Monday, May 30, 2011

Farewell to a Faithful Companion

My faithful companion, Benji, passed over to doggie heaven last Friday. He was fourteen and a half years old. In doggie age he is considered really old - in fact older than my dad. In my head I knew he would not have many years left but nothing really prepares you when the time is near and in this case unexpected.

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Benji at his age has had his fair share of aches and pains. He has had inter-digital cyst on his paws for many, many years. We have taken him to so many vets over a span of four years and none could diagnosed what was wrong with him. Finally we found a vet who told us what that it was inter-digital cyst. Something that is pretty rare in Singapore. The vet said that there was nothing much we could do as by this time his front right paw was swollen until his paw pad were turned upwards. The vet said he could operate to ease the pressure on his paw but it would have meant amputing one of his digits. We were totally against it especially after hearing that the problem would eventually come back again. Benji was already eleven years old by this time. He didn't seem to be in much pain unless the cyst flared up and he would have some open sores on his paws. The sores would disappear in less than a week's time and in-between I would dab tea-tree oil on the open wound to sterilize it.

Last Friday morning, I would as usual give Benji and Milo (my younger shitzu) their morning meals. Benji did not eat much the night before and that particular morning, he didn't have much appetite as well. I gave them a quick treat before leaving, saying my good byes. I was slightly home later than normal timing that evening, arriving home at 7.30pm. Milo greeted me at the door and Benji was asleep (or so I thought at that time) on his cushion. I dumped my bag and some groceries on the dining table and went towards Benji wondering why he had still not moved at all. Upon looking closely I noticed his stomach was not going up and down with breathing motions. I could not help but scream in my head "no, no it can't be". I immediately touched Benji and he felt cold in my hands. I knew then that my faithful companion was gone. He was in a sleeping position on his favourite cushion and I can only hope that he had passed on quietly, without any pain, in his sleep.

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For a small little dog, Benji was quite a character. He has always been an independent dog, doing his own thing and had a mind of his own. If he was not happy about things he would definitely show it. I remember one time when I was on holiday, I had to put Benji in a pet boarding place. When Benji was sent back to the flat by the boarder upon my return, he absolutely ignored me for the entire day. I think he was showing me his displeasure for being sent away to a strange place.

I am sure wherever my faithful companion is right now, he would be enjoying his after-life and meeting a lot of doggie friends and probably snifing their butts too. Rest in Peace Benji - you have been a faithful friend!

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Red Bean Flower Bun

When I first saw these flower buns my first thought was "how pretty they were" and knew immediately that I would love to try my hand at making them. Luckily for me I had some left over red bean paste in the fridge so all I really needed to do was to make the bread dough.

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I really do like making bread especially when I don't have to knead the dough by hand. I leave this job to my trusty KitchenAid (boy am I glad I own one)and it is definitely a breeze! As with any bread recipes, it's not the kneading that takes up your time, it's the rising of the dough. If the recipe requires two rising, then you better set aside at least four to five hours to tackle the recipe. I found this bun to be extremely delicious on the day it was baked. The bread however hardens a bit the next day but if you warm it up quickly in a microwave, it becomes soft again. Altogether a delicious recipe and great for kids who love red bean paste.

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Red Bean Flower Bun
Recipe Adapted from Happy Home Baking


143g fresh milk (I used HL low-fat fresh milk)
35g egg (about 1/2 an egg)
25g caster sugar
1/4 tsp salt
250g bread flour
4g instant yeast
38g butter (unsalted)

For the Filing: Store bought red bean paste


1) Place milk, egg, followed by caster sugar, salt, bread flour and yeast into a large mixing bowl. Using a dough hook knead the mixture for about 12 to 15 minutes on number 2 of your KA. If the dough is still moist, sprinkle with a little bit more bread flour. The dough should be kneaded until it forms a ball and is no longer sticking to the side of the mixing bowl.

