Focaccia Bread

Sorry for the really really long hiatus ): My family is without a helper right now so I’ve been busy doing house chores and cooking the meals. It’s been super tiring cooking most of the meals and running around, so much so that I can see why being a housewife is a legit job all by itself. Hats off to all stay home moms!! On the bright side, I’ve been learning chinese cooking from my mother and trying out new recipes! I now pride myself in ‘marriage worthy veggies’, knowing how to stir fry my chinese vegetables and turning purple cabbage edible. More on my veggies later 🙂

Also my 21st birthday just passed so I was a bit busy preparing my food for my party. It was a two day baking fiesta, consisting of carrot cake, lemon cake, earl grey tea cake, chocolate chip cookies and pizza. Decided to treat my friends to all my home baked stuff to show my appreciation for their wonderful presence in my life :))

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Thank God for my mother and D for being kitchen assistants 🙂 Also, D came up with a super awesome drink combination of sprite, lemon and mint. Try it out if you need respite on a sweltering hot day (which means tomorrow).

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Anyway!
Today’s post is on an amazing focaccia bread that I made for my family for lunch. I was a bit fearful and skeptical about how it would turn out because I never ever had affinity with bread making. But this bread is soft and pillowy. Topping it off with roasted garlic and onions made it perfect 🙂 Can’t wait to make this more often just that I’m not really in the mood of cleaning up ten million baking equipment right now hahah but do try this out if you love bread and have lots of time to spare, waiting for bread to rise. It’s worth the wait.

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Focaccia Bread
from Epicurious
40cm x 30cm focaccia bread

Ingredients
350ml cold water
20g instant dry yeast
625g plain flour
13g salt
70ml olive oil, plus extra for greasing

Directions
1. Place all ingredients in the bowl of your stand mixer.
2. With a dough hook, knead for 5 minutes. Turn up the speed by 1 level and kneed for another 10 minutes until dough is smooth.
3. Transfer dough into a lightly greased mixing dough and cover loosely with a cling wrap. Wait for the dough to double, approximately for 1 hour.
4. Turn out dough onto lightly floured surface. Punch down and flatten onto lightly greased baking tray. Spread till approximately 40cm x 30cm, not taller than 1/2 inch.
5. Brush with olive oil and proof for another 15 minutes.
6. Place desired toppings on dough and proof for another 20 minutes.
7. Bake at 210 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes.
8. Remove from oven and brush with olive oil. Cool before serving.

Roasted Chicken

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I’m baaaaaaack 🙂 Sorry I’ve been away for so long because my exams just ended. All I’ve done for the past few weeks was sleep, mug, eat and sleep. But now that exams are over, I’m super excited to be baking and cooking for November :> before everything starts piling up again and there are exams again in January ):

Anyway, here is the roasted chicken a made a couple of weeks back which follows Heston’s way of cooking. If you don’t know who Heston Blumenthal is, he’s this eccentric British chef whose restaurant, Fat Duck, is a place I dream of eating at. But it’s going to cost at least $400 per person, so I’m just going to continue dreaming. He has really science-y ways of cooking stuff but it comes out perfect and this roasted chicken is very replicable at home!

I first ate this chicken at D’s place and it had one of the most tender chicken breast meat ever. It was soft and juicy, nothing like those dry, stringy breast meat I was used to. Sadly, the skin wasn’t crispy because we didn’t have time to blast it (it was 2 something by the time the chicken was cooked and we were famished). So without a doubt, I had to remake the chicken at home to get the crispy skin.

Preparing for this chicken takes a day and the roasting takes a few hours which makes it a bit troublesome but then there are really little skills involved. All you need to do is to brine the chicken overnight, dump it into your oven for 2 hours, then turn up your oven to its maximum temperature to blast the chicken and get that crispy skin.

It was actually quite epic to turn my oven up to the maximum temperature because when I opened the oven door, the entire kitchen filled with so much smoke that we all ran out. Oh oh oh be mentally prepared that your kitchen will smell like roasted chicken for the entire day hahahah.

