Archive for the ‘Western Food’ Category

Spaghetti With Sundried Tomato and Olive Paste

June 1, 2010

I made a jar of sundried tomatoes, olives and caper paste (previous post) because I love the ingredients. I had it with baguette, but there is only so much bread I can eat. So, I tried mixing it with pasta, and it’s good. I paired the paste with prawns and cherry tomatoes for the sweetness, to balance off the saltiness of the olives and capers. Fresh basil from the garden adds aroma and freshness, and voila…. a quick meal. I actually made it on a weekday morning – in between getting ready for work and rushing my daughter to school – so it’s a quick dish to make – boil spaghetti, drop in the prawns in the boiling pasta water for three minutes, halve the cherry tomatoes and slice up some basil leaves.

Here’s my favourite Italian cookbook again – I love the step-by-step pictorial illustration, the rich cultural histories, the personal anecdotes, the reliable and clear instructions in the recipes, and of course the gorgeous pictures.


Sundried Tomato, Olives and Caper Paste

May 22, 2010

The Italian Cookery Course by Katie Caldesi is my current favourite cookbook. I do not only enjoy reading it, and learning loads about Italian cooking, but I was actually inspired to try out the recipes. Check out the review on

I made this simple paste because I love all the ingredients – sundried tomatoes, olives and capers. I had just made a batch of oven-dried tomatoes for Veggie Chick and Marty Thyme’s Crazy Juliet sandwiches, and so I shamelessly asked back 200g from them. It turned out I only have olives with pits, so I ate half the bottle up instead of pitting them….yums.

Anyway, it was easy enough to run down to the supermarket to buy a bottle of pitted olives, except that I also bought eight other items.

Anyway, I just blitzed everything in the blender, and it was all done. I ate it plain on baguette,  and also had it with spaghetti, prawns, cherry tomatoes and fresh basil leaves.

Sun-dried tomatoes are pricey in Malaysia, but it’s easy to make them. Check out my post on making oven-dried tomatoes in a slow slow oven.


Sundried Tomato, Caper and Olive Paste

100g sun-dried tomatoes

100g good-quality olives, pitted

100ml extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon of capers, rinsed

1/2 dried or fresh red chilli, chopped

a good pinch of salt

Whizz all the ingredients in a food processor, and adjust the seasoning to taste.

Lazy Days – Mushroom Soup

March 28, 2010


By right, I should make a list every time I go grocery shopping. Instead, I walk down every aisle in the supermarket, and pick up 25 things I think I might need, like a can of chickpeas or coriander seeds. Then, they languish  in the larder, forgotten.

But then again, I always have the best of intentions. I buy chickpeas thinking that I’ll be making hummus and coriander seeds to make kurma.

Two weekends ago, I was at Bangsar Village Grocer and I bought a big container of mixed mushrooms (white mushrooms, brown mushrooms and oyster mushroom). I haven’t bought mushrooms in awhile, and could think of half a dozen recipes I could try out.

But two weeks later, those mushrooms were still sitting pretty in the fridge -but certainly not for much longer. They cost too much for me to continue ignoring them, so I took them out of the fridge. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I thought I should start doing something anyway. So, I cleaned them, and cut them up, and waited for inspiration to hit me.


I ended up cooking a quick bacon and mushroom cream sauce spaghetti with chilli padi, but there was still lots of mushrooms left. I stuck them back into the fridge. It was just one of those days when I couldn’t face up to a sinkful of dishes.

The next day, I took out those mushrooms, and contemplated making a mushroom and bacon quiche; but only for two seconds. I ended up making the easiest thing I could think of – soup.


When it comes to making soup, I don’t follow a recipe.

I sauteed two cloves of garlic in two tablespoons of olive oil, threw in the sliced mushrooms and stir them around for a few minutes till they are soft and aromatic. Then, I pour in the cream, and some milk – enough to cover the mushrooms.

I then blitz the soup with a hand blender, and season with salt and pepper. If you think that the soup is too thick, add milk. If you think it’s too thin, boil the soup a little longer over a slow flame to reduce it, or add more cream.

The best thing about this mushroom soup is that it’s also easy to eat. I just cut up some baguette slices, and dunk them into the soup. Makes for a nice breakfast on weekdays, and tastes so much better than canned soup.

