Jamie O’s Bloomin’ Brilliant Brownies

Posted in Baking, Chocolate with tags , on June 23, 2010 by thepseudoepicurean

Chocolate brownies. You either make them, or you break them. I have seen countless recipes on the Internet, and I have tasted as many different interpretations of them as well. The thing about chocolate brownies is that they’re very much like coffee – everyone has their preferences. Some like them with nuts, others like them plain; some barely display a hint of chocolate in them, others are loaded with so much chocolate I swear my nose would bleed on the spot; these are the worst ones – floury, dry, and just plain awful.

And then there are Jamie Oliver’s Bloomin’ Brilliant Brownies, which I swear are BLOOMIN’ BRILLIANT indeed! Very much THE BOMB.

Now these brownies are loaded with everything unhealthy. For a recipe that makes approximately 20 brownies (little ones at that), it has a record-breaking 250g of butter, 300g of sugar, 200g of chocolate and 4 eggs. That makes for a LOT of fat per brownie, virtually artery-clogging stuff. But oh golly these are truly the best brownies I have ever tasted! They are moist, fudgey, the perfect degree of chocolateyness (if there is ever such a word), yet firm without being at all too crumbly.

I did have to bake it an extra 10 minutes as the mixture had barely set, but I have a feeling that my oven was to blame for that. I also realised that the brownie does firm up when cooled, so even if your test skewer came out unclean, that’s no harm done (in fact you’d probably get an even moister, fudgier end-result). Mine was very slightly on the dry side, perhaps a little too long in the oven, but I suspect the amount of fat in the mixture made up for it and yielded the most tender crumb.

I also sprinkled a little magic over the brownies before baking them – a mixture of light brown sugar, cocoa powder, and yes, fleur de sel.

Quince and Ginger Muffins

Posted in Baking with tags , on June 22, 2010 by thepseudoepicurean

Something about these that makes me long to curl up in bed, book in one hand, muffin and Earl Grey tea in the other.

Butter Chicken

Posted in Asian Cooking, Cooking with tags on May 21, 2010 by thepseudoepicurean

Mm mmm…this is one of the reasons why I think my husband really rawks: after an evening of shopping around the city, I stepped into a house that was filled with the aroma of Indian spices.

He’d made the best butter chicken I’d ever tasted (and I am not a fan of butter chicken at all) and to top it off, he even went to great lengths to grill the chicken with tandoori spices before adding them into the sauce!

He served it with basmati rice, a cucumber and yoghurt raita and some leftover homemade flour tortillas which we toasted up to pass it off as “chappati”.

And to think I wanted to go out for dinner last night.

Beer and Chocolate

Posted in Baking with tags , , , on May 20, 2010 by thepseudoepicurean

Who says you can’t have it all?

Seriously, this makes for absolutely kickass chocolate cake.

Young’s Luxury Double Chocolate Stout

(image taken from th.omas)

Last night I made the most delightfully light, fluffy and moist chocolate cupcakes ever in preparation for salted caramel cupcakes (which eventually didn’t happen because I forgot to buy cream). This beer lends an incredible flavour to the cake – chocolatey, malty and slightly salty all at once. Beautiful.

The end result was a winner with all my guinea pigs in the office and it’s definitely going into my recipe keeper.

Beer+Choc cupcake with a triple-chocolate frosting and fleur de sel



Going Back To My Roots

Posted in Asian Cooking, Recipes with tags , on May 18, 2010 by thepseudoepicurean

I’m currently a little obsessed about Asian cooking at the moment, partly because I miss local Singaporean / Malaysian fare, and the other part is intent on fulfilling my “good Asian wife” duty and feed the husband well. More often than not, the husband ends up cooking for me these days because of extremely gruelling days in the office culminating in a can’t-be-arsed-to-cook mood by the time I get home. And so on days when I actually leave the office feeling partly alive, I try to make up for the times when my domestication was absent.

I’ve tried my hand at a number of dishes, namely:

1. Wat dan hor (stir-fried rice noodles with egg gravy)
2. Tomato prawns, inspired by my aunt who makes a kick-ass version. I couldn’t remember the exact ingredients she used so I just followed my instincts and voila! Tasted pretty good!
3. Tofu-wrapped chicken nuggets

Wat Dan Hor (stir-fried rice noodles with egg gravy), recipe adapted from Lily’s Wai Sek Hong.

