Archive for August, 2009

Muffin Madness

Posted in Baking with tags on August 26, 2009 by thepseudoepicurean

The household has been on a muffin craze of late. To date, we’ve made orange muffins, apple, oat and yoghurt ones, granola ones, chocolate ones all in a span of TWO weeks. Muffins are a dream to bake. They are fantastic when I’ve got the baking itch but feeling absolutely lazy about cleaning up. Dry ingredients. Wet ingredients. Mix them all up (although the husband gets a little complicated sometimes and decides to whip the butter and sugar together; me, I can’t be stuffed. I use olive oil and my excuse is that it’s healthier anyway). WOOHOO!

We’ve also discovered that it’s a fantastic way of finishing up all the little bits and pieces of knick knacks in our pantry (shhh, don’t tell anyone I told you!). Apples, granola, the odd remnants of oats, yoghurt, buttermilk etc…so much that we’re now even contemplating Tim Tam ones just for the heck of it.

Super Decadant Dark Chocolate Muffins

Super Decadant Dark Chocolate Muffins

One of my all-time favourite muffin recipes is Nigella’s Orange Breakfast Muffins. The ingredients are so unbelievably simple and the end result so indulgent that I would make it everyday for breakfast if only I woke up just half an hour earlier each day. I also adore her granola muffin recipe but that requires some granola and buttermilk, which I wouldn’t assume everyone would always keep in the pantry. But that shouldn’t stop anyone though; almost anything could go into a muffin I swear.

Go try it out and tell me what other muffin combinations you’ve come up with! I’m definitely excited to try!

The One About Apple Spirals

Posted in Cooking with tags , on August 18, 2009 by thepseudoepicurean

Apple Spirals

Once in a while I like to think about my cooking influences, and despite being an avid collector of cookbooks and food magazines (note I said collector, not do-er), the ones who’ve had major influences on my epicureal journey are few and far between. One of them is my mother.

My mother is a great cook; anyone who has met her would agree. Anyone who has been lucky enough to partake in one of her grand feasts (namely Chinese New Year and Christmas) would probably tell you it’s the best home feast they’ve ever had. For all the years that I’ve lived with my parents, I’ve been accustomed to homemade sharks fin soup, ngoh hiang, homemade fish cakes, mee siam, lovingly-brewed birds nest soup, poh piah parties and a whole host of out-of-this-world dishes. In short, everyone knows that my mother rules the kitchen in the household.

My father, on the other hand, has probably only attempted cooking us a French meal (or was it just a dessert?) ONCE in his entire life, and has never stepped into the kitchen since. Instant noodles is his specialty. I guess with my mother’s culinary prowess, there is absolutely no need for him to stick around – he’d much rather watch his golf/soccer/news. But when it comes to fruits and cutting them up at the dinner table, Dad is King and no one gets in the way.

Dinner every night always ends on a grand note with my father whipping out his fruit board and knife. Fruits of different varieties are brought out to the dining table and Dad would begin the arduous task of cutting up fruit and sometimes even peeling the skins off whatever fruit we have (e.g. my mother doesn’t like grape skins and my father would lovingly peel each and every grape for her – how’s that for being romantic?).

One of my fondest childhood memories is of him, of all things, peeling apples! Many a time after dinner we would watch in wide-mouthed wonder as Dad deftly swirls the peeler around the apple and off comes its skin in one single string! As kids, my siblings and I would cheer Dad on, though as we got older and cheekier we’d try to distract him instead so that the string of skin would break!

Anyway, the husband was making apple oat muffins tonight and I was helping him peel the apples. Without hesitation, I picked up the apple and peeler and carefully ran the blade through its skin until all I had was a long string of green apple skin. I looked at it and beamed at the husband with much pride and satisfaction, though it made me miss Dad and our dinner table fruit moments.

It’s funny how some people influence us in big and small ways, and how our little habits or idiosyncrasies begin with the most inane of events in our lives. Tonight I made two long apple skin spirals and I’m sure Dad would be really proud of me if he saw it (I think I shall email him a photo of my accomplishment). This one’s for you, Dad!

