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A Birthday Wrapped up in a Pseudo Red Velvet Cake :)

It was Sammy’s birthday (few weeks ago!)!! She turned a quarter of a century old and it was definitely time to celebrate!

We started off the celebrations in the weekend with her special request of a red velvet birthday cake. All well and good – if only I knew what went into a red velvet cake! Colouring? Dye? Few vegetables mixed together? So here I am a novice, armed with Dr.Google searching for the easist red-velvet cake recipe that I could find.

BUT who knew that a red cake can be so complicated? From research, many bloggers argue about what is and what isn’t a red velvet cake and different people put different things to make the cake red – most people (including the recipe found in Nigella Lawson’s cookbook) use red colouring to make the cake red, which technically would be the easier option, but was told, not the tastiest option.

Which way to go was confirmed when Miss Sammy said that she wanted a red velvet cake au naturale (I know, how picky right?!?!). So I throw away that thought of red dye in my sponge and start the research for red velvet cake from scratch, pressing all the ‘x’s on my tabs for those that had red dyes in their recipe.

From the recipes and some blog posts that we have found, it looks like it depends on the acidity of the cake that produces that red colour. Too little acidity, and the cake will turn to ‘purple satin’ or dark brown (almost chocolatey like) – so the key to create and maintain that red colour is…use the reddest natural vegetable/fruit you can find, and maintain the acidity in the cake. YUP! sounds easy enough…RIGHT?

Because I had no experience baking a red velvet cake, I used the recipe from Sophistimum (thank you! It was an awesome recipe! And yours looked MUCH better!) pretty much word for word, except for the natural cocoa which I didn’t have, but I have read that it is crucial that you use natural instead of dutch-processed cocoa because that maintains the acidity in the cake. Hence the result of my rich, dark PURPLE cake. I have to find this natural cocoa! But the result was so GOOD, so moist and so rich, and for those who don’t like beetroot, you can hardly taste it in the cake. I would definitely try this again, and this time with natural cocoa (because I found where I can buy it – Koko Black!). Next time, it will be called High Class Red Velvet Cake…

Natural Red Velvet Cake - No Colouring

Red Velvet Cake (Adapted from Sophistimum)

2 large beetroots (enough for 1 1/2 cups puree)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon vinegar
230g unsalted butter, softened
250g of cream cheese, softened slightly
2 cups castor sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons natural (not dark or dutch processed) cocoa powder

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to about 180 degrees celcius. Cut up the beetroot into large chunks and then place them on a roasting tray and pour in a cup of water. Then, roast the beetroot for about an hour until cooked through and soft, then take it out to let it cool.
  2. Meanwhile, line the bases and sides of 3 cake pans with baking paper and set aside.
  3. When the beetroot has cooled down, blend and puree the beetroot along with the lemon juice and vinegar in your handy food processor until you have a lovely puree of beetroot (yummm – some members in my family will beg to differ!)
  4. Preheat your oven again to 180 degrees celcius. In your mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese together until smooth, and then add in the sugar until the batter is well combined.
  5. Add the eggs in one at a time into the batter, just incorporating the egg into the batter before adding another one in. Then mix in the vanilla essence.
  6. In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients together (flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder). Then add the dry ingredients in the beetroot batter and fold until well combined.
  7. Then, divide the cake batter equally into the 3 prepared pans. We used measuring cups to help us divide them up equally, but you don’t have to be so OCD like us!
  8. Then bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until cooked through (you’d know when you put in a toothpick or skewer through the middle of the cake and it comes out clean). Then invert them onto a rack to cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

2 packets cream cheese, at room temperature
230g unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 1/2 cups icing sugar
2-3 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Using a whisk attachment, combine all of the above into the bowl of your mixer and mix until fluffy, smooth and enough to be spreadable.

Decorations

Decorations were simple for Sammy’s cake – all I did was buy boxed marzipan (from one of the shelves off Coles) and red dye. Then I infused the marzipan with the red dye until the desired colour (remember to use gloves when doing this, or you get blood on your hands!! sorry, bad joke). And then I rolled it out and used flower cutters to cut out the outer layer and a nozzle tip to make the round, circular middle. Then decorate it around the cake as desired! My inspiration came from…believe it or not Bakery Story (iphone game!).

 
 

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Chi Restaurant, Victoria Park

It’s been awhile since we found the time to make something special, or cook for that matter! I’ve been in and out of Perth again in the last weekend, so that threw any inclinations to cook or bake out of the window! Our routine has also been a bit topsy turvy lately and my poor hubby had to fend for himself because there was no one to cook for him!

Anyhow, it explains why we’ve been eating out a lot!

Chi Restaurant is another one of those restaurants which we frequent, especially when we’re in the area and in the mood for EasyWay Bubble Tea. We decided to go to Chi after a game of squash, and also because we have a few vouchers to use there. Yes, the asians in us are out in full force that week, trying desperately to use up the Entertainment Book Vouchers!