Elephant Ears – Palmiers

January 23, 2010


I love puff pastry, but I doubt I’d ever get around to making them – all that folding and referigerating, and folding and refrigerating…. definitely too much work.

I love store-bought ready-rolled out frozen puff pastry sheets. It’s a staple in my freezer, and I usually stock up whenever I am in supermarkets that stock them (Cold Storage, Bangsar Village, certain Carrefour and Giant outlets).

Pretty much anything you wrapped in pastry puff, or put atop a puff pastry sheet – and then bake – come out delicious. You can make savoury or sweet dessert with puff pastry, like palmiers.

I first came across the recipe for palmiers in Lily’s Wai Sek Hong, and in Joy The Baker.

This is definitely one of the easiest recipes to make, but I tried it mostly because I like its name – elephant ears and even pig ears.


There is not much of a recipe for this one… 2 ingredients – puff pastry sheets and sugar.

Just sprinkle your work surface with sugar, then lay the pastry sheet on it. Sprinkle some more sugar on the pastry sheet. Roll the sheet up, from both ends; meeting in the middle. Refrigerate for about half an hour, or longer if you have the time (and patience). Slice the roll in 1/2 inch pieces, and bake in a preheated oven at 200C for 10-12 minutes. You can add 1 tsp of ground cinnamon for more aromatic palmiers, or not…

Just be more bold than me… sprinkle loads of sugar…I like my palmiers but I suspect it should have been much sweeter…. so don’t stinge on the sugar.

It’s a breeze to make, easier than cookies… and prettier too. Goes well with coffee or martini n 7-Up with lotsa ice (best remedy to stem the madness creeping up as you find that beloved child smeared in paint smearing the walls and furniture, and then paints her palms (jeng, jeng, jeng…)…..nurturing artisitic instincts is more important than my loathing of housework, I know!

Chicken Stew for Rainy Days

January 12, 2010


It was raining cats and dogs last Saturday evening, and the last thing I wanted to do was go out…even to feed a hungry child. So, there was no choice but to cook. And I had three chicken legs, some potatoes and carrots. I am bored of A-B-C soup, so I decided to make chicken stew.

This was my mother-in-law’s recipe. I actually can’t remember the recipe anymore, but the basic instructions were to brown the chicken, and then cook it slowly with the potatoes and carrots.

It’s actually real easy, except for browning the chicken. Browning the chicken is easy enough too, but the floors get greasy and that involves mopping (which is what I hate to do the most!).

So, of course, I have tried cooking the stew without browning the chicken. But it just doesn’t taste so good. So, now I brown the chicken.

Last Saturday, I was lazy, so I cut the chicken into big pieces – less to brown. Not such a great idea – the stew is nicer with smaller pieces of chicken.

I used light soya sauce because I don’t have worcertershire sauce (Lea and Perrins), and it worked just as well.

Don’t leave out the cinnamon and star anise though; it gives the stew a nice aroma.

You can also use different types of vegetables like leeks, and a tomato or two. I like cabbage in the stew, but no one else in my family does. So, I sometimes add some cabbage leaves in the leftovers and cook them until they are all wilted.

Everyone else eat their stew with bread. I like mine with rice, and with sambal belacan.

(for two)

chicken stew


4 chicken legs. cut in 6 pieces
1 tablespoon of light soya sauce
1 teaspoon of ground white pepper
1/2 tablespoon of flour
1/2 cup of cooking oil
2 star anise
1 inch of cinnamon stick
2 big onions, cut into wedges
2-3 potatoes, peeled and halved
1-2 carrots, peeled and cut in medium chunks
1 tablespoon of tomato sauce
1 cube of chicken stock
1 1/2 cups of water
salt, to taste

Marinate chicken with the light soya sauce, ground white pepper and flour for about 15 minutes.

Heat the cooking oil, and then brown the chicken. Set aside.

Heat a tablespoon of the cooking oil, and add the cinnamon stick and star anise. When they are aromatic, add the onion wedges.

Then, add the potatoes and carrots, and chicken.

Add the tomato sauce and chicken stock cube.

Add the water, and let the stew simmer over low heat until the potatoes and carrot are soft. It should take about 30minutes.

