Monday, December 31, 2012

Adiós 2012

Reflecting on my travel adventures, just one year ago, I was wandering (not really actually, since I had to follow a tour group) around the streets of Istanbul and walking across the snow covered grounds of Cappadocia. I was seeing the sights of an ancient city, Ephesus, looking at Roman and Greek building structures. I was drinking pomegranate tea, apple tea, travelling literally from the European side to the Asian side via a boat.  Turkey, I really miss you.

So, it's the end of the year, and I have mixed feelings about 2012. I got to meet some new people this year, I discovered different things about myself, and well, 2012 was in a way surprising. To be honest, it didn't turn out the way how I wanted it to be. But things don't always go to plan. And in a way, I'm ready to say goodbye to 2012.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Basics: Pesto

Pesto. I fell in love with pesto a few months ago. I hadn't tried it before, believe it or not.

Christmas in down under

I'm in denial. I'm in denial that Christmas is over. I don't want to take down the Christmas tree and put away the decorations for another 12 months.

I think this Christmas has been one of the best. Last year, I was in Turkey. The year before, I was in Malaysia. This year, I'm back in Melbourne.

I stuffed myself like a turkey during my party, Christmas eve and on Christmas day. It was so much fun to listen to Christmas songs, decorate the Christmas tree, wrap presents, and everything!

Christmas eve was at Aunty Soo Suang's. We had all these small appetisers, chicken cacciatore, prawns, smoked salmon, and we also had a lot of dessert! I made Japanese cheesecake which tasted quite yummy! The only thing was, it was a bit crumbly. I have a suspicion that it is to do with  my frozen cream cheese. My mum always freezes cream cheese, because we never use all of them in time. And sometimes, I've found that, even though I let the frozen cream cheese defrost, there is a bit of a crumbly texture.

Aunty Soo Suang also made some mango pudding, double chocolate cookies and fruit cake.

On  Christmas day, my second sister was pretty much the head of cooking!

Our menu consisted of:

Turkey breast (not the whole turkey) with cranberry and I think it was chestnut stuffing?

So I forgot to take a picture before they already started cutting!
Succulent turkey! Perfect with cranberry sauce.
My famous mash potato
Roasted vegetables
I've never been a fan of zucchini or eggplant, but after I saw this cheat ratatouille recipe, I decided to try it. Roasted vegetables are just so yummy! The combination of the vegetables works SO well!
 Prawns, made by my second sister!

  4.5 kg of HAM

This was only PART of the ham we had.

 My second sister's boyfriend bought that. And it was more tasty than your average ham from the supermarket. SO, so, so tasty. It's near the bone, and the flavour gets even better when you carve the ham around the bone. 
Green tea macarons with white chocolate ganache filling. I also made some green tea ice cream with my ice cream mixer, using David Lebovitz's recipe , and oh-my-goodness! I had a GREAT turn out. Extra creamy with a punch of green tea flavour. Unfortunately, it was all devoured too quickly, I wasn't able to get a picture of it!

 And we finished off with a cake (sponsored by my first sister hehehehe) from Laurent. We ordered the Le canotier, which did not disappoint anyone! It reminded us of Ferroro rocher. It had chocolate mousse, flourless almond sponge, another sponge and feuilletine. Everyone loved the feuilletine especially, since it gave a really nice crunch to the cake.

I had a really good Christmas. It was such a great way to end the year. I am so thankful to have such a wonderful and supportive family, as well as caring friends. I'm also so thankful for how my blog has come around this year. My friends have told me how tantalising my blog looks (food) and my parents have forwarded me emails from their friends, commending me on my blog! I hope that this blog will eventually grow into something big. Hope you all had a really great Christmas. I hope the next one will be just as good. Hey, I'm hoping I'll have a white Christmas? Maybe I'll be in the northern hemisphere, who knows?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Past few days of Christmas festivities

It's Christmas eve! I'm getting ready for a good two days of celebrating Christmas with family and friends.

Last Friday, I hosted a Christmas party. I was busy cooking (with the help of my friend, Olivia!) and baking. I made some red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, chicken pie, lasagne, oreo and red velvet truffles and mango ice cream.

My famous chicken pie! 

Not sure who took this, but these are red velvet and oreo truffles.

Olivia's mum made this! 

Mango ice cream I made!

 Yesterday,  I went out to Crown with a few friends to celebrate my friend, Yvonne's birthday. We went to Kitchen workshop buffet. Boy, did I eat like a cow!
 Since it was the weekend lunch, we were able to get seafood passes. One each. So, we could each get a plate of oysters or prawns.
 There wasn't much savoury, I'll be honest, BUT the dessert was amazing! I grabbed a full plate (or 2 which I will not admit) of desserts, a couple of small plates and bowls of different desserts like pistachio panna cotta, mango mousse and sago (which tasted absolutely horrible. Aside from that, everything was great!) and even a bowl of soft serve chocolate AND vanilla ice cream. They also had the most amazing brownies ever!

