Recipe: Kaya jam

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What is kaya? It is basically an egg-based jam with coconut milk (or coconut cream for that full taste), enriched with the wonderful aroma of pandan. I would not say it’s invented in Singapore because there are different variants from the Southeast Asia region. I had never thought it would be possible to make it at home because it was so easily available in Singapore, but one day my mother made it at home and I was sold. It was so fragrant because of the high quality ingredients and not as sickeningly sweet as commercial ones.

Now that I’m in Germany, I make it occasionally when I have some coconut milk to use up or when I’m missing a taste of home. The original recipe I have calls for pandan leaves but I’ve changed it to pandan essence and paste as I cannot get fresh leaves here.

  • 5 eggs
  • 200ml coconut milk
  • 220g caster sugar (or if you like, use 200g gula Melaka instead)
  • 3 pandan leaves / (I have substituted it with ½ tsp pandan paste + ¼ tsp pandan essence)
  1. Lightly beat eggs with sugar in a pot.
  2. Tie the pandan leaves (if using) into a knot and add to the egg mixture. Place the pot over low heat to infuse the egg mixture with pandan aroma.
    If not using pandan leaves, just continue to whisk the egg mixture to dissolve the sugar. You may also place it over low heat to melt the sugar easily.
  3. Prepare a pot of boiling water for a bain marie.
  4. Add the coconut milk to the egg mixture and strain it into a bowl suitable to be placed over the bain marie. (I usually skip the straining part – too lazy to wash another item)
  5. Place the bowl over the bain marie and let the mixture cook till thickened, while stirring occasionally. This will take around 30-45 minutes, depending on the size of your top bowl (the more surface area the hot steam reaches, the faster it cooks).
  6. The jam is ready when it has the consistency of thickened custard. You may blend it if it looks grainy, or leave it for a rustic look.
  7. Spoon into prepared jam jars and let cool.
  8. Store in the fridge.

Here are some consumption ideas:

  1. spread it on bread
  2. as a dip for roti prata, alkaline glutinous rice dumplings (kee chang) and French toast (I love kaya with kee chang!!)
  3. topping for your overnight oats
  4. as a filling for your puff pastry pockets (kaya puffs!)

Have you tasted kaya before? How do you consume it? Share your ideas with me because I’m always looking for ways to finish up my jar of kaya (the above recipe makes quite a fair bit)

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Almond-Chocolate muffins

I frequently try to use yogurt-alternatives* in my baking experiments as I often have them on hand and it reduces the amount of oil I have to use in my recipes. I don’t create recipes on my own but I often adapt the recipes I find online. This particular one I’m going to share below is one that I adapted from Smitten Kitchen.

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Makes 6 muffins

  • 100g chocolate bar (I used a Swiss milk chocolate bar with chopped almonds because it was a gift from someone and I hardly eat chocolate)
  • 64g vegetable oil – about 1/4 cup
  • 150g flour
  • 1 tbsp mocha powder
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 100g sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup plain yogurt-alternative*
  • ¼ tsp almond extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla sugar

Preheat oven to 160 degrees. Prepare your muffin tin by using 6 liners or greasing it.

Break chocolate bar into pieces and combine it with half of vegetable oil (32g) in a heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over a pot of boiling water and melt the chocolate.

In a separate bowl, combine the remaining oil, yogurt, sugars, almond essence and egg. Mix evenly.

In your main mixing bowl, combine the flour, mocha powder, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the centre and add the oil-yogurt mixture. Whisk gently. Now pour in the melted chocolate and stir to combine evenly.

Portion your batter into the prepared liners and position muffin tin in the middle of the oven. Bake for 20-24 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the middle of a muffin. Let cool and enjoy/share. The nutty fragrance from the almond essence combined with the moist chocolatey crumbs is just too good to resist!

*I say “yogurt-alternative” as I cannot take dairy yogurt, therefore I’m using Alpro soy yogurt.

Penny savers recipe: soy sauce braised meat

I was watching a lot of Youtube when I first arrived here last year, especially 康熙来了, a Taiwanese variety talkshow that was been keeping me company during the lonely cold days here in Bremen. In one particular episode, the guests were introducing foods from their university days, and one guest introduced 卤鸡腿饭, or rice with braised chicken thigh. That sounded and looked absolutely scrumptious so I thought it might be a good dinner idea. I tried to find the simplest recipe and I think I found it. I adapted it a little since there were some ingredients that were not easily available in my area.

