Friday, 30 October 2009

Bunny Birthday Cake

Yesterday was my husband's birthday and I considered that a chance to make and decorate a cake. I should have prepared the decorations a few days in advance so that they had the chance to harden, but the inner lazy procrastinating me just kept saying that I would be able to do everything in one day. Well, yes, I was able to - but with difficulty. I made my own marshmallow fondant myself - but after a year of not doing anything with fondant, I forgot that when you don't sift the powdered sugar, you would have difficulty getting a smooth fondant texture. So if you want to make marshmallow fondant yourself, please don't forget to sift the powdered sugar like me, or in the end you would get some lumps of sugar in the fondant dough. You could try reducing the lumps by kneading it over and over again, but believe me... You would get a cramp in the end, so it's much better to sift the sugar and avoid being lazy like me...!



It's also much better to prepare the fondant figurines a few days in advance, especially if your figurines need to 'stand up', like my two bunnies. If you don't do so, your figurines would have trouble standing upright without support - It's also the reason why I put some chocolate balls behind the bunnies - because I didn't want the bunnies to fall...;). Well, another alternative is to use gum sugar paste, which has a harder consistency than normal fondant, and it also dries up quicker. Personally I prefer gum paste for making small figurines, because it's just easier to handle than fondant, but I didn't have any gum paste stock, so I had to make do with my homemade fondant. I feel that the birthday cake I made last year looks much better, it just looks more professional than the one I made two days ago. I suppose it's because I used gum paste last year and I was also more prepared - or maybe as I age my stock of ideas is simply getting lower...;-)??


The piggy birthday cake from last year. The oink is modelled from 'Ringel' (in German) or 'Piggley' (in English), a character from 'Au Schwarte' or 'Jakers' - a children's television series that my husband really likes :).


The bunny birthday cake from yesterday. This year the birthday cake doesn't have a real theme. I just made two white bunnies, because now we've got two little lovely bunnies as house pets, even though ours are brown - I was too lazy to knead the fondant brown...

Marshmallow Fondant (MMF)
Ingredients
  • 500 gr marshmallow
  • 750 gr powdered sugar
  • 4 tbs water
  • shortening
  • Corn starch (for dusting)
Please look at this video on YouTube, if you're interested to make marshmallow fondant yourself. It's quite clear and due to this video I was able to make MMF myself.




We both don't like fondant, we find it too sweet - but if you have a real sweet tooth, marshmallow fondant might be a better alternative than the normal fondant made from glucose (and other strange ingredients) - it tastes better. To me fondant is purely for decoration though, so this is what happened to the bunnies after the cake was cut :).

Update:)
My bunnies





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Thursday, 29 October 2009

Vietnamese Style Noodle Soup

I don't know what to name this soup, but I know that I wanted to make pho-like soups, that's why let's just call this noodle soup Vietnamese style noodle soup à la moi :).




Ingredients
Broth
  • 500 gr pork bones
  • 500 gr beef bones
  • 7 cups water
  • 50 gr ginger, broiled until brown
  • 2 medium onions, broiled until brown
  • Fish sauce, salt, pepper and sugar to taste
Toppings
  • Tapioca or rice noodles
  • Thinly slices beef steak
  • 2 fish balls
  • 3 prawns
  • 1 hard boiled egg
  • Spring rolls (filled with shrimp and green onion)
  • Chopped green onions
  • Chilli slices
  • Mint leaves




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Monday, 26 October 2009

Mapo Tofu Flavoured Dumplings

Yes, I've got a mapo tofu fever probably...but I promise, this is going to be my last mapo tofu-related post... At least for some time... ;). To be true, I never really ate mapo tofu frequently nor loved it passionately, and yesterday was actually my first attempt at making mapo tofu - I just suddenly got this sudden urge of eating mapo tofu, which I couldn't really explain why. I had never touched a jar of spicy chilli bean sauce before and thus never knew that this sauce could have such a tantalising flavour. Yes, I have eaten mapo tofu before, but I didn't know that the spicy, slightly pungent taste comes from this sauce. Since I like the sauce, I thought, why not trying to make some dumplings with this sauce? There are not so many spicy dumplings, at the moment I can only remember kimchi dumplings from the short list. So, why not adding one more to the spicy dumpling list?




The ingredients are basically very similar to my other hot-water dough dumplings, I just added tofu, minced garlic, hot pepper and the spicy chilli bean sauce to make the dumplings characteristically 'mapo' in flavour. Just to be honest, I don't know what mapo means. Why is mapo tofu called mapo tofu? I tried to look for some information, but I couldn't find the meaning of mapo anywhere.