Other than that, roast away!!! 🙂

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Ingredients
1 kg whole raw chicken
Water
Salt
50g of melted butter
1 Lemon
Pepper
Herbs de Provence

Directions
1. Mix 1 litre of water and 40g of salt. You can change the amount of water according to how much you need to cover the chicken but always use this ratio of 1 litre of water to 40g of salt.
2. In a pot large enough to fit your chicken but small enough to reside in your fridge, place the chicken and pour the salt water over, ensure that the water completely covers the chicken.
3. Place the pot in the fridge and leave it overnight.
4. The next morning, pour away the salt water and replace it with normal water.
5. When you want to cook the chicken, take the chicken out and pat it dry.
6. Place it on a baking tray and brush it with melted butter. Sprinkle the herbs, salt and pepper on the chicken.
7. Roast it at 100 degrees until the thickest part of the breast meat reaches 60 degrees Celsius.
8. Take the chicken out and let it rest for 45 minutes.
9. Turn your oven up to its maximum temperature.
10. Brush your chicken with melted butter again and place it in the oven.
11. Roast it for about 10 minutes or until the skin is golden brown and crispy.

Cucumber, Tomato and Feta Greek Salad

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School’s tiring and sometimes you need to self-declare a school holiday even though it has only been a week since school started 🙂 So on self-declared school holidays, I cook my own lunch and today I made pita breads stuffed with a mint yogurt grilled fish, roasted harissa carrots and a greek salad of cucumbers, tomatoes and feta cheese. I absolutely loved the greek salad because it had the right balance of sourness (from the cider vinegar), sweetness (from the honey) and saltiness (from the feta cheese). You can just eat it straight from the bowl or stuff it in some pita breads.

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Serves 4
Ingredients
1/2 cucumber, diced
3 tomatoes, diced
1/2 medium red onion, diced
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 tbsp cider vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp honey

Directions
1. Mix the cider vinegar, olive oil and honey together
2. Pour the dressing over the vegetables in a large bowl and serve 🙂

Courgette Cucumber Yogurt Dip

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In my last visit to London in June, Sandra and I met up with Esther and before that meeting, she texted me and warned me to leave enough luggage space for her birthday present 🙂 I was super excited to meet her (not just cause of my birthday present but also because I haven’t seen her in a year) and I was overjoyed that she remembered to buy a present for my birthday. I didn’t buy a present for her though because she was miles away ): Anyway, she surprised me with a Yotam Ottolenghi cookbook :))) And as always, my luggage did not have enough space so I had to hand carry it onto the plane back to Singapore hahaha.

So as part of her birthday present (since I didn’t give her any), I invited her over for lunch and I cooked her a meal of Shakshuka (refer to previous post) and this courgette cucumber yogurt dip to go with the homemade pita breads.

I loved how refreshing this dip was. It was especially needed on that day because it was so hot and humid. Yogurt, cucumber and mint? I’ll say yes to that on any sunny day.

The Kaffir lime leaves were an interesting, exotic addition to this dish. Okay maybe not that exotic considering how almost every single recipe in the cookbook had an ingredient that I had never come across (Dakos?!?). However, I felt that the browned butter added at the end was unnecessary. The dip would work excellent without the butter. So here’s my version of Yotam Ottolenghi’s ‘Yogurt and Kaffir Lime Leaf Spread’

Serves four
Ingredients
1 small courgette
1/2 cucumber, grated
6 large fresh Kaffir lime leaves, roughly chopped
250g Greek yoghurt
2 tsp lime juice
1 tbsp shredded mint leaves
1 garlic clove, grated
salt

Directions
1. Mix the courgette and cucumber in a colander with 1/2 tsp of salt.
2. Leave to drain for about 20 minutes then squeeze them to remove as much liquid as possible.
3. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
4. Add the lime leaves, mint, grated garlic and yogurt and mix well.

Shakshuka & Pita Bread

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I always wanted to try making this dish after spotting it at Habitat Coffee but I was missing a key ingredient, Harissa paste. To all Singaporeans, here’s the great news. I found it. The all important, life-saving Harissa paste. It costs $6.50 for a small bottle and is sold in Marks and Spencer. Don’t underestimate the flavour of this paste because adding that one teaspoon transforms the entire dish. It elevates an Italian-like tomato stew to this most amazing North African dish.