Apple Spirals 2

Spring’s Come Early

Posted in Life with tags , on August 18, 2009 by thepseudoepicurean

According to Today Tonight we’re having some ridiculously early spring weather this year, thanks/no thanks to global warming, and although I might risk the wrath of the fervent Greenies in saying this (my only saving grace would be that I do recycle/bring my own grocery bags to the supermarkets/time my showers/flick all switches off), I’m welcoming this early dose of happiness-inducing climate!

As it is I am craving lots of fresh fruit and foods and spring is just the right season for this – think raw vegetables, berries in everything, fruit juices for lunch. There is nothing more invigorating than freshness, and if not for the cold (and the fact that a girl needs her steak) I’d be having juice for breakfast, lunch and dinner all day, everyday!

Just last night, the husband and I trooped over to Bunnings in search of some new plants for our balcony ledge. Bless his green fingers, really – we’ve got coriander, parsley, mint, lettuce, tomatoes, oregano, thyme, basil…and thanks to Granny, we also have a newly-sprouted curry plant! Last night we added more tomato shrubs to our already brimming balcony, and we even bought a greenhouse (yes, you got that right, a greenhouse) just to up the ante!

As much as I hate gardening (I killed my cactus), and I haven’t inherited any of that green genes from my mother, I get pretty excited watching the little seedlings sprout into what could be my next dinner. What’s more, it’s organic, it’s fresh, and it’s (almost) free!

So stay tuned to watch our little “backyard” project. Spring is truly, truly an exciting time!

Fried Rice Paradise

Posted in Asian Cooking with tags , , , on August 13, 2009 by thepseudoepicurean

I have a confession to make: I love fried rice. If carbs and too much oil weren’t a health issue, I’d walk right up to any (proper) Chinese restaurant and order myself a ginormous plate of yong chow fried rice (also commonly known as “Special” Fried Rice. There’s something satisfying about eating those fluffy grains, a token sprinkling of mixed vegetables full of wok hei (which is Cantonese for “breath of the wok”), eggy goodness.

It is also a dish that seems to satisfy the husband immeasurably. Every now and then he’ll have hallucinations about fried rice, and he’ll throw in a puppy-eyed look and start pleading for me to cook him some. Ok this sounds shameless, but I secretly think that my version of fried rice can really kickass. Of course it’s a personal thing, since home-cooked fried rice is always a cauldron for unwanted leftovers or whatever secret favourites you wish to put in. I don’t think it’s necessary to put in any instructions or recipe but I thought I’d share my secret ingredients…because a good fried rice secret is always worth sharing!

  • XO sauce – just a tiny bit
  • Sambal belachan – this thing really kicks ass, but the amount is really up to you or your tolerance levels for spicy food
  • Fish sauce – between fish and soy sauce, I’d opt for the former. This makes ALL the difference in the flavour!
The Epicureal Fried Rice

The Epicureal Fried Rice

So there you have it, my secret fried rice ammunition that makes the husband happy (men are so incredibly easy to please!) and apparently makes him super-efficient at work!

How Free Are Your Free Range Eggs?

Posted in Food Reviews, Life with tags , , on August 13, 2009 by thepseudoepicurean

The notion of “Free Range” has always been a slightly contentious topic. Unlike “organic”, the free-range-ness of animals is not widely certified, particularly when it comes to eggs. Just check the egg cartons in any supermarket aisle and you will see what I mean.

Of course the health-conscious, environment-conscious, animal-friendly (I say animal-friendly, not animal-lover by the way) chicks like me would still choose to pay $6 for a dozen eggs instead of $2.49 to keep our consciences free of evil as well, but I’ve often wondered to myself – exactly how free are those chooks laying our supposedly free-range eggs?

