Yochana's Steamed Yam Cake

Made this for a potluck gathering so no cross section view. I've used Aunty Yochana's recipe for this. The only changes I've made was to omit the siew yuk from this to make it halal. I've used chicken lap cheong if that's what you're wondering. I dunno how they made chicken lap cheong but it's got a halal sign so that's fine with me.

I'm very generous with the topping. I've also cheated by using readymade fried shallots because raw shallots are so expensive in Australia! They easily come up to AUD14.00 per kilo. And I've done the maths, readymade fried shallots are indeed cheaper.

I've steamed it in a springform pan because that's whtat I've got. I remove the sides so it'll cool faster as I was actually running late. I steamed it longer because I think I did not cook it till the desired thickess in the wok.

If you wanna know, this yam cake travelled for an hour in the car and by the time it reach the destination, it was room temperature already and cutting was a breeze. Just remember to use plastic spatula. I serve this with Sriracha chili sauce and Hoisin Sweet Sauce. Yes, I've also made 'Chee Cheong Fun' there as well! Posting that very soon!

Thank you Aunty Yochana for sharing the recipe with us!

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Pastitso is the Greek's version of lasagna. Instead of having lasagna sheets, the pastitso consist of 3 layers, the bottom layer being the pasta compressed and binded by cheese and eggs, the middle layer which is the meat sauce layer usually with tomato base sauce and the final layer of bechamel white sauce. Sometimes, a layer of breadcrumbs will be sprinkled on top to give it extra crunch for each mouthful.

The picture you see above is a frozen version of pastitso. This freezes really well and could be kept for weeks. However, it must be reheated back in the oven to achieve that crispy crust and soft gooey filling effect.

Recommended pasta would be small macaroni since they tend to be compressed easily due to the nature of their shape but as I've said before, I have issues with pasta so I've used small spiral here. You could also use penne, it's entirely up to you.

This make a lot. I cut mine into 6 large squares but this could easily serve 8 petite eaters. For the middle meat layer, I've used lamb mince here but you could also substitute that with chicken mince or a mixture of veal and pork mince. This is also a matter of preference. Lamb mince was on special in the supermarket so I basically just grab what I saw.

This is when it's just hot out of the oven. You'll need to bake it till it's golden brown before serving. The layers are prepared and are actually cooked before hand however this still require an hour of baking time.

Pastitso or sometimes spelt Pastitsio
Adapted from the Australian Women Weekly Cookbook, Winter edition
(serves 6 to 8 people, freezable, not microwavable)
Can be made a day ahead, keep covered in fridge and bake when needed

Start off by preheating oven to 180°C and grease a 10cup capacity deep casserole.

Pasta Base
250g uncooked macaroni
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup (60g) Parmesan cheese, shredded

Cook the macaroni according to package instructions until al dente.
Drain well and add the warm pasta to all other ingredients.
Stir to combine thoroughly and press over the base of the greased baking dish.

Meat Sauce Layer
1 tbsp olive oil
2 medium (300g) brown onions, finely chopped
750g beef or lamb mince
1 egg, beaten

Combine together in a large jug the following:
1 can (400g) undrained diced tomatoes
1/3 cup (95g) tomato paste
1/2 cup beef stock
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
Dash of nutmeg powder

In a large non-stick pan, heat the olive oil until hot and add in the onions. Cook until onions are soft. Add in all the lamb mince and cook, stirring often until beef is brown. Here, a silicone whisk always works best for me in order to break up the lumps quickly. Pour in the jug of tomato mixture and stir well to coat meat. Simmer, uncovered until thick on medium heat. Cool the mixture for 10mins and stir in the beaten egg. Set aside to cool further.