After buying the Harissa paste, there was no more excuse to not make this dish. So I invited Esther over for lunch today and she was just as excited to make this dish as I was 🙂 Thank God she tried Shakshuka before in a cafe so she knew what the ideal taste was. For me, I was just making this dish because it looked amazing. So I had no idea how it was supposed to taste like. But damn, I was blown away by the final product.

541A0740You have to eat this with bread or just something to dip with. We made our own pita breads to go with our Shakshuka. We just went all the way with our exotic theme for lunch. Store bought pita bread simply wasn’t good enough. It had to be handmade. It was my first time making pita bread and I was really excited seeing it poof up though a bit disappointed that it was a tad too hard (perhaps I added a bit too much flour). I especially loved tearing my pita bread apart and stuffing the pocket with egg and tomato 🙂 Quite upset that I’m starting my Atkins diet tomorrow. Bye bye pita pockets with Shakshuka ): 541A0726

Shakshuka
Serves 4

Ingredients
Olive oil
3/4 brown onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
5 cloves of garlic, sliced
2 teaspoons of harissa
2 teaspoons of paprika
2 teaspoons of tumeric
200g of crushed tomatoes
3 tomatoes, diced
1 tablespoon of honey
60g of feta cheese
3 eggs

Directions
1. Heat pan with olive oil and fry the brown onions till translucent.
2. Add the bell peppers and fry till soft.
3. Add in the garlic and fry for another minute.
4. Add the harissa, paprika and tumeric and cook for another minute.
5. Add the crushed canned tomatoes, diced tomatoes and honey and simmer for 20 minutes, reducing it until the sauce is quite thick.
6. Add the feta cheese and stir through. Add salt & pepper to taste.
7. Crack one egg into a bowl. Make a well in the middle of the tomato paste and pour the egg into that well. Repeat with the other 2 eggs.
8. Place a cover on the pan until the egg whites are slightly set but the yolk is still runny.
9. Remove from heat and garnish with Italian parsley!

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Pita Bread
Makes 8 Pitas

Ingredients
1 cup of warm water
1 tbsp of sugar
2 teaspoons of baking yeast
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt

Directions
1. Mix warm water, sugar and baking yeast in a bowl. Leave it to rest for 15 minutes until it has frothed up.
2. Pour the flour and salt into another bowl and make a well in the middle. Pour the yeast mixture into the well and using your hands, slowly mix the flour into the yeast mixture.
3. Sprinkle a little flour onto your clean work surface and turn out the dough. Knead the dough for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.
4. Oil a bowl and place the dough inside the oiled bowl. Let it rest for 1-2 hours until it has doubled in size.
5. Heat your oven to 230 degrees Celsius with the baking tray in the oven.
6. Roll out the dough into the size you want, making sure its at least half an inch thick so that it can puff up.
7. Place the pita bread onto the baking tray and watch it magically puff up! 🙂 The pita is done when it is fully puffed up, about 2 minutes.

Ratatouille

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Ever since I got poisoned by my own undercooked veal (more on that later) a little more than a month ago, I’ve not had a craving for red meats, so all my meals have been loaded with vegetables. It’s no surprise that one day I rummaged through my fridge and decided to chop all the vegetables up to cook ratatouille. It was the simplest method I could think of to cook everything at one go.

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I took forever to wash and chop the vegetables up but I guess that’s what makes cooking so therapeutic; the scraping, chopping and stirring. So I’m not complaining about the prep work just that heads up, it takes quite long.

The other fuss about this dish is that you have to prepare the eggplants separately but that’s not such a big deal. Try this dish if you ever find yourself with loads of vegetables and at a loss as to how to deal with the veggie overload.