Just before removing from the heat, taste it and season with salt. If you think the stew is too watery, add half a tablespoon of flour (diluted with 2 tablespoons of water).

1-2-3 Cookies

January 7, 2010


I tried to do icing two weeks ago, just to take on a new task in the kitchen and try something unfamiliar for Dec’s cooking column Test Kitchen.

I chose to do icing because I generally avoid frostings on cake because they are just too sweet for me. God gave me sour tooth, not a sweet one. I have always love how pretty icing is though, and I do love beautifully iced cupcakes.


My experiment was not a roaring success. I was struggling because I had never made icing, and the instructions in the cookery books I referred to were not of that much help.

Still, I was desperate…I had as usual left it to the very last minute to deadline.


So, this week, I decided to give icing another go. I had loads of icing sugar left, and my curiosity has been piqued.  I don’t like icing, but I noticed that the little girl aka BOSS finished the icing first before she even bite into the cake.

For a change, I decided to ice cookies instead.

As for the icing, I didn’t refer to the recipe. I just added enough water to the sieved icing sugar till I got the consistency I wanted. I have not used colouring much, so I think I put too much – ended up with a batch of garishly-iced cookies.

I, of course, was clumsy with the piping; partly because I don’t own a proper piping bag and the one I made with ziplock bag and baking paper didn’t hold. So, in the end, I just used a spoon and kinda dribble the icing on the cookies.

So, yeah, my iced cookies are wonky!


I think it’s time to go for icing lessons, and maybe some baking classes too.

I was just happy that my cut-out cookies actually held their shape, thanks to Nigella Lawson’s recipe – and from her  Domestic Goddess book,  no less.



Butter Cut-Out Biscuits

(From Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess)

175g soft unsalted butter
200g castor sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
400g plain flour, plus more if needed
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
300g icing sugar, sieved, and food colouring

Preheat the oven to 180C
Cream the butter and sugar until pale, and moving towards mousiness, then beat in the eggas and vanilla extract.
In another bowl, combine the dry ingredients, and add them to the butter and eggs, and mix gently.
Halve the dough, warp in clingfilm and rest in the fridge for an hour.
Sprinkle a suitable surface with flour, place a disc of dough on it, and sprinkle a little more flour on top of that. Then, roll it out to the thickness of about 1/2 cm. Cut into shapes, dipping the cutter into flour as you go, and place the cookies a little apart on the baking sheets.
Bake for between 8 and 10 minutes. Cool on the rack.
Put a couple of tablespoon of just-not-boiling water into a large bowl, add the sieved icing sugar and mixed together, adding more water as you need to form a thick paste. Colour as desired: let the artistic spirit within you speak, remembering with gratitude that children have very bad taste.
Makes 50-60.


Cookies, not!

December 23, 2009


It’s Christmas, and everyone seems to be baking fancy cookies with white icing and what-nots. I have fantasies of baking snowflake cookies and gingerbread dolls to hang on the tree (which I also put up and decorate in my head), but I know my limitations.

I am not a baker, I have long realised that. But I was recently hit with pangs of maternal guilt for feeding my poor child store-bought cookies. So, I decided to do right by her and bake her proper chocolate chip cookies.


Every blogger online seems to have a chocolate chip cookie that they swore is the best. I only have chocolate chips, regular flour, butter and white sugar (ran out of brown sugar) and not a single nut in the house.


In the end, I decided to try Donna Hay’s chocolate chip cookies. What I decided to do was to reduce the sugar because most cookie recipes I have tried are too sweet. But I guess it was a tad zealous to take away 1/2 cup of sugar.

I thought the cookies were not too bad, but they were not exactly a hit with the boss…even though I served it with Milo. She’d rather have yoghurt….sigh.


Anyway, I may not make the best cookies, but I can buy them. I have enough stocked up to last the week, I think.

Cubed Roasted Potatoes – Jamie-style

December 1, 2009


I like potatoes – after rice, they are my favourite comfort food.
Once a friend confessed on Facebook that she made and ate mashed potatoes at 4am, and I could so totally relate to that.

It doesn’t really matter what you do to potatoes, they almost always turn out nice. Still, everyone has their favourite potatoes. My daughter’s favourite is surprisingly not MacDonald’s french fries, but potatoes in curry chicken.

