Monday, August 31, 2009

Pandan Madeleines (and Happy Merdeka Day!)

Happy Merdeka Day everyone! Today is Malaysia's national day, so it only seemed right to include a post on my blog which is tinged with the flavours of the country. I lived in Malaysia for 5 years and my parents still live there, and although I was a fussy eater while growing up there, I now miss and crave the amazing food there. One of the things that I miss the most is the abundance of pandan flavoured goodies there, including my favourite spread; kaya, made with coconut, eggs and pandan extract. So the other day I decided to whip up a batch of madeleines, these sweet little sponge cakes, which were flavoured with pandan essence that I picked up at the Asian supermarket and I served them with some kaya. Unfortunately I haven't had the time to make my kaya from scratch yet, I swear I will soon though!

You can find a lot of pandan flavoured sponge cakes in Asian supermarkets here in Sydney, easily spotted due to their neon green appearance, but good kaya is a little hard to come by. There is one quite common brand called Nonya brand which is sold in a glass jar which my brother swears he has seen them using in Mamak for their roti kaya (I'm not sure how much I believe this), but my favourite one so far is a canned version I found in Cabramatta which is Yeo's brand and is by far the smoothest, eggiest, coconutiest(?!) version I've found off the shelf. I was a little disappointed with the pandan flavouring I bought, it was very weak and watery and not green enough! Definitely getting a much stronger paste version next time.

I believe the madeleine recipe is one that my brother found which is very old and works a charm. We fell in love with these little sponge cakes after coming across this recipe while having cake cravings and at the time we just threw the batter into a patty cake tin and it still tasted amazing. It's by far the most reliable madeleine recipe I've come across, other ones I have tried can be too dry and dense. In fact I'd tried so many bad madeleine recipes that I gave up for a while and my almost new madeleine tin gathered dust at the back of my cupboard until I decided to switch back to this great recipe. I was delighted that this mixture did develop a small bump on the tops, something which I have never managed to get with other recipes. It may have been small but there was definitely a bump!

The only thing you have to take care of with this recipe is to not heat up the mixture too much, or you will cook the egg in the batter enough to make the whole mixture taste and smell very eggy. But done right, these madeleines are super light, fluffy and moist with a lovely golden layer on the outside that is fantastic to sink your teeth into. And serving it with kaya enhances the great pandan flavours and had me very pleased with the combination.

Pandan Madeleines
(makes about 24 madeleines)
2 eggs
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 cup plain flour, sifted
150g butter melted
Pandan flavouring (essence or paste)

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease madeleine tin very well, then dust lightly with flour. This will make it easier to remove the madeleines later (I think I can thank Rick Stein for that tip).

Fill a wide, low tin with hot water, large enough that you can place your mixing bowl inside it and the water level goes up the sides of the mixing bowl by 2cm. Combine eggs and sugar in the mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until the mixture is very light and fluffy and has tripled in volume. (If the water starts to get cool, you can top it up with a bit more hot water, just take care that its not hot enough to scramble the eggs, you'll know if this starts to happen because the mixture will start to smell very eggy)

Add pandan flavouring to taste. Since mine was the weak watery kind, I used almost a tablespoon and it was still quite subtle. If you are using the paste you will need a lot less. Add sifted flour and carefully fold into mixture. Finally, stir in the melted butter until just combined.

Carefully spoon mixture into the moulds filling them about 3/4 full (a bit less than a tablespoon). Bake for 10 minutes or until the tops of the cakes are just turning golden. Immediately and carefully remove the madeleines from the tin and cool on a wire rack.

Peering into the oven: I see bumps!
Can be served on their own dusted lightly with icing sugar or with kaya. I swear I will do a recipe for homemade kaya soon! Best eaten straight out of the oven, but if you really want you can cool them completely and then place in a very airtight container for the next day.