The aftermath of five girls eating at a buffet.. I felt sorry for the waiters.
Excuse my lovely friends. 
 Merry Christmas everybody! Hope you have a fun time, gaining holiday weight and spending quality time with family.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Le petit gateau

I am going to tell you about one of Melbourne's gems. This is the most amazing cake shop. My sisters' have brought home the cakes from there cakes before, but I've never been to the actual shop. I went to Le petit gateau in the city with my friend, Anika and we felt like we died in heaven.

 Le petit gateau; small cakes. Small, delicate, beautiful cakes.

We kind of got lost in the city... A lot of times. And we had to take the tram to Little Collins street. But, we eventually found it!
 We tried four cakes: black beauty, black forest, brownie passionfruit and hazelnut millefeuille.
Black beauty
 I know what you're thinking. What in the world is on top of that cake? I can't even answer that myself. It looks like a brain. Or a mop. I can think of 10 other different decorations you can put on top of that cake instead of some gluggy weird-looking brain stringy thing! COME ON! Anyway, despite its weird looking appearance, I decided to choose that because I had read reviews on that cake. It sounded pretty positive. I'm glad I chose that cake. It has some kind of chocolate mousse and raspberry filling, I don't know! But it was very creamy. The glaze outside: PERFECT. It balanced out the sweetness of the inside. I suspect the glaze is probably around 70% cocoa? I don't know. But I highly recommend this one!

The inside
And then we had the black forest cake.  I'm not really a fan of black forest cakes, but I really liked this one! Except, for that cherry. Oh. My. Goodness. The worst cherry I've ever tasted... Anika and I were discussing "Why don't they just use REAL, FRESH cherries?" You notice with every cake shop, they always use these weird sickly-sweet cherries. 

 The next cake, the hazelnut millefeuille (thanks Anika, for picking this one out! I don't think I would've picked this one.),literally blew my mind.  It reminded me of Ferrero rocher. The base was so crunchy, I think maybe it was a kind of wafer or praline thing? But so delicious, words cannot explain my love for that cake.
 We also tried the brownie passionfruit. It also had the praline or wafer-thing, and the brownie was very rich and delicious. I don't normally fancy passionfruit, but it was a nice touch with the brownie! Fruit and chocolate, hello!
 Going at $8.50 for 1 cake, it is certainly not cheap, but I think it is most definitely worth it. I do not think that it is easy to replicate any of these, I'm not even going to dare try. These require so many hours of work, and are finicky to work with, you have to be a pastry masterchef! So I guess that's why it's not cheap.

They also sell the bigger versions of cakes, like the brownie passionfruit, cosmopolitan and also the lemon tart. Last year, my eldest sister had the lemon tart for her birthday cake. I liked it, but I could only have a bit. It was too sweet for my liking. I'm not really into lemon tarts.
Brownie passionfruit in the small and large version. 
 They also sell chocolates.
 They also have hot chocolates (in milk, dark and white! Which I've never seen around Melbourne.) and I'm quite curious to try that. They have an afternoon tea special, if you buy one cake, you can get it with coffee, tea or a hot chocolate. For $9! Only available after 2:30. But worth it! I'll try that next time. Their cakes aren't too sweet, so I'm definitely coming back!

Le Petit Gateau on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Shortbread cookies

This is honestly the most wonderful time of the year. I'm getting real festive! So guess what I've been doing? BAKING HOLIDAY COOKIES!

Shortbread is a classic. This recipe is so simple, but it's simplicity at its best. It's the perfect, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth kind of cookie, and you can do almost anything you want with it. Cut it with a gingerbread man, love heart cookie cutters; well, anything you desire.  But what makes it even cuter, is if you cut a smaller part in the middle, and sandwich it and put the filling with some jam or buttercream.

These make excellent holiday gifts, and the decorations are always the fun bit. What I like to do, is I like to melt some dark chocolate, and then dip my shortbread and sprinkle it with some chopped up pistachios. Feel free to sub in any nuts, or even sprinkles or candy! But I like how the saltiness of the pistachios cuts through with the dark chocolate, and then there you have your shortbread. I made these with dark chocolate last week, but this week, I ran out of dark chocolate, so I only had milk chocolate. 

Happy holidays!

Shortbread cookies 

Adapted from Joy of baking

2 cups (260 g) all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon (2 grams) salt
1 cup (226 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (60 grams) powdered (confectioners' or icing) sugar
1 teaspoon (4 grams) pure vanilla extract

1. In a bowl, whisk the flour with the salt.
2. In an electric mixer (I did it manually), beat the butter until smooth. Add the sugar, and beat until smooth and well combined. Put the vanilla extract, and then pour in the flour mixture, just until incorporated. Flatten the dough into a ball, and wrap it in plastic wrap and chill the dough in the fridge for at least an hour, or until firm.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). Line two baking sheets with baking paper.
4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into 1/4 inch (.6 cm) thick circle. Cut into rounds, or other shapes with different cookie cutters. Place on the prepared baking sheets, and place in the refrigerate for another 15 minutes. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until cookies are very lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.

