Monday, December 28, 2009

Cocoa Brownies

I never thought cocoa brownies will taste this good and stay so moist. I've always attempted recipes which use baking chocolate, in addition to cocoa powder, but this recipe by Alton Brown beats all the previous ones I've made.

For the love of brownies, do try this out!

Soft butter ; for the pan
Flour ; for dusting pan
4 large eggs
1 cup sugar ; sifted
1 cup brown sugar ; sifted
8 ounces Butter ; melted
1 1/4 cups cocoa ; sifted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup flour ; sifted
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 150°C. Butter and flour bottom of an 8-inch square pan. Sift sugar individually.

In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the eggs at medium speed until fluffy and light yellow. Add both sugars. Add remaining ingredients, and mix to combine.

Pour the batter into a greased and floured 8-inch square pan and bake for 45 minutes. Check for doneness with the tried-and-true toothpick method: a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan should come out clean.

When it's done, remove pan to a rack to cool. Resist the temptation to cut into it until it's mostly cool. For clean cut pieces, refrigerate before cutting.

This recipe yields 16 brownies.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Oatmeal Cookies

I've always preferred soft cookies to those tough ones, though I have to admit I'm not a big fan of either. A friend of mine who came to visit loves Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. Having run out of raisins, I added currants instead. I can't really tell the difference; and I hope he can't either!

1 1/4 cups Brown sugar ; packed
227 grams Butter ; softened
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
3 cups Quick-cooking oats
1 1/3 cups All purpose flour
1 cup dried currants ; if desired

Heat oven to 180°C. Beat all ingredients except oats, flour and raisins in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed, or mix with spoon. Stir in oats, flour and raisins.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 11 minutes or until light brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Bell Peppers Stuffed with Currants and Nuts

I wanted to make a salad-type dish of couscous, having already made it to accompany a lamb stew. I came across this recipe and found the photos irresistible. I've never liked bell peppers, though recently I've come to appreciate their sweet flavour once they're well baked.

The couscous was great, though I would bake the bell peppers until they're slightly charred the next time. The couscous can be eaten as a side dish without stuffing it into bell peppers; just don't mix in the egg yolk!

3 large Bell pepper
1 red onion
20 grams Butter
125 mililiters Vegetable stock
88 grams Couscous
1/2 teaspoon Olive oil
25 grams dried currants
25 grams roasted hazelnuts
2 1/2 tablespoon Fresh mint ; chopped
1/2 tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 egg yolk

1. Make a slit in the side of each pepper and carefully remove the core and seeds.

2. Peel and finely chop the onion. Melt the butter in a small pan, add the onion and cook until softened.

3. Put the couscous in a heatproof bowl. Pour the stock over, cover and leave to stand for 10 minutes.

4. Fluff up the couscous with a fork then stir in the oil, onion, currants, hazelnuts, mint and balsamic vinegar. Season generously and stir in the egg yolk to bind the mixture.

5. Using a teaspoon, three-quarters fill the peppers with the couscous mixture; do not over-fill as the couscous will swell during baking. Brush the peppers with oil and bake at 200°C (fan 180°C/390°F/gas 6) for 30-35 minutes until tender.

6. Serve the stuffed peppers warm or cold.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Rum and Raisin Muffins

I made these muffins for a friend who landed in hospital. Never mind that I forgot that he needs to fast before his surgery. Hopefully he enjoyed them once he came out from surgery.

I adapted the recipe from Kuali. The muffins were quite light with most of their flavour coming from the raisins.

110 grams raisins
50 mililiters rum
~~ -- Dry ingredients -- ~~
250 grams plain flour ; or cake flour
1 tablespoon Baking powder
1/4 teaspoon Fine salt
~~ -- Wet Ingredients -- ~~
1 Egg ; lightly beaten
145 mililiters UHT milk ; at room temperature
90 grams soft brown sugar
60 grams butter ; melted at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 teaspoon instant coffee powder

Combine raisins and rum in a small bowl. Cover and stand for 30 minutes until raisins puff up. Drain, set aside.

Sift flour into a large mixing bowl. Whisk well.

In a separate bowl, whisk the wet ingredients until well combined.

