cook for my family and friends. I look forward to more dinner parties. Perhaps with more experience my adventures would be more of a breeze.

Chicken Rendang Serves 5

You can ask your butcher to cut the chicken for you. It would make your life so much easier :)

Spice paste
5 Bird’s Eye Chillies
5 Fresh Red Chillies
5 stalks lemongrass, finely sliced
3 Candlenut
1 ½ inch ginger
1 inch galangale
1 inch fresh turmeric
10 shallots
4 cloves garlic
½ teaspoon black peppercorn

Key Ingredients
1.5 kg Chicken, cut into pieces of 12
2 pieces of Assam skin (Tamarind skin)
2 tablespoons Kerisik
2 1/2 cups thick coconut milk
2 tablespoons chilli paste
2 turmeric leaves, finely sliced
3 Kaffir lime leaves, finely sliced
Salt to taste

Stir fry Ingredients*
4 shallots, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 stick of cinnamon
1 star anise
3 cloves
2 cardamom seeds

Grind all the spices for the paste into medium to fine paste. In a big heavy stainless steel pot or wok, heat the oil. When the oil is hot, stir fry the * ingredients until fragrance for 2 minutes. Then proceed to frying spice paste, fry it to a point where the oil starts to separate. Toss in the chicken and ensure the paste covers the chicken and cook it until the chicken cooked slightly.

Pour the coconut milk and let boil, add salt, Assam skin and kerisik. Cook with medium heat. The Rendang should be simmering slowly. Lastly, scatter the kaffir lime leaves and turmeric leaves and stir. Cook for 2 hours depending on how wet or dry you would like the dish. If you like yours with more gravy I suggest that you turn off the heat after an hour.

I will post the recipes for the other dishes in the future.

Selamat Malam!

Monday, 19 July 2010

Let the party begin!

One of my favourite things to do is cooking and hosting a dinner party, brunch etc for friends and family (in Malay we call this makan-makan). Malays are known for their hospitality. Any visitors to their household wouldn't be disappointed and always end their visits with smiling faces and happy bellies. I think this trait just runs in my Malay blood.

Last Saturday, we were graced by the special delivery of our very first dining table! We were so excited, spying like kids for the delivery truck every chance we've got. I sound positively aunty-ish getting my highs and thrills from the arrival of a furniture. We are especially proud of this latest addition. Smooth, black top with intricate carving on the side. It is also accompanied by six beautiful Burgundy chairs in velvet. This dining table is fanciful, chic and elegant at the same time. Worthy of our high standard ;)

With the lack of a working camera, I am just going to post pictures via my phone camera. So, it wouldn't be the best of photos. Drat it!

To protect our new purchase from scratches and what not we also bought a beautiful set of Chinoiserie place mats. The explosion of colours and Chinese-esque design provide a beautiful contrast to the smooth ebony of the table.

I applaud our decision to save and buy pieces that we would really love instead of just getting the cheapest mass produced furniture.

I'm cooking a Malaysian themed feast this week so we are having a couple of friends over for dinner. Should be fun!

Saturday, 17 July 2010

FotW: Ranunculus

I love flowers. I think a world without flowers wouldn't be worth living in.

Flower of the week post is a must, yes?!

Coincidently, a couple of months ago, I planted some cute Ranunculus bulbs that would sprout into a myriad of colours, petals and gorgeousness! I can't wait till spring as this is when the buds will flower. Hopefully!

Feeling blue? Put on a pretty frock !!

When I was a kid, I was pretty much a tomboy. I disliked any girly paraphernalia. My Mother's attempt to make me a lady would pretty much end in dismay. I can't race the boys in those silly dresses!

Scallop edges, lace trimming? I would have no idea what that is 5 years ago. Now, my taste has changed dramatically. I love dressing up, funny how people change. The weather in Melbourne is all gloom and doom lately. Every day is pretty sombre, you would be lucky if we get one sunny day in a week. I can't wait for summer! Sunshine and milkshakes. Summer dresses and blue sky!

