Give me cake or give me death cookies.

Friday, 31 January 2014

Bā Bǎo Fàn for Breakfast: Chinese New Year 2014- 恭喜發財!

Gōng xǐ fā cái, everyone! (Note the different spelling from last year... now that I'm re-learning Mandarin I actually know how to spell things in pinyin).

It's traditional to eat 八寶飯 bā bǎo fàn (literally 'eight treasure rice') during Chinese New Year. The number eight is considered auspicious in traditional Chinese culture, and this sweet pudding is supposed to feature eight components, often rice, different types of beans and dried fruits.

It can be made to look very beautiful, with pearly white rice as the bottom layer and jewel-bright fruits and beans on the top.

Or, it can be made the lazy way- which is the way I used this morning before going to work (or rather the night before as the ingredients needed soaking).

You can buy bā bǎo fàn in ready mixed packets- in this case, it was a mixture of white and black glutinous rice, grains and beans.

Already because it includes black rice, you know it's not going to look all white and shiny- the black rice will certainly turn everything purple. This, in my world, is a good thing of course.

For your benefit (oh alright, for mine because I'm a bit obsessive), I separated out each of the different components.

Here we have the beans:

Kidney, borlotti, mung and red (adzuki)
Interestingly the ingredients list didn't mention borlotti beans, and instead had jujube (red date), which is a more traditional ingredient. It also mentioned peanut as an ingredient, but there was none.

This wasn't the only gaffe, as I found out when counting out the grains.

Hushed buckwheat, black and regular glutinous rice, plain short grain rice and lotus seed flakes.

Four beans. Five grains.

This isn't 八寶飯 bā bǎo fàn. This is 寶飯 jiǔ bǎo fàn!

However, since nine is also a slightly auspicious number for CNY, I'll let it slide (because it sounds similar to 久 jiǔ ('long lasting')- there are supposed to be nine layers in the sticky rice cake kueh lapis: I will be posting a recipe for this tomorrow.

I soaked everything overnight- although you don't really need to soak the rice, dried beans DEFINITELY need soaking or they'll take forever to cook.

In the morning, all I had to do was boil it in some water. Note: when cooking dried beans (especially kidney beans), ALWAYS make sure you boil them on high for at very least fifteen minutes before eating (not that you'd want to anyway since they'd still be rock hard). The skin of the beans contains phytohaemagglutinin, which at worse will give your stomach an extremely rough time, and at worse could actually kill you.

Onto sweeter subjects, let's add a bit of sugar!

My usual way of posting in this blog is to post a picture of the finished product first. Now you'll see why I didn't.

Hey, I told you this wasn't the pretty way! But it tastes so good, and it makes a really nutritious breakfast. Hopefully it'll give me luck for the new year!

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Meet Benny!

This is Benedict, my new kitchen mascot.

Isn't he fabulous?

My friend Amy saw him in a shop and got him for me (thanks Amy!) Amy, another of our friends Tisa and I named him Benedict because I wanted a respectable, mildly posh name for him (and yes, he's definitely a 'he'). Since BBC's Sherlock Holmes and its dashing starring actor is 'la mode du jour', this seemed to foot the bill. So here we are: Benedict the Second, or Benedict Cumbercorn.

But since he's so damned adorable, let's just call him 'Benny'.

Benny is a very special sort of unicorn: he's the sort that can magically dispense sugar sprinkles from his back!

There's a little stopper at his feet through which you pour the sprinkles in (or in my case, a mixture of sprinkles and iridescent edible glitter).

It's been a while since I've just made one of my plain old but deliciously reliable Victoria sponges, so I was planning on making one anyway. It gave me the perfect excuse to have Benny help me decorate an otherwise plain cake!

I used my usual Victoria sponge recipe, making a smaller cake by cutting it down to two eggs instead of three (so instead of three eggs and six ounces of flour, butter and sugar, you use two eggs and four ounces of everything else). As well as the usual jam-and-cream filling, I also added sliced fresh strawberries, and poured over a little fondant icing over the top so the sprinkles could stick.

Then all I had to do was give my new assistant a shake...

