Tag Archives: sweet

O’Gourmet Food Hall Chili Chocolate Mousse

3 Apr

Chili and chocolate is a wicked, wanton pairing. Chocolate is deep and dark; spicy notes with a bass pounding beat. Chili is bright and spicy – a spark of fire like the river of sound from a sharp sexy saxophone. Together, they play off each other and intensify their own qualities to create an extraordinarily beautiful fusion.

This mousse was created as the last dish in a Spanish red wine tasting at O’Gourmet Food Hall. It was paired with a Humiliat 2008 – a red that is complex, with a depth of flavour and contrast. The pairing of chili and chocolate brought out the various notes in the red wine, and deepened its complexity even further.

Do note that I used organic eggs for this recipe – and this is crucial because the egg white is not cooked. If you have concerns, use pasturised eggs if possible. And do balance the amount of chili to suit your taste. I used Kashmiri chili from O’Gourmet – which is full of fire, and yet smooth and gorgeous. The thing I love about this chili is that in sweet dishes (I used it in a vanilla ice cream before as well), it really allows for stages of flavour – the first hit you get is chocolate, and then suddenly, fire. Its very more-ish, and brings about a flush of passion in those who consume it.

This is not a diet dessert by any standards – chocolate, lashings of cream, butter and eggs. Its rich, but the chili somehow adds a fresh, wild note. And as laden as it is with calories, it uses very simple ingredients – and if you make sure they are top quality, the taste will be sublime. You also cant have huge bowlfuls of this dessert – it is best served as a delightful, delectable taste, may be with a dark cup of coffee.

Do please note that I made this mousse to feed about 20 – 30 people (albeit in tiny little cups). You could probably feed 8 – 10 people with leftovers. Make in little individual serving pots, or one large, luscious bowlful – its up to you. But do make sure you add the whipped cream on top (and a few chocolate shavings or nuggets) – its all about the contrast and layers of flavour.

Makes about 4 – 5 cups

  • 10 ounces best quality bittersweet chocolate (at least 72%) broken into chunks
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 + 2 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 3 + 3 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 2 + 1 cups cream
  • 2 tsp chili powder (or to taste)
  • Chocolate chunks or curls to decorate

Fill a saucepan with boiling water, and place a small metal bowl on top. Melt the chocolate in the small bowl, and add the butter. When the butter is melted, whisk in the egg yolks (they will stiffen the mixture), salt, and vanilla. Stir well, and take off the heat. Pour the chocolate mixture into a large bowl, and set aside.

Whip the egg whites, adding 3 tbsp of light brown sugar, until the egg whites are very stiff, and hold high peaks. Fold about 1/3rd of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, and then gently fold the rest in. Cover the bowl, and place in the fridge.

Whip 2 cups of cream until stiff, and then remove the chocolate mixture from the fridge. Fold the cream in gently. Sprinkle the chili over the mousse in 1/2 tsp portions, and fold until completely incorporated. Taste and keep adding until to your taste. I like it hot!


Chill the mousse for at least half an hour. If you are serving it in individual portions, spoon or pipe into cups. If you are serving in a large bowl, spoon into the bowl and cover.


Whip  the remaining 1 cup of cream, 2 tbsp vanilla extract and 3 tbsp light brown sugar together and pipe or spoon over the prepared and chilled mousse. Decorate with chocolate and cool in the fridge for 2 hours minimum, or up to 24.

Serve with joy!

Sayang Scones – Gluten Free Orange Vanilla Scones!

21 Nov

Scones!Today, I had tea with my most beloved of GoddessMothers. We talked, as usual, about love, family, hopes, dreams, secrets, spirit, happiness, joy … well, life in general. As we sat and chatted, laughed and cried, reconnected and restrengthened, we nibbled on these rather luscious orange vanilla scones. They were pretty damn good if I might say so myself (I am munching on one, as I type this, sandwiching some cheddar cheese and damson jam).

The thing is, my GoddessMother just found out she has a gluten intolerance. Basically, she cannot eat anything with wheat in it, or she becomes ill. My friend S also has the same issue, and so I am aware of the need to adapt and adjust recipes for gluten-intolerance. My GoddessMother was coming for tea, which immediately suggested scones… but gluten-free scones? I had this image of hard little rocks of wedgy dough tasting strangely of fake flour… Not an appetising look!

I went out and got some gluten-free flour (mainly maize and tapioca in my mix) – and you need to check ingredients. The flour needs to have some sort of xanthan gum or vegetable gum in it – this helps the softness and stretchiness of the dough. Without it, you should add about 1/2 tsp of xanthan gum, which you can get at any good healthfood shop. Because the scent and texture of gluten-free flour is so different, I decided to really layer on the flavour  – the grated rind of an orange for a bit of brightness, and a tablespoon of vanilla and honey each for some voluptuousness! You could scent it with just about any flavouring you like, but this combination made uniquely delectable sweet scones.