Just a note to remember to book ahead with Chi (especially at night), because they few times that we tried going there without a booking, we had to be turned away. Having said that, we were quite surprised when we did make a booking for lunch for 1pm on a Saturday, the restaurant was quite empty.

There were 7 of us that day, and we were quite hungry after that game so we ordered 5 dishes. There’s a formula that we used to use to work out how many dishes to order in a Chinese Restaurant that would be enough to share around the table, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what it was! But this is a little snapshot of our orders…and I had no complaints about any of them – they tasted great.

Our orders:

1. Spinach with Century Egg and Salted Fish

Spinach with Salted Fish and Century Egg Chi Restaurant Victoria Park

2. Golden Spicy Pork Ribs

Golden Spicy Pork Ribs (Chi Restaurant Victoria Park)

4. Combination Seafood with Tofu Hotpot

Our token hotpot dish – we always tend to order these when we dine in chinese restaurants – maybe because of the asian in us who will try to combine as many things as possible in one dish, therefore making it more value for money! In this hotpot we have servings of seafood, tofu and seasonal vegetables, all cooked in a tasty sauce which you can eat with rice alone..

Seafood Combination Hotpot Chi Restaurant Victoria Park

5. Chilli Pepper Tofu

The whole chilli pepper ordering craze for us, I think, started here in Perth – I don’t think I have ever ordered anything back home that is chilli pepper! It’s yummy though and I think you can’t go wrong with chilli pepper anything – chicken, pork, squid! Crunchy, salty, slightly spicy on the outside and juicy on the inside – mark of a good chilli pepper dish..yumm

Chilli Pepper Tofu Chi Restaurant, Victoria Park

5. Steamed Herbal Chicken

Oops..I think I forgot to take this dish! But anyway, when we first ordered this dish, we thought that it would come in a form of a “paper bag” where the chicken will be cooked. But it was steamed chicken with a herbal sauce (which was quite nice) – the chicken was cooked well and it was tender..just the way I like it!

Overall, our experiences at Chi Restaurant have always been positive (unlike its’ Perth City counterpart which I hear has closed down). The waitstaff have been friendly and the food has always been prompt and delicious and with our vouchers in hand, we will be sure to come back for more!

Chi on Urbanspoon

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2011 in Perth Eateries, Victoria Park

 

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Sunday Night Roast

Opps, it’s almost another Sunday and we haven’t posted what we had LAST Sunday! I think we got totally distracted by the daily screenings of Masterchef…YES! I am using Masterchef as an excuse! If you watched it…how good was yesterday’s episode? It was their time to showcase what they could cook and most of the dishes were so different – all of them looked amazing and a far cry from that one episode of Masterchef USA that I watched (terrible plating). I thought Billy’s (Asian, from Sydney, food blogger, designer) twice cooked pork belly looked great – and was so happy that they posted his recipe up online! I think we will definitely try it one day…

Coincidentally, we Esthey cooked pork last Sunday too…once again, Esthey was the Iron Chef who cooked most of the dishes that made up our Sunday night feast. We had less people this week – many were away, some were sick etc, but the amount of food remained the same – funny that huh.

Sunday Night feast BBQ Pork Roast Pork Tofu CAbbage soup

Esthey made Roast Pork – and this is what I gleamed from Sammy was the process; it was marinated with five spice powder and the skin part was covered in salt (for the crackle); people sometimes boil the pork first before putting it in the oven. When it came out, the skin wasn’t that crispy so what Esthey did was pan fry the skin a little to crisp it up a bit. The result? Crunchy pork crackle with tender meat…yummm…definitely a contender to Chinese Restaurants that’s for sure!

Roast Pork Siu Yok

She also made BBQ Pork, or also known as Char siu (can anyone guess the theme by now?) – which she marinated with Char Siu sauce and put into the oven – we realized that it’s better to use the Pork Belly for Char Siu because it makes it more tender. And would be better to have 2 ovens, because of the different temperatures that the meat has to be cooked. No matter – still tasted good anyway! Just dry in some bits, but someone (DEB!) happily picked on the dry bits :)

Esthey also made (along with the two pork dishes), a HUGE pot of soup, a tofu dish and a token vegetable dish in the form of cabbage. Phew, I feel tired just talking about it, let alone cooking it – so well done Esthey, you are indeed a Kitchen Superwoman! :)

Tofu with Coriander

Meanwhile, Sammy used leftover green apples to make a quick apple crumble…was delish! :) You can find a recipe of apple crumble here.

 Apples with cinnamon before the crumble

It is a great dessert to make, especially when you are short of time and have leftover apples, pears or rhubarb lying around :) We added some leftover oats that were meant for a souffle, which was great because it added that crunch to the crumble layer. And of course, we topped it off with vanilla ice-cream – match made in heaven!