2) Lightly oil a separate bowl. Remove dough from the mixing bowl and place in th oiled dough. Coat the dough with the oil and then cover the bowl with cling wrap. Let proof for 60 mins.

3) Remove dough and punch out the gas.

4) Divide dough into 60g pieces and shape into balls. Let the doughs rest and relax for 20 mins. (this ‘relaxing’ time is needed so that the dough will be easier to roll out and shaped). Lightly cover with cling wrap.

4) On a lightly floured surface, flatten one dough into a round disk. Place 35g of red bean paste (rolled into a ball) in the middle of the disk and wrap the filing with the dough. Pinch the joints to ensure that each dough ball is sealed completed.

5) Again, flatten the ball down using a rolling pin. Using a very sharp knife, make deep cuts all the way down around the dough. This will give the bread the flower shape.

6) Brush the top of the bread with a little egg wash and then sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake in a pre-heated oven of 190C for about 18 - 25 minutes.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Satay Chicken

I'm not sure why this particular recipe is called Satay Chicken because it's flavours does not resemble the well known satays. Maybe it is the use of fresh grounded ingredients such as candlenut and lemongrass that gives it kinship to satay. However one thing I do know or what the recipe book tells me, is that this is a Peranakan dish.

Peranakans are the Chinese who immigrated to the Nusantara region and to assimilate themselves into the local culture they had adopted some of the Malay customs. Their food and style of cooking became a blend of Chinese and Malay and thus the birth of Peranakan. Peranakan recipes always uses fresh ingredients and some of their recipes are quite complicated.

In the olden times when the food processor or blender was a rare kitchen equipment, a pestel and motar would be used to pound all the fresh ingredients. In fact till this day, some of the older generation Peranakans would still insist on using the old fashion method to pound the ingredients. They swear that Peranakan dishes taste so much better as the pounding releases the oils and flavours slowly.

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Satay Chicken
Recipe Adapted from "Female Cookbook Vol 12"


1.6kg whole chicken, cut into 12 - 16 pieces
3 candlenut
10 dried red chillies
4 fresh red chillies
7 red shallots
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp shrimp paste
2 stalk lemon grass, the white part only
200 ml thick coconut cream (from packet)
1/4 cup water
3 - 4 Tbsp cooking oil
Salt to taste


1) Grind the candlenut, the chillies, shallots, garlic, shrimp paste and lemongrass until fine. Keep aside.

2) Heat the oil in a wok or a large pot until hot. Add the grounded paste into the oil, turn fire to medium. Fry the paste until oil starts to seep out and it smells fragrant. This should take about 4 - 5 minutes.

3) Add in the chicken pieces and fry for another 5 minutes.

4) Add 3/4 of the coconut cream and mix it with the 1/4 water. Add to the chicken and stir. Bring to a boil and then turn the fire to low/medium. Cook until the gravy thickens and reduced.

5) Add salt to taste. Then add the remaining coconut cream and continue to cook until the sauce has reduced.

6) I prefer this dish to have very little gravy but you could have more by reducing the cooking time.

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Toffee Slices

We have been having scorching weather the last couple of weeks here in Singapore with temperatures in the highs of 26C - 35C. It's really not the heat that gets to you but rather the high humidity levels in it's 90s. It really wears you down and I am so glad that I can take refuge on week days in an air-conditioned office. Although it gets cooler in the evenings, it is still humid and stuffy. Some days there doesn't seem to be any breeze at all to cool things down. I hate to say it but on weekends I would now resort to turning on the air-conditioners which I don't normally do unless I have friends over.

Things are not going to get any better because it has been reported that are at least 100 over "hot spots" in Sumatra, Indonesia. "Hot spots" is vegetation fire and in Sumatra, these fires are done intentionally to clear the land so that new crops can be grown. The Indonesian farmers are mainly from poor families and therefore cannot afford machinery to clear their lands. Thus the easiest and cheapest way of clearing their fields is to set the old crops on fire. Because of the intensity of such vegetation fires, the neighbouring countries such as Singapore and Malaysia suffer from air pollution. As these fires increase, the air quality gets worst and a haze would cloud the skies. At times, you can even sniff a burning smell in the air. I certainly hope we have some intermit rains to dispel this.