There are a few things you should keep in mind when making these scones. First and foremost, preheat the oven before you start mixing all the ingredients. From the time when you add the (cold) butter to the time the scones go into the oven, should be no more than 10 minutes or so. Work quickly and gently, and keep the integrity of the cold butter intact if you can. I added about 4 tsp of baking powder to the mix because I was going for slightly nubbly crumbly (but still tender and gentle) scones – if you want them fluffier, add 2 tsp more! And when you work with gluten-free flour, add a few tablespoons of milk powder. This adds to the lusciousness of the dough, but also adds to the depth of flavour of the scones.

Makes about 18 scones

  • 3 1/2 cups gluten-free flour
  • 3 tbsp milk powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • Grated peel of 1 (washed) orange
  • 12 tbsp cold butter
  • 4 – 6 tsp baking powder (the more baking powder, the fluffier)
  • Liquid of up to 10 fl oz (about 1 1/4 cup) which should include: 1 egg, a few tablespoons sour cream and/or yogurt, a few tablespoons of cream (if you like), 1 tbsp liquid honey, and the rest whole milk
  • 1 tbsp (or to taste) vanilla
  • 1 tbsp milk + 1 egg for glaze

Preheat your oven to 215C (425F), and line a jelly roll tin or baking pan with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, milk powder, salt, and light brown sugar. Mix together gently with a fork. Using a superfine grater, grate the peel of a washed orange into the bowl, and mix together again.

Using a large hole grater, grate the butter directly into the flour mixture and stir lightly to combine and coat the butter with the flour mixture. You will have an oatmealy texture, and everything should smell brightly of orange.

Add baking powder, and mix again lightly.

In a large measuring jug, mix together the egg, a tablespoon each sour cream and yogurt, the honey, and make up to 10 fl oz (approximately 1 1/4 cup) with milk. Whisk this together with a fork to ensure everything is combined.

Add the vanilla (either as essence, paste or vanilla bean scraped) to the liquid mixture and whisk to combine again. Pour over the flour, and using your hands, quickly mix and knead the mixture into a soft pliable dough. Allow to rest, for about 3 minutes, in a cool place (even your fridge). This will allow the gluten-free flour to really come into its own, and makes it much easier to cut out the scones.

Flour (with gluten-free!) a working surface, and turn the dough out onto the surface. It should feel very tender and soft. If you think it needs more flour, add by a tablespoon at a time. Pat out into a 1 1/2 inch thick rectangle, and cut out scones, and place on prepared baking pan. Lightly glaze with milk, and bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, and turn the pan. Before putting it back in, however, glaze again with egg. This will really encourage browning without burning. Bake for a further 10 – 15 minutes until the scones have risen, and baked through.

Cool on pan for 5 minutes before removing to serving plate. Wonderful with cream and damson jam, with tomato marmalade and cheese, or buttered, hot from the oven. Delicious! Enjoy.


The Elements of a Perfect Salad

3 Sep

Summertime, and the living is easy … Every time I get an urge to make a salad, I hear that song singing in my head. I never used to like salads (strange for a vegetarian, I know!) but that was because I grew up in the olden times when salad was iceberg lettuce with some washed out supermarket tomatoes. These days, salads are a whole different creature. They are sumptuous, delicious, delectable and can serve as an entire meal.

Dont get me wrong, I have learned to love side salads too – I think there is much to be said for the perfect accompaniment to say, mac and cheese, or pasta … where a salad needs to be fresh, sparkling, with a few key ingredients that will highlight and compliment the meal. But what I am thinking about here is a salad that is an event. A salad that stands on its own, and is immensely satisfying. When I go to non-vegetarian potlucks, I often bring the salad. I usually find that even the carnivores want more!

Here, then, are my nine elements of a really perfect salad, one that will create for you a fearsome reputation as a master salad maker.


Decide on one theme and stick to it! Salad is ripe for interpretation, and for creativity, but just as with any meal, a mishmash of ideas and thematic flavours will muddy and confuse the eater. Decide on the direction in which you want to go, and let your imagination flow from there. An Asian inspired salad could have mung bean sprouts, sesame seeds, and a rich soy honey dressing. An Indian-Asian inspired salad could have a curry mayonnaise dressing, green beans, potatoes and possibly cubes of grilled paneer. A breakfast salad could have poached eggs in it, along with toasted brioche croutons, and may be some roasted tomatoes. You get the idea…

Remember though that its important for you to depend on your sense of taste and balance when deciding on where you want this salad to go …And think very carefully about each ingredient you add. You will know if there is dissonance. I often write down exactly what I am thinking of putting in a salad. Sometimes an ingredient just jumps out at me and says, Wrong! Even if I am really craving that thing, I trust my instinct and judgement about how things will go together, and I usually take that element out, or serve it on its own. If you are making an Asian inspired salad, dont add parmesan cheese – it just does not go well! But a banana or pineapple might. If you are making an Italian salad, then may be you should think twice about having soy basted tofu as your main protein.