... Et voilà.

Good job, Benny!

Aww, look at how proud he is. ^_^

 Here you go Benny, you've earned it.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Behold! The Miniature Electric Whisk of DOOM!

One of my favourite homeware stores in Malaysia isn't Malaysian. It isn't even Chinese (which is unusual, since I practically live in Chinatown London and love almost all things- minus chicken feet- to do with that side of my heritage). It's a Japanese discount store called Daiso.

I travel to Malaysia roughly once every couple of years to visit my family out there in Kota Kinabalu, and more often than not I'll find myself in a Daiso branch in one of the big shopping malls, walking around with both arms full of stuff I probably don't need but DEAR GOD I MUST HAVE IT. I'm looking forward to/ anticipating with fear finding out what I'll discover at Daiso this time when I fly to KK this April.

A couple of days ago when I was wandering around the refurbished Japan Centre in town to stock up on my matcha supplies, I found a little corner that- to my glee- stocked some Daiso stuff! And, of course, I found something I just had to have.

Doesn't it look cute?? Or dodgy. I still haven't decided yet.

Love the Engrish. 'Flesh' cream???

It looks like a dodgy sort of weapon XD
"Put 'em up!"
Sheba wasn't as impressed as Fudge.
The back of the pack said that this thing is literally ONLY good for making dressing and isn't suitable for thicker liquids like eggs.

Challenge accepted.

Since the little whisk was so cheap, I figured that I could afford to experiment. Before whisking the egg though, I mixed it around with the whisk before actually switching it on, just to help it along.

Then I whizzed it up...

Et voilà! One frothy, frothy egg.

So this little whisk CAN be used for slightly thicker liquids- you just have to be sensible about it and remember that it's just a battery operated miniature, not like it's larger mains operated cousin.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Strawberry White Chocolate Lava Cake- Recipe

I told you a couple of posts ago when I made a matcha lava cake that my love of lava cakes was rekindled.


These came about when I found some of these in the baking aisle of my supermarket.

Buttons! In strawberry flavour!


-80g strawberry flavoured white chocolate
-40g margarine or butter
-25g caster sugar
-1 egg
-30g plain flour


1) Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C, generously butter two mini pudding moulds and line the bottoms with discs of greaseproof paper.

2) Melt the buttons and margarine in the microwave together (heat the bowl until JUST the marg melts, then stir in the buttons to stop them from burning and going clumpy)

3) Beat in the egg and sugar, and stir in the flour thoroughly. Pour into your moulds, cover and stick in the freezer for 30 minutes to chill.

4) Bake for 12-15 minutes until the outside is lightly browned and set, and cool for five to ten minutes.

(I derped and accidentally deleted this shot...)

5) Carefully release your cakes by sliding a knife around the edges, and serve with ice cream, frozen yogurt, more strawberries- you decide!

Huh. That close-up wasn't quite as attractive as I thought it'd be.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

A Baking Break: Eating Reykjavik

You guys know that I only miss a post for very good reason. A couple of weeks ago it was because I was almost quite literally dying of pneumonia (true story!) This week, it was because I went off on an adventure to Reykjavik, Iceland.

I know which one I prefer!

I went with a friend on a girly getaway together (well, it wasn't actually that girly, but it WAS epic) to see Stokkur geyser, Gullfoss the golden waterfall, Thingvellir national park, the Northern Lights and more.

...And, of course, to eat lots of Icelandic cake.

Skyr dessert with blueberries and crumble

This looks like yogurt, but is in fact skyr. Even though it has the same consistency and a similar taste, skyr is in fact technically a cheese because of the way it's made. It's lot fat and high in protein, and very very delicious. Skyr is only really found in Iceland and in other Nordic countries if you look hard enough, but I really hope one day this healthy, tasty food finds its way to the UK.

Skyr is touted as a health food, but often comes served with bundles of cream and sugar (in my opinion, the best way!)