Ingredients

Dumpling skins
  • 300 gr flour
  • 1 cup boiling water
Filling
  • 400 gr ground pork
  • 200 gr minced tofu
  • 2 tbs minced garlic
  • 1 tbs minced ginger
  • 1 tbs chilli powder
  • 3 tbs chilli bean paste
  • 2 tbs oyster sauce
  • 1 tbs fish sauce
  • 2 tbs chilli oil
  • 1 tbs sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground Szechuan pepper powder
  • 3 tbs chopped green onions


You could also use ready-made wonton skins instead of making the dumpling skins yourself. Actually I used wonton skins, because I was too lazy making the skins myself. I pan fried the dumplings and then ate the dumplings with Chinkiang vinegar (black rice vinegar).


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Sunday, 25 October 2009

Mapo Tofu

Mapo Tofu is a popular dish from Szechuan, China. Szechuan is a province well known for its spicy and fragrant dishes, and mapo tofu certainly reflects these two celebrated attributes.



This dish normally calls for silken tofu, but as my husband doesn't really like silken tofu - he thinks it's too slippery to eat, I used a block of firm tofu instead. It still tasted great! I used duck fat collected from my previous duck roasting session to stir fry the garlic and ginger - this gave an extra aromatic kick. If if you don't have duck fat, pork fat or normal cooking oil is fine.

Ingredients
  • 200 gr tofu
  • 200 gr ground pork/beef
  • 2 tbs duck fat or cooking oil
  • 2 tbs chilli oil
  • 1 tbs chilli powder (or more if you like it extra fiery)
  • 1 tbs minced garlic
  • 1 tbs minced ginger
  • 2 tbs chilli-bean paste
  • 2 tbs cooking wine
  • 2 tbs soy sauce
  • 1 tbs fish sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp Szechuan peppercorn powder
  • 1 tbs corn flour (mixed with 1 tbs water)
  • chopped green onions
What to do
  • Heat 2 tbs of duck fat. Add the minced garlic, ginger and ground pork. Stir fry until fragrant. Add cooking wine, soy sauce and fish sauce.
  • Then add tofu, chilli oil, chilli bean paste, chilli powder and sugar.
  • When it boils, add in the corn flour mixture to thicken to sauce.
  • Garnish with chopped green onions and Szechuan peppercorn powder.

You cannot really see the sauce, because it all goes down to the bottom of the pot ;-).


Update
- Spaghetti with Mapo Tofu

My husband suggested to use the mapo tofu from yesterday as a topping for spaghetti. I thought it could be a change from the oh-so-normal spaghetti bolognese, so I decided to try his idea... It was fantastic - I never thought that such an unusual combination could taste so good! After I boiled the spaghetti, I oiled it slightly with duck fat and then added some chopped spring onions before I topped the noodles with the mapo tofu.






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Saturday, 17 October 2009

Har Gao - Shrimp Crystal Dumplings

Another dumpling post :). Well, I adore dumplings, so I am quite sure that there would still be a long list of dumpling posts coming in the future and that my journey of trial and error in dumpling making is still very long...;-). This time my post is about Har Gao - one of the most wanted dumpling dishes in Dim Sum restaurants. But, this is of course not the reason why I made har gow. I made har gow because it's one of my most favourite types of dumpling. I especially like it's translucent, slightly chewy skin. When I was young I loved to look at and observe my shrimp dumplings before I ate them. I loved to see their crystal clear, transparent exterior hiding some pink succulent jewels inside them. To be true, I still do. After one eager bite, I would even still study what's inside the small, little, glassy pocket - I notice some big chunks of juicy prawns, very thin slices of bamboo shoots and a modest amount of finely chopped pork lard.



I made these har gows several weeks ago. It was not that hard to make, but making sure that the skin was thin enough and that it didn't break when I tried to pleat it was kind of tricky.



The har gow did not turn out as good as I wanted. The shape of the dumplings didn't really look like the ones you see in Dim Sum restaurants. I think that they're not fat enough, and the skin was not as translucent as it should be. However, they're certainly not ugly. So, fair enough, I guess it's at least a good try...

Recipe adapted from Dim Sum Made Easy
Ingredients

Skin
  • 1 1/2 cup wheat starch
  • 1/2 cup tapioca starch
  • 1 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 2 tbs oil
Filling
  • 500 gr prawns, chopped coarsely (not too fine)
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 tbs ground pork fat
  • 2 tbs chopped spring onions (white part only)
  • 3 tbs thinly slices bamboo shoots
  • 1 tbs light soy sauce
  • 1 tbs oyster sauce
  • 1 tbs Shao Xing wine
  • 1 tsp tapioca starch
  • A dash of white pepper



Make sure that you refrigerate the filling mixture for at least an hour before you start making the dumplings. If you don't do so the filling might be a bit too watery and thus might cause the dumpling skin to tear.