Apple Crumble with Ice-Cream

And then we sat down to our meal whilst we watched the premiere of Masterchef Australia (Season 3)..which is shaping up to be quite an interesting season – what with a middle-aged flirty mum, a gorgeously cute 62 year old man, not one but 2 food bloggers, and the rise of another Jono…! An interesting mix of people, and very entertaining to watch at this stage…and all in Week 1! Can’t wait for Masterclass tonight..this is where we pick up a lot of handy tips in the kitchen…who’s watching with me?

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2011 in Malaysian, Sunday Night Theme

 

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Butter Prawns and a Feast as Sides (奶油虾)

Masterchef started tonight last night! Woohoo!! Was there anyone who watched the Logies instead? No prizes for guessing what we did today yesterday at 7.30pm! (It will be a great relief to be away from the Royal Wedding news that PLAGUE all forms of media at the moment…the dress looked SO good by the way, but was funny that the bridesmaid’s dress outshone the bride just a tad bit :P), but enough about television. In the spirit of Masterchef, we thought we would share a dish that we tried from Adam Liaw’s “Two Asian Kitchens” – Butter prawns!

I think it’s supposed to be “Lai Yao Har” (奶油虾) in Cantonese and this is one of my FAVOURITE dishes back in Malaysia – it’s basically fried prawns stirred in with egg, curry leaves and chillies that have been fried till crisp. So you have some idea of how excited I got when I saw this recipe in his book! We just had to try it!

This made up 1 of the dishes that was part of our feast that night – besides the butter prawns, we also made steamed egg (a quintessentially Cantonese dish I think), vegetables and leftover fried wontons. The recipe has not been changed except for personal preferences (chillies etc) – and I think you pretty much have to cook and taste as you go.

Butter Prawns Adam Liaw Two Asian Kitchens

Butter Prawns

Ingredients

500g raw prawns
3 egg yolks, beaten
45g dessicated coconut
100g unsalted butter
1 handful curry leaves
5 chilles, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp light soya sauce
1/2 tsp Shaoxing wine
Ground white pepper
salt
2 tsp castor sugar

Method

First things first , you have to clean the prawns! We cut off the legs and feelers of the prawns…

Prawns

Then, using a wok – fill it halfway up with oil and let the oil heat up. You know when it’s ready if you place a wooden chopstick into the oil and it starts bubbling against the chopstick. Then fry the prawns in batches until it’s crispy – about 2-3 minutes. When they’re ready, place them onto a plate lined with paper towel to absorb the additional oil.

Fried prawns in hot oil in wok

You can then take the oil out but leave some in there for the butter sauce. Then taking a sieve, pour the beaten egg yolks through the sieve into the wok…

Egg through whisk

Then, whisk it as it cooks on the wok until it becomes strands or little clumps (this was a 2 man job it seems – I was pouring the egg onto the sieve and Sammy was busy whisking away). Take it out onto a separate plate when it’s ready.

Egg strand for Lai Yao Har butter prawns lai yau prawn

Then, clean the wok and dry fry the dessicated coconut until coloured, then take it out.

Dessicated coconut fried

Melt the butter in the wok and fry the curry leaves until crispy, then add in the chillies and garlic and fry until fragrant. I think we used less chillies than the one in the cookbook, so this would be preferential and depending on how spicy the chillies are! Then add everything else inside (prawns, coconut, egg, soya sauce, Shaoxing wine, salt and sugar) and toss it a few times until it is well combined.

stir fry chilli garlic butter for butter prawns

The best way to eat prawns? Peel them with your hands – peel of its head (suck it a little to get the flavour – but please don’t do this if you have gout! :P), then peel off the shells on its body, suck the flavour out of it as you go and then eat the flesh…if its crispy enough, you can even eat everything together!

Butter Prawns Adam Liaw Two Asian Kitchens

Anyway, while we were doing this, Sammy also made:

Steamed Egg with Pork Mince (蒸水蛋)

Ingredients

Eggs
Pork mince
Dried Chinese Mushrooms
Water
Shaoxing wine
Salt

Method

Soak the dried chinese mushrooms in hot water. When it’s soft, drain the hot water and dice the mushrooms into small pieces.

