Friday, 28 February 2014

Orange & Yellow Tulips (Sunkiss from Heaven)

































Another busy week ahead.  We did a couple of things last week after our interesting weekend in Dortmund so again, no update from the kitchen front.  But I vow to myself to strike back after our holiday coming weekend as I´ve bookmarked some recipes that I´ve been itching to try. 

Last week, we had a fabulous albeit panicky weekend away with hubby´s brother and his girlfriend.  They took us to a lovely restaurant perched at the top floor of the new culture centre building, only to end abruptly with a fire alarm evacuation before our meal arrived.  We had to calmly walk seven floors down but god knows what was in everyone´s head.  Was it terrorist work, vandalism or negligence?  Funny thing is, some couple insist of using the lift although the announcement prohibits them.  These are germans and the announcement was in German too?! 

That aside, we checked out another fabulous, historical restaurant in town soon after, and then later ended the night with lots of chatting in the kitchen later.  The next morning, Karola prepared us a lovely breakfast before making our way to an art gallery opening.  It was indeed a lovely Sunday spent this way.  How I wish there´s more of such installment in where I live :-)

Anyway, gotta run because we´re hosting some lovely friends over this weekend and I´ve got an invite to attend to inbetween this hosting!

Have a lovely weekend everyone!

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Top 10 Places in Europe (that I would like to visit soon)

When it comes to vacation time, living in Europe is a real blessing.

The choices are unlimited, and even if you´ve visited one favourite capital over and over again, time and energy rebuilts itself. Some locals here are happy with visiting the same spot for their summer vacation every single year but for us, we make it a point to visit at least 1 new destination every single year.

Prior to my work commitment, we were bless to be able to go on vacation almost every month. Some short days and then long ones during spring, summer, autumn and then winter breaks because Germans, are lucky people if I must say. They get a minimum of 30 paid work days a year and hubby gets more than that in addition to his extra hours filled up throughout the year. We use to have the luxury of going as and when we want, scouting the best deals in town but sadly, it had since stopped after I got myself a teaching job.

But we try and make the best out of the situation. Here´s what I personally would love see really soon! We are making plans already, and one being just a week away from today so I´m really, really excited! We got ourself a lovely historic hotel infront of the beach with lots of sun a few metres away, lots of flower in a city known for flowers :-) Not to mention, the food is reputable to be very good and our hotel arrangement comes with top notch cuisine arrangement! So woohoo!

Here´s the list ...















Santorini, Greece















Seville, Spain















Provence, France















Edinburg, Scotland















Cinque Terre, Italy















Rome, Italy















Lisbon, Portugal















Iceland!















Vienna, Austria

and ...















gorgeous Tuscany in Italy!

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Flower Bulb Potting Craze

































I´m in flower arrangement/potting craze now.  I think as off last week, I´ve potted more than 5 assortments in total?!  Ideas are applenty this time of the year everywhere you see, and it really does not make any sense when the bulbs are cheap, the pots are laying around the house  that one need not pick them up from garden centre which cost possibly few folds more.  Unless it is for gifts for example, and here, the locals do find whatever opportunity to give you something green and lovely.  More to come :-)

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Frühling!!!


Food post will be missing in action this week as I will be taking time off the kitchen to work in the garden.  The meteorologist here says that winter is officially behind us, yay! And we can safely welcome spring. 

So as of early this week, I have been moving our patio furnitures out, trimmed away the overgrown foliage of my grape hyacinthe (well, she does need a yearly haircut), and cleared away some dried leaves which fell from the nearby maple tree.  My seedings are doing well too and I had been tending to them religiously and I can´t wait to show you all what I have been seeding. 

I´ve also been shopping around for interesting container flowers and boy, there surely are lots of new varieties and hybrids available!  What I´m looking for is, easy to care, looks attractive and easy on the wallet.  I´ve also potted some spring arrangements in varieties of containers and vases to be placed around the house (picture above) and has been buying tulips weekly and placing them next to our breakfast table so that we could enjoy them first thing in the morning when we have breakfast.  Garden magazines? Checked.  Easter decorations? Getting there too! And the list goes on. 

I´m so excited because its spring and its one of my favourite season of the year!