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Ingredients
2 medium eggplants, diced
2 medium squash, diced
2 medium yellow onions, diced
8 button mushrooms, sliced
2 medium carrots, cubed
6 basil leaves, chopped
1 can of diced tomatoes

Directions
1. Sprinkle 1/4 tsp of salt over the eggplant and drain in a colander for 20 minutes.
2. After 20 minutes, pat dry the eggplant.
3. Heat olive oil in pan and fry the eggplant until golden brown.
4. Remove eggplant from the pan.
5. In the same pan, heat olive oil.
6. Fry onions and garlic until translucent.
7. Add in chopped up basil leaves.
8. Add in carrots and fry until cooked.
9. Add in mushrooms and fry until cooked.
10. Add in squash and fry until cooked.
11. Add in eggplant.
12. Add in canned tomatoes and simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Cauliflower Cous Cous

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Thought Catalogue is something I read when I am extremely bored of studying though some of the articles there are quite gross while most of them repeat themselves but when you are bored, you don’t really have an option right? Anyway, I came across this title “Why It’s Essential To Marry A Woman Who Cooks From A Man’s Perspective” and I just had to click it. Don’t judge, hahahaha. It said,

Cooking requires heart. It demands that you give a damn about someone else, the person or person(s) you are cooking for, whether they’re your own hungry kids or someone you’ve just met and are trying to impress in the hope that they might want to spend a little more time with you.

And I completely agree with that part, though I don’t really agree with the rest of the article (read it and I hope you don’t get pissed off if you can’t cook). I love cooking for the people I love, for my family and friends, and just to see the blissful smile on their face when they eat my food makes all my hard work in the kitchen worth it. Cooking is going to be a part of my life and I can’t wait for the day when I can bake cookies for my little kids and tuck them into bed with warm cookies and milk. But first I need to find the love of my life HAHAHAHAH.

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Anyway! This post is about this amazing blended cauliflower dish that I made while I was still doing my Pseudo-Atkins diet. I would recommend this to anyone, dieter or non-dieter because just eating one plate of this cauliflower cous cous can make you so full. And it tastes delicious! My father loved it so much that he asked, “No one wants anymore right? I’m eating it all up.” and before we could say anything, the whole plate got wiped clean.

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I love the flavours of this dish, it’s very mediterranean-like and at the same time, there’s a local twist to it, with a side of curry yogurt to add some kick to this otherwise mundane dish. The best part of this dish was how the nuts and raisins blended so well with the blended cauliflower (oooh punny). I actually loved the crunch and nutty texture to this dish even though I absolutely hate nuts. If this dish can make me love nuts, it is a damn good dish.

My mother made this for my birthday party and it got wiped out too, with everyone only having compliments for it. All in all, it only takes less than 20 minutes to make. I swear. Cooking everything just takes 5 minutes. This dish deserves to appear on Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals.

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Ingredients
3 cups of blended cauliflower florets
2 tbsp of raisins
2 tbsp of hazelnuts
2 tbsp of pine nuts
Bunch of chopped coriander

1/2 cup of greek yogurt
1 tsp curry powder or to taste, depending on how spicy you want it to be
1/4 tsp tumeric powder

Directions
1. Wash and dry cauliflower.
2. Blend cauliflower florets, a few pulses will do. Do not blend it till it’s mushy.
3. Brown hazelnuts and pine nuts in a pan, takes a few minutes.
4. Adding olive oil into a pan, fry the blended cauliflower until it is tender, brown but not mushy.
5. Add the nuts and raisins in for 30 seconds before switching off the fire.
6. Toss the chopped coriander in.
7. Mix the yogurt with the curry powder and turmeric powder.
8. Serve the cauliflower with a side of yogurt sauce and enjoy! 🙂

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

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If you’ve been observing well, I love making dips. All kinds of dips to go with my vegetables. I think my veggie eating habits are contributing to the problem of deforestation. I kid you not.

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Anyway, I discovered this amazing twist on the regular hummus. Adding roasted red pepper brightens up the entire dish and also adds an extra flavour to the plain old hummus (not saying that classic isn’t good but sometimes we need a little spice in life). However, the only good feedback I’ve received for this dish happens to be only from my family and one friend who seldom eats healthy food even though I think this recipe is such a keeper.

Negative comments:

“It looks like your carrots took a dump.” maybe it did.

“Yuck, who’s baby vomit is that?” yours?

“This tastes too healthy.” and healthy is bad?

“Nah, it tastes like normal hummus.” taste buds obviously not working!!!

Positive comment:

“It actually tastes good!” Yes it does, now make this.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I may appear angsty about all my negative comments but don’t worry, I’m not. I still love my friends even though they think I’m a rabbit. Perhaps I’m a bit too healthy for people my age but there’s nothing wrong with being healthy! I blame my mother for brainwashing me since young though. Apparently she fed me with broccoli as a snack the moment I could start chewing. Such effective brainwashing.