Luckily just before these "hot spots" were reported, I had a chance to play a round of golf at a local country club with a couple of girl friends. The gods must have been smiling on us that day because the weather was superb ... cool, cloudy skies and an occassional breeze. The night before my golf game I happened to bake some cookies and was asked to bring some along for sampling. These cookies are quite addictive with a toffee like flavour and a hint of heat from the ginger. I think they make great give-aways especially around the Christmas holidays.

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Toffee Slices
Recipe Adapted from “A Piece of Cake” by Leila Lindholm
Makes 25 slices

100g unsalted butter, softened
40g caster sugar
40g brown sugar (you can use all caster sugar if you do not have brown sugar)
2 Tbsp golden syrup
135g all purpose flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp salt


1) Preheat oven to 175C.

2) Beat butter sugar and syrup until light and creamy.

3) Sift flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and salt together. Then add into the butter mixture and incorporate well.

4) Refrigerate the dough for about 20 minutes so that it is easier to manage and shape. Remove and shape into two long logs, spaced fairly apart. The dough will expand whilst in the oven.

5) Put the logs on parchment line baking trays. Flatten slightly and then score each log with a fork.

6) Bake in center of oven for about 12 – 15 minutes or until golden brown.

7) Let the logs cool a bit before cutting them diagonally. Leave slices to cool completely before storing into biscuit tins.

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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sweet Potato Onde (Sweet Potato Glutinous Rice Balls)

Malaysians are very partial to their local tea time treats and desserts, and being a Malaysian, I am no exception. Some of our local tea time treats and desserts are simple and quick to whip up whilst there are some which require a bit more work due to the number of steps involved. This particular version of "onde" uses sweet potato instead of just flour. The sweet potato gives it a natural sweetness as well as colour. Furthermore this is simple to work and in terms of buying the ingredients pretty economical. I love eating onde because they are bite size and I usually end up popping at least half a dozen in one sitting. Ooops ... I think I've said too much already!

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Sweet Potato Onde (Sweet Potato Glutinous Rice Balls)
Recipe from Amy Beh


150g sweet potato, cubed, steamed until soft and mashed
200g glutinous rice flour
1/2 tsp salt
100ml water
1 Tbsp tapioca flour
100g finely chopped gula melaka (palm sugar)
200g grated fresh coconut (white part only) and 1/4 tsp salt, then steam for 5 minutes and leave to cool.


1) Bring water, salt and tapioca flour to a boil over low heat. Keep stirring until almost transparent.

2) Pour the mixture immediately into the glutinous rice flour in a largemixing bowl. Stir till it is well absorbed. Add the mashed sweet potato andmix well to form a dough. If dough is too soft, add a little moreglutinous rice flour. If it is too dry, wet your hands and knead the dough.

3) Divide dough into two and roll each portion intoa longish roll. Cut into small pieces.

4) Bring water to a boil in a deep saucepan. Roll the pieces of dough into small balls with your palms. Then flatten the ball and put about half teaspoon of the sugar mixture in the centre.

5) Pinch to seal, then roll againinto spheres. Drop the balls into boiling water until they float to the surface (about 2 to 2 1/2 minutes).

6) Remove the cooked balls with strainer.

7) Roll in grated coconut to coat. Serve whilst still warm.

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Monday, May 2, 2011

Rhubarb and Strawberry Sponge Puddings

Although my recent trip to Melbourne had been a short one, I had fun and it was nice seeing my sister and her family again (even though I had seen them over Christmas last year when they visited Singapore). I had a chance to see where they live, their home and their little suburban neighbourhood. I even had time to attend Sunday service with them. I did take some photos, not much, but would like to share with you some scenery around the city.