Monday, 17 February 2014

Yellow Daffodils



It is only mid February but the spring bulbs are already sprouting out from the soil!  And I am more than please because I´ve planted in lots of very interesting spring bulbs last Autumn and if the weather continues this way, I might be able to catch a glimpse of it before I depart off to Malaysia early April :-) 

Here´s a shot of my Daffodils which I´ve learned to love just two years ago.  When I got started with gardening, yellow flowers would be my last choice in my flower bed, but now, it is invading every corner of our home. Ha.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Hakka Pork Roll (Chuen Kuen)

































Chinese New Year finally comes to an end with the celebration of Chap Goh Meh.  It falls on the fiftenth day of the first month in Chinese Solar Calendar and coincidently, its on 14 February this year which coincides with Valentines Day.  The chinese also has a tradition of throwing mandarin oranges to nearby lakes with their contact number written on it hoping to meet their future spouse during this period so I reckon this February 14th is a good start to merge both chinese and western tradition?!

Me and hub are old school people.  My hubby nor me believes in celebrating Valentines Day the commercial way.  We feel that we should not just take this day to show affection and our love for each other but should instead be a constant effort every single day.  I love pampering my hubby whenever I can so although we shyed away in the past, I was in the mood to surprise him this year.

I woke up very early today to bake us a moist, dark, Varlhrona Chocolate Cake.  I also picked up a kilo of very juicy looking strawberries.  Later mid afternoon, I made us an appetiser of Hakka Pork Rolls as seen above.  Dinner is still under works as I am writing this.  I guess my slice of the chocolate cake got on the way and I´m way too stuff to think of dinner now, but will see ...

Happy Valentine´s Day everyone and Happy Chap Goh Meh to all those celebrating!

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Tong Sui

































Something sweet, but light to wrap up a meal.  Chinese in my opinion aren´t very good at desserts as how the westerners do or even the south east asians.  Having a dessert ending which resembles a drink is not uncommon. But since I´m insisting to go traditional, this is it. A simple tong sui to wrap up my Chinese New Year cooking series which ends on 14th February 2014.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Tofu with Mince Pork Sauce

































Recently, I came across a youtube video of a Malaysian girl base in Germany who cooks really well.  Her name is Grace, a very young girl judging from her look but had since done some collaboration with some companies in producing pretty good Malaysian and Nyonya recipes.  One of the dishes I got smitten with was this Steam Tofu with Mince Pork Sauce.  Very simple and homely cooking if you ask me, but nevertheless delicious.  I have this knick of adding Xiao Shing Wine in my cooking lately due to my addiction in watching from Taiwanese cooking programme lately, and indeed, the wine does make a difference in elevating a lot of dishes to a deeper level. 

My tofu here got a kick start first.  It was given a quick steam for 5 minutes.  But really, you can make do with less depending on what kind of tofu you use.  I then proceeded in making the mince meat sauce with chopped garlic and dried mushrooms.  And thats it apart from the seasoning from soya sauce, dark soya sauce, Xiao Shing Wine, oyster sauce and then later thickening agent corn flour to bind the sauce together.  This was my lunch and I could not be more please.  Tomorrow is the last day of Chinese New Year it seems and not Saturday, so I will be rushing off to some shopping later to create the last Chinese New Year meal of the year.  So, stay tune!

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Steamed Pomfret


































A reunion dinner without a fish dish on the table is a big NO-NO.  It plays such a big significance due to its longevity signification that the cook of the house, usually the mother, would fuss over many aspect of dish.  From the type of fish selected, the size of it, how fresh is the fish, is the whole and intact with glowy gleaming skin, eyes are clear, the gills are red still and lastly, how to best prepare them.  But the last is very closely related to how fresh is the fish. 

If the fish is fresh, Chinese mother´s love steaming them to taste its delicateness.  If it is not fresh, frying or camouflaging them with sauces is the way to go.  But of course, it is not always the case as some families have moved away from traditional way of preparation and has instead embraced whatever style they fancy with the freshest of fish.

Its been a couple of months since I last had Steamed Fish.  Getting them whole and fresh is quite a challenge where I live, but due to the occassion, I made it a point to cross over to the border´s weekend market to grab these lovely pomfret.  It befits the special occassion, the fish whole with head and tail intact, possibly not the freshest but passable and its delicious when steamed right.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Yellow Tulips for Lunar ´ONG´


































Ideally, I would like to have one post each day to commemorate the 15 or rather 16 days of Chinese New Year celebration.  Work took over unexpectedly, but fret not because I will continue my wokking today with a few more festive dishes in mind before a closure come to an end this Friday.  And I really do mean, lots more coming :-)  So stay tune!