Bechamel Sauce Topping
90g butter
1/2 cup plain flour (75g)
3.5 cups whole milk
1 cup (80g) Parmesan cheese, shredded
2 egg yolks

In a clean non-stick pot, melt the butter and add in the plain flour. Stir to form a paste, over low heat until bubbling and remove from heat. Add in the whole milk and stir over medium low heat until sauce boils and thickens and lump free (refer to the pasta bake, white sauce making here).
Remove from heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese. Stir until all melted and cool it for 5mins. Finally, stir in all the yolks and combine well.

1 stale square bread, processed in food processor until very fine (1/4 cup bread crumbs)

Now, pour all the almost cooled meat sauce on the pasta. If your pasta is pressed well, the sauce will not leak through to the pasta base layer. Smooth out the surface of the meat sauce and carefully pour over the bechamel sauce to cover the whole surface of casserole. Smooth that out as well. Sprinkle over the breadcrumbs evenly and bake, uncovered, for about an hour or so, until lightly browned. Stand 10mins upon serving.

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5-spice chicken wings

This was a dish made when I first started cooking in Melbourne. Back then, we always do a one dish meal because we find cooking a tough thing and we need to eat to live. But we wanna eat good food because I'm rather picky.

Hence, we always resort to instant sachets like the one shown above. Easy and yummy.

Hey, I think apart from the lightning and the fact that I serve mine straight from the wok, my shots and the illustrated picture looks pretty similar!

I hope this shot is clear enough for you people who wants the recipe else just email me alright?

p/s: you need to buy this paste in order to cook this. I've tried using normal 5-spice powder and cook this but they just don't taste the same. Perhaps, I could have added more bay leaves, star anise, coriander seeds, cinnamon and all spice since those were the ingredients used in this sachet.

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Sayur Lodeh

Being a Peranakan, this is one dish I can cook without guidance and recipe. The Malays claim it's theirs but I think this is a truly Nyonya dish, using pounded rempah.

I've jot the recipe down after multiple times of making this according to 'feel' for my future reference.

1/2 head of a small cabbage (I never measure mine and quantity is not a big issue here)
2 carrots
Handful of okra or brinjals

Just use any vegetables you like. Wash them clean and chop them into small chunks and tear the cabbage into pieces.

Pound together: I've cheated and use a food processor here
50g dried shrimps
1 red chili, deseeded
2 dried chillies, soaked till soften, deseeded
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 shallot, peeled
1 lemongrass, use the white prt only, bruise it and chop into smaller pieces.

Dry fry the pounded ingredients until you smell the rempah fills the air.
Add in 2 cups of thin coconut milk and all the vegetables and simmer until vegetables are cook.
Season with salt, pepper and sugar to taste and serve hot.

p/s: I always use whatever leftover evaporated milk I have in the fridge and top up with coconut milk to make 2 cups of liquid. I think too much coconut milk is pretty unhealthy. I know, not like evaporated milk is very healthy either but it's healthier than coconut milk in term of cholestrol :)

Happy trying if you ran out of idea to cook or don't know how to handle leftover vegetables!

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Braised Pork Ribs

We have had so much western dishes and mashed potatoes for the past few weeks that I guess it's time for me to make something Chinese. Something us. Something that Aaron loves! Anything that can be downed with lotsa rice is what Aaron loves!

These are garlic rice, not plain rice. The mildly scented garlic rice added a nice touch with the braised ribs.

After braising for an hour, the meat was so tender that i practically just falls off bone!

We both love this a lot and polish every single bits!

Very Garlicky rice (serves 2 to 3)

2 to 3 tbsp minced garlic
About 1 to 1.5 cup of uncooked rice, washed well and drained
1 tsp fine sea salt
Enough chicken stock for cooking rice (I happen to have some reserved from poaching a whole chicken!)

Stir fry the minced garlic with enough oil until they're about to turn golden. (I usually peeled 2 whole bulbs of garlic and pulse it in my food processor. They are good to last me for a week or so)

Turn off heat and let it cook itself further with the heat in the oil and pan. This is garlic oil and is good as topping on blanched greens.