Here’s the recipe, if you want to be a rabbit like me too 🙂

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Ingredients
1 cup chickpeas
5 cloves garlic
4 red peppers
juice of ½ a lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoon tahini
water to thin consistency
salt & pepper

Instructions
1. Roast the red peppers and garlic at 200 degrees Celsius until the skins of the red peppers are slightly charred.
2. Puree all the ingredients together.
3. Add water until desired consistency.

*You could roast vegetables to go with this dip or just eat it with raw vegetables.

Bacon Wrapped Chicken & Onion Rings

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It has almost been a year since I met up with Kim and the last time we did, we were at my house baking a Japanese cheesecake (which I have yet to master haha). This time, I went to her beautiful house with her cute little malteses (world’s most well behaved dogs) and cooked. It was quite funny because we were trying to figure out how to wrap the chicken and her mother so desperately wanted to help us but we refused her help no matter what. Eventually, we managed to roll it out nicely such that there was nice oozing cheese in the middle and crispy bacon on the outside.

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The onion rings were a side dish that took forever to make because it was so tedious dipping each ring into flour then batter then breadcrumbs. The onions could have been more well-seasoned perhaps with stronger flavours like smoked paprika because tried spamming with Italian herbs but it was quite mild. The plus point of this recipe is that you get crispy onion rings without needing to fry it! That is so healthy, considering how much bacon you would have used for the chicken TEEHEE.

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Bacon Wrapped Chicken
Ingredients
2 pieces of chicken breast meat
100g of Mozzarella cheese
Streaky bacon

Directions
1. Cut the chicken breast meat into half the thickness but not all the way through so that you can open the meat up.
2. Place the bacon in a longitudinal direction on a baking tray.
3. Place the chicken breast in the same direction.
4. Place the cheese on the chicken breast.
5. Roll the chicken over the cheese, from the sides to the middle.
6. Do the same to the bacon such that all the chicken is covered by the bacon.
7. Place the chicken into a preheated oven of 200 degrees Celsius and bake for 45 minutes.

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Onion Rings
Ingredients
3 onions cut into 1 cm (1/2 inch) thick
Panic bread crumbs

Dusting mix
1/4 cup flour
1/2 t salt and pepper
1/2 t smoked paprika or other herbs

Batter
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1/4 cup + 2 T flour (6 T)
1/4 t smoked paprika or other herbs
salt and pepper

Directions
1. Pre heat your oven to 230C
2. Mix the dusting ingredients in one bowl.
3. Mix the the batter ingredients together with a whisk, it should be the consistency of thick cream, and put in another bowl.
4. Spread the crumb out on a plate.
5. Line baking tray with baking paper.
6. Toss onion rings in dusting mix, then batter, shaking off any excess before rolling in crumbs to coat.
7. Bake for 10 minutes until they are golden brown.

Roasted Chicken in Milk with Lemon Zest

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I have no idea how I came across this recipe but when I saw it, I knew I had to try it out because it looked so simple yet everyone only had praises for it. It was only recently when my friends were talking about how they tried to make this for New Year’s Eve dinner that I got reminded about this recipe. Fyi, two guys who had never cooked before managed to make this chicken, proving how easy this dish is!

So I tried it out tonight and the hardest part was basting the chicken for an hour while it was roasting in the oven. The milk turned into a nice creamy thick sauce with a hint of lemon that would turn into a pasta sauce if only I wasn’t on my stupid pseudo-Atkins diet. The chicken was quite filling, probably because of the cream but it tasted like comfort food.

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I’m quite excited about the possibilities of this recipe, perhaps adding paprika to it would bring it to another level or maybe I should put more thought into bringing out the lemon-y taste.

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Ingredients
Chopped up chicken/ Whole chicken
500 ml milk
3 dried bay leaf
Zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cinnamon stick
10 cloves of garlic

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
2. Drizzle olive oil onto pan and fry chicken, skin side down until it is golden brown.
3. Place chicken onto roasting pan with the rest of the ingredients.
4. Roast chicken for about an hour, basting it occasionally.