Skyr cake
The above is skyr cake, which is pretty similar to cheesecake. It was soft and light, and drizzled with rhubarb syrup (rhubarb being another common foodstuff in Iceland).

kanil cake

This one is kanil (cinnamon) cake, and is made up of 11 layers of super soft, super fluffy cinnamon sponge, fresh cream and chocolate icing on top. I had some Icelandic moss tea to go with it, it was perfect.

Of course, I ate more than just sweets! Head on over to my general food blog Where I Like to Eat to see all of the traditional Icelandic food we tried, and where.

Bye-bye Reykjavik, I'll visit you again one day. Yes I am waving goodbye. No I am not giving the camera attitude.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Hojicha-ppuccino Recipe plus Matcha White Chocolate Lava Cake

I used to make chocolate lava cakes all the time because it was one of the very few desserts an ex of mine liked to eat, so I ended up getting little bored of them (which is quite impressive for me, seeing as I seldom get bored of any dessert!) My ex is long gone, but my ennui with this pudding continues with no cure- or so I thought.

Luckily for me, I stumbled across Yutaro5296's YouTube channel recently during a late-night online raid of all things matcha-flavoured. As soon as I saw his matcha lava cake video recipe, I knew I had to try it.

matcha lava cake
No words. <3

Needless to say I was not disappointed. (。♥□♥。) And I'm thoroughly in love with all things lava cake once more!

I also wanted an actual cup of tea to go with it. At first I thought matcha latte would be an obvious choice, but I didn't want to overdo the matcha flavour and ruin the actual dessert. So, running with the Japanese tea theme, I decided to make a hojicha latte- or rather a hojicha cappuccino, since the water-to-milk ratio is higher and it's more foamy. The smooth, roasty toasty flavour of the hojicha was a perfect foil for the bitter sweetness of the matcha white chocolate lava cake.

I also served the lava cake with some frozen vanilla yogurt, which cut through the richness of it very nicely.

I prepared the lava cake first, then made my hojicha-ppuccino whilst it was in the oven. Be sure to check out Yutaro's video for the full recipe and instructions!

Tash Tip 1: Cut little discs of greaseproof paper and stick to the bottom of your ramekins/ pudding moulds after you've buttered them- this makes getting the finished cakes out super easy.

Tash Tip 2: Sift the flour and matcha powder together before you mix into the other ingredients- I've always found that sometimes matcha powder can get clumpy and hard to mix easily if not sifted.

Y-san's recipe makes two puddings. At first I thought I'd half it since I'm the only real matcha fan in my family, and then I remembered that lava cake batter freezes nicely! So one for Present Tash, one for Future Tash.

Future Tash can't wait!

Once my pudding had done its time chilling in the fridge and was in the oven, I got to making the second part of the Japanese teafest.

Nope, these aren't wood chippings, this is hojicha: roasted Japanese green tea. It has a lovely rich toasty nutty flavour, and I usually drink it by adding a small pinch of tea leaves to a large mug of hot water.

How to Make Hojicha-ppuccino

1) Brew one tablespoon of hojicha with about 75ml of boiling water in a small teapot (or another mug if you don't have one) for three minutes to make a super-strong shot of tea.

2) Add 2tsp (or to taste) white sugar to your favourite mug.

3) Put 200ml milk (I used semi-skimmed) into a saucepan and give it a quick whizz with a milk frother to start the foam off.

4) Now turn the heat on and bring to a GENTLE simmer- once the milk starts steaming whisk a little more until you have a thick foam, and then switch off the heat (doing it this way stabilises the foam).

5) Add your tea shot to your mug and stir well to dissolve the sugar (don't forget to use a tea strainer or you'll get a nasty surprise when it comes to drinking it!)

6) Pour in the milk, foam and all...

7) And dust with a little cocoa powder or matcha powder for effect!

The white chocolate matcha lava cake only took nine minutes to bake, so while the milk was simmering away I had already taken it out of the oven to cool enough to handle:

See how it's light brown around the edges? My oven was too hot.

All I had to do now was run a knife around the edges, flip it over onto a plate and peel the baking paper disk off. A couple of scoops of frozen yogurt and an extra dusting of matcha powder later, and it was time to eat!

どうもありがとうございました Yutaro-san for the crazy-awesome recipe!