* I rolled the dough out into quite big shapes, so it took a lot longer to bake. Just be caution not to over-bake them. They should have a bit of browning, but not too much!

* For a chocolate dipped shortbread variation, melt some chocolate (any) in a heatproof bowl, and then drizzle or dip the shortbread with the chocolate and place on baking paper. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes, or when the chocolate is set.

What are your favourite holiday cookies? 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

A few things

I took this a while ago, but I love this photo.
I have a piano exam coming up in a few days. I actually do not know why I'm blogging right now, when I should memorising my general knowledge and practising... BUT, I have been a mad piano woman everyday. I'm sure my neighbours are sick of hearing the same old songs, scales, this and that. I must be driving my family mad as well. Particularly my sisters. But I'm nervous. This is the most nerve-wrecking time of the year. Wish me luck!

* Successful three layer birthday cake*

I've barely had any homework (end of school year!) so I've had so much free time (besides playing piano). I baked a 3 layer chocolate cake for my friend Olivia, using the chocolate cupcakes with Nutella frosting recipe, but multiplied the cupcake recipe by 3 and the icing by 1.5 times. I think I went slightly over board with the decorations perhaps, but it was so much fun to make! Not to mention, it tasted great! I honestly think I have too much fun with baking...But then again, you can never have too much fun. Happy birthday Olivia, you little swimmer!

* My eldest sister's birthday dinner *

Happy birthday to my eldest sister, YV!! I baked the Baked brownies, my mum made raspberry cheesecake, and we had a huge typical feast. Homemade food at its finest! We had laksa and kuay teow. I was a bit of a coward, and only chose to have a bit of the spicy soup mixed with the non-spicy one.
The Baked brownies somehow tasted even better than the first time, especially with the walnuts. The Baked brownie reminds me too much of how much I love it and why I shouldn't bake it too often. I have stored some in the freezer, so when I'm having a craving, voila!  YM's bf commended me saying "I thought this would be a kiddy brownie, but this is actually not too sweet."

I ate too much though. I literally couldn't walk around for at least half an hour. I was in a food coma. And boy, did it not feel good.

Happy birthday jie, hope you enjoyed my brownies as you requested for them! Thanks (you will notice I always give my thanks to people, especially on their bdays) for being such a great sister for the past 15 years. I remember you told me that when you were just about to go to school in Malaysia, I came into our room looking for candy and threw up on your school uniform. I'm such a great little sister. It must be nice to be the eldest and have two little sisters.

* New ice cream maker *
I have been telling my mum about this Cuisinart ice cream maker, and well, she decided to get it for me! It's on sale for 99 dollars at Myers, David Jones and House. Thank you mum! You will be seeing recipes of frozen yoghurt and ice cream coming soon :) This is PERFECT for this coming summer.

* Banana bread *

Nearly every week, for the past few weeks, there has been some kind of banana bread loaf sticking around the kitchen. Either my mum bakes it, or I do! I have made Smitten Kitchen's recipe's recipe twice. I added some toasted walnuts, because banana bread is always better with walnuts. I'll spike it up with some coffee next time.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Super extra fudgy brownie

This brownie is jam packed, full of intense chocolate flavour and fudginess. Cake-like brownie lovers, this is not the brownie for you. This brownie is perfect for those who love eating extra fudgy brownies with a bowl of ice cream. 

I wasn't able to get good shots because I was not successful in cutting them neatly, and became a little too lazy. It was literally just SO fudgy. I was even able to get the crackly tissue-paper like top in a typical brownie that has a load of sugar (typically 1 and a half cups of sugar or more), but there's actually only 3/4 cup in this recipe. It's because the amount of flour is very, very, very low. It was a bit sticky, but it tasted really great! The best with walnuts.

This recipe is a keeper for those who like fudgy brownies, but in all honesty, I still think the Baked recipe is my favourite brownie recipe. But despite that favouritism, I still really do like this recipe. 

Remember to use good chocolate! I used Cadbury's old gold 70% cocoa and also a bit of Lindt's 70%. 

Adapted from David Lebovitz's book, The Sweet life in Paris (via Canella Vita)


6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for the pan
226 grams (8 ounces) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature.
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 cup walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts or pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

* 1 teaspoon of espresso (optional)
This recipe works well with add-ins, so feel free to throw in whatever you like.


1. Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius)
2. Line an 8-inch (20 cm) square baking dish with 2 sheets aluminium foil (I used baking paper/parchment paper), positioning the sheets perpendicular to each other and allowing the excess to extend beyond the edges of the pan. Lightly grease the foil with non-stick cooking spray.
4. In a saucepan, melt butter, add the chocolate, stirring constantly over very low heat until the chocolate is melted. Remove from heat. Add in eggs one at a time, then stir in the sugar, vanilla,, then the flour and nuts or add-ins if using.
5. Bake for 30 minutes (don't over-bake!). Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.