Sunday, June 24, 2012

Shirako, cod milt ~ Rakuzen

Finally had the chance to celebrate fatty hubby's 40th birthday today! (^^) He was too distracted and bogged down with work to do anything on the actual day.

The big FOUR ZERO ~ a major milestone (^^||).. it scares me (mine's right round.. er, the "far" corner), but at the same time, it's exciting (?!) times for us too. At 40 (I mean he's 40.. I'm "29".. ok, maybe "31"?), we "had" to get ourselves in debt (after many, many years of being debt-free and free-spending) by buying a house that's probably too big for just the two of us! Though I'm excited about the new place.. I also can't quite bear the thought of leaving (selling) my little "almost-perfect" (my darling piggies live in the same block) apartment! What did we get ourselves into, right?

Anyways, enough about that.. this post is not about our dilemma.. but about something interesting we had at a japanese restaurant today. Shirako, cod milt.. cod what? Yes, that's what I thought when I saw that on the seasonal menu at rakuzen's. But I conveniently ignored "milt" and conveniently thought that it was some deep-fried cod fillet something.. The picture on the menu sure looked appetising, like succulent tempura oyster or something like it..

Looks just like oyster tempura, doesn't it? It's served with drizzled mayo in worcestershire sauce (tastes almost like a kushikatsu dip)..

It was the last thing to arrive and we were full by then..  But I love cod fillets.. so I stuffed some in anyways. It didn't taste quite like fish.. rather, it was soft and creamy.. which was rather odd. Fatty hubby had some but said nothing, of course. So I took a bite off to take a look.. whoa!!!

White fusili??? What's with the white coils or springlike thing??? And that's when the word "milt" striked me! Oops.. Fatty was perfectly fine with his "tempura" before.. but after seeing the "coils", he refused to have any! (^^||) I thought it might be some kind of intestinal thing or possibly roe.. It doesn't taste bad or smelled pungent.. it's pretty bland actually. Not rubbery at all, just soft and creamy.. like eating tasteless fish roe or slightly springy tofu.

Well, we googled "milt" in the car, after leaving rakuzen.. found out what it was.. and fatty's totally put off! Of course I had packed the rest of our milt tempura home! I wanted to show piggies, of course (^^)!

In case you are wondering what shirako or milt is.. this is not for the faint-hearted *beware!*.. check out the write ups by serious eatsthe kitchn and loneleeplanet. Read at your own risk! You may be put off permanently!!! I was fine till I saw pictures of raw shirako ~ I feel "iggy" right now.. (^^||)

Anyways, we had a great time at rakuzen.. it's one of the more consistent, interesting and reasonably-priced japanese restaurant chains around. And the set dinners that we had ~ salmon sashimi and beef teppanyaki ~ was absolutely delicious! And the deep-fried oat breaded tempura shirako was INTERESTING, to say the least! An eye-opener.. we definitely learned something new today ^^.

And in case you don't already know, shirako or milt.. is soft roe.. otherwise known as fish sperm.. oh, please don't squirm.. (^^)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Summer skies and all things nice!

It's chubby pig's 10th birthday today! (^^)

So I thought I'd bake him some vanilla dreams.. this time using unsalted butter cake and fluffy swiss meringue buttercream (call me cupcake's recipe)

I was going to use unsalted Lurpak (checked and planned the night before), but I don't know how I ended up with salted Emborg! Anyways, what's the big deal, right? Well, it's a BIG DEAL when the sugar is way off (approx. 30g less), AND one ends up with a SALTY plain cake!!! What a mess! 

And to make things worse.. I did not make a sweet enough frosting to counter the salty cake! I actually chose call me cupcake's strawberry buttercream recipe because it didn't call for so much sugar! I omitted the strawberries and replaced with 2 tsp vanilla extract. I did however use 225g sugar, which should have been perfect.. but sadly, was still not quite enough to balance a very salty cake! (^^||)

Well, it's no vanilla dreams.. but I thought, how about summer skies and all things nice!? Think summers by the beach.. salty air and ice-cream cones = salty cake and fluffy "not-so-sweet" frosting *wink* Might work, right? (^^) fingers crossed..

Anyways, I'm praying that the cake will taste better and sweeter.. soonest. It always does, doesn't it? (^^)

So happy birthday, chubby! Here's wishing you summer skies and all things nice! Love you!

p.s my baby brother, papa pig loves this! mama pig too! i have no idea why.. papa says it's the best cupcake/cake i've ever made (???) i think he's just trying to be sweet.. awwwww.. (^^)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

I've always wondered why my pictures never come out right..

.. I found out why over the weekend at aunt's place.