Add in salt, rice and toss to coat well.

Transfer them to rice cooker and add enough chicken stock to cook rice like you normally would and let the rice cooker take care of everything from now on!

Braised Pork Ribs (Courtesy of MyHomeKitchen & Y3K, Issue No. 38)

1kg of babyback ribs
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp chili sauce (I use my favourite spicy Sriracha!)
2 tbsp oyster sauce
Generous sprinkling of black pepper
2 tbsp of dark soya sauce
1 tbsp sweet caramel dark soya sauce
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp cooking wine

Mix all the above in a large bowl and coat the ribs with the marinade sauce.

Place all in a large resealable bag and leave it in the fridge overnight, giving it a good shake around everytime you couldn't stop yourself from opening the fridge to pop food in your mouth.

Pan fry the ribs for about 10mins or so until they are all brown on both sides.

Transfer them to another large pot and add in:

8 cups of water (yes, you need to use the largest pot you have in your kitchen!)

Bring to boil and lower heat to bring it to gentle boil only and simmer until sauce thickens up significantly.

I usually simmer, covered for an hour and when I check on the meat and they are all tender, I blast the heat to high and boil it uncovered to reduce the sauce further.

Remove them from pot and dish them up on a bed of lettuce and serve them piping hot.

Happy trying!

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Sandwich Kebab

This is what I did with my leftover sushi filling! As usual, trying to clear up spaces for my fridges, I took out lotsa unwanted stuff, a couple of still-good cherry tomatoes, slices of ham and almost expired cheese! I should really stop myself from buying so much unwanted stuffs sometimes!

I used 2 sandwich bread, trimmed off sides and spread then with:

chicken + avocado + Japanese Mayo + lettuce leaves
Cheddar squares + sliced ham
Mashed hard boiled eggs + Japanese Mayo + lettuce leaves

I also added salt and pepper to taste for each and every one, thread them on a skewer and had sliced cucumbers between them. Was planning a quick picnic by the river but it was raining on the day I made these! :(

Anyways, I think it is pretty challenging to use up leftovers and turn it into another dish without realizing you're actually eating the same thing yet again. And the most important part of all, they are healthy and on many occasions, taste good! That's a challenging task! Beat that!

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What Quinn does on typical Sundays

Every Saturdays and Sundays are very treasured and much appreciated in my house. This is the time we chose to hang out with fellow housemates in the balcony. The balcony is a nice place, overlooking a large piece of garden that is big enough to have another house fitted in there snugly.

It's usually me, Aaron and Su En. Together, we make a good brunch for ourselves. Su En did the bacon, Aaron did the pancakes and I made these scrambled eggs:

I made pancake batter from scratch using Nigella's recipe and had it stay in the fridge overnight so it is more convenient for Aaron to use right away the next day. My two cents, any pancake batter with baking soda cannot be kept overnight in fridge. Any pancake batter calling for baking powder only can be kept overnight. Surface will turn a little greyish but it is definitely alright to use. I've used wholemeal flour instead of plain flour. I'm pretty into healthy stuffs lately :)

And this is what we did after meal! We challenge ourselves to board games. Monopoly was the theme last weekend!

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Bolognese Sauce with Small Rigatoni

Made this 2 days back I think and it doesn't matter. Taste gets better as time goes by! Brought half over to Adrienne's place to share with her....kinda sad it got a little dry over time. Would have added more dry red wine when reheating it if I have any in hand...

I do agree bolognese taste better with spaghetti but I like them with rigatoni....I like how the sauces filled up the holes of every rigatoni. Yes people, I have issues with pasta, if that's what you're wondering. I only like very few pasta types, rigatoni being one of them.

This was made when Aaron went camping. As you could see from the picture, I took all the effort to make each and every rigatoni stand upright for the sake of my blog. I thinkthey look very picturesque, somewhat like beehive, apart from the fact that it's not hexagonal!