Wat Dan Hor (stir-fried rice noodles with egg gravy)



  1. 300g fresh rice noodles, preferably thick-cut
  2. 3-4T oil
  3. 1T light soy sauce (or more to taste)
  4. 1T dark soy sauce (or more to taste)


  1. 2 chicken thigh fillets, sliced into finger-sized pieces
  2. 100g prawns, shelled and deveined
  3. 1 small calamari, cut into rings
  4. 1 bunch choy sum, cut into 3 inch sticks
  5. 500ml chicken stock
  6. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  7. 2 T cornstarch mixed with 1/2 cup water
  8. Dash of light soy sauce, to taste
  9. 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  10. Dash of pepper, to taste
  11. Pickled green chilli (optional)


  1. Heat oil in a wok
  2. Add in noodles and both soy sauces and stir fry till slightly charred. Add more soy if you like. Set aside.
  3. Clean the wok.
  4. Heat more oil in the wok
  5. Fry the garlic till fragrant, then add the chicken and prawns and continue to toss until almost cooked.
  6. At this point, add in the calamari and stir fry for 30 seconds, then add the soy sauce and chicken stock and bring to a boil.
  7. Now add the choy sum and stir in half the corn starch mixture (note: you may not need all of the corn starch mixture) and bring to a boil again. If the mixture is not thick enough, add more of the corn starch mixture until the desired thickness is achieved.
  8. Turn off the heat and drizzle the lightly beaten eggs over the sauce. Let sit for a minute before stirring the egg mixture through the gravy.
  9. Dish up noodles into a wide-mouthed bowl and pour a generous amount of the gravy over the noodles.
  10. Serve with pickled green chilli for added effect!

Next up, the recipe for my 6th aunt’s tomato prawns. Mmm…

Will Run For Figs

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on March 27, 2010 by thepseudoepicurean

Fig Tree

Image taken from http://prepareformass.files.wordpress.com

Lately I discovered something new about myself – I love figs. Not just any figs, but the kind that came straight off the tree from a little old Italian grandma’s garden. There is something about a perfectly ripened fig that is sooooo satisfying that it almost sends shivers up my spine, the thrill that comes with tearing it open, waiting for the moment of truth to prevail – whether or not you’d picked a perfect fig.

Then you pop it into your mouth and all of a sudden there’s a party going on in there! I’ve likened it to a cross between a watermelon and a strawberry – jammy, soft and almost mushy, suspiciously seedy, and most of all INSANELY SWEET! Look ma, I just ate a flower!

Somewhere along the trail that the Jman and I frequently run sits a grandiose-looking fig tree. God knows how old it really is because it’s a massive tree, and since the summer days it has been our pit-stop each time we run. It was from that tree that I tasted my first hand-picked fig, and there’s been no turning back ever since. I suppose I will now have to shamefully admit that we’ve been hanging around the tree and spying the figs, and on a number of occasions helped ourselves to the rare (because I’m certain that there’s an old Italian man lurking somewhere in the bushes picking the good ones while we’re at work!), perfectly-ripened fig before running away gleefully like giggly (but guilty) schoolkids. *hangs head in shame*

These days, the fig tree is the only thing that gets me excited about running. Waking up this morning to go for a run was all of a chore until the husband drew the fig tree trump card. “But there’s the fig tree, darling”, he persuaded as I stubbornly refused to budge from under the covers. And it wasn’t much longer before I found myself lacing up my runners and pounding the trails. The tree gave us 2 figs today. And there were another 3 that we purchased with a gold coin from a cafe we had breakfast in, incidentally from an old, little Italian man’s garden.

Ah, to have my very own fig tree one day…but for now I will still have to run for my figs.

The Cooktop Dilemma

Posted in Home Improvement, Life with tags on February 9, 2010 by thepseudoepicurean

The husband and I are in the midst of planning for our new kitchen, and one of our biggest headaches at the moment is finding the right stove. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but we’ve got a few criteria that needs to be fulfilled and despite the wide array of stoves available to us – both Australian- and European-made – this has proven to be a much greater challenge than we imagined!

First off, these are the things we look for in a stove:

A. 90cm, 5 or 6 burners
B. Must have a wok-burner of at least 15mj/h, but ideally 17mj/h and above.
C. The wok-burner must be on the side panel and not the middle, and if coupled with a smaller burner in the same panel, it needs to be in front
D. The dials should ideally be at the front and not the side. Dials on the side just mean space wastage.

Just 4 simple criteria and almost nothing we’ve seen really meets them all. Now meet the Highland cooktop:

The 6-burner Highland Cooktop

There is the Highland that we’ve been looking at and ogling over – it is perfect. It truly is a work of art with 6 burners, 2 x 22mj/h wok-burners, and is about 98cm long. There is ample room on the stove with each burner well-spaced out from the other, and the husband and I can finally work side by side without a fight! But with a price tag that could afford us a trip to the moon and back, we’ve unfortunately had to shelve away any hope of owning one and explore other options.

Then there’s the Ilves. The Mieles. The Boschs. The Blancos. The Smegs.

We’ve pretty much ruled out the common-brand Blancos and Smegs. Price-wise, they don’t come cheap but they are not much different from the Electroluxes or Westinghouses. So that leaves us with Ilve and Miele.