Preheat oven at 220°C. Add the wet ingredients to the dry. Fold gently until all dry ingredients are barely moistened. Fold in the raisins to the point that they are evenly incorporated, no more.

Spoon batter into a greased (or paper-lined) muffin pan. Put tray in middle of oven and turn down temperature to 200°C for about 20 minutes or until cooked, when a wooden skewer inserted through comes out clean. Stand muffins in the pan for five to 10 minutes.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Daring Cooks' Challenge: Salmon en Croute

The 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Simone of Junglefrog Cooking. Simone chose Salmon en Croute (or alternative recipes for Beef Wellington or Vegetable en Croute) from Good Food Online.

I was excited about this month's challenge. I've never heard of Salmon en Croute but I'm a huge fan of food with pastry. I tried the recipe in the challenge but the watercress mixture turned out very bitter. I'm not sure why I'm the only one with this problem. I think it's because some of the vegetables we get here are slightly different from the vegetables in other countries. I traced the source of the bitterness to the spinach. Maybe I should have used canned spinach instead of fresh ones.

Anyway, after the first attempt, I decided to try a mixture of cream cheese and dill instead. This attempt turned out much better. I included a picture of that at the very end, but I won't be including the recipe.

Mascarpone or creamcheese 5.2 ounces/150 gr
Watercress, rocket (arugula) and spinach - 0.6 cup/4.2 ounces/120 gr
Shortcrust pastry - 17.6 ounces, 500 gr. Use a butterversion such as Jus-rol which is frozen or dorset pastry. or... make your own!
Salmon fillet (skinless)- 17.6 ounce/500 gr
egg - 1 medium sized

1.Heat the oven to 200°C/390 F. Put the mascarpone or cream cheese in a food processor with the watercress, spinach and rocket and whizz the lot until you have a creamy green puree. Season well.

2. Roll the pastry out so you can wrap the salmon in it completely (approx. 2-3 mm thick) and lay it on a buttered or oiled baking sheet (it will hang over the edges). Put the salmon in the middle. If it has a thinner tail end, tuck it under. Spoon half of the watercress mixture onto the salmon. Now fold the pastry over into a neat parcel (the join will be at the top, so trim the edge neatly), making sure you don't have any thick lumps of pastry as these won't cook through properly. Trim off any excess as you need to. Make 3 neat cuts in the pastry to allow steam to escape and make some decorations with the off-cuts to disguise the join if you like. Brush with the egg glaze.

3. Bake for 30 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and browned. To test wether the salmon is cooked, push a sharp knife through one of the cuts into the flesh, wait for 3 seconds then test it against the inside of your wrist; if it is hot, the salmon is cooked. Serve with the rest of the watercress puree as a sauce.

Shortcrust pastry
While this is not mandatory to do, I highly recommend making your own shortcrust pastry as it is very simple to do! As mentioned in the notes; please make sure to not add too much water as that is the key to having a successful shortcrust pastry. Watch this video to check the correct consistency of the dough Making shortcrust pastry

450 gr (15.8 ounces or 3.2 cups ) of plain all purpose flour
200 gr ( 7 ounce) cold butter
pinch of salt

Sift the flour into a large bowl, add the butter and rub in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. If you have a food processor you can use that as shown in the above video.

Stir in the salt, then add 2-3 tbsp of water and mix to a firm dough. Knead the dough briefly and gently on a floured surface. Wrap in cling film and chill while preparing the filling.

For best results make sure the butter is very cold.

Pictures of Salmon en Croute with Cream Cheese and Dill

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Chocolate Mousse

My parents went out to a dinner event the other night. When they got home, my dad was raving about the mousse served at the dinner. Now, mousse is a dessert I've been thinking of making.. just not so soon. However, with the dinner fresh in my parents' minds, I figured if I made the mousse now, I'll be able to glean some comparison with the professionally made mousse.

I came across this post in David Lebovitz's blog and decided to purchase some pasteurised eggs. The mousse had great texture. Only thing was, it was really way too sweet for me. Definitely cut down on the sugar if you intend to attempt this recipe.

This recipe is adapted from here and serves 3.