I shared this with housemate, Su En too and she got all ecstatic and told her colleagues ''my very nice housemate is making something really good for lunch and she said it's pretty time consuming!" and when they ask her what's all the hoo-ha about and she told them it's bolognese, they kinda responded in a sarcastic tone, '' hey, that's not tough!''.

People, know your stuff! I kinda don't blame you people since Prego's is so easily available nowadays but bolognese, as far as I could recall, takes up lots of cooking time and lots of ingredients. I cook mine for 2 hours and some did theirs for 4 hours! Tell me about not being time-consuming! (p/s: pic above is the sauteed mirepoix with butter)

My secret recipe includes chicken livers and rindless bacons added into it to give the extra ooomph! I was also self-taught that nothing breaks up lumps better than using a whisk in making bolognese.

It's a messy affair making them, don't talk about eating! Top it up with a handful of parmesan and you're ready to spoon in!

p/s: it's a total of 18 ingredients making them if you consider the 2 types of oil used in the picture! Also added a dash of nutmeg and dash of grounded cloves!

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Mirepoix (pronounced as Mir-pwa) is a French (if I'm not mistaken!) term to describe a combination of onions, carrots and celery. It is commonly used as a base ingredients to add flavour to soups, stews, and sauces, either used raw, buttered or roasted.

The other combination consisting of capsicum, celery and onions is known as Trinity. It is not so common in comparison to Mirepoix.

For both cases, you can use any types of onions but I chose red onions over others because it has a stronger taste and mildly sweet unlike yellow onions which are too sweet but good for onion soups. Celeriac could be used in place of celery and there is of course no substitute for carrots.

As for proportions, many said that it is a 1:1:1 ratio but I have always use a 2:1:1 ratio. As simple as it might sound, all you need is a food processor or a blender to make this. Believe it or not, 1 celery and 1 carrot each is half the weight of one red onion!

So, in my opinion, the 1:1:1 ratio is not referring to weight, but the number of each of them is used.

That's just my two cents and now everyone knows what's mirepoix :)

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Sushi Making : My one and only attempt!

Making this was tiring, a messy affair and kinda disappointing. My rollings are terrible and uneven. Aaron couldn't even cut the roll into even thickness! Nonetheless, they are fun to make. I made a few different sushi(s):

Chicken Avocado
Crabsticks and cucumber
Tuna and sweetcorn
Egg Mayo with Cucumber

I made some inside out sushi(s) like the one in the first picture. Aaron made these normal looking ones. I combined rolling techniques and tips here and there and I really don't remember the sources anymore. Nonetheless, remember to:

For normal sushi, upon completing rolling, must remember to thoroughly wet your palms and wet the sushi with your hand so the Nori are thoroughly soaked. Failure to do so will result in hard to chew Nori.

Cling wrap your sushi mat loosely with Glad wrap if you are making inside out sushi else it will stick to the mat.
I had 2 different toppings to roll the inside out sushi in. One is a combination of black and white sesame, toasted and spread on a plate.

The other one I use store bought rice seasoning, called Furikake. Pret expensive but taste pretty good.

I use this Nori sheets. They are cut to size and fitted my sushi mat perfectly.

I didn't knwo what to do with the last bit of sushi rice since it won't be enough to make another sushi roll so I mould them into a ball and filled it with crabsticks. Roll it in Furikake and this is another type of Japanese treat itself, called Onigiri.

No recipe since it was a trial and error thingy. I used this brand of powdered sushi mix since I am only gonna make this once. Aaron only likes flavours like these. He doesn't like raw salmons and unagi. So, the fillings that I hav used are also very acceptable ingredients to please his picky tastebud.
As to why I kept saying I am only gonna do this once, because this is how my kitchen table look after completing all 6 rolls. And I dunno what to do with leftover fillings since I overestimated them!