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Japanese Emperor Chicken


































A chinese new year dinner will not be complete without a chicken dish on the table.  IN addition to a prawn, fish, soup, pork, duck and vegetables.  Essentially, the table will be filled to the brim with very little space for even an extra glass of drink.  Abundancy, the core message on the long awaited dinner.  I am amaze at how chinese mum seems to pull this important meal thru year after year, because I can´t imagine myself cooking more than 3-4 dishes for a few person least to say a table full for whole family and extended family. 

Today, I manage to get a short cut dish prepared on the table.  Its packet stuff really but who would nowadays concoct their own chinese herbal mixture to prepare just a dish with it? Very unlikely.  This packet of Japanese Emperor Chicken rub has been sitting in my pantry like, forever.  It is fairly easy to make.  Just rub the spices onto the chicken, then wrap the meat up with the provided plastic and aluminium foil attached and continue to steam them for two hours under very slow fire.

The results were fabulous.  The meat were so juicy, almost falling off its bone and its flavour were strong and kicked a punch too.  If you like asian herbs, you will love this.  I think I will grab a few packets of these on my upcoming trip back to Msia in two months time.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Steamed Scallops (Chinese Style)

































One of the easiest and most impressive dishes I´ve prepared for myself this Lunar New Year are these Steamed Scallops.  It is common dish to order in refined chinese restaurants in Malaysia but can be pretty pricey hence, one usually get to eat only a piece or two from the serving platter if you are lucky.  I was fortunate to spot some in the morning market here two weekends ago. 

It looked nothing like the photo when I got them as I had to scrub away the scums forming at shells outside and removing all the outer body part and leaving only the muscle (the white flesh where its prized) intact.  My hands and my kitchen stank so this better be worth it, I told myself.  Indeed it was.  I carefully arrange the sliced ginger, garlic, cilantro and chilli on top of the scallops after a quick 3 minutes steam, before drizzling some garlic oil, xiao shing wine and soya sauce on top of it.  It was delicious and fresh tasting that 8 pieces of these babies were not enough for me alone. 

Friday, 7 February 2014

Char Siew Pao


































Today is the beginning of Li-Chun or Spring according to Chinese Solar Calendar.  It is believe that whatever good or bad that happens on this particular day will be translated to what year you will experience throughout the year.  Superstitous folks will also make it a point to bank in some money into their bank accout to give it a positive start.  This year, I decided to jump onto the bandwagon of this very tradition and have wanted to keep the day as simple and stress free as possible, but somehow I ended up waking up very early in the morning to make these cute little Char Siew Pao from the dough which I´ve prepared since yesterday morning.  Call it bad planning or meant to be, perhaps I should take it as this would be a busy year for me but if I were to do it right, it could be very rewarding like the way how the paos are smiling back to me right now.

Taste wise is superb!  I´m quite bad at writing recipes really, but do a simple google if you must.  The char siew filling is from WendyinKK under Easy Char Siew, and the dough is from Vivian Pang.  They are both respectively good with what they do and I trust their recipes fully because these paos had been such a testament to their skill.  Do try if you are missing them away from home like me :-)

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Ngor Hiang or Penang Lor Bak



































It took me 5 long years to finally put a recipe I´ve bookmarked into practise. Alas, I still think it needed some tweaking.  Somehow the seasoning is too mild for my liking, and clever me, I should insist on using shoulder pork meat instead of mince just because of convenience sake.  Positive note here is that, I found the perfect bean curd sheets here to be used for this recipe. Finally!

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Teo Chew Kway Chap


































Grandma, where are we going?

We will go watch chinese opera just right infront of the market square okay? It is very colourful and you will love it.

Is it far?

Oh no, it is not so far if you walk faster.

Those words from my grandma still runs in my head.  In her teochew.  I was possibly around 5 years old when my mum sent me to my grandma and then later, my godmother to stay for a week.  Though more than 30 years ago, its funny that I still remember every single detail from it clearly.