It's simply the lighting. 

You see, I stay in an apartment. I bake in the afternoons. I finish and take my photos at night. Is it any wonder my photos never "pop"???!!

Of course, I admit my photography, composition and styling skills are suspect .. and definitely WIP, work-in-progress (^^||)..

And the fact that I never "photoshopped" before .. and still exploring pixlr now..

But now that I have confirmed what I suspected (everyone talks about using natural lighting! but it's not something I can do much about).. it can only get better from here (^^)!

Anyways, the 3 pictures above were taken at aunt's with plenty of natural lighting.. but I "photoshopped" with HDR effect.

Now the pictures below, taken at the same place are originals.. no use of any effect. What do you think?

a pre-WWII teacup set belonging to my late grandfather

I say, what a lot of difference good lighting does to a picture! (^^)

And the best part, I took them all with just an iPhone 4S! So easy, just point to focus and brighten.. and the pix all turned out great! I know, I know.. it's the LIGHTING! (^^)

Now the 3 pictures above, I took with my compact at about 2pm by my apartment's balcony door.. natural lighting, no effects (photoshop) used. I think the pictures turned out really well (^^)!

I'm so glad for the short trip home.. not only did I find my "lighting".. I found lots of "treasures" amongst "junk" at aunt's place! I found a nice slab of wood, and lots of vintage plates, glasses, teapots and teacup sets.. some dating back to pre-war! What a find (^^)!

Happy! Happy! Happy is me! (^^) I love you, sei yee! I love you, tai yee!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Nasi dagang @ tg lumpur

I'm glad we made plans to go back to my hometown, kuantan over the weekend. The haze in the city has been really bad.

Feels good to be home even if it was for just a day (^^). It's really not that far. Just a 3-hour drive, point to point.. that's from our apartment to my aunt's house, including a stopover at the petrol station and mcdonald's ^^. 

photos shot with iphone 4s ~ not too bad, eh?

Like I said, this has been a really short trip, so we didn't do much.. except eat! As usual, aunt cooked to feed an army! So we had yummy home cooked food.. and extra to take home too^^. As stuffed as we were, we somehow managed to squeeze in a late "tea" at warung pak ali, tanjung lumpur, a quaint, rustic and charming little place facing the south china sea.  

Of course, tea is not the reason to visit warung pak ali's.. it the nasi dagang, of course! This is probably the only place in kuantan that serves this dish at 5.30pm till late. Nasi dagang ~ rice with fish curry, is a speciality of the east coast. In my hometown, the rice used is usually white, but in the state of kelantan, they usually use red/wild purple rice.

Nasi dagang rice is cooked with fenugreek seeds, sliced ginger, shallots, lemongrass and coconut milk to give it it's unique flavor and fragrance. At pak ali's place, you will find the rice more heavily flavored with coconut milk than at any other place in kuantan. The fish curry is also generously spiced and cooked with coconut milk. Fish is always fresh here. They don't open if they can't get hold of good fresh fish. The no-frills nasi dagang here is almost 4-5 times cheaper than in the city!

dreamy, luscious nasi dagang

By the way, the people in tanjung lumpur were mostly fishermen (hence the fresh fish, but you will not find many doing this these days), and the place used to be separated from the "mainland" kuantan by a river. One had to take a boat to get to and fro for the longest time. Now, a bridge connects tanjung lumpur to town in just 5 minutes (maybe less) by car! It's really not that far away.. but to the very young me then, it was a world away! (^^)   

"photoshopped" using pixlr ~  check out the HDR effect

Anyways, if you would like to try this special east coast malay food, after 5.30pm, of course.. do give warung pak ali's a try. It's in the same vicinity as restoran kamunlau and the ikan bakar restaurants. Otherwise, check out warong pak su and mak su also in tanjung lumpur. They have decent nasi dagang and satar.. and their operating days and hours are more regular too! (^^)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

sweets from les deux garcons

I'm horrified at what fatty hubby did today! 

look what came in a box

His very nice colleagues threw him an early birthday celebration at the office with little cakes from les deux garcons patisserie.. And you know what he did? He told them to pack it up after blowing out the candle! He's so socially challenged.. I dare not think what his colleagues think of him!

prettiness deconstructed 

I can only hope that they didn't notice since they were also having breakfast at the same time.

He says the cakes looked too pretty to be eaten.. and he wanted to bring it home for me ^^. I'm not sure if I should be flattered.. after what he did. (^^||)

This is La diva ~ a yummy framboisee.. and almost as pretty as daily delicious's. (^^) I like the prettily colored layers and the very tangy sweet raspberry flavor of this cake. But I don't find it diva-esque enough..

