Meyer Lemon Soufflé Pudding Cake

It has been a long time since I tried my luck at baking. My previous baking fiascos (see my [in]famous Moomin Pancakes that were showcased in Buzzfeed’s 50 Lessons That Moomins Can Teach You About Life and my failed lemon Moomin biscuits) left me so discouraged I couldn’t stand the thought of more failure in the kitchen.

That said, lately I have been craving lemony desserts and when I found this beautiful Lemon-Soufflé Pudding Cake recipe in Bon Appétit I decided I had to give it a go. I actually had the real deal from the precious luncheonette, Maurice, in PDX. So I was excited to see if I could replicate the exact textures and flavours of the restaurant version. Although the recipe doesn’t indicate the specific use of Meyer lemons, I used them because I love the sweet fragrance of Meyers.

Something usually goes wrong when I try to follow a recipe. And with all the steps involved in this one (although quite easy to follow), there were plenty of instances things could have gone wrong. That said, everything, and I mean everything turned out perfectly! I’m super chuffed and quite pleased with myself. The result was a light and fluffy cake on top and the bottom layer a sweet and tangy lemon pudding.

Lucky for hubs’ new workmates,  instead of eating all 8 servings I packed several samplings of the pud for him to share. Have you got a favourite lemon dessert recipe? If you do, please share it in the comments section below!

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Summer Cabbage Slaw

I have been experimenting with various combinations of vinegar and mustard to create the right mustard vinaigrette for our taste. If you’re tired of salads drowning in dressing, here is a light and easy cabbage slaw recipe using red wine vinegar and Dijon mustard that I’m sure you will enjoy! This recipe generously serves 2 if you’re having the salad as a main course.

cabbage slaw

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1-2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt, to taste
  • 1/2 cabbage, shredded
  • 1/2 carrot, julienned
  • 1 generous handful of curly or flat leaf parsley (I prefer curly for this), finely chopped
  • 1 medium jalapeno (or 1/2 green pepper), seeded and thinly sliced

Preparation:

Before we begin, you will need a medium to large salad or mixing bowl. I like to start with the dressing and add everything as I go so that the cabbage can macerate while I prep the other ingredients.

  1. Combine mustard and vinegar and whisk together until combined.
  2. Add salt to taste and mix. If you have a salt mill, give it 4-5 twists and that should be sufficient.
  3. Slowly add olive oil while whisking, until incorporated but be careful not to mix the oil too much as it will result in a bitter taste.
  4. Slice cabbage and put into bowl. Repeat for carrot, parsley and pepper.
  5. Toss the salad so that all the ingredients are evenly coated. Let sit for 15 minutes and enjoy!

You can add more oil, but I would not recommend more than a tablespoon for this recipe or the salad will be too oily.  The amount of dressing you’ll want to make is dependent on the size of your cabbage and the amount of the ingredients you would like to use. As a general rule, I use 3 parts vinegar to 1 part mustard and adjust the olive oil accordingly.

Black Sesame Pudding

Another favourite dessert of mine that seems impossible to find in shops is black sesame pudding, better known to Japanese dessert lovers as kurogoma purin (黒ごまプリン). Black sesame pudding, like almond tofu, is a popular dessert of choice in Taiwan and Japan. This type of pudding should not be confused with Spotted Dick or traditional Christmas pudding as the consistency is completely different!

kurogoma puddingI’m not keen of thick custardy puds so I decided to add more milk than cream (3:1) and it came out just how I like it — light and creamy and not too sweet! So if you prefer a thicker pudding then this recipe may not be for you.  In addition, as I did not have access to black sesame paste, I used ground black sesame and this resulted in a lighter coloured pud but still with lots of sesame-goodness! This recipe serves 6-8 people depending on the size of your pudding cups.

black sesame puddingIngredients:

  • 1 packet (28g) powdered unflavoured gelatin
  • 1.5 tbsps cold water
  • 100-120g sugar
  • 690ml skimmed milk
  • 230ml double cream
  • 150g ground black sesame seeds

Preparation method

  1. Soften gelatin by pouring cold water in small bowl and sprinkling gelatin over water; set aside to soften.
  2. Pour milk, sugar and ground sesame seeds in medium sized saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent milk from burning. As soon as sesame mixture comes to a boil, add softened gelatin and stir to combine.
  3. Remove saucepan from heat and whisk in cream.
  4. Allow mixture to cool for 4-5 minutes — add ice and water to a larger bowl and set bowl containing mixture in ice water.
  5. While custard is cooling, set out verrines/pudding cups.
  6. After cooling, whisk custard for 4-5 minutes then pour mixture into verrines.
  7. Cover containers and place in refrigerator to set until firm (I let mine set for about 3.5-4 hours).
  8. Serve cold, garnished with a dollop of cream and fruit or topping of choice.