The recipe is very versatile – you can use any cuts of meat (chicken, pork, or even go vegetarian: tofu and eggs are nice too), and the leftover braising sauce can be kept in the freezer for future braising sessions. In fact, I think that’s the best part of the dish… you keep leftover gravy from previous sessions and add it to the next one, intensifying the flavors further.

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Apologies for the less than stellar/appetizing photo. I had tried to remove the chicken thigh as a whole piece, but it was so meltingly soft that the meat just slided off the bone as I lifted it up. Hee hee, not that I’m complaining about it!

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Recipe: chocolate yogurt cake

Sometimes, the best things in life are unplanned and unexpected. Like this tender, moist and chocolatey cake I baked a couple of weeks ago. I decided to bake a cake using the ingredients I had left in my fridge after my dinner party had ended. I will be gone for the long weekend and so I didn’t want the fresh stuff to sit in the fridge for so long.

These were the things I wanted to use up: eggs, yogurt (the main item I wanted to use), milk. I originally wanted to bake a French yogurt cake, flavored with earl grey, however it required me to blend the tea leaves and I didn’t have the proper equipment with me. So I substituted chocolate for earl grey. Pleasant surprise! The Nesquik chocolate powder worked great in a pinch, and it smelt really chocolatey while baking.

The proof is the taste test though. I let it cool slightly for 20 mins (it was tough resisting the temptation), and then I cut a teeny cube to try (teeny is subjective heh). It felt like chocolate angels singing, and I was brought into another yummy dimension. I didn’t expect it because I didn’t use pure cocoa powder but the cake was super chocolatey, and the yogurt made it really moist (not fudgy though). It reminded me of a Sara Lee pound cake, but less heavy on the butter front. The cake was still as moist one day after baking.

The recipe makes a relatively large cake for one, so I suggest to share the love and the extra calories with your loved ones! 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • Wet ingredients: 1/2 cup yogurt + 1/4 cup milk
  • Dry ingredients: 1 cup + 2 tbsp flour + 1/2 cup cocoa powder + 1/2 tsp salt + 1/2 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 175 degrees C.

Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla and mix until evenly incorporated. Alternate the wet and dry ingredients 2-3 times into the butter mixture, ending with the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.

Pour into baking tin (I used a 20cm square tin) and bake for 40-45 mins, until the centre comes out clean when tested with a skewer. Do not overbake because the sides will become dry.

Recipe: not-so-authentic bibimbap

Bibimbap is probably one of the most well-known Korean dishes globally, besides kimchi. It is a one bowl meal, with the ingredients on top of warm rice. It’s nutritious, easy to eat since it’s all in one bowl, and very versatile because you can put any ingredient you fancy. It’s not easy to make though because you have to prepare all the dishes separately, before assembling them. The tough part is the prep work since all the dishes have to be sliced and julienned thinly. My knife skills ain’t that good but I try to make a presentable meal since my husband likes bibimbap.

To make bibimbap, I prepare the following side dishes:

  • carrots, julienned and sauteed in a small amount of sesame oil
  • spinach, blanched and seasoned with mince garlic, soy sauce, sesame seeds and sesame oil
  • beansprouts, blanched and seasoned with mince garlic, soy sauce, sesame seeds and sesame oil.
  • stir fried mince pork/beef, seasoned with some sesame oil and soy sauce
  • sunny side up egg (with runny yolk)
  • toasted seaweed, crushed into small pieces

I then put a serving of warm cooked rice (short grain to be more authentic), topped with the side dishes and a dollap of gochujang.

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My comfort food: porridge

Everyone has their own comfort food, and mine happens to be porridge. Rice porridge  or congee as they call it in the western world. Some of my friends feel that porridge is something that you eat when you’re sick but I don’t think so . I’ve always eaten porridge for breakfast as a kid and I never seem to get sick of it (pun unintended. Haha).

My favorite kind of porridge is mincemeat porridge cooked by granny, and she calls it “mushy porridge” because she prepares it in the slow cooker overnight and it’s a perfect baby porridge consistency in the morning. You can hardly discern the grains anymore. No matter how sleepy I am, or if I didn’t want breakfast, I would always have second helpings when this was for breakfast. It was easy with the slow cooker – just dump all the ingredients in, season with some oyster sauce, light soya sauce, sesame oil (very important ingredient!!) and leave it to cook on low overnight, a minimum of 8 hours.