43 grams semisweet chocolate ; chopped
43 grams Unsalted butter ; cut into small pieces
1/12 cup dark-brewed coffee
1 large eggs ; separated
43 grams sugar
1/2 tablespoons dark rum
1/4 tablespoon Water
1/4 pinch salt
1/4 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Heat a saucepan 1/3 full with hot water, and in a bowl set on top, melt together the chocolate, butter and coffee, stirring over the barely simmering water, until smooth. Remove from heat.

2. Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside.

3. In a bowl large enough to nest securely on the saucepan of simmering water, whisk the yolks of the eggs with the 2/3 cup of sugar, rum, and water for about 3 minutes until the mixture is thick, like runny mayonnaise. (You can also use a handheld electric mixer.)

3. Remove from heat and place the bowl of whipped egg yolks within the bowl of ice water and beat until cool and thick, as shown in the photo above. Then fold the chocolate mixture into the egg yolks.

4. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt until frothy. Continue to beat until they start to hold their shape. Whip in the tablespoon of sugar and continue to beat until thick and shiny, but not completely stiff, then the vanilla. Beat until stiff.

5. Fold one-third of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the remainder of the whites just until incorporated, but don''t overdo it or the mousse will lose volume.

6. Transfer the mousse to a serving bowl or divide into serving dishes, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, until firm.

Storage: The mousse au chocolat can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Water Caltrop

Water Caltrop is a fruit that looks like the head of a bull. For the Chinese, water caltrop is normally eaten during the Lantern Festival. When the shell is cracked open, the seed inside is taken out and eaten, usually with brown sugar.

Some people would boil water caltrop and drink the water or add water caltrop to certain dishes.
Water Caltrop tastes like water chestnut and does not have much taste of its own.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Spaghetti Carbonara

I usually prefer spaghetti with a tomato-based sauce to creamy ones. However, I jazzed up this one from AllRecipes and it wasn't as bland as I thought it would be. This serves 8.

340 grams spaghetti
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 slices Bacon ; diced
A handful of ground mild Italian sausage
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 Onion ; chopped
1 clove Garlic ; minced
1 handful mushrooms
1/4 cup dry white wine ; (optional)
4 eggs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese ; grated
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
milk ; if too dry
1 pinch salt and freshly ground pepper ; to taste
2 tablespoons Fresh parsley ; chopped
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese ; grated

1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook spaghetti pasta until al dente. Drain well. Toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and set aside.

2. Meanwhile in a large skillet, cook chopped bacon until slightly crisp; remove and drain onto paper towels. Reserve 2 tablespoons of bacon fat; add remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, and heat in reused large skillet. Add chopped onion, and cook over medium heat until onion is translucent. Add minced garlic and mushrooms, and cook 1 minute more. Fry ground sausages. Add wine if desired; cook one more minute.

3. Return cooked bacon to pan; add cooked and drained spaghetti. Toss to coat and heat through, adding more olive oil if it seems dry or is sticking together.

4. Combine beaten eggs with the grated Parmesan cheese and nutmeg, together with milk, if mixture seems too dry. Once spaghetti has cooled slightly (still hot but not enough to cook eggs), pour egg mixture onto it. Toss constantly with tongs or large fork until eggs are barely set. Add salt and pepper to taste (remember that bacon and Parmesan are very salty).

5. Serve immediately with chopped parsley sprinkled on top, and extra Parmesan cheese at table.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Daring Bakers' Challenge: Cannoli

The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.

This was another fun challenge. It was quick and easy and to make, and I love it when I have an excuse to deep-fry dough!

The shells were very tasty and great with ice cream. I did not have the cannoli tubes so I decided to make flat cannoli. I also made this at the very last minute and did not have time to make the filling by scratch, hence the use of ice cream.