Your whole meal does not have to coordinate around a singular theme, but your salad should definitely incorporate elements that naturally go together. Dont try and stuff ten different vegetables together, that have no complementary value, and call it a salad. No one will believe you, and no one will eat it!


While I do love a simple salad of chopped tomatoes and avocado, or a roasted potato and garlic salad, most salads in my estimation have to begin with green leaves. My green of choice is baby arugula (rocket ) – I love love love it. I love the peppery taste of it – it is substantial if you know what I mean. I love how it stands up to most anything you throw at it. But, if arugula is not available (or I am serving arugu-phobes), I also love raw baby spinach. Baby leaves of any kind are usually a good bet – they are infinitely tender, and their taste is clean and sweet. Play around with green – and if you like, add a few surprises, like some chopped basil leaves for a change of taste.

And if you know a farmer, or have your own garden, whatever green there is, use. My wonderful organic delivery guy back home delivered lettuce picked from his crop that day. I stood in the kitchen, and ate the lettuce as is, it was so beautiful. Go with your taste, and go with what is freshest. But add green!

Also, make sure the leaves are impeccably clean. Even if the package says its been cleaned already, clean it again. I read somewhere that there is more bacteria in a washed packet of lettuce than in an unwashed bundle. Just clean the leaves – it doesnt take long. I usually immerse the leaves in cold  salted clean water. The salt will make sure any little bugs left living in the leaves are encouraged to let go 😉 I swish them around in the water and make sure that any grit or dirt is rubbed off. One of the best investments of my life is a salad spinner – you can get a cheapo one from Ikea for a few bucks, and a fancier, but far sturdier one is made by Oxo. Whichever you choose, spin those leaves like your life depended on it! And then spin again! My nephews love to help to “cook” by spinning the salad leaves. Its a nice way to incorporate non cooks in the cooking process 😉 The leaves will be very crisp and dry once they have been spun a couple of times… wrap them in a clean kitchen towel or paper towels, and refrigerate them until you are ready to put the salad together (which really should be just before you serve it).


I like to have a little protein in my salads, especially as a vegetarian. There are so many lovely things to choose from – garbanzo beans add a creamy richness, seasoned baked tofu adds meatiness, quinoa adds nuttiness, as do any variety of nut (from pine to almond to cashew to macadamia – which happens to be one of my best), eggs add a silky quality, and shavings or cubes of cheese (parmesan and cheddar are my favourites) are always welcome.

I think its important to think about proteins when you serve a salad as a main course, but think carefully about what kind of protein you will use, and also if there is protein in your dessert or starter. If so, you dont need to get too het up about big amounts of protein in your salad.

I think protein adds a certain heaviness to a salad which is good. Most people think that eating salad leaves you starving. If you have a reasonable amount of protein in your salad, this can be a very filling and fulfilling dish.


I love adding an element of sweetness to my salads. People like that surprising contrast of flavour, and they often dont expect cubes of apple or caramelised macadamias to make an appearance. But once they have a taste of that sweet juxtaposition, they often hunt for more! Sweet can come in lots of different ways – tomatoes are actually a fruit, after all, and carrots have a sugary sweetness all their own.

I usually only add one dedicated sweet element to a salad, but I try and think of something really delectable to add this sweet element. Beautiful juicy grapes are often very popular, and creamy pears are surprisingly refreshing. Roasted beetroot or butternut caramelise in their own juices and add colour as well as sweetness to any salad. I have added chunks of sesame brittle to a salad with great success. Raw corn is another great addition – if it is really fresh, its incredibly sweet, and absolutely delicious. But dont go overboard! Just one thing – and make it good!

Balance, Texture and Contrast

These to me are the most important elements when thinking about your salad. How does each ingredient juxtapose against the other? Are you getting juicy, crunch, soft, sweet, savoury, salty, bright, sparkly, rich, creamy, fresh, bitter, sharp? You need to have contrast when eating a major salad, otherwise it gets boring, and quickly. Carrots and avocados and roasted onion are very different from one another, but bound together by a beautiful dressing, they contrast in texture, but are balanced on the palate.

Boring salads, in my opinion, are salads where everything feels the same in the mouth. Salads made of soft ingredients – eggs, peas, boiled potatoes, avocado. These all have the same textural patterns, and they can totally negate each other simply by their similar mouth feel. Dont get me wrong. Sometimes, at a family meal when everyone is tired, or when eating with a baby 😉 … there is a place for texturally alike foods. But I love contrast. I love the crunch of a crouton against the juiciness of a ripe tomato. I adore the toasty rich nuttiness of sesame seeds coating the crisp snap of a green bean. Its why I always incorporate something sweet into my salads… it contrasts with the main players, but at the same time adds a much needed balance to the dish.

Also, think about how you are going to present each ingredient. A raw mushroom is very different from a sauteed one. Raw corn totally contrasts with roasted corn, rubbed with soy. A fresh juicy tomato is completely distinct from a sun dried tomato dripping with olive oil. Sometimes its fun to add the same thing but in different incarnations. This is contrast, balance and texture, and its also an intelligent way to challenge and engage the people you are serving.