Finally, I do not have Japanese mayonnaise since they are generally sweeter. I followed Agnes Chang recipe. She combined 2 tbsp of condensed milk to every 1/2 cup of normal mayonnaise. It works fine and didn't taste weird. I also left out the egg roe since they only sell frozen ones in bulk. Bulk as in per kg. What am I gonna do with the rest right?

All in all, not to bad for first attempt but I would have preferred salmons and unagi! What I've made are very much, what I would term, the 'Aussie Style Sushi'. Manufactured to cater Caucasians tastebuds. Don't believe me? See here for Aussie Style Sushi!

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Fish Chowder with Grilled Garlic Baguette

This one is a real comfort food. Aaron and me usually cook a large pot of this, good enough to serve the two of us for 2 to 3 meals. We tuck ourselves each to a large bowl of these along with a mountain of toasted garlic breads. Doesn't have to be baguettes, plain toasted bread squares works well too.

This recipe is comforting in a way that it has everything in a bowl, from nutrition wise to yummy ingredients. I usually add in whatever leftover vegetabes that I have in my fridge in here. Potatoes is the one, always abundance in the fridge asking to be cooked and mashed.

I also do make fresh bread loaf when I have the time but we both hate it when it turns stale the following day. I suppose homemade breads are healthier in a sense that you don't have bad additives and softener in it so we don't really mind when it turned stale. But we mind eating it.

So, what other better way to eat stale breads apart from toasting them? I choose to grill them instead because they look better that way. I need to make food look good first in order for them to taste good :)

If you are always busy and running about, I hope you will make this and tuck into it in front of your favourite movie, sipping it on a cold winter night. It's July now, which means it's officially winter. I hate Adelaide's weather. It was 3°C this morning and it's 4°C now.... freaking chilly!

Fish Chowder (serves 4)
Adapted from Ultimate Cooking Course and Kitchen Encyclopedia

4 thickcut bacon slices, cut in small pieces
1 large onion, chopped
1 to 2 large carrots, chopped into small chunks
2 large Desiree potatoes, cut into small chunks
Seasalt and black pepper
5 cups of fish stock or bottled clam juice
1 pound of skinless haddock or cod fish fillet, cut in 1-inch cubes
1 tbsp dried parsley
1/2 tbsp dried chives
1 cup whipping cream or whole milk
Generous handful of spiral pasta, cooked until al dente and set aside (optional)

In a clean, deep saucepan, fry the bacon until fat is rendered.
Add the onions and the potatoes and cook over low heat without browning, about 10mins or so.
Season to taste with seasalt and black pepper.

Pour off excess bacon fat from the pan and add the fish stock, both dried parsley and chives to the pan.
Bring to boil and lower heat to simmer for about 15-20mins to cook the vegetables until they are tender.
Use a potato masher to break up the potatoes a little to give it the chowder consistency.

Stir in fish cubes and simmer until fish is just cooked, about 3 to4 mins will suffice.
Stir the milk or cream into the chowder and reheat until cream is heated through.
Add cooked pasta if desired at this stage and reheat to warm it thoroughly.
Season to taste and serve immediately.

Grilled Garlic Baguette

1/2 a loaf of French Baguettes, sliced thickly (any other stale bread will do too)
Finely minced garlic
Mixed herbs

This is the only thing I can do without exact measurements. Cooking is so forgiving compared to baking! I have on many occasions swapped cream for evaporated milk, added in leftover celeries, reduce other vegetables and they still turn out delicious. Try missing out 1 tsp of baking powder in your cake batter and be prepared for a failed, dense cake!

Anyways, mix softened butter or even melted butter with lotsa minced garlic and enough mixed herbs to colour the yellowy butter nicely.

Spread it on the baguettes and place it under the griller for 2mins.

Serve hot alongside fish chowder.

This is one of my many comfort food. I'll post more soon since it's winter now. What's your comfort food?

Photos updated: 27 October 2009, 30 0ctober 2009

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