My folks spent a week up in the country and just returned to the city today. We joined them over the weekend at the Tonimbuk House, which is in a little township called Tonimbuk about an hour and a half’s drive from the city. Anyway, when they returned this afternoon, my city-bumpkin mother excitedly announced that she had brought back with her a DOZEN FREE-RANGE EGGS from the owners’ chickens! Frankly, I think my mother was more excited about the fact that the eggs were from the owners’ chickens (because you don’t ever get chickens running around in your HDB/apartment balconies in Singapore), while I was doing a little victory dance that mother dearest had scored us some beautiful REAL free-range eggs. And we know that they’re free range because we’d seen witnessed those chooks running around with our own eyes!

Free range eggs from the Tonimbuk House

Free range eggs from the Tonimbuk House

Daffodils from the Tonimbuk House garden

Daffodils from the Tonimbuk House garden

That’s not all. My father-in-law has a colleague whose family runs a farm, and they too have free range chickens (according to the FIL who’s supposedly visited them before, and thus has seen ’em chickens running around happily). So every now and then, when our stars are slightly aligned, we get to buy some free range eggs of them! DOUBLE SCORE! It also happens that the family makes their own cabana. Lovely paprika-scented, smokey smokey smokey and delightfully flavourful cabana, which we had the privilege of buying home earlier on in the week. TRIPLE SCORE!

Eggs from the FIL's colleague's farm

Eggs from the FIL's colleague's farm

So yes. I’ve now been spoilt with unsupermarketed free range eggs (I now have 23 free range eggs sitting in my fridge) and homemade cabana. I wonder if I can ever go back to the supermarket shelves to get my supply now. We’ll see!

Australian Gourmet Traveller

Posted in Life with tags , , on August 12, 2009 by thepseudoepicurean

Looks like this week has been all about taking chances. And to add to my record-breaking life-changing acts, I signed myself up for a 12-month subscription to the Australian Gourmet Traveller! I have been reading the magazine for quite a while now, and have enjoyed reading through the recipes and a fair number of articles thoroughly. My all-time favourite issue this year has been their special feature on Italian cuisine, something that is close to the hearts of both the Jman and I.

Anyway, I’ve now been suckered into yet another long-term “relationship” (the others being my mobile phone subscription and my broadband plan), but I figured rather than paying $8.75 a pop for each issue at the magazine stands, I really do get in some pretty good savings from $65 for a whole year’s subscription, which works out to be something like $5.50 per month (plus a chance to win a Limited Edition Candy Apple KitchenAid!…ok I already have one but surely another one wouldn’t hurt, would it?).

Oh and this is a special online promotion (the hardcopy form on the magazine still states $74.95 for a year’s subscription so I’m guessing it’s an online-only promotion) so if you’re interested too, better jump on the bandwagon quick!

Wacko Jacko Squid Ink Pasta

Posted in Cooking with tags , , , on August 10, 2009 by thepseudoepicurean

Necessity is the mother of invention, and tonight necessity manifested itself when we had a whole calamari but only half a packet of squidink pasta, which wouldn’t have been sufficient for either of us. So rather than suffer a miserly meal, we decided to toss in a portion of regular spaghetti into the pot and the result was a fairly odd-looking calamari pasta dish.

The result was nothing but delicious as we both lapped up all that was heaped on our plates. I suppose Wacko as Jacko may be, there was some evidence of wisdom in his famous words – “it don’t matter if you’re black or white” (or both)!

Mise en place - chopped tomatoes for the pasta

Mise en place - chopped tomatoes for the pasta

Pan-seared mushrooms

Pan-seared mushrooms

Squid ink pasta and spaghetti with calamari, tomatoes, garlic, parsley and white wine

Squid ink pasta and spaghetti with calamari, tomatoes, garlic and parsley and white wine

Oodles of noodles

Oodles of noodles

A satisfying meal

A satisfying meal

Our olive oil of the moment - the Dwarda Ridge Estate EVOO from W.A.

Our olive oil of the moment - the Dwarda Ridge Estate EVOO from W.A.