Linguini with Clam-Free Sauce

The joys of travel not only include tasting local delights but also discovering new recipes that you can take home with you. In our case, whilst flipping through the December 2012 issue of Vegetarian Times we discovered a linguini with clam-free sauce recipe which I have tweaked a bit to suit our tastes and to serve 2 instead of 6 people.

linguini with clam-free sauce

Ingredients:
half packet uncooked linguini
20 grams arame (substitute with hijiki if arame is not available)
1 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
150-200g fresh shiitake/King Oyster/assorted specialty mushrooms, cubed/sliced
120-150ml dry white wine
15ml fresh lemon juice
240ml unsweetened soy, rice, or macadamia nut milk (I used soy milk)
21g (1.5 tbsp) nutritional yeast
30g (2 tbsp) margarine, optional (we used real unsalted butter…tsk, tsk)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp pine nuts
1.5 tbsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish (optional, but I’m against anything that doesn’t truly add anything to the dish or must be placed carefully with the use of tweezers)
salt and pepper to taste
Get Cooking:
  1. Cook pasta in boiling water according to package directions, add a dash of olive oil to prevent pasta from sticking.  Drain.
  2. While pasta is cooking, soak arame in 60ml hot water.
  3. Heat oil in pan over medium heat.  Add garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly (take care not to burn the garlic).  Sauté mushrooms 5 minutes, adding up to 60ml water (if needed) to prevent sticking. Then add wine, and lemon juice and sauté for another minute.
  4. Add soy milk, nutritional yeast, margarine (if using), red pepper flakes, and arame with soaking liquid; season with salt and pepper to taste.  Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Avoid drying out your sauce by turning the heat down when adding soy milk.
  5. Divide linguini among two plates; top with sauce; garnish with parsley (again, optional) and pine nuts and enjoy!

The Perfect Dessert

Having lived in Taiwan and Japan, I’ve had heaps of almond tofu (杏仁豆腐). But it seems this delightful bowl of tastiness is hard to find in even the nicest Chinese or Japanese restaurants outside of Asia. The name can be a bit misleading as it is not made of tofu but is more a cross between jelly and pudding. I guess you could say the texture is that of a light panna cotta (with much less cream). So don’t go turning your nose up at the sight of the word tofu!

Almond tofu in my favourite round verrines served on new Moominmamma pie plate (from Moomin Celebration series).

I’ve been experimenting with various measurements of milk, cream and gelatine and I’ve finally got it down the way I like it!  Silky smooth, light and creamy, not too sweet and very almondy.  For the recipe you will need 4 x individual pudding basins, a small mixing bowl, measuring utensils and a fine meshed sieve. Preparation time is less than 15min. ‘Cooking time’ is approximately 2hrs.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 packet (14g) of unflavoured gelatine
  • 6 tbsp boiling water
  • 1.5 to 2 tbsp sugar
  • 350ml skimmed milk
  • 50ml double cream
  • 15ml/1 tbsp almond extract
  • seasonal fresh fruit /mixed tinned fruit

Preparation method

  1. Melt sugar in boiling water, stir until dissolved and quickly add gelatine to the mix.
  2. Add milk and cream and mix well.
  3. Add almond extract and mix well.
  4. Pour the mixture through a fine meshed sieve into your desired basins.
  5. Place in the fridge to chill for at least two hours, or until completely set.
  6. Add some fruit and we’re in dessert heaven!

Chawanmushi Delight

I’ve been experimenting with various chawanmushi (茶碗蒸し) recipes for the past few weeks and after making a few modifications to various recipes I found online, I finally came up with one that will hopefully make your tummy as happy as it does mine!

And if you’ve never been keen on the idea of silky smooth savoury egg custard, I highly recommend you give this a try as you don’t often find this in Japanese restaurants abroad.  It’s one of my favourite traditional Japanese comfort foods.