Lidisano's Cannoli
Makes 22-24 4-inch cannoli
Prep time:
Dough – 2 hours and 10-20 minutes, including resting time, and depending on whether you do it by hand or machine.
Filling – 5-10 minutes plus chilling time (about 2 hours or more)
Frying – 1-2 minutes per cannoli
Assemble – 20–30 minutes


2 cups (250 grams/16 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons(28 grams/1 ounce) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.06 ounces) unsweetened baking cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon (approx. 3 grams/0.11 ounces) salt
3 tablespoons (42 grams/1.5 ounces) vegetable or olive oil
1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.18 ounces) white wine vinegar
Approximately 1/2 cup (approx. 59 grams/approx. 4 fluid ounces/approx. 125 ml) sweet Marsala or any white or red wine you have on hand
1 large egg, separated (you will need the egg white but not the yolk)
Vegetable or any neutral oil for frying – about 2 quarts (8 cups/approx. 2 litres)
1/2 cup (approx. 62 grams/2 ounces) toasted, chopped pistachio nuts, mini chocolate chips/grated chocolate and/or candied or plain zests, fruits etc.. for garnish
Confectioners' sugar

Note - If you want a chocolate cannoli dough, substitute a few tablespoons of the flour (about 25%) with a few tablespoons of dark, unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch process) and a little more wine until you have a workable dough (Thanks to Audax).

2 lbs (approx. 3.5 cups/approx. 1 kg/32 ounces) ricotta cheese, drained
1 2/3 cups cup (160 grams/6 ounces) confectioner's sugar, (more or less, depending on how sweet you want it), sifted
1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon (4 grams/0.15 ounces) pure vanilla extract or the beans from one vanilla bean
3 tablespoons (approx. 28 grams/approx. 1 ounce) finely chopped good quality chocolate of your choice
2 tablespoons (12 grams/0.42 ounces) of finely chopped, candied orange peel, or the grated zest of one small to medium orange
3 tablespoons (23 grams/0.81 ounce) toasted, finely chopped pistachios

Note - If you want chocolate ricotta filling, add a few tablespoons of dark, unsweetened cocoa powder to the above recipe, and thin it out with a few drops of warm water if too thick to pipe.

1. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer or food processor, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the oil, vinegar, and enough of the wine to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and well blended, about 2 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge from 2 hours to overnight.

2 Cut the dough into two pieces. Keep the remaining dough covered while you work. Lightly flour a large cutting or pastry board and roll the dough until super thin, about 1/16 to 1/8" thick (An area of about 13 inches by 18 inches should give you that). Cut out 3 to 5-inch circles (3-inch – small/medium; 4-inch – medium/large; 5-inch;- large. Your choice). Roll the cut out circle into an oval, rolling it larger and thinner if it's shrunk a little.

3 Oil the outside of the cannoli tubes (You only have to do this once, as the oil from the deep fry will keep them well, uhh, Roll a dough oval from the long side (If square, position like a diamond, and place tube/form on the corner closest to you, then roll) around each tube/form and dab a little egg white on the dough where the edges overlap. (Avoid getting egg white on the tube, or the pastry will stick to it.) Press well to seal. Set aside to let the egg white seal dry a little.

4. In a deep heavy saucepan, pour enough oil to reach a depth of 3 inches, or if using an electric deep-fryer, follow the manufacturer's directions. Heat the oil to 375°F (190 °C) on a deep fry thermometer, or until a small piece of the dough or bread cube placed in the oil sizzles and browns in 1 minute. Have ready a tray or sheet pan lined with paper towels or paper bags.

5. Carefully lower a few of the cannoli tubes into the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. Fry the shells until golden, about 2 minutes, turning them so that they brown evenly.

8. Lift a cannoli tube with a wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, out of the oil. Using tongs, grasp the cannoli tube at one end. Very carefully remove the cannoli tube with the open sides straight up and down so that the oil flows back into the pan. Place the tube on paper towels or bags to drain. Repeat with the remaining tubes. While they are still hot, grasp the tubes with a potholder and pull the cannoli shells off the tubes with a pair of tongs, or with your hand protected by an oven mitt or towel. Let the shells cool completely on the paper towels. Place shells on cooling rack until ready to fill.

9. Repeat making and frying the shells with the remaining dough. If you are reusing the cannoli tubes, let them cool before wrapping them in the dough.