Salads are compositions. Think of your salad as a work of art, a symphony, a play, a beautiful poem. The elements must be different, and yet work together as a whole. Go with ingredients that on a singular note may be beautiful, but a tad boring, but joined with other ingredients, will really sing.

Exotic or Special

When you say salad most people cant resist yawning, or rolling their eyes sadly. Salads are much maligned, but really, shouldnt be. There is so much room to play in a salad, and to that end, I often try and introduce something exotic or special into my salads. When I cook, I want to celebrate the people I am eating with. I want to honour them, amuse them, and satisfy their senses.

I often try and incorporate an exotic or special element into my salad. This could be as simple as using truffle oil in the dressing. Shaved truffles in the salad would be nice, but unfortunately totally out of my price range! Sun dried tomatoes are exotic to some, but commonplace to others. Remember who you are serving, and think about what they like – what they would consider a treat, something special. Or, conversely, think about what would surprise them in a salad – what they would find unique or exotic.

In Malaysia, strawberries and avocados are very expensive, as are nuts like pine nuts or macadamias. Pomegranate seeds are gorgeous visually, and often considered very exotic. Good parmesan is like gold. Putting one of these ingredients in a salad makes it feel like a celebration – a special meal, and for many, makes the salad much more exotic. Conversely, in America, adding star fruit or guava, cubes of papaya or slivers of rambutan, adds a certain exotic deliciousness to the salad.

Sometimes, it can be as simple as thinking about what your eaters really love. If I know my sister will be eating the salad, I often put sprouts in it. She is crazy about them. Another friend adores sun dried tomatoes. When I cook for her, my salads always incorporate them. The special doesnt have to be exotic or expensive… it can be as simple as knowing the person youre serving, and making sure her favourite flavours and tastes are represented.


Not only do you need to think about colour and texture, but you need to think very carefully about how you will present your salad. Is everyone going to serve themselves from a communal bowl (thats how I usually do it) or are you going to present every person with a plated salad, composed like a still life water colour? Is everything going to be cold, or is there something you will cook at the last minute to add textural heat to the dish? Are you going to dress the salad first, or allow each person to dress the salad themselves (my preferred option is the latter). What kind of plates, or bowls are people going to use to eat the salad? Knives and forks? Spoons and forks? Sitting down at a table, or on the ground outside at a picnic, or gathered around the tv? Is the salad going to arrive in a big bowl, jumbled together, or laid out on a huge plate, layered in an artful arrangement? Or do you have a big glass bowl, like a trifle jar, that you can literally layer each element of the salad in, and get gorgeous stripes of colour?

How the salad will look when it is served is really important. If everything is cut the same way (whether that way be cubed, strips, or melon balled), you will have one very clean visual pattern, even if everything is a different colour. But if things are jumbled, or roughly chopped, then the salad will “feel” different. Sometimes, I feel like everything should be green and yellow and white … all similar colours, but with markedly contrasting flavours and textures. Other times, I want a riot of colour – I throw in edible flowers, and try and find  lots of different colours to create a merry riot. It depends on what you feel like, but take a moment to think about how your salad will look. Its important because people eat with their senses, and they see it first and foremost.

Think about what you want to convey when you serve the salad, and how people are going to eat it. Think about if may be serving a crusty warm loaf of bread alongside to mop up the juices would be a good idea, or if you need some other element to complement it.

How you present your salad is definitely one of the most important ways to ensure that people enjoy eating it. So give it some time and thought, and then compose!

Freshness and Limits

I have linked these two elements together because they really are about the shopping experience. I have often made a list for a salad, and gone to the market only to find that the tomatoes are completely ugly and insipid looking. Or all the avocados are rock hard or pulpy. If you have a theme in mind, you should be able to quickly find and figure out a substitute. Freshness is key in a salad because most of the ingredients you serve will be raw. If you had to choose between tender perfect figs and overripe mushy pears, choose the figs, even if the pears are your favourite. Be open to the market – be open to finding a gorgeous gem that is unexpected or not on your list. Add it if it adds value to your salad, and drop what is not of absolute perfect quality.

If freshness is key to a beautiful salad, so are limits! I have served a salad with 20 ingredients, and to be honest, its as muddy and horrible as if I were to serve lettuce leaves, and only lettuce leaves for dinner. Too much is overkill, and instead of contract, juxtaposition and texture, you will short circuit your eaters sensibilities. Try and limit your salads to 7 – 9 key ingredients at the max, though less also can. More than that, and I find its too much. Like a baby when it gets overstimulated by too much colour or too many games or too much music, an overloaded salad just makes me want to lay down and cry.

Your Own Signature Dressing

Spend a little time, and make your own salad dressing. All this though, cutting, chopping, shopping, tasting, texturalising… and you pour on a mass market made dressing? Are you kidding? Salad dressing takes almost no time to make. Its as unique as your signature, and can elevate a salad into the sublime.