The only thing I wish I could have improved was the colour of the madeleines, they really should be much greener from the pandan flavouring, so don't be alarmed if yours turn out greener if you use a better pandan flavouring than I did. The flavour was lovely though, pandan always works well in a light sponge cake (I was originally going to do a typical pandan chiffon cake but didn't have time to find a good recipe since my mum had lost hers :( ), so it was just perfect for the madeleines. I'm not sure why but the heat from the hot water really helps create the perfect texture and flavour in the cakes.

Happy Merdeka Day!

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Sweetcorn & Rosemary Polenta Bread

I don't post savoury recipes often. This is probably something you have noticed if you have visited my blog before, as I have an insatiable sweet tooth that I seem to have inherited from my father (he loves his fruit & nut chocolate bars). But sometimes I come across a savoury recipe that I just have to try, and this is probably more likely to happen if the recipe includes sweetcorn. Yep there goes my sweet tooth again. But it's still a savoury recipe I swear!

I was on the fence about whether I would post this recipe or not. I didn't really adapt the recipe much from the original, since I haven't baked much with polenta before. But it was very tasty, (especially the cream & parmesan crust on top) and I served it with some spiced grilled chicken breasts and a haloumi salad. So I thought I would share it with you anyway, if only to prove that I eat other things besides scones! I was shocked to discover that A had never heard of haloumi before, and so I insisted on frying some of that lovely squeaky cheese up for him. He loved it (of course) and we had to squabble over who would get the last piece of precious golden haloumi.

Sweetcorn & Rosemary Polenta Bread
(recipe from

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
60g parmesan cheese, weighed then grated
1/4 cup cream
2 cobs sweetcorn
2 cups coarse polenta (cornmeal)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
6 x 3cm rosemary stalks, leaves separated and finely chopped
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 220C. Use the pastry brush to lightly grease a 20cm square baking dish or tin with olive oil. Line the bottom of the dish with baking paper. Combine the cheese with the cream in a small bowl. Stand the cobs on the board and, using a fork, rake the kernels to split the skins. Cut the kernels from the cob. Put the polenta, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl and mix well.

Add the corn kernels to this mixture.Put the rosemary, buttermilk and eggs into a medium bowl and whisk well. Make a well in centre of the polenta and tip in the buttermilk/egg mixture. Use a wooden spoon to mix it well to form a wet batter.

Tip or spoon the batter into the prepared dish. Spread the cheese/cream mixture over the batter. Bake for 30 minutes. Test by inserting a skewer - the bread is cooked if the skewer comes out dry and clean. Remove from the oven. Allow to cool in the dish for at least 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack. Cut the polenta bread into 16 slices and serve as is, or toasted with butter.

The bread went very well with the rest of the meal, it appealed to the side of me that likes to shred up my food with my hands, I had a little bit too much fun tearing up chunks to get to the kernels of juicy sweetcorn on the inside. It was a little bit dry the day after, so I would recommend serving it fresh out of the oven. And I ran out of parmesan otherwise I would have made the top even cheesier!

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Golden Syrup Scones

I'm sorry! I know I've posted far too many scone recipes on this blog, but I swear this one is worth it. I thought I had completed my quest for the perfect fluffy scone after having much success with the CWA scone recipe but this one is even better. After enjoying some delicious lamb shank pies and date tart at Gazebo, Lisa and I couldn't resist stopping by the British Lolly shop to buy rhubarb flavoured lollies and my favourite, Lyle's Golden Syrup. This stuff is liquid gold I tell you. I went on the hunt for some good recipes to make the best use of my precious syrup and found this winner. Fluffy cream scones with golden syrup added to the dough, as well as brushed over their warm tops to give them a caramel-like glaze.

Golden Syrup Scones
(from Donna Hay Magazine)
2 cups self raising flour
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup (I definitely recommend Lyle's Golden Syrup if you can get it!)
1/2 cup (125ml) milk
1/2 cup (125ml) single cream
1 tablespoon golden syrup extra for glazing

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C and line a baking tray with paper. Sift flour and sugar into a bowl and mix a little with a butter knife. Make a well in the centre, place the golden syrup in and then pour the milk and cream on top. Mix lightly and quickly with your butter knife until just combined.