When I crave for an easy and light meal, I experiment with different ingredient combinations and flavor bases.

One of my favorite combinations was taught to me by my university housemate. She would combine chopped cabbage, fried ikan bilis, sliced carrots and a handful of dried scallops and boil them all with the raw rice. We often cook this for Sunday lunches because that’s when our groceries run out and we would only have these ingredients to cook lunch that day, so we called it “Sunday porridge”. It’s been almost 10 years since I graduated and I’m still cooking it!

When I feel like having something more substantial, I would make meatball porridge with vegetable. The purpose of me having porridge is to have a one pot meal, so having both my vegetables and protein together is essential. I often use carrots as my vegetable base because they add sweetness and they hold up well after hours of cooking (or at least they don’t disappear into the porridge). As I do not have a slow cooker here, I use my thermal pot instead. It takes maybe 20 minutes of prep work plus boiling it and stirring it, then I put it into the thermal holder and leave it to cook overnight.

With porridge, the possibilities are endless. I have even tried mixing barley grains into my porridge! I won’t leave you with recipes of my porridges since I don’t cook according to a recipe (depends on what I have available in my fridge), but I do have a pretty standard porridge base.

For 2 servings of porridge, I use the following

  • handful of dried scallops, rinsed and soaked (reserve soaking water)
  • handful of dried ikan bilis, rinsed to remove dust
  • 1 small carrot
  • about 1/3 cup of rice (I prefer to use short grain rice)

I boil the above ingredients with about 500ml of water for 20 minutes before transferring to my thermal pot to retain heat and continue cooking. I usually add my proteins just before mealtime to prevent overcooking. Top the porridge with some soy sauce, sesame oil and fried shallots, oh yummy yummy!

Recipe: pandan chiffon cake

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I never thought I would be able to make a chiffon cake because meringues scare me. They are so finicky and hard to handle. But my craving for pandan cake overtook my fear, and I’m glad to be able to achieve moderate success on my third try. My first chiffon cake was underbaked, the second was slightly overbaked and had slightly too much pandan essence, so I tweaked the recipe and got one cake which I liked.

Makes a 17cm cake

  • 3 medium eggs, separated
  • 85g sugar (1/2 cup – 1 tbsp)
  • 40ml vegetable oil (3 tbsp)
  • 75g cake flour (2/3 cup) *
  • 3g baking powder (1 tsp)
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 60ml coconut milk (4 tbsp)
  • 1/4 tsp pandan essence  Edit 28 Mar 2017: I now make my pandan cakes without the essence as I find the taste too artificial. Just the pandan paste is sufficient.
  • 1/4 tsp pandan paste

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Preheat oven to 170 degree Celsius.

In a bowl, add 1/3 of the sugar to the 3 egg yolks and beat with a whisk, until pale and fluffy. Add the vegetable oil, coconut milk, pandan paste and essence to the yolk mixture and mix until combined. Sift in the flour, salt and baking powder. Mix until no streaks of flour can be seen.

In another bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy. Add in the remaining sugar gradually and whisk until stiff peaks. (It takes me about 3 mins on high speed on my 450W mixer)
Edit 28 March 2017: I read this tip online- when stiff peaks have been achieved, switch your electric whisk down to low speed and whisk a few more times to stabilize the air bubbles within the egg whites.

Add 1/3 of the egg white mixture to the yolk batter. Stir to combine and create a lighter batter. Gently fold in remaining egg white in 2 additions, mixing the egg white evenly into the batter.
Edit 28 March 2017: folding in egg whites can be tricky, so I now mix in 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter using the electric whisk on low speed (about 3-5 seconds will do, not any longer than that). Then I add another 1/3 of the egg whites, and repeat (it doesn’t have to be evenly incorporated at this stage). I only change to a spatula and fold in the last 1/3 of the egg whites to mix evenly.

Pour your batter slowly into the chiffon tin. Gently run a skewer or knife through the batter to remove any remaining large air bubbles. Place tin into the hot oven, bottom rack. Bake for 35-40 mins. Once done, remove from oven and let the cake cool in the tin, inverted over a cooling rack. Loosen the cooled cake from the tin using a thin blade knife. Invert the cake onto a serving dish (the top of the cake is now the bottom), and enjoy!

*If you do not have access to cake flour like me, try this simple home substitution: 1 cup all-purpose flour – 2 tbsp all-purpose flour + 2 tbsp cornstarch. Sift together 3 times to ensure even distribution of the cornstarch.