And this is Le palladio ~ the most celebrated (expensive) cake in les deux garcons! Made up of an almond tart shell layered with joconde, and filled with vanilla ganache and white truffle (?!) mascarpone.. Rich, creamy and luxurious.. An acquired taste, no? Fatty hubby likes this best. I don't get this at all! At first bite, a strong, distinctive and pungent odor hits you ~ I thought durians! But white truffle can't possibly taste like durian, can it???!! That's not how I imagine truffle to be! It cannot! Anyways, this taste mellows and unfolds into a rich and creamy flavor which is pretty ok. But the first bite.. beware!

I find this creation most fascinating! I have no idea why! And you can tell by the many pictures I took of it ^^. Le bel ami is made up of chocolate cassis mousse, cassis cremeux and joconde base. You can taste the tartness of blackberries in every bite. I find this very pleasing ^^!

A most petite (as tiny as a button) macaron that followed the cakes home (^^). I later found out it dropped out from the top of la duchesse.. it was part of the deco ^^.

La Duchesse ~ made up of earl grey biscuit tendre, milk chocolate ganache and earl grey mousseline. This is no shy earl grey.. it shows ^^ very unique. This is one of the nicest tea-based desserts I've ever had.

And of course, the very dark L'amer ~ made of a shell of chocolate sacher, and valrhona 72% araguani mousse. A chocolate lover's dream come true ^^ I didn't think I like the "dark" side.. but I do (^^)

All this is so very nice.. thanks to hubby's dear colleagues. It's really thoughtful and sweet of them to remember hubby's birthday. I guess he must be doing something right at work. (^^)

And because of his social ineptness, I had the chance to enjoy the luscious sweet delights too (^^). Thank you.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Dreams of a better blog

I have been telling fatty hubby how much I enjoy reading some blogs for the wonderful posts and gorgeous pictures.. and how much I aspire to be like them.

I want that.. very much.

So I hereby promise to work harder on taking better photos, writing.. and all things that will make my blog better. (^^)

So what's the secret really to an interesting blog? Is it the writing? The pictures (a dslr camera?)? The styling? And how much time does one put into writing a successful post/blog? As it is, it already takes FOREVER to write/photo/upload one "amateur" post!

I really, really want my blog to be better. Not so much for others who may come across a post or two.. I don't expect much readers, much less followers (^^||), though I'm pleased that there may be some readers (unwittingly, perhaps? feel free to give me encouragement ^^) out there (^^).. and well, this is kind of a private blog (just me talking to myself, fatty hubby and hopefully, my piggies who might read this one day) because I am a (very) shy  person. So I really want to do better for ME.

I really look up to and aspire to be like my favorite bloggers' ~ some for their interesting posts, some for their fabulous recipes, some for their incredible talent and most for their amazing photos! You can see who they are on the left bar.

david lebovitz - he's perhaps the most "interesting" (he's cautious of the word "best", so I can't use that) baker/blogger/story-teller in the blogosphere. He can write pages of stuff, and I'll be reading every word.. yes, that's how good he is.  

daily delicious ~ she's so amazing and talented ~ she's inspiring! i wish i have her patience and talent

smitten kitchen ~  i love the way she writes, makes everything do-able, and love love love her pictures too

she who eats ~ she takes the most incredibly gorgeous photos! she's no cannelle et vanille or la tartine gourmande, but she's great!

cook republic ~ i really like her "earthy" pictures

call me cupcake ~ another of the super talented! her work, recipes and photos are out of this world!

dreamer's loft ~ she's a real source of comfort ~ that it's ok not to have amazing dslr pictures, and still have a good, interesting blog ^^

desserts for breakfast and seven spoons~ i love their styling

indian simmer (a recent find + favorite) ~ i love everything about her blog! it's so alive and robust!

I'm know I'm incredibly greedy! I want to be like all of them! I want my posts and photos to "POP" (^^) ~ to be exciting and interesting! hearty and robust, yet also tender and sweet.. tall order, eh? (^^||)

It's a long way, I know.. but I'll get there one day (^^).. maybe not perfect, but definitely better.

p.s. until I get there, know that I'm working on it (^^)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Tenderly sweet unsalted butter cake

It's been so long since the house smelled like this.. this dreamy light, so tender sweet scent..

I wonder if it had anything to do with the butter I used for my butter cake? I baked using unsalted butter today.. Emborg butter (bought at an "offer" price ^^). So could it be the butter (it claimed delicious european butter on the pack) combined with vanilla, that gave off such a sweet scent? Don't get me wrong, the kitchen/house ALWAYS smells delicious after a bake, but the scent is usually stronger and "heavier".. hardly ever this light, and this subtle sweet ^^.