My favourite is roasted potatoes, and I found a variation I really like last weekend in Jamie Oliver’s Cook With Jamie.

The thing that Jamie did differently was to cube the potatoes.
So, instead of halving the potatoes, I cube them into medium chunks (about 2 inches). They cook faster, and crisp better. And because they are smaller pieces, they are easier to eat too. It’s also nice to leave the skin on, but scrub them first.



(from Cook With Jamie by Jamie Oliver)

Serves 4


600g waxy potatoes, peeled or scrubbed and cut into 1 in cubes
Sea salt and ground black pepper
A sprig of fresh rosemary (I use dried one, but the herbs make a difference)
Olive oil, or duck or goose fat
5 cloves of garlic, skin on and smashed

Preheat oven to 220C/425F. Place your potatoes in a large pan of cold, salted water and bring to a boil. Drain them immediately in a colander, and allow them to steam for a couple of minutes until they dry our a bit. Bash up the rosemary leaves.

Heat some olive oil or duck/goose fat in a roasting tray. Add the garlic cloves, potatoes and rosemary. Season and toss together until well coated. Place in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, shaking the tray every so often, until the potatoes are golden and crispy.

NOTE: Jamie’s recipe is fool-proof for sure, but I didn’t follow all his instructions….I didn’t heat the oil and only shook the tray twice, partly because I am clumsy and have enough burn marks on my hands.
Still, the potatoes came out absolutely delicious.

Jamie suggests adding some chunky fatty bacon lardons to the tray, and I think that’s what I’ll try next.

The next potato recipe I want to try is Golden Potatoes with Brown Butter Crumbs with capers from Gourmet April 2009. This should be even better…

More Quiche (despite burnt onions)

November 28, 2009


I behaved properly and didn’t deface the two quiches I contributed to my daughter’s school do for a taste check. I made spinach and tomato quiche, and bacon and mushroom quiche for that occasion. Of course, the bacon one was more popular.

With quite a bit of bacon left, I decided I’ll make quiches for the family and my colleagues. And when I bake quiche, I always make two because it seems more practical. Sometimes, it’s also because I like the variety, and I can’t choose which filling to use.


Last week, I baked a quiche lorraine – with bacon and ham. It’s not the healthiest thing to have for breakfast, but a slice was enough to last me through a busy day at work till evening.

The other quiche I baked had caramelised onion, which I love. My mistake was deluding myself into thinking that I had the energy to cook after a long day of work.


Peeling and slicing ten onions were not too bad. It’s watching over the onions as they cooked slowly that was the chore – especially when I was trying to do 5 other things at the same time in different rooms.

I left the onions to wash my face, and take off my contact lens, and change, and gather dirty laundry… and of course the next thing I knew I was smelling burning onions.

Even with the lowest heat, you have to stir the onions once in a awhile (between one other task, not five), or they’ll burn and turn charred black.

At some other time, I’d have thrown the whole batch away and start over. But the thought of peeling and slicing ten onions was enough push for me to slowly pick out the charred bits, and give up on going to bed asap and watch over my onions.

So, finally after about 35 minutes or so, the onions were nicely caramelised, with a sweet aroma. Despite all my griping, caramalised onion is one of the easiest thing to cook, and it’s actually amazing how sweet they become. Some recipes call for sugar in their ingredient list, but I never add any.

Caramelised onion quiche is delicious, and a refreshing change from the usual fillings. I also always have onions in the kitchen, so it’s one of those dishes I can make whenever I feel like it.


Please refer to the previous post for the quiche recipe.

For the filling for Quiche Lorraine, just slice eight bacon rashers, and fry them in a little oil. Layer them on the pastry case with 6-8 slices of ham (cubed). The custard is 2-3 eggs, and a small carton of cream. Sprinkle lots of cheese, and bake for 40minutes.

To make caramelised onion, peel and slice ten onions thinly. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and fry the onions over low heat with 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and season with salt and black pepper. Stir occasionally until the onions turn brown and sticky-ish. You’ll know it’s just right from the sweet aroma; it usually takes between 30 and 40 minutes.

Put the filling in the pastry case, and pour the custard over, and sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 40 minutes.