After the chinese opera performance at the temple, I remember walking around the market stand admiring each of the stand one by one.  I remember the hanging red charsiews at the butcher´s stand.  I also remember a make-shift corner at the corner of the market selling handkerchiefs and underwears but was all laid out on a huge piece of blue canvas cloth on the floor. My grandma urshered me to one side and urged me to pick up my favourite among the pile and I remember picking something with flower motives on it :-)  Some of the underwears had little motives on it, but it was probably something not so significant to me that time because I can´t recall how it look like but I do remember the hankerchiefs very well. 

Before walking home, my grandma stopped by her favourite food stall to pack some food back.  The owner was an old man.  It was a Kway Chap stand. I remembered the smell and as a kid, I did not like it at all. She packed a few packets with her and before long, we were on our way home;

I was not impress with the smell back then but look what I crave now. It surely brought back lots of wonderful memory about my grandma.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Butter Prawns

































I was thinking of naming this dish Hee Hee Har Har to signify the sound of laughter or happiness that is mostly associated with prawns during Chinese New Year.  Prawn is har in cantonese and during Chinese New Year, a lot of mother´s or restaurant chefs like to be inventive with such names to sound even more auspicious.  But one simple google and I bet you would come across lots of similiar names, so lets just stick back to its original name, okay? 

It is Butter Prawn.  Simple so as it uses butter. And another western ingredient in the form of oats, but thankfully, it stops there.  The magic ingredient to give it a very distinct, lovely fragrant comes from the so-ever precious curry leaves.  Not forgetting the essence of chinese cooking are, garlic and some slices of chillies to lift the taste higher.  This time round, I´ve seasoned the prawns beforehand with chicken granules to lend it a deeper flavour, thanks to a tip I got from a fellow blogger who recently cooked these.

Thanks Eiling! It surely made a difference!

Monday, 3 February 2014

Teochew Lor Ark


































In France, the mandarin orange will probably end up as a sauce for the duck on the right.  Which is after all, not a bad idea.  Cooking meat with fruit is nothing new and thats quite an inspiration there for next year.  But for this year, its same old tried and tested recipe from who else, but inspiration from my grandmother.  Consuming duck is pretty common among chinese.  Roast Duck being one of the famous treats from cantonese region.  The teochews which are further up has their way of preparing them.  It is braised for hours with lots of herbs, but not before coating its skin with caramel first to give it a nice smokey, sweet and salty balance taste later.  I got this recipe from a Singapore website.  It is still not as good as the one I made many years ago, however, I´ve got no recollection of where I got that recipe from! Arg!  At the moment, will make do with this version until I find the right one again. 

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Joo Hoo Char

































Sengkuang or Bangkuang is an indispensable ingredient in our household when cooking Lunar New Year dinner. My dad uses them as a vegetarian soup base to derive sweetness from it.  But my favourite way of enjoying it is in the form of Joo Hoo Char, a julienne style braised vegetable with further aroma infused from dried squid, pork belly slices, dried shrimps and chinese mushroom. 

Sengkuang is difficult to come by here and if it did, it would be very costly, according to my asian food stockist across the border.  Thankfully, I have found a wonderful substitute by using Kohlrabi. It worked perfectly well and taste almost the real Joo Hoo Char deal.

In Penang, the Joo Hoo Char is eaten as a wrap with a dollop of chilli sauce.  I´m utterly satisfied with the dish just by itself.  This to me is a nostalgic dish, and again, was something my grandmother lovingly prepares every single year to welcome her children and grandchilldren back home.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Beehive Cookie

































Apart from Pineapple Tart, I made Beehive Cookie for the first time.  The recipe sounds fairly straightforward but the making off I must say, takes a lot of practise.  Before I embark on the deepfying process, I did a research on the temperature of the oil for frying.  The ideal is suppose to be 180C if one would like the form to be clean and not puffed up like what you see here.  I´ve used a machine with temperature control and YET, it ended up this way.  So, I reckon 180C is not the right temperature then.  That aside, the cookie itself taste lovely.  Its crunchy yet light,  BUT a tad oily as compared to any baked cookies out there.  But still, I love them nevertheless.

Before I end this post, I would like to wish all of you celebrating a Happy Chinese New Year.  May the year of the Horse brings you prosperity, laughter, good health and joy :-)