Tenderly sweet unsalted butter cake

250g unsalted butter (use best butter, ok)
100g caster sugar
4 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract/essence (get darkest, thick essence possible) 
230g self-raising flour, sifted
6 tbsp fresh milk (fresh milk only!)
4 egg whites
70g caster sugar

1. Preheat oven to 180C.

2. Beat butter and 100g sugar till light and fluffy (don't overbeat!) Add egg yolks one at a time and mix till well combined. Add vanilla extract or essence.

3. Sift flour, and fold into butter mixture in 3 batches. Mix in fresh milk. Batter should be nice and smooth now.

4. Beat egg whites till frothy, and slowly add in 70g sugar. Beat till thick and glossy. Medium-soft stiff.

5. Fold in egg whites gently into cake mixture in 2 batches.

6. Bake as cupcakes for 25 minutes, or in a 7 or 8" round/square tin for 40-55 minutes, or till the skewer comes out clean.

Anyways, today's bake confirms that the BEST MOIST BUTTER CAKE EVER requires the use of SALTED butter! Unsalted butter butter cake just isn't the same..  

I'm not saying that unsalted butter butter cake isn't delicious (it's very nice, really).. in fact, it probably works better as a cupcake paired with frosting. But a stand alone/virgin/pure butter cake needs salted butter to give it character, flavor and "oomph"!!! (^^)

Anyways, I explored unsalted butter for my butter cake because.. I made call me cupcake's swiss meringue buttercream yesterday! My first. For fun. It was a whole lot more work, but it was absolutely divine! I'm never going back to my simple buttercream frosting again! Unfortunately I found the frosting (kept in the fridge) curdled today. Now I know I have to make them fresh!

Guess my new, improved vanilla dreams  for chubby and baby pig will have to wait. Fatty hubby is having a ball with the cakes.. but he still likes good 'ol "salted" butter cake better (^^)

This smell.. so light, so subtle, so gently sweet.. this, is the smell of happiness (^^)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

I love my orange butter cake!

I've been thinking a lot about the luscious orange cake I made recently! Fatty hubby and I really, really enjoyed it!

It's so, so, very, very good that I decided to make 2 batches today^^ Well, also to compare unsalted Ballanytne (last bar ~ bought on sale) versus unsalted Anchor butter. Was there a vast difference? Well, not quite.. Both cakes turned out beautifully soft and moist.. No difference in texture either. The cake using ballantyne butter did however, have a "heavier", stronger butter flavor.. Would I pay more for ballantyne? .. maybe not ^^||.. But I'd buy if it was on sale again! (^^)

Anyways, I made a bigger batch today as I intended to pass some to my aunts and chubby pig.. and maybe a few to fatty hubby's colleagues who have been nice to him.. Ok, ok, you caught me! I NEEDED to bake!!! (^^)

I'm happy and "almost" satisfied! I could go on and bake some more.. but fatty's complaining (^^||).

best moist orange butter cake ever!!!

So, so moist and good.. I should have made 3 cakes! (^^)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Tasty kimchi fried rice (kimchi bokkeumbap)

I love it when there's lots of leftover rice in the fridge!

And that, can only mean ONE thing ~ fried rice! Yay! And since I also have some cabbage kimchi on hand, it's kimchi bokkeumbap for dinner tonight, fatty! A super easy one, of course ^^.

My kimchi fried rice = rice, kimchi, garlic, onion, minced meat (marinate with some soy sauce, sesame oil and gochugaru), sesame oil, gochugaru and soy sauce (season to taste). Cook and add ingredients in any sequence/way you like. Feel free to add other veg like diced carrot, peas, etc. You don't have to add minced meat (meatless mondays??) if you don't want to. I added eggs as I used very little minced meat in my fried rice. Super-duper easy, right? (^^)

not sure why it  looks like saffron rice here ^^|| 

A deliciously tangy and robust bokkeumbap with a side of sweet, organic blanched okra.. Yums! (^^)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Cheat's doenjang jiggae

I'm really not into miso soup.. but the korean version is nice!

I made tofu and vegetable bean paste stew/soup, doenjang jiggae, for fatty hubby today. He's been feeling a bit under the weather and I thought something warm and soupy would make him feel better ^^.

Basically, to make doenjang jiggae, you need soybean paste or doenjang, which is similar to the chinese taucheo or the japanese miso. It's not expensive, and is widely available in the supermarts and the korean marts. I noticed the smell of doenjang is not as strong as the chinese taucheo, and it looks darker too. It is also not as salty ^^ that's really good! i like!