Pasta Machine method:
1. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Starting at the middle setting, run one of the pieces of dough through the rollers of a pasta machine. Lightly dust the dough with flour as needed to keep it from sticking. Pass the dough through the machine repeatedly, until you reach the highest or second highest setting. The dough should be about 4 inches wide and thin enough to see your hand through

2. Continue rolling out the remaining dough. If you do not have enough cannoli tubes for all of the dough, lay the pieces of dough on sheets of plastic wrap and keep them covered until you are ready to use them.

3, Roll, cut out and fry the cannoli shells as according to the directions above.

For stacked cannoli:
1. Heat 2-inches of oil in a saucepan or deep sauté pan, to 350-375°F (176 - 190 °C).

2. Cut out desired shapes with cutters or a sharp knife. Deep fry until golden brown and blistered on each side, about 1 – 2 minutes. Remove from oil with wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, then place on paper towels or bags until dry and grease free. If they balloon up in the hot oil, dock them lightly prior to frying. Place on cooling rack until ready to stack with filling.

1. Line a strainer with cheesecloth. Place the ricotta in the strainer over a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap and a towel. Weight it down with a heavy can, and let the ricotta drain in the refrigerator for several hours to overnight.

2. In a bowl with electric mixer, beat ricotta until smooth and creamy. Beat in confectioner's sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and blend until smooth. Transfer to another bowl and stir in chocolate, zest and nuts. Chill until firm.(The filling can be made up to 24 hours prior to filling the shells. Just cover and keep refrigerated).

1. When ready to serve..fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain or star tip, or a ziplock bag, with the ricotta cream. If using a ziplock bag, cut about 1/2 inch off one corner. Insert the tip in the cannoli shell and squeeze gently until the shell is half filled. Turn the shell and fill the other side. You can also use a teaspoon to do this, although it's messier and will take longer.

2. Press or dip cannoli in chopped pistachios, grated chocolate/mini chocolate chips, candied fruit or zest into the cream at each end. Dust with confectioner's sugar and/or drizzles of melted chocolate if desired.

1/2 cup (123 grams/4.34 ounces) ricotta cheese, drained
1/2 cup (113 grams/4.04 ounces) mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup (122.5 grams/4.32 ounces) canned pumpkin, drained like ricotta
3/4 cup (75 grams/2.65 ounces) confectioner's sugar, sifted
1/2 to 1 teaspoon (approx. 1.7 grams/approx. 0.06 ounces) pumpkin pie spice (taste)
1/2 teaspoon (approx. 2 grams/approx. 0.08 ounces) pure vanilla extract
6-8 cannoli shells

1. In a bowl with electric mixer, beat ricotta and mascarpone until smooth and creamy. Beat in confectioner's sugar, pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla and blend until smooth. Transfer to another bowl, cover and chill until it firms up a bit. (The filling can be made up to 24 hours prior to filling the shells. Just cover and keep refrigerated).

2. Fill the shells as directed above. I dipped the ends of the shells in caramelized sugar and rolled them in toasted, chopped pecans.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

White Bread

I haven't been making bread in a while. I have a really good recipe for white bread which I've made a few times but I love trying out new recipes. This recipe is pretty good. I used the wrong technique to form the loaf though, so the crumb was a bit too loose for a proper sandwich bread. Other than that, the texture and flavour was good.

This recipe is adapted from Taste and Tell.

2 1/8 cups unbleached bread flour
a large pinch of salt
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 large egg ; slightly beaten (at room temperature)
29 grams butter (at room temperature)
3/4 cup whole milk or buttermilk (at room temperature)

Mix together the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a bowl. Pour in the egg, butter, and milk and mix until all of the flour is absorbed and the dough forms a ball. If the dough seems very stiff and dry, add more milk until the dough is soft and supple.

Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading, adding more flour, if necessary, to create a dough that is soft, supple, and tacky but not sticky. Continue kneading for 6 to 8 minutes. The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 80F. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

Ferment at room temperature for 1½ to 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

Remove the fermented dough from the bowl. Shape into a loaf. Lightly oil a 8½ by 4½ inch loaf pan and place the loaf in the pan. Use the roll method for tighter crumb.

Mist the top of the dough with spray oil and loosely cover with plastic wrap or a towel. Proof the dough at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes, or until it nearly doubles in size.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Brush with egg wash (if desired).