Place on a lightly floured surface and press out until about 3cm high. Use a 5cm scone cutter to cut out the dough. This recipe cuts about 8 scones for me.

Place on your lined baking tray so they are just touching and bake for about 20 minutes or until the scones are cooked through and light golden brown on top.

Once they are cooked, remove from the oven and brush the tops of the scones generously with the extra golden syrup.

Allow to cool for a few minutes and then slice in half and serve with cream (and extra golden syrup if you are a nut like me).

To be honest I really don't know if these will be as nice if they were made using the dark golden syrups you get in the supermarkets here, since the Lyle's stuff is so much lighter and less bitter. A proclaimed these to be the best tasting scones I had ever made and proceeded to scoff down two huge ones with a ton of cream, which is high praise from a well-known anti-sconner. I absolutely fell in love with them. The golden syrup makes them smell and taste amazing, especially with their sticky, golden tops. I loved them so much that I made them again and almost used up the entire jar of syrup on these scones alone. And I would do it again!

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Chicken & Moghrabieh with a Greek Yoghurt Sauce

I recently went on a bit of a shopping spree at The Essential Ingredient. And by spree, I mean that I got a raised eyebrow from the shop assistant. It's a very dangerous place for me to be left alone in...yeah I went a little bit nuts! One of the things that I picked up was a huge bag of moghrabieh, a large couscous made from semolina. After trying it for the first time at Fouad's secret dinner, I was instantly enamoured with the texture of these little pearls. I had no idea what I was going to do with it, but I couldn't resist buying some for myself.

Uncooked moghrabieh
I originally wanted to just do some sort of creamy sauce with smoked chicken, but I had a bit of a failure with the grocery shopping that day and had to throw together whatever random bits I could get my hands on. I am probably mixing random foods from random cuisines that don't really go together, hopefully it's not insulting to anyone! ...But it tasted good, so that was enough to make me and the boy happy! A bit of Greek yoghurt added the creamy texture and tang that I was looking for, without being too heavy or rich. I also wanted to add broadbeans but had to substitute it with frozen peas since I couldn't find any at the time. The sauce may have been random, but was happily gobbled up, and would be good with any sort of pasta if you're not able to get your hands on some moghrabieh.

Moghrabieh with a Greek Yoghurt, Chicken & Pancetta Sauce
6 chicken thighs, sliced into chunks (I originally wanted to serve this with 200g smoked chicken)
100g pancetta
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled & diced
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
6 sage leaves, or whatever fresh herbs you prefer
1 cup Greek yoghurt
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup white wine (I used a sweet sparkling one)
1 cup baby peas (or broadbeans)
1/2 cup shaved parmesan
1 cup moghrabieh (or a serve of any other pasta of your choice)
freshly ground pepper & salt

Heat some olive oil in a large frying pan or pot over medium heat. Fry your onions and carrot first, allowing them to sweat and soften without burning. If you want to get your onions a bit caramelised, turn up the heat and add a teaspoon of sugar but make sure to stir it regularly to stop it from burning completely.

Put another large pot filled with water on the stove to boil for the pasta. Once the onions and carrot are very tender, add the garlic and fry for a few more minutes. Add the chicken and pancetta and cook for 3 minutes or so, until the chicken is sealed.

Add some salt then the moghrabieh to the boiling pot of water. Cook in boiling water for 20-25 minutes until tender. Add the sage and the chicken stock and simmer for a few minutes, then add the wine and allow the sauce to reduce by about half (arouns 10-15 minutes). Reduce the heat to low and stir in the peas and yoghurt. When the mograbieh is ready, drain water well and then stir into the sauce along with the parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

The sauce itself is quite light but the moghrabieh was surprisingly filling. I'm still in love with their texture, pop in your mouth morsels with a smooth, soft exterior which yields to a firm middle with a bit of bite to it. I couldn't only manage the smallest serving for dinner, so this meal lasted us for ages! I have a feeling that my 1 kilo bag of moghrabieh will take me a very long time to finish, which makes it seem like good value :)
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Monday, August 24, 2009