Have a few salad dressings under your sleeve. I make a killer Asian dressing. I have a varied number of ingredients I use for it, and its never quite the same each time, but it does have a few basics, and its amazing. Its so good, you could literally eat it out of the jar with a spoon. People ask me for the recipe, and I always give them an outline … but they say it never turns out the same. Well, it never turns out the same for me either, but I know what I want it to taste like at any given time!

Salad dressing is easy to make ahead, and it is what ties everything together in your salad. If you make your own blue cheese buttermilk dressing, I promise you, it will be a hundred times better than anything you can purchase at the store. Even a basic balsamic and olive oil dressing can be elevated with a few fresh herbs, or a spark of fresh lemon juice. And it will be your signature, your hallmark, an expression of your creativity.

Please, if you want to be a salad master, make your own dressing!

Hopefully these few guidelines will make you think about salad in a new way. Its one of the great joys of life, one of the remarkable treats of summertime – a wonderful salad to share with those you love.

Banoffee Pie

2 Jul

This is not the traditional recipe for Banoffee Pie. For that, you will have to go here.

But this is the banoffee pie of my childhood. A cookie crumb crust made with HobNobs and melted butter. A thick dark golden brown slather of dulce de leche. Bananas. And a mound of unsweetened vanilla whipped cream. Each on its own, good. Combined together. Nirvana. Honestly. And its one of those desserts that you learn to make from very young, and because its so easy (given the preparedness of the ingredients), you feel a sense of achievement and satisfaction when it is served to ooohs and aaahs.

Assembly is easy, and you can certainly make this divine pudding over a few days, and assemble a few hours before serving. Its really good as breakfast too. Heh.


  • 3/4 roll of Hobnobs
  • 1/2 cup melted butter

Put about 3/4 roll of HobNob cookies in a zip loc plastic bag. You should have may be 5 or 6 left (good for a cook’s tea!). Break them up a bit using your hands, and then, using any heavy object (the bottom of a wine bottle will come in handy here) smash and crush the biscuits to a fine pebbly sand. You might need to do this in two batches.

Pour the crushed biscuits into an 8 inch round, non stick, springform cake pan. Pour the melted butter over, and mix. Using your fingers, create a crust at the bottom, and about half way up the sides of the pan. Put in the fridge for about 20 minutes to harden up a bit.

Whipped cream

I stabilise my whipped cream with agar agar, which is a vegetarian gelatin made from seaweed. Its totally flavourless, and about 1 tsp of agar agar to 1 cup of cream ensures the cream stays whipped and high, even after 12 hours in the fridge.

You will need to whip:

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tsp agar agar
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence

together until they hold hard peaks. Set aside for the assembly.


Take the crust out of the fridge, and pour in the cooled dulce de leche. It should completely coat the bottom of the crust, and be about 1/4 inch thick. If you want more, go ahead and add more, just remember it is VERY sweet.

Take about 6 -9 small pisang mas bananas (or whatever is available for you), and slice lengthwise. You should get about 3 long slices from each banana. Layer the bananas over the dulce de leche. Put in the fridge for about 20 minutes to firm up again.

Cover the entire pie with the unsweetened whipped cream, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, and up to 24.

When you are ready to serve, run a knife around the edges, and unmold the springform pan gently.

Serve with love and gratitude.

Dulce de leche

2 Jul

This is so simple, I feel silly posting it as a recipe. I have always loved this stuff. Sweetened condensed milk cooked for so long that it becomes a rich dark toffee caramel. Its the base for banoffee pie, and to banish sweet cravings, there is nothing better than a teaspoonful.

Most people recommend boiling cans of unopened sweetened condensed milk over the stovetop for 3  hours or so. This is the easiest way to create dulce de leche BUT its also very dangerous. When I was about 13, I was overnighting at an Aunts house in St Johns Wood in London. I was flying out the next day, and she was not there. I was craving something sweet, so decided to make dulce de leche the traditional way. I put my cans of unopened condensed milk in a deep saucepan, and covered with water. And then I proceeded to fall asleep on the couch! I woke up to a HUGE bang and could not, for the life of me, figure out what had happened, until I walked into my Aunts gorgeous gourmet kitchen to find caramel dripping from the ceiling, and every available surface. It took me HOURS to clean up (and I dont think I got everything because a few weeks later, had a very uncomfortable conversation with her!).

Ever since then, I have been a tad nervous about making this. You can pop steam vents into the top of the cans, so that they dont explode, but you still have to check for water every fifteen minutes or so. I prefer this way. Safer, and you can leave it for up to an hour at a time.

Unfortunately, here in Malaysia, we only have sweetened condensed filled milk – which has palm oil as a stabiliser and additive. This method still works, but the preference is obviously for sweetened condensed milk which is just milk and sugar.

You will need one deep roasting pan, filled about 1/3 with cold water, and one smaller roasting pan which can fit inside the deeper one.

