Give me cake or give me death cookies.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Kueh Ubi Bingka/ Cassava Layer Cake- Recipe

I love kueh. Whenever I go to Malaysia to see family, or manage to find it in Chinatown, I eat silly amounts of the stuff. Of course- as you might have guessed if you've been following me for a while- one of the things that appeals to me about kueh is the bright colours it often comes in! But I also love the wonderful fragrant, not-too-sweet flavour and soft texture.

There are several different types of 'kueh' (Malay for 'cake'); they usually include coconut milk and sugar somewhere in the recipe, and often have a pleasantly chewy, custard-like mouthfeel. This is my recipe for a layered and steamed cassava kueh (although it can be baked, too- but if you want colourful layers, steaming is less of a pain in the arse because it's quicker). Here I've used the largest bamboo steamer I could find at the time I bought it.


- 1 packet frozen grated cassava, thawed (about 500g- the packet I had was just under)
- 1/2 tin coconut milk
- 1/2 tin condensed milk
- 4tbsp caster sugar
- 1 egg
- 1tsp pandan paste* (for the green layer- you could substitute with vanilla and green food colouring)


1) Butter a 20cm square baking tin- remember kueh is sticky, so be generous.

2) Empty your cassava into a bowl: it won't look as wet as mine here (see the end of this post for my mini-fail**).

3) Whisk in the coconut and condensed milk, egg and sugar.

4) Pour half the mixture into another bowl, and whisk in the pandan paste.

5) Half-fill a large wok or saucepan with water and heat until simmering. Now place your steamer on top (making sure the water doesn't touch the bottom- if so, pour some out), and place your baking tin in the steamer.

6) Pour the green pandan mixture in first as the bottom layer, cover with the steamer lid and steam for about 20mins or until the layer is firm.

7) Now pour the white layer on top, cover and steam for 20mins, or again until firm.

8) When it's ready, turn off the heat and take the baking tin out to cool for about 15mins. The top might still be a bit wet because of condensation, but if you poke the surface of your kueh gently with the back of a spoon it should hold.

9) Cut into diamond shapes and serve!

* Pandan, also known as screwpine, is a type of aromatically-scented plant- it sort of smells like fragrant jasmine rice. The extract's naturally green, and it's used in Southeast Asia like we use vanilla here in the West- if ever you see a sweet that's green over there, it's probably pandan-flavoured (or green tea I suppose). I used the actual leaf in my recipe for bubur cha cha, you can find out a little more about it on that page. You can find the leaves and sometimes the extract in Asian stores, but it you can't vanilla will work just fine. you'll also find grated cassava in a lot of Asian stores, too.

** Right, so my mini fail... the common way to defrost bags of frozen grated cassava is to immerse the bag in warm water. I stupidly dumped boiling water fresh from the kettle and caused the bag to burst a bit, letting a load of water in- but I didn't realise until too late, and all the cassava inside had mixed with the water. My kueh should have been a lot firmer and held its shape more stiffly, but as you can see from the first photo at the top it was quite soft because of my mistake. Never mind, it was still delicious!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Banana Bread- Recipe

When your bananas look like they're turning into giraffes, what do you do with them?

You make banana bread!

Here's how you do it.


- 4oz slightly salted butter, softened
- 8oz caster sugar
- 2 eggs
- 10oz plain flour
- 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 4 very ripe bananas (the more sad-looking, the better)
- 1tbsp lemon juice
- 1tsp vanilla extract


1) Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C, and butter and flour the insides of a loaf tin to stop the cake batter from sticking.

2) With an electric mixer, beat the softened butter and sugar until well-combined and pale. It won't cream together in the same way as equal quantities of each would- it'll be drier because of the larger sugar-to-butter ratio.

3) Beat the eggs in one at a time, and continue to beat for a couple of minutes more until fluffy and white.

4) Mash your giraffananas bananas up with a fork, along with the vanilla and the lemon juice to stop it from going brown. A bit lumpy is fine- in fact, better. Once I used my hand blender to soupify the bananas, and the cake ended up a bit on the dense side.