Enjoy your har gow with chilli sauce of your choice.




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Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Four-Flavour Dumplings

Finally another post.... I had wanted to post earlier, but I was either lazy or I simply didn't manage to make good pictures of the food I made. Who can give me some advice on how to make good pictures? I have an older digital camera - Sony 5.1 Mega Pixels, and I have always had difficulty making nice pictures with this camera. Throughout the day I still have a small chance making some clearer pictures, but at night my chance to make good pictures is almost zero, as the pictures would turn mostly blurry. Is it because of my camera, is it because I suck in photography, or is it because of both? If it's because I need a new camera, which brand and type do you suggest me to buy? Or if it's because I suck, what should I do to improve my photography skills? Photography was never something that interested me. A camera was only a tool for me to change 3-d things into 2-d ones. But after I've got this food blog, I of course do want to show at least some presentable pictures... Oh well..., enough ramblings...

As I mentioned in my previous post, I wanted to make four-flavour dumplings. So here they are.


The first time I saw four-flavour dumplings was from a Japanese manga, 'Master Cooking Boy' - just a comic about a boy who loves cooking and is very talented at it. He makes various dumplings and one of those is this four-flavour dumpling. I thought this type of dumpling was fictional, just made up by the comic author, since at that time it just looked so extraordinary to me somehow, but apparently it's not. I saw a four-flavour dumplings recipe from a Taiwanese cooking-book "Chinese Dim Sum" from Wei Chuan Cooking School Publication last year, and since then have been so passionate about trying it out. I of course change the recipe a bit here and there - well, I always do change recipes actually, I never can really follow recipes so religiously - I always need to rebel a bit in a way, I don't know why...

So here is my recipe adapted from the Wei Chuan Cooking Book.

Ingredients
Dumpling Skin
  • 300 gr flour
  • 1 cup boiling water
Filling
  • 400 gr ground pork
  • 200 gr shrimps, chopped coarsely
  • 1 tbs diced pork fat (optional)
  • 3 tbs oyster sauce
  • 2 tbs fish sauce
  • 3 tbs Shao Xing wine
  • 1 tbs minced ginger
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • White pepper
Garnish (Toppings)
  • Chopped green onions
  • Chopped boiled egg yolk
  • Chopped boiled egg white
  • Chopped carrots

The dumplings before any toppings are added.



The dumplings with four different toppings: green onions, carrots, boiled egg yolk and boiled egg white.
There are of course still a lot of rooms for improvement. My dumplings still look quite messy, and the pictures do look quite blurry as well. I just need to practise a bit more (in making dumplings, and in doing photography) to get better results in the future...


The four-flavour dumplings after being steamed.



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Saturday, 3 October 2009

A German Breakfast

Today's is the 3rd of October, a public holiday in here, since it's the German Reunification Day. I doubt that this day means a lot to most Germans nowadays, however this day is a quite special day for me because the 3rd of October was the day when I first got to know my husband. It's been ages ago....! We started as friends and a few years later we started going out. The fact that now we're husband and wife is actually quite weird and funny in a way. Well, however, just to celebrate this day, which also coincides with the German reunification day, I decided to have something German - a quite typical German breakfast : Brötchen (rolls) with an assortment of Schinken (hams) and Wurst ( sausages). There are of course many types of hams and sausages in Germany and I would love to show them all, unfortunately we're only a household of two so it's quite impossible and absurd to buy too many sorts of sausages and hams - they would have gone bad before we've had the chance to eat them.


I used to think it weird and boring, just eating plain rolls with sausages or hams. But I think it's really a matter of getting used to it. After some time I grew to love this kind of breakfast - although I do like variation. If it's just a roll with one type of ham or sausage, then I would still find it not that very appetising.


Left: rote Wurst (red sausage), Frühstuckschinken (breakfast smoked ham) and Gyros Schinkenbraten (cooked ham, Gyros flavour).
Right: Slices of cooked egg, rote Wurst and Leberwurst

One of my favourite toppings for my rolls is called Leberwurst - it's a liver paté mixed with different types of herbs. You can see it pictured on the right handside, next to the salami-looking sausage.

That's it for now... For lunch I intend to make "four-flavour dumplings". Well, let's hope that it's going to be a success, so that I can also blog about it ;-)!



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