Bake loaf for 35 to 45 minutes, rotating 180 degrees halfway through for even baking. The top should be golden brown and the sides, when removed from the pan, should be golden. The internal temperature should be close to 190F and the loaf should sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.

When the loaf has finished baking, remove it from the pan and cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour before slicing or serving.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Daring Cooks' Challenge: Sushi

The November 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was brought to you by Audax of Audax Artifex and Rose of The Bite Me Kitchen. They chose sushi as the challenge.

Oh what fun I had with this challenge. Sushi is one of the easier and fun meals to make. The only thing is to get the rice part right. It cannot be too dry or too mushy. Once that's done, the assembling bit is quite easy.

PART 1 : SUSHI RICE (makes about 7 cups of cooked sushi rice)

Preparation time: 1¾ hours consisting of :-
Rinsing and draining rice: 35 minutes
Soaking rice: 30 minutes (includes 5 minutes making the vinegar dressing)
Cooking and steaming time: 25 minutes
Finishing the rice: 15 minutes


* 2½ cups uncooked short grain rice
* 2½ cups water
* For superior results use equal volumes of rice and water

Optional Ingredients

* 3 inch (75mm or 15 grams) square dashi konbu (or kombu) (dried kelp seaweed) wipe with a damp cloth to remove white powder & cut a few slits in the sides of the kelp to help release its flavours
* 2½ teaspoons (12.5 mls) of sake (Japanese rice wine)

Sushi vinegar dressing

* 5 Tablespoons (75 mls) rice vinegar
* 5 Teaspoons (25 mls or 21 grams) sugar
* 1¼ Teaspoons (6.25 mls or 4.5 grams) salt

Rinsing and draining the rice

1. Swirl rice gently in a bowl of water, drain, repeat 3-4 times until water is nearly clear. Don't crush the rice in your hands or against the side of the bowl since dry rice is very brittle.
2. Gently place rice into a strainer and drain well for 30 minutes.

Soaking the rice

1. Gently place the rice into a heavy medium pot with a tight fitting lid (if you have a loose fitting lid use a piece of aluminium foil to make the seal tight).
2. Add 2½ cups of water and the dashi konbu.
3. Set the rice aside to soak for 30 minutes, during this time prepare the sushi rice dressing.

Preparing the Rice Vinegar Dressing

1. Combine the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small bowl.
2. Heat on low setting.
3. Stir until the mixture goes clear and the sugar and salt have dissolved.
4. Set aside at room temperature until the rice is cooked.

Cooking the rice

1. After 30 minutes of soaking add sake (if using) to the rice.
2. Bring rinsed and soaked rice to the boil.
3. Reduce heat to the lowest setting and simmer, covered, until all the water is absorbed, 12-15 minutes. Do not remove the lid during this process. Turn off heat.
4. Let stand with the lid on, 10-15 minutes. Do not peek inside the pot or remove the lid. During this time the rice is steaming which completes the cooking process.

Finishing the rice

* Turning out the rice

1. Moisten lightly a flat thin wooden spatula or spoon and a large shallow flat-bottomed non-metallic (plastic, glass or wood) bowl. Do not use metallic objects since the vinegar will react with it and produce sour and bitter sushi rice.
2. Remove the dashi konbu (kelp) from the cooked rice.
3. Use the spatula to loosen gently the rice and invert the rice pot over the bowl, gently causing the cooked rice to fall into the bowl in one central heap. Do this gently so as not to cause the rice grains to become damaged.

* Dressing the rice with vinegar

1. Slowly pour the cooled sushi vinegar over the spatula onto the hot rice.
2. Using the spatula gently spread the rice into a thin, even layer using a 45° cutting action to break up any lumps and to separate the rice. Don't stir or mash rice.
3. After the rice is spread out, start turning it over gently, in small portions, using a cutting action, allowing steam to escape, for about a minute.

