28 Sep 2013

cold pizza

The last pizza night we had was when we just landed back in Melbourne. The pizza was cold since dad ordered take out for dinner, but after a few minutes in the oven it became one of the best meals ever...at 1am.

These McCain pizza pockets used to be one of my favourite foods (apart from Macca's breakfast) on my way to Chinese school on a cold Saturday morning. I'd sleep in and by the time I finished getting ready, there was only enough time to get to school. Bag in one hand and breakfast slipped into a sandwich bag in the other before rushing out the door. Just so you know, these calzones are just as good cold and sandwich bag friendly.

I'm submitting this post to Aspiring Bakers #35: A Palate for Pizza hosted by Joey of Little Accidents in the Kitchen. (Thank you for taking the time to host!)

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Calzones     makes 10

I made two versions; one with chilli salami, boiled sliced potatoes, halved roma tomatoes, pan fried chorizo, sauteed sliced onions, shredded ham and mozzarella cheese. The other one was classic Hawaiian with spicy salami, with a few sans pineapple and salami for the sister.

1 batch herbed pizza dough (recipe below)
1 batch pizza sauce (recipe below)
assorted fillings*
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. 

Divide the pizza dough into 10 equal sized pieces. Roll out thinly on a lightly floured surface keeping the shape roughly circular. Spread with a few heaped spoonfuls of pizza sauce, leaving a 1cm border and pile on the assorted fillings in the centre, finishing with the cheese. To make the calzone, bring the sides to the center, pinch together and fold over. Twist the ends together and tuck inwards. 

Transfer calzones onto a non-stick greaseproof paper lined tray and brush with beaten egg. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

*For 10 calzones, I used roughly 350g shredded ham, 150g chilli salami, 100g shaved ham, 1 Spanish chorizo, 1 medium onion, 4 baby potatoes, a handful of roma tomatoes, a few slices of canned pineapple and a mountain of grated mozzarella. 

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Herbed pizza dough    
adapted from the Kambrook Size Select Bread Maker booklet 

375ml warm water
60ml cooking oil
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried Italian herbs
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp mustard powder
600g bread flour
2 tsp dried yeast

Put the ingredients into your bread machine according to machine instructions and select the pizza function (30 minutes kneading, 1 hr proving). If you are making it by hand, combine the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl and make a well. Combine the water and oil together, pour into the flour and mix to form a dough. Knead until it is smooth and springy. Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and wrap with a piece of lightly oiled cling wrap. Leave in a warm place to rise until it doubles in size.

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Pizza sauce     makes around 500g

400g tinned Italian diced tomatoes
45g tomato paste
pineapple juice or brown sugar, as required
salt and white pepper, as required
dried Italian herbs and thyme, as required

Bring the diced tomatoes to a boil and stir in the tomato paste. Season with pineapple juice or sugar, salt, white pepper and dried herbs. Leave to cool.

25 Sep 2013

spring harvest

Recently my sister has been very busy at school cultivating organic vegetables. So far she's brought home a variety of vegetables, herbs and conversation about her hard work. Last week she pulled out a couple of interesting shaped carrots for a carrot cake. Leaves from the carrot tops make really neat garnishes! We also had some broad beans from the school garden as part of our dinner tonight. 

She doesn't grow potatoes though. Ok, she does now apparently. We lugged a 5kg bag of baby potatoes from the market this week and I've been making an adaption of kartoffelsalat (German potato salad) for dinner this week. Something different to the usual roast potatoes. Any ideas for the remaining potatoes? 

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roast potato salad     serves 4 as a side

I made two versions of this potato salad this week. The first with the traditional components of bacon and onion, the second with some orange sweet potato. I've combined the recipes together, but feel free to adapt to what you have on hand.

15 - 20 baby potatoes
3 orange sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
unsalted butter, as required
glug of Kikkoman soy sauce
aonori or dried parsley, as required 
1/2 a small onion, sliced thinly
2 slices of shortcut bacon, cut into thin strips

Wash the baby potatoes and shave off the eyes/sprouts if there is any. Bring to the boil with the sweet potatoes and boil until a chopstick can go through*. Drain and leave to dry.

Once ready to cook, transfer baby potatoes to a baking tray and put some thinly sliced butter on top. Bake at 200 degrees celcius, turning every 15 minutes until potatoes are soft. Make a cut in the potatoes and split open. Add the sweet potatoes. Drizzle soy sauce over the top and leave in the oven for 10 more minutes. Meanwhile, saute onion and bacon with some cooking oil until browned. Sprinkle potatoes with a few good pinches of aonori/dried parsley and scatter the sauteed onion and bacon on top.

*If you are using sweet potato, they should be soft before draining.

