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.

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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.

Recipe: cheat-meal nikujaga

Japanese nikujaga

I can’t believe I have not blogged this recipe – I tried it last year and it went onto the fast track to my favorites. Nikujaga is easily one of the quickest and simplest things to make, and it’s super yummy as well. I often add a vegetable dish on the side too because I feel that I don’t add enough vegetables in nikujaga. Now I do recognize that this recipe is not authentic Japanese nikujaga but I’m not claiming it to be either. If you’re pressed for time, or if you have a clueless husband in the kitchen, throw this recipe at them and I’m sure a delicious meal will be on the table in no time.

Serves 2

  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 carrot, peeled and cubed or shredded (I like mine shredded)
  • 1/2 onion, finely sliced
  • 250g mince meat
  • 1 tbsp ginger, thinly sliced or grated
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • pepper (to taste)
  • olive oil/vegetable oil

Heat up a pan with olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute the onion and ginger until fragrant. Add in the meat and sauté until the meat is browned. Add the potatoes and sauté for a couple more minutes.

Add the seasonings, plus a cup of water to cover the potatoes. Bring up to a boil, then cover and simmer until the potatoes are cooked through. Adjust the seasoning at the end with a bit more soy sauce if needed.

Recipe: garlic chicken with honey mustard mayonnaise dip

Now that we are entering spring, I tend not to cook heavy and rich meals. You know, looking like a caterpillar isn’t what I want to do. I don’t own a grill in my workplace home (we just ordered a grill for our Bremen home so I’m really excited to try it when it arrives!), so I just go for stir fries. But this particular recipe that I saw called out to me, so I tried to make it at home, with some modifications of my own.

Garlic chicken

Serves 2

  • 250g chicken cubes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Marinate the chicken cubes with the remaining ingredients for about 2 hours. Pre-heat a skillet or frying pan over medium-high heat (no oil required since the chicken has been marinated in oil already). Pan fry the chicken until browned, about 3 minutes, then flip the chicken pieces over to cook the other side for another 3 minutes. Serve warm with a light salad and honey mustard mayonnaise dip.

For the honey mustard dip, combine 4 tbsp mayonnaise, 4 tsp mustard and 1 tsp honey. Keep chilled until ready to use.

Recipe: pan fried basa with tomato sauce

Many of my dishes are “invented” by me because very often, I don’t cook according to a recipe. Sure, I would trawl the internet for recipes but I largely use those recipes as a base to get an inkling of what to add to make my dishes taste good, or what flavor combinations are possible. When it comes to the actual cooking, I just guesstimate the amount to use. Like for example, I don’t measure the amount of salt or soya sauce I use… I just eyeball the amount, taste and adjust if required. Obviously then, you need to use a smaller amount since you can always add more if needed but you can’t really take out the excess.

Anyhoo, the following recipe was just an idea I had from a popular dish we often have in Singapore – deep fried crispy fish with sweet and sour sauce. Over in Germany, it is really difficult to find a whole fish and I wouldn’t want to cook a whole fish anyway, so I used basa fish filets. I was surprised to find basa fish filets at the local supermarket for such a cheap price, so it’s quickly becoming one of my favorites.

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  • basa filets (use 1 piece per person if it’s going to be your main, or half piece per person if it is going to be a side dish)
  • flour
  • salt & pepper
  • 5-6 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • a generous squirt of tomato ketchup
  • 1 tsp of Asian black vinegar
  • 1 tsp of sugar
  • chopped spring onion (for garnish)

First, you need to season your fish with some salt and pepper. Then dredge it in flour – you only need a thin coating. Heat up some oil in a fry pan and fry your fish over medium heat until fish is cooked through, about 3-4 minutes. Set aside.

In the same pan (I prefer this way so there’s less washing up), throw in your tomatoes and pan fry them for a minute. Add in 3-4 tbsp of water and squish the tomatoes lightly to release the juices. When the tomatoes are soft, add in tomato ketchup and black vinegar. The sauce should taste a little tart. Add in sugar to balance out the acidity, and to bring out the flavor of the tomatoes.

Add in the fish and stir gently to coat with sauce. Garnish with spring onion and serve hot with rice.