* Fanning & Tossing the rice

1. Continue turning over the rice, but now start fanning (using a piece of stiff cardboard) the rice vigorously as you do so. Don't flip the rice into the air but continue to gently slice, lift and turn the rice occasionally, for 10 minutes. Cooling the rice using a fan gives good flavour, texture and a high-gloss sheen to the rice. The vinegar dressing will be absorbed by the hot rice. Using a small electric fan on the lowest speed setting is highly recommended.
2. Stop fanning when there's no more visible steam, and all the vinegar dressing has been adsorbed and the rice is shiny. Your sushi rice is ready to be used.

* Keeping the rice moist

1. Cover with a damp, lint free cloth to prevent the rice from drying out while preparing your sushi meal. Do not store sushi rice in the refrigerator leave on the counter covered at room temperature. Sushi rice is best used when it is at room temperature.

* Tip: To make sushi rice: for each cup of rice use 1 cup of water, 2 Tbs rice vinegar, 2 tsp sugar, ½ tsp salt and 1 tsp sake. For superior results use equal volumes of rice and water when cooking the sushi rice since the weight of rice can vary. Weight of 2½ cups of uncooked rice is about 525 grams or 18½ ounces.

* Tip: While the rice is draining, soaking and cooking prepare your rice vinegar dressing, sushi fillings and toppings.

* Tip: Photo series on How to Cook Rice with a Pot

* Tip: Photo series on How to Make Sushi Rice with Tools You Already Own

Sushi Rice – choose a short or medium grain rice. Do not use Arborio, long-grain, or parboiled white rice. Medium-grained calrose is a suitable rice. Rice expands (about 3 times) when cooked so make sure your pot is large enough. Washing the rice removes the rice flour that coats the rice and gives a fresh flavour and scent to the cooked rice. Look for rice that is labelled 'sushi' rice. Cooked sushi rice can be placed in plastic bags and frozen for 3 months, microwave when needed. Cooked sushi rice should be sticky, shiny and the individual grains of rice can been see. Price: AUS $4/KG.

Dashi konbu – or ( dashi kombu) – dried kelp, it looks like broad, leathery, wrinkly greenish ribbon often coated with a white powder. The darker green the leaves, the better the quality of kelp. Dashi konbu adds a refreshing light ocean taste to sushi rice. Price: AUS $1.50 for ten 3"(75mm) squares.

Rice Vinegar – this gives prepared sushi rice its unique clean, crisp taste. Do not use bottled "sushi vinegar" as it is too harsh and has a bitter after-taste. Look carefully at the label of the rice vinegar it should have NO SALT and NO SUGAR in the product. Apple cider vinegar is a good substitute if rice vinegar is not available. You can use mild white wine vinegar or mild red wine vinegar if you cannot find rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar. DO NOT USE NORMAL WHITE VINEGAR it is too harsh. Price: AUS $4 /500ml bottle.

Sake – Japanese rice wine. Do not use cooking sake or Chinese cooking rice wine, look for a reasonably priced drinkable sake. Refrigerate opened sake & use within two months. You can use vodka or a mild tasting gin if sake is not available. Price: AUS $10/500ml bottle.

Sugar – you can use mild honey or any other vegan substitute to give the equivalent sweetness.

PART 2 : Dragon Rolls (also called Caterpillar Rolls)

Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus 1¾ hours to make the sushi rice
Cooking time: about 5 minutes (grilling the eel)

Yield: 2 inside-out (uramaki) sushi rolls


* 1 sheet 7"x8" (17.5cmx20cm) of toasted nori (dried seaweed sheets), cut into halves
* 1/2 Japanese cucumber
* 2 cups of prepared sushi rice
* Glazed Barbecued Eel (ungai) (about 3½ ounces or 100 grams)
* 1 Avocado
* Vinegared Water – ½ cup of water combined with a dash of rice vinegar
* Various small amounts of sauces to use as the flames of the dragon (or legs of a caterpillar)


* 2 tablespoons (25 grams or 1 oz) Fish Roe (Fish eggs)