Chopped chinese mushrooms

Then, fry the pork mince in the wok with a dash of Shaoxing wine and salt, and stir fry until the mince is cooked.

stir fry pork mince

Then, put it into a steamer with equal parts of egg and water (1 cup egg to 1 cup water etc) and then steam until it’s firm. An easy dish to make especially when you need it to make up 3 dishes in a chinese meal.

steamed egg with pork mince and mushroom

On top of that, we also made wontons out of the leftovers from the Dumpling Night, and also a token vegetable dish – so suffice to say, we were stuffed that night!! The king of the dishes was the butter prawns, they were DEElicious! Too bad we don’t have enough ‘wok hei’ (people back home, especially in the restaurants will cook from a charcoal stove, that had sufficient heat and added the smoky, charcoal-y flavour to the food that can’t be replicated with gas stoves unfortunately!). But for a dish that was cooked at home, it was a great dish – took a bit more effort though and our house ended up smelling like fried prawns for ages!! All worth it!

butter prawns steamed egg vegetables

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2011 in Cookbooks, Malaysian

 

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Sunday Night Theme: Dumplings Cooked Two Ways

Pork Prawn and Chives dumpling wrapped pre-cooked

Sunday night’s theme was decided since last week, when someone suggested we should make dumplings, and the immediate reaction was “yummmm”, so dumplings it was! For this theme, we worked on the “many hands make light work” principle and thanks to the many hands, the wrapping of the dumplings were not as tedious as previously thought.

I have always remembered eating dumplings when I was little, and in many different forms. One of my favourite is Won Ton Mee (egg noodles cooked in either soup or black sauce with little yellow pork dumplings as its sides). I like mine dry (non-soup), with lots of flavoursome sauce and soft but chewy dumplings…yumm! We also eat them during Dim Sum, either in forms of Fried Wontons or Gao Jis (Chinese) – pan fried pork dumplings with white skin eaten with chinese vinegar and ginger. Yumm! I’m hungry just thinking about it!

For our dumplings, we made them out of pork mince, prawns, chinese mushrooms, ginger, chives (all diced well) and chestnuts as the main ingredients and seasoned well with salt, pepper, soya sauce, shao xing wine and combined together with corn flour. Then get in there and mix it with your hands (the only way to do it!) until well combined. If you want a more detailed recipe, then follow this blog here.

Dumpling mixture pork mince chives mushroom ginger

Then comes the fun part, making the dumplings! We used two different kinds of wrapping skin (no, we didn’t make them, we just bought them from the oriental store), wonton skin and gyoza skin because we couldn’t find the white dumpling skin.

For a full demonstration of how to wrap the dumplings you can refer to various youtube videos that are similar to how we made it. There are quite a few ways to go about making it, so choose one that is easiest or will suit you.

Otherwise you can take private lessons from Esthey who seemed to make a perfect one from the get go! Should have seen the rest of us struggling to get the dumplings look as nice as Esthey’s. She made it look so easy when she demonstrated it to us, but once it came to making mine, it just looked funny and out of shape.

Apparently the tricks are to:

1. Not to fill it up with too much filling (or they will fall out or not be able to seal properly)
2. Wet the edges of the skin with cornflour and water
3. When choosing to crimp the dumpling, only pinch the pastry on one side
4. To make it look pretty, make sure the pinches are heading towards the middle of the dumpling
5. You can tuck in the ends together to make it look neater
6. The shape you would want the dumpling in, is a crescent shape
7. Make sure you seal it well, or it will spill when its boiled, or pop when its fried!

I think we made about 110 dumplings that night, and it didn’t take as long as I had initially expected (well done to all the dumpling wrappers! ours didn’t look great in the beginning, but they certainly took shape at the 20th dumpling – so kudos!). Esthey pan fried half of the dumplings, and Sammy boiled the rest of them.

Pan Fried Dumplings

To complete the meal, we had soup (which Esthey boiled for a few hours with pork bones), noodles, and chinese cabbage. The dumplings didn’t sound like a lot, but they were GONE in a matter of minutes – they were that good! The boiled ones had enough flavour and they were not overdone (so it was nice and soft).

Noodles with Dumpling Gao Ji wantan Wonton soup chinese cabbage

The pan fried gao jis were the hit of the night…! They were cooked so well – crispy skin on the outside with yummy pork on the inside and dipped with Esthey’s amazing concoction of a dipping sauce (fried chilli, onions, dark soy sauce, soy sauce and red wine vinegar, ginger?). It was soooo good and tasty! Paired perfectly with our noodles.

Dipping sauce for dumplings

Now, if only our soup was perfect….! In our haste and hunger to feed the masses, we realized that the soup wasn’t enough, so we added more water to it, and started dishing them out into the bowls…only to realize that we didn’t add SALT. Wow, what a difference it would have made because the soup was so sweet…! But it didn’t matter much because the king of the dish was the dumplings, and they tasted so good that i forgot about the soup anyway!

Well done to Esthey for once again preparing, cooking and making all the little side dishes/dipping sauces etc, and then you beat everyone else to helping Aunty Kit wash up (if aunty kit wasn’t there, you’d probably would have taken over!) You are indeed, in many ways, a wonderwoman in my eyes :D YOU ROCK ESTHEY!

Pork and Chives Dumplings Gao Ji wrapped

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2011 in Malaysian, Savoury, Sunday Night Theme

 

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