November 21, 2009

So, my daughter’s teachers are not particularly impressed with my punctuality or my dedication in supervising my daughter’s homework. And I guess putting her in a pink dress with a cheap pink headgear makes for the least impressive costume (other parents made costumes w accessories).

And so what if I only started packing biscuits for my daughter to take to school when they told me that she is eating other people’s food. And never mind that the biscuits were store-bought, and always either Oreo or Chipsmore.

When the teachers asked me to bring food for some holiday programme they were conducting, I thought there’s my opportunity to impress upon them that I am not tardy or incompetent….because I can bake quiche. Heck, I am impressed with myself for being able to make quiche!


The only reason I even attempted to bake quiche was because my friend Vivien totally demystified it. She is married to a Frenchman, and a good cook, so she knows stuff like this. Her instructions were to use store-bought shortcrust pastry sheets, and use three eggs and a small carton of cream, and whatever filling I want.

And that really is all there is.

Rolled-out store-bought pastry sheets takes most of the work out of baking quiche because then it’s just a matter of lining a pie dish, and baking it blind for 15-25 minutes. I have since learnt to make the shortcrust pastry too as it’s actually not hard, and it’s actually easier than driving to a supermarket that stocks the pastry sheets.

A food processor makes the job almost effortless, but I’ll admit that I needed to practise a few times before I got the hang of rolling out the pastry and transferring it on to the pie dish. What works for me is rolling the dough between two sheets of baking paper because it’s easier than worrying about the pastry sticking to the work surface. There is also less cleaning up to do; just throw away the paper.

But there are loads of useful videos on YouTube to learn how to do this.


If you want to make shortcrust pastry from scratch, here’s the Donna Hay recipe I use.


Basic Shortcrust Pastry
(Makes 350g pastry to line a 25cm pie dish)

2 cups flour
145g (5oz) butter
2-3 tablespoons iced water

Process the flour and butter in a food processor until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs

While the motor is running, add enough iced water to form a smooth dough.

Knead very lightly, them wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30minutes. When ready to use, roll out on a lightly-floured surface until 3mm (1/8in) thick.

To bake blind, top the pastry lined pie dish with a piece of non-stick baking paper, and weigh down with beans or rice. Bake in an oven preheated at 180C for ten minutes. Remove the weights and paper, and bake for another 5 minutes or until the pastry is golden.


Once the pastry is done, it’s just a matter of deciding what filling to use. I love tomatoes, so I tend to use them a lot. Some good combinations are bacon and mushrooms (and tomatoes), or chili tuna (and tomatoes), or spinach and feta cheese (and tomatoes) or just loads of tomatoes with sun-dried tomatoes and olives. Leek is good too, and one of my all-time favourite is caramelised onions (Claudia Roden’s Onion Tart from the Book Of Jewish Food).

Mix three eggs and a carton of cream (200ml), season with salt and black pepper, and beat until well-mixed.

Line the pastry case with the filling, pour in the custard, and sprinkle with cheese (whatever I have in the fridge).


Then, bake in a preheated oven at 180C for about 40 minutes, and you have baked a yummy quiche.

Anyway, here’s the detailed recipe for a Bacon and Mushroom Quiche.


1 quantity of shortcrust pastry (refer to recipe above),
or 1 sheet of ready-rolled shortcrust pastry sheet

1/2 tablespoon olive oil
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
150g streaky bacon
200g mushrooms, sliced
3 eggs
200ml cream
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tomatoes, sliced
100g cheese

Preheat the oven to 180C.
Line a 25cm pie dish with the rolled out pastry sheet, and blind bake the pastry shell and leave to cool (refer to recipe above).
Heat the olive oil, and saute the garlic.
Add the bacon, and fry till fragrant
Then, add the mushrooms.
Fry for a few minutes, and then set aside.
Fill the quiche case with the bacon and mushroom filling.
Beat the eggs, cream, salt and pepper.
Then, pour the custard over the filling, and sprinkle with the cheese.
Decorate with the tomato slices.
Bake for 40 minutes or until set.

So, yeah, I can’t bake a cake but I can do quiches. And I love them warm, or even stone cold from the fridge.

I don’t know if the teachers were impressed with my quiches; they haven’t said anything. They probably thought I bought them anyway. Doesn’t matter because I am mighty pleased with myself, and I resisted the impulse to cut out a piece and taste them before I handed them over.