Phu Quoc, Cabramatta (and other yummies)

I get a wide and varied mix of reactions from my friends and acquaintances when they find out I'm a food blogger. The most common is *blank stare*..."What's that?", and my favourite type is when they clap their hands with glee and then insist on taking me to eat at all their favourite places. This is exactly what Julie did, and Julie is awesome. She eagerly joined me for high tea at the QVB tea room and has been planning to take me to Cabramatta for ages, as it's one of her favourite eating spots and I am so unfamiliar with the area since it's hard for me to get to.

Burrgah ring!
It's an unnaturally hot and sunny day for winter, so it's just perfect for a day of wandering around and eating on the streets of Cabramatta. When we meet. I find out that Julie has brought me the cutest gift ever, a burger ring from the design markets! Heehee so awesome and cute! She got a sugared donut ring too :D Thanks Julie!

I'm letting Julie lead the way today, since she comes here a lot and I'm practically a tourist. Before we can ever make it to the restaurant she wants to go to for lunch, we can't resist getting a styrofoam cup full of icy cold, fresh sugarcane juice flavoured with kumquat. I am so addicted to this stuff, I get it whenever I get the chance and there's a machine grinding out fresh sugarcane juice practically every 10 metres down the street we are on. Happiness! I love this juice, particularly the extra tang from the kumquat, and now plain sugarcane juice like they have in Malaysia seems so boring without it!

We turn the corner off a busy street and end up at Phu Quoc. Julie tells me she doesn't know anything about the popularity or reviews of the places around the suburb, but she and her family have always been coming to Phu Quoc and it has been around for ages. It's bustling and full of families enjoying their lunch and there's food all over the tables which is always a sign to me that people are enjoying their food.

Banh Hoi Cha Gio - Steamed rice noodle with spring rolls ($13.00)
Apologies if I get the names or descriptions wrong, the menu was vast and confusing so I just noted the ones that Julie pointed at as she ordered so I'm hoping I got the right ones. She goes to different restaurants for their best dishes and she loves the spring rolls here since they are actually made using the same rice paper rolls in the photo at the top of this post that you use for fresh rolls. They're super super crunchy and crisp and are full of porky goodness.

Prawn crackers, fresh basil, beansprouts and lettuce

Banh Hoi Chao Tom - Steamed rice noodle with sugarcane prawns ($14.00)

The other things we are oldies but goodies. Moist fried sugar cane prawns with vermicelli noodles wrapped in rice paper rolls is always a naughty favourite of mine. I always gnaw on the sugarcane and suck the moisture out of it, why not?

Goi Sua Thom Thit - Jellyfish salad with pork and prawn ($15.00)

I love Vietnamese salads. My two favourites are their sliced chicken salad and this pork, prawn and jellyfish salad. This is a good one, with slivers of freshly cut onion, carrot, greens, herbs, jellyfish, pork, prawns, chillis, and the yummy garlicky fish sauce dressing that I love. We eat it on freshly fried prawn crackers and my favourite thing in the salad is the long skinny pieces of stringy young lotus stem.

Turns out we actually ordered enough food for 3 people, so we have tons leftover which we pack into takeaway boxes and amble our way back onto the street to walk off our lunch and search for some sweet things.

Pandan waffles ($1.50)
I've always been obsessed with pandan flavoured things and Vietnamese pandan waffles are one of my favourites to get. It's weird because you can get pandan flavoured everything in Malaysia and I never was tempted to get any of it while I was there, but now that I'm in Sydney and you don't see much pandan stuff around, I crave it like nothing else. So I knew I was getting some of these after walking past about 20 glass cases like this selling them.

We get them freshly made, which means they're piping hot, fluffy with a crisp outer layer and bits of shredded coconut throughout the batter. I know from experience that these are best while they're still hot so we snarf it down quickly.