After browsing around, I decided that I must at least own one of these gorgeous dresses to complement the warm summer days ahead.


Which one would you wear while eating a delicious cooling ice cream?

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Sustainable lifestyle

A couple of weeks ago FortuneCat and I watched The Cove over dinner. FortuneCat warned me before we sat down to watch that it would be bloody and sad. Having seen a couple of bad movies lately I was willing to give this one a try. We love documentaries, how bad could it be?

It was heartbreaking! I cried shamelessly, blubbering about the poor dolphins and porpoises. My heart went out to Ric O'Barry, struggling with guilt to undo what he has started. Before The Cove, dolphins were just another sea mammal to me. I always thought they were cute but it has never generate any real interest before. I know that Whales were hunted and various consumer products are produced from the subsequent act of cruelty. I never knew the same treatment has been done to their smaller cousins.

Prior to this, I decided I must help somehow. What do I do? I wished I could have given tangible donations to make a difference. The whole dolphin/whaling issue just creates a moral dilemma for me. The movie mentioned that the Japanese Government told its fishermen that the Dolphins are pests that dwindled their lucrative fishing industry. Its ridiculous, but it just struck a cord in me. Its a never ending cycle. Is it ethical for me to stay with my current diet or should I be a vegetarian? Would it help with the cause?

I chose to give Vegetarianism a try. FortuneCat decided that he would help me in my endeavor as well. Bless him! Anyways, so the first week of being a vegetarian I faltered and started to crave steak and chicken fillets. Everything around me tantalised and tempted. How does a girl that has eaten meat all her life stop craving meat? It was doomed to failure. One night I confessed to FortuneCat that I can't do it anymore. Shame on me :(

I think the best way to help is to create awareness. Since watching the movie, we have told friends and family about The Cove. Every little contribution helps and in the end it would lead to big things. I believe whole heartedly that everything in moderation is the best way to create balance. I also realized that I need to try and live a more sustainable lifestyle i.e; be a conscious consumer thus reducing my ecological footprint. Support local farmers and avoid factory farms that resulted in incredible pain and suffering for the animals being farmed.

I hope anyone that come across this humble blog would stop by The Cove's official website here and eventually watch the eye opening documentary The Cove.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Ideas and motivation

I was a bit shy about showing my first entry to Mr FortuneCat. He's a really good writer, while I'm just a dabbler.

Being Mr FortuneCat, he insisted on reading it of course. He loves the idea of me having a blog so that he could follow it as well hehe. He also said that we should encourage each other to write something at least once a week. We also decided that we need a deadline to further motivate our blogging experience.

I already made a virtual friend via Bloggers. Her blog is wonderful, she's a really funny lady and from what I can see a very talented cook. Now I've got a Malaysian Cook Mentor if I ever need some tips regarding Malaysian cooking :) Can?

Oh I mentioned I would love to cook more Malaysia dishes. So I have made it an aim to cook it at least once a month. I had this idea awhile ago. Since I'm married to an Australian man, I think the best way to tell him about Malaysian/Malay custom is to have a Malay theme night! Where we would dress up in Traditional Malay costume, eat Malay/Malaysian food and play Malay/Malaysia Trivia. Hmm..Mr FortuneCat needs a Baju Melayu. Wah mesti handsome like this guy! :p

Shara's Resolution

I've had this account since September 2009 but has never officially entered a post. I know its a bit late for New Year's resolution but its OK. For my own purposes, I am quite keen to compile a list of things I want to do and achieve.

Here goes:

1) Write here at least once a week
2) Cook more Malaysian food
3) Start on some craft work
4) Learn French
5) Do more volunteer work
6) Save for Europe
7) Achieve at least 3 of the compiled resolutions above

Hmm...I think that's most of the things that I would really love to get done. Maybe all I needed was a blog and a concrete to-do list to give me a kick in the butt to get things going! We'll see :)