Before we begin, here are some tips to making chawanmushi that I wish I had known before I embarked on my egg steaming adventures:

  1. The size of the eggs you have will determine how much dashi (soup stock) you will need. The general rule is 3 parts dashi to 1 part egg.  You can break the egg(s) into a measuring cup to calculate the amount of dashi needed.
  2. Strain the egg mixture through a sieve. This is the trick to obtaining silky smooth chawanmushi.
  3. Pour the mixture into the cups slowly to prevent all the ingredients from floating to the top and also to prevent bubbles from forming. You can also place lighter ingredients at the bottom of the cups and work your way up with heavier ingredients.
  4. Wrap a tea towel around the lid of your steamer to prevent water droplets from  falling into the cups. Alternatively, you could wrap each tea cup/ramekin with aluminium foil (not cling film).  I have never tried the aluminium foil but I hear it works well.  I have tried it with cling film (silly me) and it collected buckets of water! Ufufu.
  5. After steaming on high heat for 2 minutes without the lid, be sure to turn the heat down and steam on low heat for 25-30 minutes. If you can hear water boiling or the cups clinking inside the steamer, the heat is too high. The key here is low heat or else you’ll end up with a greyish bubbly mess like I did until I realised the importance of this!

-Serves 2-

You’ll need a steamer, tea towel for the lid, fine-meshed sieve, flower-shaped vegetable cutter, 2 tea cups (approximately 3 to 4 inches high, whatever fits your steaming vessel)

Egg Custard Mixture
1 large egg
170ml water
1/2 tsp granulated bonito dashi
1/2 tsp sake
1/2 tsp usukuchi soy sauce 薄口しょうゆ (lighter in colour than regular soy sauce)
1/4 tsp salt (or a bit less)

Filling
50g chicken meat (boneless and skinned – I prefer using thigh meat)
2 shrimps, peeled and deveined
2 fresh or rehydrated shiitake mushrooms thinly sliced
2 to 3 slices of carrots cut into sakura shapes (I used a sakura shaped veggie cutter)
4 slices of kamaboko (fish cake), if available
4 ginkgo seeds, if available
2 sprigs of mitsuba (wild Japanese parsley), if available; you could also use baby spinach
Sake, mirin, and usukuchi soy sauce for seasoning

Directions

Blanch the sliced carrots and set aside.  Next, chop the chicken into bit-sized pieces and lightly marinate chicken and shrimp with a dash of sake, mirin, and soy sauce.  Brown the chicken in a small pan until it’s nearly cooked through.

Beat the egg until completely mixed but take care not to froth! In another bowl, mix the dashi, soy sauce, and salt. Pour this stock mixture into the beaten egg, mix well and strain. You don’t want any froth in the final mixture so skim off any excess bubbles.

Divide the filling evenly and place in cups, remembering to place lighter ingredients at the bottom. Slowly pour strained egg mixture into individual cups.

The steamer should be on medium-high heat.  Place the cups into the steamer without the lid and steam on high heat for 2 minutes.  Turn heat down and steam on low heat for 25-30 minutes.

To check that the custard is cooked, insert a toothpick into the centre – it should come out clean when ready.  Serve immediately!

Baking Experiments – The Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

For a while, according to my not-so-good-with-words-hubby, I was the worst ever cook.  I put him off udon for years after serving up an admittedly minging udon dish. It’s rather difficult to botch udon, but I somehow managed to destroy it. Luckily, I’ve been able to redeem myself and udon in recent years but my baking experiments have been a bit hit or miss.

When it comes to baking, I’ve never been great at following recipes, often confusing tablespoons with teaspoons, salt with sugar, baking soda with baking powder. You know, stuff that matters especially when it comes to baking. To add to the challenge, I’ve also always gravitated toward  ‘healthy’ desserts, like pumpkin chocolate chip cookies (which seem to always come out undercooked) or lemon and blueberry cupcakes, which are more like cornbread muffins (but I reckon that’s due to use of corn meal). Let’s just say that you have to have very refined taste to appreciate the results of my baking experiments.

All joking aside, I think I’ve found my ‘go to’ recipe for a traditional, crowd-pleasing, chocolate chip cookie.  You’ll have to do your own temperature conversions but I promise you won’t be let down by this recipe.  Whether it’s the best ever recipe or not may be up for debate, but it definitely yields some tasty cookies–light crispy coating on the outside, chewy and moist on the inside. Definitely my kind of cookie!

The trick is definitely in the use of hand chopped fine chocolate, adding to the rustic homemade feel.  I’m not too keen on the savoury-sweet combo so I decided to forgo the flaked sea salt.  All in all, this is a fabulous and easy to follow recipe!

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