We’re leaning more towards an Ilve because we just like to be anti-establishment – there’s too much hype about Miele and the specs don’t seem to justify the price tag. I’ve heard that Miele is a good brand, but how good is good and are they really worth the price? On the other hand, while Ilve seems like a good brand to go by, I haven’t heard much about it.

So Ilve? Miele? What other brands are worth checking out? What would you recommend and why?

I Ate At MoVida And I Liked It

Posted in Food Reviews, Restaurants, Restaurants in Melbourne with tags , on February 2, 2010 by thepseudoepicurean

(image taken from movida.com.au)

I can still remember the first time I went to MoVida last year; Next Door had not yet opened and a table booking for two in their puny Hosier Lane hideout was one of Melbourne’s most prized possessions at that time. It probably still is. So when we happened to find ourselves a table booking for two on a Wednesday night, we hesistated not and went straight for it.

I can still recall the tiny tables crammed into that tiny space like a tin of sardines. It was dark, it was bustling, it was kinda novel, almost sexy.

Then the food. I can’t quite recall what we ordered, but I do remember being rather unimpressed with whatever we did. The food wasn’t bad at all, don’t get me wrong, but it certainly wasn’t worth the incredulously long waiting list. The brusque waiter didn’t help either, and I remember walking out of the restaurant feeling a little bit jaded by the fact that this was yet another over-raved, over-rated restaurant. One down; how many more to go?

Fast forward to yesterday. The husband’s friend is back in town and a few of us congregated at the new MoVida Aqui in Bourke Street. I wasn’t keen, to be honest; after all, chefs have this thing about opening their restaurants in threes and it’s only proved to be the start of disaster (I shan’t name names). I had my doubts that MoVida would impress, particularly if they’d failed to nail it in their first restaurant (in my books anyway).

Anyway. We got there. We got our menus. And it was a tad overwhelming. Every nook and cranny of the menu sheet was crammed with dishes and descriptions. There were dishes to share, dishes off the grill, individually portioned ones, paellas and goodness knows what else. Trying to decipher the menu was one thing; trying to decipher a menu and decide on what to eat on an empty stomach at 8 in the evening was a whole new ball game altogether!

So we did the next best thing by asking the waiter for his recommendations. I loved our waiter. He was pretty humourous and duly explained the menu to us. Not that our hungry stomachs caught half of what he said, but he was great to suggest what he thought were the really good, must-try, or you-can-skip-thats. In the end we gave him the reigns and let him do the ordering for us. And then of course, we had the paella del marisco, the quintessential Spanish classic of a seafood paella.

This is what we ended up ordering (names and descriptions I took from their website because there’s no way I can recall the names of all that we ate!):

  1. Ostra ($18/half dozen) – Oysters. Served with manzanilla and watermelon dressing. The sweetness of the watermelon and the tartness of the (don’t-know-what) jelly complemented the creaminess of the oyster nicely. Nice, but not outrageous.
  2. Choco ($15.50) – Cuttlefish on the plancha with onion and squid ink sauce. This was definitely one of the highlights. The calamari was tender, and the sauce, with the onions having been reduced and cleverly melded into the squid ink, was gold. It was thick and sweet and rich!
  3. Vieira ($16/3 pieces)- Scallops grilled with jamon on pisto, braised manchego style vegetables. Scallops were very fresh, and sandwiched between a thin slice of jamon and a ratatouille-like vegetable bed. Fresh flavours were the highlight.
  4. Xato ($17.50/4 pieces) – Grilled tuna with a black olive crust, romesco sauce and endive. I liked the tuna, again for its freshness, but the black olive crust didn’t do anything to impress me. I was expecting a stronger presence from the olives but didn’t get any. The romesco sauce had an interesting texture, though flavour wise it tasted like unseasoned, non-spicy chilli paste. Once again, freshness was the highlight of the dish, but I can very easily get a good tuna steak from the market and do it at home myself.
  5. Paella del Marisco ($48/2-4 people; $92/4-6 people) – Bomba rice cooked with seafood and saffron. The quintessential Spanish seafood paella. This was the highlight of the night (I’ll talk about desserts later). The serving was more than enough even for 5 hungry people as we had other dishes to share, and it was chockful of fish, prawns, and clams.  The rice had a fantastic bite to it, it wasn’t at all soggy or mushy. The seafood was fresh as could be, and even the fish (which normally comes out the worst in any seafood combo) was delightful. My only gripe is the lack of a good and crispy charred base but all was forgiven as the rest of the dish made up for what was lacking. I also noticed on their menu the salt cod, rabbit and artichoke paella which is on my must-eat list for the next time I return.