Preheat your oven to 170 F.

Place the deep roasting pan into the oven to heat gently.

Pour up to 3 cans of sweetened condensed milk into the second roasting pan, and cover tightly with aluminum foil.

Place this second pan into the first and leave in the oven for up to 3 hours. I would certainly check every hour or so to make sure the water is still there, and to mix the slowly caramelising milk well.

Be careful when you open the oven. A lot of steam gets generated from the water bath, and everything is really really hot.

After about three hours, when you take it out of the oven, dont worry. It will look curdled and lumpy. Some bits will be dark caramel brown, some bits will be lighter and smoother, and some bits will look like milk curds. Just pour and scrape into a clean bowl, and beat with a wire whisk until smooth. Let cool before even thinking of tasting it!

You can flavour this with some vanilla if you like. Unspeakably delicious.

Pear Crumble

2 Jul

When I visited MZ, it was supposed to be warm, but it turned suddenly cold. I remember thinking to myself that we needed something soul satisfying. I realised there were a few almost over ripe pears sitting on the counter, and so I made this very quick, very easy, very healthy (suprisingly) pear crumble. Its good just from the oven, warm and scenting the house with cinnamon. Its also pretty lovely the next morning, cold, from the fridge, with some half and half poured over, as a decadent breakfast.

Because the pears were over ripe, they were bursting with fruity sugars. I actually needed to add a few apples for tartness and to counter balance the pear sweetness. Be very light with the sugar here. You really dont need it.

You can use just about any fruit that is in season. Make sure the fruit is ripe to almost bursting – this will ensure a strongly scented and very sweet crumble. Its a wonderful way to use up fruits that you would otherwise not eat.

Serves 4 -6

  • 4 over ripe pears, peeled, cored and cubed
  • 2 apples (pink lady/blush), peeled, cored and cubed
  • Scant 1 tbsp brown sugar (if needed) – you could use honey instead for flavour
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice (or another fruit juice if you dont have lemon) or a tiny splash of vanilla essence
  • 1 – 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 – 2 tsp flour

Preheat oven to 175C.

Cube the pears and apples straight into a 7×11 baking pan. Mix together well and taste. If you need to up the sweetness, add sugar. Mix spices with juice and pour over. Sprinkle flour over the pan, and using a spoon mix in well. This will help thicken the juices while the crumble is baking. Mix well and leave to rest while you make the crumble.

  • 1 – 1 1/2 cup oatmeal
  • Scant 1/4 – 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup cubed cold butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • handful of slivered almonds

In a clean bowl, toss together the oatmeal and sugar. Work the butter in with your hands, until the mixture resembles coarse meal. I tend to use the lower amount of sugar and butter, and then taste. If it needs to be sweeter, or the mixture needs to stick together more, I add where necessary. Add salt, cinnamon and almonds, and work together well. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Give the fruit mixture one last turn before sprinkling crumble over. Make sure you have an even layer over the entire pan.

Bake in oven for 45 minutes to an hour. You might want to cover the crumble topping with aluminum foil if it becomes too brown.

Serve with cold cream or half and half poured over, and warm up your soul 🙂

Banana Cake

1 Jul

This cake is soooooooo good! Its got such a beautiful banana taste, light, fluffy, perfect crust. It does not bake up high, so if you are going to stuff it with salted caramel, make sure you make two layers. You wont be able to slice in half lengthwise because of the tenderness of this cake, and the gentleness of the crumb, so dont try!

If you are serving this as a dessert for a nice dinner, it would be perfect iced with a cream cheese and vanilla frosting (beaten with a few tablespoons of powdered sugar), or stuffed with salted caramel. However, if its for an afternoon tea, or just because… it needs no embellishment. Its beautiful and light, satisfying and happy making!

My Toh used to eat pisang mas (the tiny gold banana common here in Malaysia) and so, in memory of him, that is one of my favourite fruits. I look for it everywhere, and was so thrilled when my wonderful organic delivery guy had them. I used pisang mas for this recipe, but please feel free to use any very ripe (even black) sweet banana.

  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 175°F. Lightly butter two 8-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides; dust pans with flour.

In a small bowl, combine cake flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Mash bananas well and measure – we used about 8 or 9 small pisang mas. Mix bananas with buttermilk and vanilla and set aside.

In an electric mixer, beat butter and sugars in a large bowl until blended well, and light. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.

Add dry ingredients alternately with banana in 3 – 4 additions, beating for a few seconds until just blended. Let rest for a few minutes.

Divide equally between the cake pans, and bake, one at a time for approximately 25 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out with a few crumbs attached.

Let cake cool on a cake rack, in the cake pan, for about 10 minutes, and then turn out and allow to cool completely.

Ice (or stuff) with salted caramel, and sprinkle with a little bit of Maldon.

Try not to eat before the guests come – unlike me (as you can see from the picture!)