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One famous icon in the heart of the city has got to be the Flinders Street Station. Flinders Street Station is the central railway station of the suburban rail network of Melbourne, Australia. It is on the corner of Flinders and Swanston Streets next to the Yarra River in the heart of the city, stretching from Swanston Street to Queen Street and covering two city blocks. Each weekday, over 110,000 commuters and 1,500 trains pass through the station. It is the most used metropolitan railway station in Melbourne.

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Located on the corner of Swanston and Flinders Streets, is St Paul's Cathedral. This cathedral was built on the site of Melbourne's first Christian service on the banks of the Yarra River after Melbourne was founded in 1835. The architecture of St Paul's Cathedral is described as a revival of the style known as Gothic transitional, partly early English Gothic and partly Decorated Gothic

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I also visited another grand church. St Patrick's Cathedral is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia, and seat of its archbishop, currently Denis J. Hart. The building is known internationally as a leading example of the Gothic Revival style of architecture. The 103.6 metres (340 ft)-long church is the tallest church in Australia, followed by the St Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne. The interior of the church exudes grandeur - inside you will find a huge impressive pipe organ as well as beautiful stained glass windows.

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I saw this particular restaurant at a street corner and could not help taking a photo of the frontage. Now I wonder if the owner is actually a Singaporean!


In my last post that I had bought some rhubarb when I was in Melbourne. I have only ever seen rhubarb one time at a local supermarket but was discouraged from buying it as it looked as if it had been sitting on the shelf for about a month. It was shrunken, dried and brown. It certainly did not look like the rhubard I had seen on cable cook shows or in recipe books. for us here in Asian, rhubard is really an "alien" ingredient. Most of us have no clue what it is and some have not even seen it before.

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Rhubarb is a perennial plant belonging to the buckwheat family that has edible pink to red tinged leaf stalks and quite large, green, inedible leaves (additonal note after feedback from readers: note the leaves are posionous and cannot be eaten). An old fashioned name for rhubarb is pie plant, which is probably why you see it being used in pies or crumbles. By technical standards, rhubarb is a vegetable, but because of the ways in which it is used in cooking, homemakers usually associate rhubarb with fruits. Traditionally, rhubarb is paired with things like strawberries or ginger, and abundantly sweetened. The result is a tart, sweet, complex flavor which is quite distinctive.

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I came across this particular recipe from one of the magazines which I had purchased whilst in Melbourne. I thought it was somewhat interesting as it deviated from the usual pies and crumbles I had seen. However I was somewhat disappointed with the end result. I suspect I had needed to sweeten the fruit compote a bit more. Nevertheless I plan to use the remaining of my rhubard into a crumble or tart instead. Maybe this time round I will be convinced that this vegetable is indeed worth eating.

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Rhubarb and Strawberry Sponge Puddings
Serves 8
Recipe Adapted From "Australian Women's Weekly"


5 cups (700g) trimmed rhubarb, chopped coarsely
3 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
500g strawberries, hulled, sliced thinly

Sponge Cake:

1/2 cup caster sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup self-raising flour
1/2 Tbsp cornflour


1) Preheat oven to 180C.

2) Cook the rhubarb, sugar, lemon juice and zest in a small pot over low heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved and the rhubarb is tender. Remove from heat and stir in the strawberries to mix.

3) To make the sponge cake, beat the eggs with a mixer for about 10 minutes or until thick and creamy. Gradually add in the sugar and continue to beat for another 2 to 3 minutes, until sugar is dissolved. Triple sift the flours and fold into the egg mixture. Do not over-fold as you want the volume.

4) Divide the fruit mixture into 1 cup size oven-proof ramekins. Bake for 5 minutes or until the fruit is bubbling hot.

5) Remove from oven and distribute the cake mixture on top of the fruit. Bake for another 18 - 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

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