5) Add their bananas to the egg-butter-sugar mixture, and stir well with a wooden spoon (you can put the electric mixer away, now). The batter will look curdle, but not to worry! It'll come together in the next step.

Don't panic!
 6) Dump your flour and bicarb in- you don’t need to sift it- and mix gently. You don't want to overbeat the batter at this stage or you'll get a tough cake: stirring it until everything is literally only just incorporated will give you a lighter, fluffier cake.

Stop mixing!
 7) Pour your banana cake batter into your prepared loaf tin, and bake it for an hour. Test the cake before taking it out of the oven by skewering it through the centre: if the skewer comes out clean, it’s ready!

 8) Turn the oven off, let the cake cool in the tin for about 10mins or until you can touch the tin without branding yourself, and then turn your cake out onto a wire rack to cool properly- if you can wait that long. In my house, the cake barely left the tin before slices began to disappear!

Banana bread can sometimes be stodgy and heavy- this one was one light and fluffy banana bread, and perfectly moist without it being gooey. It's perfect on its own, but we also had it with caramel ice-cream for dessert.

You could also toast it, dip it in egg and fry it French toast-style, make banana trifle with it... anything you like. It really doesn't need any of this treatment though- it's beautiful on its own- and I certainly don't think I'll have enough of it left to experiment with, soon!

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Great Big Jammy Biscuits- Recipe

I think I need to invest in daintier cookie cutters- these ended up nearly the size of my hand.

Not that I'm complaining.

The proper name for these are 'Linzer Biscuits' or 'Linzer Cookies', and are essentially biscuits sandwiched with jam, with the iconic cut-out hole in the centre of the top layer. You'll find them in the supermarket as jam rings, or commercially Jammy Dodgers, but I can assure you that these almond-scented buttery creations are much, much better.

Ingredients for Cookie:

- 6oz unsalted butter, cold and cubed
- 10oz plain flour
- 4oz caster sugar
- 1 egg
- 1tsp vanilla extract
- 1tsp almond extract

Ingredients for Filling/ Decoration:

- 4tbsp icing sugar, plus extra for dusting*
- A few drops of water
- A jar of the jam or curd of your choice (I used raspberry)

You'll Also Need:

- 1 Bigger cookie cutter
- 1 Smaller cookie cutter


1) Don't preheat the oven just yet (surprise!). You'll need to chill your cookie dough in the fridge for a while before you roll it out.

2) Put the cubed butter, sugar and flour into a big bowl and rub them together with your fingertips until it all forms a breadcrumb-like texture.

3) Mix in the egg and extracts, kneading until you have a soft, sticky and smooth dough.

4) Turn the dough out onto a sheet of cling film, wrap it up and chill it in the fridge for about an hour to firm it up.

5) Once the dough is chilled and ready, take it out of the fridge and *now* you can preheat the oven- turn it up to 180 degrees C, and line a couple of baking trays with baking parchment (grease these, too).

6) Flour your (clean!) work surface so that your dough won't stick. Roll the dough out until it's about the thickness of a £1 coin. (A little tip- keep turning the dough disc every few rolls to make sure it's not sticking).

7) Using your bigger cookie cutter, cut out as many cookies as you can, and arrange on your baking trays (they won't spread much in the oven, so you don't have to leave huge gaps. My large cutter made 12 hearts, and therefore 6 assembled cookies. Keep kneading together and rolling out the dough until it's all used up.

8) Put the trays in the fridge for about 10mins to re-firm up the dough- this will make the next step much easier.

9) Take the trays out of the fridge, and using the smaller cookie cutter, cut holes in the middle of half of your cookies. Place these on a separate baking sheet to bake as nibbles.

10) Bake your cookies for 10-15mins, until lightly browned. Let them cool for a minute or so on the trays, and then transfer them onto a cooling rack to cool fully.