Salted Caramel Filling

1 Jul

This is food of the goddesses. Sweet, salty, caramel perfection. This is so good, so easy, so quick to make. I got it from one of my favourite cookbooks of all times – The Frog Commissary Cookbook – and its used as a stuffing for a sublime carrot cake.

Use this as an icing, as a stuffing, or even warmed as a caramel sauce for ice cream or anything else. My nephew likes to eat it straight from the bowl. So do I, which is why I try NOT to have it in the fridge on a regular basis.

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar (I use a mix of white sugar, vanilla sugar and organic brown sugar – 1/2 a cup each)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream (I use the pouring cream you can buy in the long life milk cartons)
  • 1/2 cup butter (I use salted – but you can use unsalted)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or more – depending on your taste)
  • 1/2 tsp or more to taste Maldon or fleur de sel

In a very heavy saucepan, blend well the sugar(s), flour and salt. Gradually stir in the cream. Make sure they are blended – the dry ingredients will slowly absorb the cream.

Chop the butter and add to the saucepan, and put saucepan over low heat, stirring gently as the butter melts. You will see the butter getting absorbed into the creamy mixture as it melts.

Once the butter has been totally absorbed, stir in 1 teaspoon or so of vanilla.

Simmer this ambrosia for a minimum of 30 minutes, and up to an hour, depending on the heat, and how deep you desire your caramel flavour to be. Stir every 5 – 10 minutes. Make sure you stir so the bottom and sides of the pan get scraped down.

Once the caramel is golden to nut brown, and the mixture is thick, take off the heat, and add at least 2 – 3 more teaspoons of vanilla, taste, and add a little Maldon or fleur de sel. Stir.

Let cool to lukewarm, where you can really taste the flavours, and adjust the salt to your liking.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake for a Special Person

29 Jun

My organic delivery friend (yes, I have that luxury, and yes, I take full advantage of it! and if you live in KL, you can too!) sent over a beautiful ripe pineapple on Monday. Its been sitting on my counter, looking at me, and smelling of that unique sweet citrus pineapple-y smell that just seduces you into needing to eat it!

But I wanted to do something different, and also may be a little retro. Pineapple upside down cake is just stunning – beautiful pieces of caramelised pineapple and sticky gooey caramel adorning a perfectly simple, and yet deliciously tasty, vanilla cake. Buttermilk makes this tender, as does the melted butter. The cake itself is not very sweet, but that is because youre relying on the caramel to flavour the cake. Its easy to put together, as long as you are patient with the cutting of the pineapple – and have a VERY sharp knife. If you would rather have the old school pineapple rings, by all means cut them that way – you could even put a little cherry in the centre of each, or a strawberry or dried cranberry! But I like the chunky pieces of pineapple best – more rustic, a little less twee retro, craggier and more able to brown and suck up all that gorgeous caramel.

You will need:

  • 1 sweet pineapple
  • 1 stick of butter (8 tablespoons), divided into half (plus a bit for buttering tin)
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 + 2 tbsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Start by prepping. You will need to preheat your oven to 175C, and butter a 9 inch round cake tin very well. Once the cake tin is buttered, prepare a sling made of parchment or baking paper. Tear a sheet that is twice as long as the width of your tin, and centre over the buttered tin. Push it in, and using the butter as a kind of glue, ensure that the paper adheres to the bottom and sides of the tin. Rebutter the sheet of baking paper, up to the sides as well. Set aside.

Prepare your pineapple. You will need a very sharp knife, otherwise please dont attempt this as you may chop a finger off! Resting the pineapple on its now stable bottom, use your knife to peel off the skin. Cut in half lengthwise, and then into quarters. Once the skin is off, you will need to get the brown “eyes” that stay within the indentations. Use your knife again, working slowly and carefully, at an angle, against the pineapple. You will see that its possible to make triangluar cuts into the pineapple in long strips to take off these pesky bits. Once the pineapple is clean, cut out the woody interior, and chop roughly. Set aside once you have prepared the entire pineapple.

Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large pan over high heat. Once the butter has been melted, add all the pineapple, and ensure that it is in one layer at the bottom of the pan. Allow it to brown and caramelise in the butter, flipping over only a few times, for about 5 to ten minutes or so. Sprinkle over about half the brown sugar, and mix, and allow to cook, all in one layer, for a few minutes. Add the rest of the brown sugar, mix, and let bubble for a bit. Add about 1 tablespoon of vanilla (be careful, it will hiss and spit at you!), and mix well.

Using your spatula, transfer all the pineapple and gorgeous caramel into your baking tin. Ensure that it coats the entire bottom of the tin, and the pineapple is well layered. Set aside.

Add the remaining 4 tablespoons butter to the hot pan – it should melt quickly. Once melted, transfer immediately to a heatproof bowl, and whisk in white sugar, buttermilk, eggs and remaining vanilla. Once the mixture is foamy, set aside while you mix dry ingredients together (I usually just measure out the flour, add the baking soda and salt to the measuring cup and mix with spoon).