A pity we were so engrossed in our food that we forgot to take any pictures whatsoever, so you’re just gonna have to trust me on this one. You may also have noticed the absence of meat on the menu. The lamb and the goat came highly recommended by the waiter, but having left the call of duty in ordering our food in his hands, he told us that he wanted us to finish our meals first before he went ahead to put through the meat orders because he’d figured we might actually be REALLY full! Good call, Mr. Waiter! And great honesty too!

Now onto desserts…there is ALWAYS room for dessert and that’s no myth. We had our eyes set on 2 things: a trifle with macerated strawberries and almonds, that’s been heavily-infused with Pedro Ximenez (there isn’t a dessert menu online and so I can’t provide you with the names!), and the Valrhona chocolate mousse.

According to Mr. Waiter, all the desserts came highly recommended, but if he had to choose, he’d go with the churros, the flan and the pineapple granita. We went with the flan (in addition to the first 2).

And here’s the verdict:

  1. Trifle – It was pleasantly fruity, and nicely balanced with cream, sponge and alcohol. It was however not a strong winner in my books but nonetheless good.
  2. Valrhona chocolate mousse – Forget about this one. This was quite a disappointment. I think we were blinded by the word “Valrhona”. The chocolate was too mild and it was a wimpy dish (I like my chocolate dark and robust). They can’t be faulted for texture and technique though. It was light and airy. It also came with a pistachio biscuit and poached apricot, but we would have been more grateful for a generous sprinkling of freshly-roasted pistachios instead.
  3. Flan – This was an absolute winner! I’d never tasted custard this good and it was heavenly. I was secretly thanking my lucky stars that this was placed right in front of me so I could keep digging at it without being noticed that I’d taken more than my fair share of the dessert. MUAHAHA! The  sm000000ooth custard sliding down my throat was simply sensational. It had the right amount of sweetness to it and ohboy this. was. damn. good.

We realised soon enough that we should’ve followed Mr. Waiter’s recommendations and decide to repent by adding another one of the two remaining recommended desserts to our table. We went with the churros. The churros were great (crispy on the outside, light and airy on the inside) but the chocolate dip was again disappointing. I’ve always loved my churros with a dark chocolate sauce but this one was almost milky with barely a hint of chocolate taste to it. I don’t know, but maybe that’s how the Spanish like their chocolato!

It was on the whole a thoroughly enjoyable dinner and apart from the disappointing chocolate mousse, I loved every dish on our table that night. It for one has certainly changed my mind about the institution. I do apologise for the wordy, picture-less post but photos or not, I knew I certainly had to blog about this one!

So now that I’m going to head back for more, any kind sponsors out there?

Wan Ton Mee

Posted in Asian Cooking with tags on January 14, 2010 by thepseudoepicurean

I love a good wan ton mee (dumpling with noodles). And a good wan ton mee is made up of 3 things:

  1. It’s got to be dry and complemented with a good sauce;
  2. The noodles must be springy with a firm bite to it. Soggy noodles with a strong taste of alkaline water are an instant put-off for me;
  3. The wan tons must be plump, filled with meat, and the skins have to be silky smooth

We’d bought a heap of prawns the other day as the husband was craving some, and decided to make prawn wan tons to save ourselves from (ironically) prawn overload (in stir-fried form)…y’know, variety is the spice of life type-of-thing.

Anyway, being the amateur prawn wan ton makers we are, we haphazardly mixed in chives, corn starch, a bit of egg with the chopped up prawns…with the usual soy sauce, white pepper and sesame oil. Frankly, they weren’t the best (I’m not sure if the corn starch was a good idea) but they sure were plump and juicy and still satisfying.

As for the noodles, the secret really is in making sure that the noodles are slightly under al dente before scooping them out and dunking them into a bath of cold water to wash off the starch. This is a very important step ensuring that you don’t end up with gluggy clumps! Dip them into another pot of hot boiling water (or even soup) to finish off the cooking, drain, toss it in with the sauce and garnish as you please.

Homemade wan ton mee

Recipe for the sauce, sufficient for 2 serves (this is merely a guesstimation of the proportions I used, so alter the measurements to suit your taste):

  • 3 Tbs oyster sauce
  • 1 Tbs kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce)
  • 1 Tbs dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • Dash of white pepper

Cinnamon Scrolls

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on January 8, 2010 by thepseudoepicurean

There is nothing like the smell of fresh bread wafting through the house. I LOVE bread. And the husband makes some really good (artisan, in my biased opinion) bread. Unfortunately I do not possess his deft hands when it comes to kneading and flipping and shaping the dough, so I’ve never quite ventured into the breadmaking domain.

I was craving for cinnamon rolls this afternoon and decided to try my hand at making some. Armed with Nigella’s “How To Become A Domestic Goddess” and Rosso my trusty KitchenAid, I got right into the thick of things!

Buttered, sugared and ready to roll

All scrolled up!

Golden Cinnamon Scrolls

The end result was gold.

The bread

Not bad for a first attempt, hey?