Anyways, this is my first time making doenjang jiggae. And I don't really have the ingredients as per the recipe (^^||).. so I tweaked it to suit what I have. I think my version is pretty good too. (^^)

Doenjang jiggae (adapted from my favorite little korean cookbook, korean favorites) ~ serves 4

2 liters water
40g dried baby anchovies
6 tbsp korean soybean paste, doenjang
1 tbsp korean hot chili bean paste, gochujang
3 potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 onion, diced or sliced
1 zucchini, sliced
6 fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 green chili, chopped
250g soft tofu, dubu, cubed
1 spring onion, cut into lengths

1. Bring water to a boil. Add anchovies, boil for 5 minutes and remove from stock.

2. Add doenjang and gochugaru to boiling stock. Add potatoes, onion, zucchini, mushrooms and chili, and simmer till vegetables are tender.

3. Add tofu and spring onion, and simmer for 1 minute. Cover the pot and serve after 2 minutes.

This recipe actually calls for a base stock of dried baby anchovies.. but since I had none, I just replaced with some pork meatballs (cut to small pieces) to make stock ^^. Then I added doenjang and gochujang.. and onions, japanese cucumber and soft organic tofu. So simple and easy, yet tastes good and not at all salty! (^^)

Fatty hubby loves this jiggae! I'm happy (^^)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Sesame ginger grilled chicken (dakjim gui)

I've been a bad girl and not been cooking dinner for the past week. (><||)

Everyday is a tomorrow when it came to dinners lately! I feel so lethargic just thinking about it! Must be the sweltering heat and suffocating weather (isn't it always the weather ^^)! Ok.. I do have some things on my mind too..

Anyways, fatty hubby's not complaining yet.. but I did promise I'll work on my cooking (^^).. So I decided to do something about it today and we had dakjim gui and stir-fried spinach tonight!

Here's the recipe from my favorite little korean cookbook, korean favorites.

Sesame ginger grilled (?) chicken

8 chicken thighs, legs or wings

1 spring onion, chopped (optional)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup (90ml) soy sauce
4 tbsp rice wine
4 tsp ginger juice, from grated ginger
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp sugar

1. Make 4-5 shallow incisions on the skin/meat. Set aside.

2. Mix the marinade ingredients together and pour over chicken. Rub till well coated. Cover and marinate for 3-4 hours (I only managed 2 hours, and it was still delicious!) or overnight in the fridge.

3. Preheat pan grill or broiler over medium heat, and grill the marinated chicken. I grilled/baked the marinated chicken in the oven at 200C for 40 minutes. Baste with marinade often, until crisp and cooked. Serve immediately.

This is quite a simple dish, using commonly found ingredients in the kitchen ^^, don't you think? Anyways, whatever you don't have, just skip! Of course, you MUST have ginger and sesame seeds/oil for this dish.. or it wouldn't be called sesame ginger grilled chicken!

This is a really tasty dish.. despite only marinating the meat for 2 hours (^^||). The meat is tender, and nicely infused with flavors (ginger, garlic and sesame) ~ and that's fatty hubby's very words (^^).

I love korean grilled meats! And this is, DELICIOUS!!! (^^)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A perfect dessert on a hot day ~ longan pudding

The weather's been insanely hot and suffocating lately!

It's so bad that I have been religiously boiling and chilling the simple barley fuzhok drink and mung bean dessert to "cool" down (don't we all have 101 reasons for sweet indulgences ^^||) .. I can't tell that it works, but I sure know it tastes deliciously cold and refreshing on a hot day (^^)!      

Anyways, I came across this dessert in wendyinkk's blog recently and thought that it would be nice and refreshing for hot days like these. Check out her recipe here.

The longan pudding is really delicious! Velvety soft, with a mild taste of soymilk and longan.. think panna cotta. Just the way I like it (^^).

"sweating" under the sweltering heat!

Oh, yes! I reduced the sugar to 170g instead of using 250g as per recipe. I feel the sweetness is just about right for me. I recommend you reduce the sugar for this recipe, and if you find that it's not sweet enough for you, just add more longan syrup to taste ^^. And since I like my puddings wobbly soft and silken like panna cotta, I used only 3/4tbsp of agar-agar powder. Now, it's perfect for me (^^)!

And if you want this dessert to be even more fabulous, make sure you have another can of longan. Serve the extra chilled longan pieces with the pudding. Sheer bliss! (^^)

Smooth as silk, light as air ~ a perfect dessert on a hot day! (^^) love! love! love!