Using a spatula, mix the dry ingredients into the wet mixture. Taste for vanilla, and add more if its to your liking. Spoon or pour the batter over the caramelised pineapples in the tin and smooth the top over. Bake in your hot oven for 50 – 60 minutes (checking at about 45) or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Take the tin out of the oven, and let it rest for at least ten to fifteen minutes, over a cookie rack. This waiting time is really important, to let the caramel set up, so that when you flip it over, the while thing wont run in rivers over your countertop! Be patient! Once the tin is lukewarm and handleable, invert the tin over a cake plate, using the paper sling to coax it out. Peel the parchment off gently, and adjust any pineapple bits that may have fallen off. Let the cake rest for at least another 10 minutes or so before slicing.

You could serve this with some creme fraiche, a few strawberries, or some vanilla ice cream, but thats kind of gilding the lily! Its beautiful as is, and such a wonderful tribute to the prickly pineapple.

Cooks Note: you can bake this without the parchment sling. It will definitely make the caramel stickier and richer in colour and flavour. I decided against it because I wanted a lighter version of the cake but feel free to eschew the parchment sling. In that case, rest for only up to ten minutes when it comes out the oven.

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies (EVER)

24 Jun

I wanted to bake some cookies at M’s house, but I was worried that if I used the heavy equipment needed for a good cookie dough (electric mixer for example to cream the butter), I would wake the baby! So I looked online and found this recipe by Cook’s Illustrated magazine, which runs the brilliant tv show America’s Best Kitchens. They are truly amazing cooks, and combine artistry with a certain technical chemical mastery.

Anyway. I adapted these cookies a little bit (as all cooks will) but kept with their basic formula. This is a no mixer cookie, and makes the softest, most pliable, “lemak” dough I have ever used. And it takes like 15 minutes to put together.

And seriously? Amongst the best chocolate chip cookies I have ever tasted. I have made them probably about 4 – 5 times with AngelKitten and Sawa during this World Cup, and people are obsessed by them. They get cravings, and beg us for just a few from our secret stash. We have shared them with friends and family, and just keep getting asked for more. I was thinking of making other things – a berry crumble or the most phenomenal carrot cake in the whole wide world – but for ease of making and for pleasure given, these just cannot be beaten. Hot from the oven they are … well, orgasmic is a word I would use. Enjoy!

Just a few notes:

1. Depending on the “rise” please adjust your baking soda. First batch I used about a teaspoon, and they were a tad thicker than second batch where I used about 1/2 teaspoon. Depends on your preference really.

2. Use best quality chocolate (NOT cooking chocolate, and not chips if you can avoid it)… Get good chocolate, and chop it up. ALWAYS makes a cookie taste better.

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie via Cooks Illustrated

  • 1 3/4 all purpose unbleached flour
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp baking soda
  • 14 tablespoons butter, divided into 10 tablespoons + 4 tablespoons (I used salted)
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar, well packed
  • 1 tsp table salt
  • 2 – 4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 cups chocolate chunks – when I first made these I used Callebut white + milk cut off a block – now I use Valhrona buttons smashed up, a mix of dark (70%), milk (65%) and white.

Measure the flour in a measuring jug, add the baking soda (1/2 tsp for preference) and set aside.

Over high heat, in a large non stick skillet, melt 10 tablespoons of butter. Once melted, keep on heat, swirling constantly, until the butter has browned well, and is toasty and nutty. You want it browned and caramel-y and dark and gleaming, but not burnt. You will know from the smell, but be careful because it goes brown very quickly. The darker it gets (without burning) the more caramel notes you will have in your cookie – so be brave, but dont let it go over to the burnt and bitter side! Transfer the butter to a heatproof bowl (or even a large saucepan or pot!). Add the remaining 4 tsp butter (it will foam up) and using a wooden spoon, mix in until melted.

Add sugar, salt and vanilla and whisk until incorporated. Add egg and egg yolk, and whisk again.


Let mixture stand for about 3 – 5 minutes, and then whisk again for about 30 seconds.

Continue to do this (letting mixture stand, and then briefly whisking) 3 times in total. You will see a remarkable difference in the mixture from when you started, to the final whisking. It will have set up, thickened, become almost stiff liquid caramel in consistency. Amazing.

The resting is key, so please do not think you can skip the above.

Using a spatula or wooden spoon, mix in the flour until just combined. Let rest for a minute or so, and then mix in the chocolate chunks. You will find you have the softest, silkiest cookie dough you have ever handled. Let rest for a few minutes while you heat up the oven to 375 degrees and line a cookie tin with parchment or baking paper.

You should be able to get 8 cookies (of 1 tablespoon balls each) onto the cookie tin. If you prefer larger cookies, go right ahead but reduce the number of cookies on the tin! They spread! This should make approx 32 smaller cookies or 16 larger.

Bake for 7 – 9 minutes, or until just browned on the edges. Take out of the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes (they will set up) before transferring to baking sheet.

Try and break at least one so you have some cook’s rights before theyre all devoured!