Custard cake machine
By this point I'm starting to feel a little nauseous from all the food (although it was consumed over a fair amount of time with much walking in between) but I couldn't resist getting some fresh custard cakes after watching them being made with with this machine.

Custard cakes ($4.00-5.00 I think?) (Julie offered to be the hand model for the day haha)
Again these were only good while they were still warm, and I was happy to polish these off with Julie. Golden little cakes moulded into cute shapes which were fluffy with a waffle-like texture and filled with a light custard. It was only due to my champion dessert stomach that I could fit these in. My mouth kept saying yes even though the rest of me was saying no!

We wander around all the 2 dollar stores while Julie is looking for odds and ends and also visit a few of the many Asian grocery stores around. I'm in heaven because there are so many random things that I miss from Malaysia that I spot and can't resist buying. At some point we decided we were thirsty, so rather than being sensible and drinking water, we stop by Yummi Sweets and get ourselves random icy drinks.

Along with a huge menu of shakes and othe drinks, there's also a bunch of random sweets to choose from and you can select 6 or so for one cup and they mix it up with ice and coconut milk. It's super sweet and rich and guaranteed to give you a sugar high. I have no idea what goes with what so I randomly point at whatever including avocado, pandan jelly, barley, jackfruit, basil seeds and longans. It's weird in an awesome kind of way, though the chunks of avocado would probably be better if they had been blended up into the drink rather than left as chunks.

My rainbow drink ($3.00)
We walk all over the place in an attempt to walk off some of our eating, but I still end up going home completely stuffed, with an extremely heavy bag full of goodies. I managed to find many random brands of kaya that I haven't seen in Sydney before so I had to give them a taste test. So far I've only tried the canned Yeo's brand one which was surprisingly good for a non-homemade version.

Some of my haul for the day
One thing I had to get, even though they were expensive were some of these mooncakes. The mooncake festival is coming up soonish and mooncakes are starting to pop up in Asian stores everywhere. I never liked them as a child, finding them too dense and pasty, but these days I can't get enough of them. The reason I wanted these ones in particular was because the fillings had crunchy melon seeds in them, a favourite of mine.

Mooncake with pandan past, melon seeds and a single egg yolk
Usually I would get the lotus paste ones but I noticed they had pandan paste mooncakes and I had to get them. I must have had pandan on the brain because I also got pandan essence for baking. Only thing I didn't have time to look for was some fresh pandan leaves!

Anyway I'm trying to make my way through these mooncakes very very slowly. They're not cheap and they're not very good for you! But they taste so good. I'm not usually the hugest fan of the egg ones but this one isn't too eggy and it goes well with the sweet pandan paste.

Finally, one of my favourite things that I bought were these flower tea blossoms from Zen Garden. I've seem them around before but these were some of the cheapest I've seen and they were just lovely. They smelt wonderfully sweet and floral and I couldn't wait to take it home and place it in a pot of hot water to watch it blossom.

Ooh it's starting to open up!
Times like this I really wish I had a clear glass teapot, no matter how inconveniently fragile they are. In the pot it goes with the hot water and it opened up fairly quickly to reveal a red flower on the inside.

See the red flower petals inside...
The tea itself was as nice to drink as it was to look at. Sweet with intense floral flavours and I drank up the whole pot by myself. A wrinkled his nose at it when I showed him the pot but had a taste and thought it was really nice. I'm regretting my decision to only buy two blossoms, must go back and get more!

So pretty!
If only I lived closer so that I could shop and eat at Cabramatta all the time. Sigh. Anyway, this super long post is for Miss Julie, thanks for the lovely day hanging out and eating ourselves silly! Now I have to take her for some Malaysian eating :)

Phu Quoc, Vietnamese & Chinese Restaurant
Shop 11, 117 Corner John St and Hill St
Cabramatta NSW 2166
(02) 9724 2188
Phu Quoc on Urbanspoon

Zen Gardens Vegetarian Healthy Food
Shop 2/48 Hill St,
Cabramatta NSW 2166
(02) 9723 8876‎
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