17 Sep 2013

oodles of noodles

Although I'm not a big fan of noodles, I find myself making some once in a while. Ginger pork with soba and dashi for lunch last week, and thinly sliced pieces of simmered beef gravy in my dad's aged masterstock for dinner tonight. My dad reckons the beef noodles need a few pieces of zha choi in them. Yeah, it needs a bit of a kick. 

There seems to be a little debate about how long this batch of masterstock has been sitting in our fridge; from several months (dad) to a couple of years (mum). I just know it's been in there for a pretty long time and it's finally reduced itself down to two litres. Hopefully, I'll see what goes in it when my dad makes the next batch. Aside from simmering various meats in it, that's where all the flavours begin, my mum once said. 

Here's my previous oodles of noodles post. Maybe I'll collect all of them into a collage one day.

14 Sep 2013

dad's dumplings

My mum started making dumplings at home after we had some mediocre ones outside. She's not very good at pleating them and just folds them in half with a dab of water, making half moons. My dad said they looked ugly so he took over, pleating them one by one...until he said we ate them too fast and started making half moons himself. Just last week he started pleating them again. Feasted on them like kings we did.  

I was seasoning the filling with my dad and there is no recipe. Everything is estimated, eyeballed and judged by smell and touch. Bits of salt and pepper here and there and a glug to sesame oil to finish. We boiled them first then pan fried both sides for a crisp texture. Next time he said I should help pleat them, but I don't think I'll have the patience or dedication (he pleated around 150+ in one sitting) to master the technique, unless he's ok with half moons!

We're having them for lunch today! Yum!

12 Sep 2013


This new season marked the coming and going of elections, deceiving weather and the continuation of sniffles for some. The vegetable selection has also increased and I've been waiting for the arrival of fresh broad beans at my local green grocers. I've only eaten them in dried form as a snack, so it was interesting to see how the fresh ones would taste like. 

I thought I'd get a lot of beans, but after podding, I ended up with a very sad amount, so I just threw them in some pasta I made for dinner. The origins of the recipe comes from The Silver Spoon: Pasta (the only pasta cookbook you'll ever need) which I made for dinner one night a few weeks ago. Sautéed sliced onion, bacon, peas and zucchini flavoured with parmesan, black pepper, thyme, oregano and my dad's fried garlic oil. The recipe is highly adjustable to whatever ingredients you have in the fridge.

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spring vegetable pasta with garlic chicken

Trim fat off chicken thigh fillets, cut into two if necessary and make slits in the thicker part of the meat. Season with salt, white pepper and a lot of garlic powder. (Might use some onion powder next time.) Leave in the fridge until needed, but bring to room temperature before pan frying.

Whilst the pasta is cooking, sauté thinly sliced zucchini, asparagus, broad beans, peas and edamame*. Season with salt, black pepper and chicken bouillon powder. Drain pasta and mix in a few tablespoons of fried garlic oil and some salt and black pepper. Add sautéed vegetables and baby spinach and toss until well combined. Season again if necessary. Pan fry the marinated chicken, slice and serve on top of the pasta.

*Blanch cut asparagus, double podded cooked broad beans, blanched peas and podded cooked edamame (can be found in the frozen section of good Asian grocers).

9 Sep 2013

sausage buns

This bread baking thing is turning out to be better than I had expected. Upon request, I tried making those sausage buns that you can see through the glass windows of a typical Asian bakery. Sometimes it's covered with some cheese (and dried parsley). Other times, they are just plain with a golden shiny top. 

Spiraling the dough is a little tricky at first, but the work process gets somewhat smoother towards the end. These were some of the first ones I made, from right to left. It's still not perfect, but it's getting there!

Now that I can make them at home, no bakery is going to get my pocket change on these again.

8 Sep 2013

things in the fridge

This week I used a new ingredient - a small bottle of balsamic vinegar of modena. I found out later that it was an imitation product... I ended up using it a total of three times before stashing it in the pantry. A dash or two in the sweet and sour sauce and in the pork ragù I was making and coated some sliced strawberries with it. It made my sauce tart, heightened the flavour of the ragù and brought the dull strawberries to life. If the imitation works this well, the real thing must be great!

I thought ragù was something very fancy but it's actually a no brainer. Really. So don't let the long list of ingredients deter you from making it. In fact, most of the ingredients listed below are staples in my regular pasta sauce. You just have to simmer it for a longer period of time and you don't even have to tend to it. The only thing different is that you have to let it rest overnight to allow it to develop flavours. Dinner the next day will be ready in a pinch.

I scooped some sauce out as I thought I had to much. A future pasta sauce or lasagna in the makes possibly, but it rejoined the others in the end. An extra bowl and spoon to wash, but all I had to do that night was cook the pasta and reheat the sauce.