11) For the icing 'glue', mix together the icing sugar and water to form a thick icing that runs off the spoon very slowly. add the water BIT BY BIT- icing sugar can be very frustrating: a tiny bit too much, and the icing becomes watery.

 12) Dust the holy hole-y cookies with icing sugar. I did this on some kitchen towel so I could tip the excess back: waste not!

13) Now the fun part: assembly! Take an unholy unhole-y cookie and line the outside with a strip of your icing glue. Now take a generous teaspoon of jam and spread it on the inside of your icing border. Sandwich together with a cut-out cookie, et voilà! You have yourself a jammy biscuit.

14) Most definitely enjoy with a cup of tea.

*Update: 9th March '13

Seeing as it's Mother's Day tomorrow and my mum loves these, I re-made them. This time I made them smaller, and also made butterflies with lemon curd filling, and instead of using a water icing I used royal icing (using a fluffily beaten egg white and roughly 1 cup of icing sugar)  to glue and ice the biscuits. Piping the icing took FOREVER but I did it! Also, royal icing dries rock-hard, making it better than water icing in terms of gluing the biscuits together- the only downside is it is a tiny bit more effort.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Pancake Day Conquests

I made two different kinds of pancake this year in honour of Shrove Tuesday- last night (Monday night) I made Japanese dorayaki, which are thick fluffy pancakes filled with sweet red bean paste:

They can also be filled with other things, like custard and cream cheese

Today on the actual day, I made soft Japanese-style crêpes with everything for dessert. When I say everything, I mean stuffed with banana, strawberries, cream, Nutella, red bean paste, and topped with caramel sauce:


This was GOOD. I love this Japanese crêpes, you can stuff them with anything you want- next time I'll try an ice cream filling. Making them again will be a good excuse to perfect making the pretty cone shape they're usually served in- when done right you can see all the fillings attractively arranged in the centre.

I'll also give work pancakes a mention: the canteen at work served lemon and sugar pancakes for lunch today. Alas they were a bit... spongy.

Sort of like upholstery foam.

You can actually see the strange, dry spongy texture in this snap. Ah well, it was a lovely gesture.

I'm off to do a lot of exercise to work all those bad boys off, now.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Nian Gao for Chinese New Year!

恭喜發財 everyone!

That's 'gong hei fat choi', or, 'happy new year'. This evening the celebrations for Chinese New Year kick off, the actually day of the new year being tomorrow (Sunday 10th). Chinese New Year marks my annual battle with nian gao: sticky rice cake.

It's traditionally made with glutinous rice flour, sugar and water to make a very chewy and sticky cake (it's easy enough to make, but this week I wanted a bit of a break from my usual kitchen escapades). In the legends this cake was offered to the Kitchen God by families: it was the Kitchen God's duty to watch the family's behaviour during the year and then report back to the heavens. With his mouth jammed up with the sticky cake, he would be unable to say bad things about the family!

You can commonly find the brown sugar version (above) or the white coconut version. This year I bought a coconut nian gao fish, because it's just so darn cute.

It isn't actually orange coloured: this is just the outer packaging to make it look more fishy.

The best way to eat nian gao is definitely to heat it in some way. If you don't, it'll often have a tough, unpleasant texture straight from the pack (and every year I forget and try it cold first). When you heat it you really get the lovely, sticky and chewy texture of nian gao. A lot of people like to dip slices in beaten egg and pan fry it. You could even microwave it if you like. This time though I decided to make nian gao fritters by dipping them in a thin pancake batter.

The batter consisted of an egg, two tablespoonfuls of plain flour, a tablespoonful of sugar and a dash of milk.

Crispy on the outside, gooooooey on the inside.
The family deemed it an excellent idea and it went down very well. I'd definitely recommend this way of eating sticky rice cake!

Of course, we had an awesome mini-feast for dinner, including roast duck soya sauce roast chicken and crispy chili beef.

I'll be expecting good things on Thursday, then.