With the leftovers, I ended up making a baked pasta which was equally delicious. Just heat it up in a microwave, stir in some baby spinach, transfer into an oven-safe dish, pile on the cheese (parmsesan and mozzarella) and bake at 175C until golden brown.

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pork ragù     serves 8
adapted from the SBS Feast magazine issue 24

1 large onion, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
2 celery stalks, peeled and finely diced
1 solo garlic, finely diced
2 heaped Tb tomato paste
800g pork gravy
few sprigs each of rosemary and thyme
3 dried bay leaves
pinch of grated nutmeg
250ml white wine* (I used a French one I had in the fridge)
800g canned diced Italian tomatoes
chicken stock, enough to cover the pork
dash of balsamic vinegar of modena
500g dried rigatoni
sea salt, black/white pepper, sugar, to taste
cooking oil, as required
finely grated parmesan, to serve

Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a non-stick frying pan and saute onion, carrot, celery, garlic until onion softens. When done, stir in the tomato paste, turn off the heat and leave aside.

Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a large cast iron casserole pot and wipe the pork gravy dry with a paper towel (do it, or else oil will splatter everywhere). Season pork with salt and pepper, add to the pot and brown on all sides. Reduce heat to medium, add the sauteed vegetables, herbs, nutmeg, wine, tomatoes and chicken stock (enough to cover pork) and bring to a simmer. Skim off the scum if it bothers you. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 1 1/2 hours** or until meat is tender and falling apart. Taste and season. Remove lid and allow to cool completely in the cooking liquid. Leave the pot with the lid ajar on the stove top (if weather permits) or cover and refrigerate overnight.

Remove pork from the pot, fish out the herb stems and bay leaves, reserving the cooking liquid. Using your hands, shred the meat and place it back into the pot. Add a dash of balsamic vinegar and check if you need to season the tomato mixture again. Bring it to a simmer over low heat and cook until meat has heated through, approximately 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook rigatoni according to packet instructions. Drain well then add into the pot, stirring and tossing to combine.

Serve with finely grated parmesan cheese.

*Substitute with red wine or extra stock if you like
*I had 2 pieces of pork gravy, around 400g each. I felt that 1 1/2 hours was sufficient time to achieve the meat's tenderness. The meat was "peelable" with steel tongs. The original recipe uses a 2.2kg piece of pork shoulder on the bone and cooked it for 2 1/2 hours. Adapt your cooking times depending on cut/size of meat.

4 Sep 2013

red beans

I saw the ads for Samsung Malaysia's mini-series, Wind Chimes in a Bakery before I left, but totally forgot all about it when I returned home. Well, until I saw Swee San's post the other night. But instead of reminding me to watch the series, I went to bake the red bean buns instead - which is probably much more important (haha). The smell of bread out of the oven is amazing and this is the reason why I try to bake bread at least once a week now.

I adapted the sweet tosca bread recipe from the Nordic Bakery Cookbook again since I got a delicious soft loaf from it last time. This time I made sure not to burn the top! Once I got the bread machine going, I tended to the pot of simmering red beans which is somewhat low maintenance. After the first prove, I divided the dough into 20 (un)equal pieces and scooped out the same quantity of red bean paste; 25 grams per bun. Shaping, wrapping, flattening and cutting the buns and into the oven at 28C for the second prove for 1 hour, whilst glazing with beaten egg 3 times at 20 minute intervals. With the last glaze, a sprinkle of black sesame seeds in the center before baking at 175C fan forced until golden brown all over. Yum.

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red bean paste     makes approximately 800g 
adapted from my old recipe which I adapted from Cooking Guide DS

250g red beans
150g raw sugar*
cold water, as required

Wash the red beans and soak in a bowl of cold water overnight. Drain beans and wash again.

Place beans in a small saucepan and top up with water. Bring to the boil and drain. Top up with more cold water and bring to the boil. Lower the heat to medium and let it boil/simmer for approximately 15 minutes. If the scum disturbs you, skim it off. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for another 15 minutes. The water should be just below the top layer of beans. Add the sugar and stir. The water should just be covering the top layer of beans and should be thickened. Simmer for a few minutes more, stirring consistently to avoid burning. 

Transfer mixture into a thermomix/food processor and process until smooth. Transfer into a bowl, allow to cool slightly and cling wrap, ensuring it touches the red bean paste to avoid it forming a dry layer. When completely cool, refrigerate or freeze for future use.

*Thinking it would be sufficient, I actually put 50g of sugar into the pot first. But after I processed it, it was lacking in flavour so I gradually added 100g more whilst it was still hot. The sugar amount, more or less is a personal taste. The original recipe uses a 1:1 ratio of beans and sugar.