1.Cut cucumber into strips ¼ inch (6mm) x 7" (175mm) long, then salt, rinse & dry the strips.
2.Grill (broil) the eel for about 2-5 minutes until bubbling. Cut into two lengthwise strips.
3.Halve, pit and peel the avocado. Cut the avocado halves into thin even 1/8 inch (3 mm) slices. Fan out the cut avocado into a 7 inch (175 mm) overlapping pattern.
4.Cover bamboo mat with plastic wrap. Place a sheet of nori shiny side down, lengthwise, on the edge the mat.
5.Moisten lightly your hands in the bowl of vinegared water.
6.Place one cup of rice on the nori and gently rake your fingertips across grains to spread rice evenly. Do not mash or squash the rice onto the nori, the rice should appear loosely packed and be evenly distributed over the entire sheet, you should be able to see the nori sheet in a few places.
7.Flip the rice-covered nori over (so the bare nori is now on top) and place on the edge of the mat closest to you.
8.Arrange one of the eel strips across the length of the nori, not quite centred on it but a little closer to you. Place half the cucumber sticks next to the eel.
9.Lift the edge of the mat closest to you with both hands, keeping your fingertips over the fillings, and roll the mat and its contents until the edge of the mat touches straight down on the nori, enclosing the fillings completely. Lift up the edge of the mat you're holding, and continue rolling the inside-out roll away from you until it's sealed. Tug at the mat to tighten the seal. If the rice doesn't quite close the roll add more rice in the gap and re-roll using the mat to completely cover the inside-out roll. Place the roll on a damp, clean smooth surface.
10.Spread about 1 tablespoon of the optional fish roe along the entire top of the rice-covered roll. Using the plastic covered mat gently press the fish roe so it adheres to the rice.
11.Slide a knife under one fan of avocado and transfer it onto the top of an inside-out roll. Gently spread out the avocado layer to cover the entire roll. Lay the plastic wrapped mat over the avocado-covered roll. Squeeze very gently to shape the roll.
12. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap over the roll. Slice the roll into 6-8 equal, bite-sized pieces, wiping your knife with a damp towel before each slice. Discard the plastic wrap. Repeat the above to make one more roll.
13.Arrange the cut pieces on a serving plate with the sauces so the finished dish appears as a dragon breathing fire and flames (or a caterpillar with many legs).

* Tip: The most common mistake is having too much filling the golden rule is less is more when it comes to making sushi it is easier to roll an under-filled roll than an over-filled roll.

* Tip: Dampen your knife with a moist lint-free towel before every cut – this prevents the sushi rice from sticking to your knife.

* Tip: Excellent videos on making Dragon Rolls

Bamboo mat (makisu) – A 10 inch (25cm) square mat made of thin slates of bamboo tied together with string.
Substitutes: a thin magazine cut to size wrapped in plastic wrap or a few layers of parchment paper cut to size about 10 inch (25cm) square.

Nori – Sheets of seaweed (laver) processed into thin sheets about 7 inches x 8 inches (17.5cm x 20cm) in size. Always re-toast the nori sheet over a gas stove on low flame for 5 to 10 seconds, or place nori on a clean oven rack and bake it in a preheated 350F-degree (180C) oven for 30 seconds. Nori should be sealed tightly in a plastic bag and used within a few months. It can be stored in the freezer. Nori will deteriorate if left out of its sealed package so use quickly.
Substitutes: Thin cooked egg omelette cut to same size as a nori sheet (7 inches by 8 inches or 17.5cm x 20cm). Also soya bean wrappers, rice paper, tofu wrappers, dosas, crepes or an overlapping layer of thinly sliced cooked vegetables.

Glazed Freshwater Barbecued Eel (unagi) – Deliciously rich and a little like pork they are sold in packs in the freezer (and sometimes the fresh fish) section of Asian markets.
Substitutes: Teriyaki chicken, cooked crab meat, smoked fish, smoked chicken, seared beef with BBQ sauce, deep fried tofu with dark soya sauce, tinned pink or red salmon, smoked salmon, fresh cooked soy beans with a selection of dark sauces, caramelized onions, firm cream cheese, or extra avocado with BBQ sauce as the filling. Any remaining eel should be left in the package re-wrapped in plastic and returned to the freezer as quickly as possible.

Japanese Cucumber – Japanese cucumbers are thin-skinned, seedless and contain much less water than normal cucumber.
Substitutes: English or hothouse cucumbers which have been peeled, de-seeded and salted as above. If not available try matchsticks of your favourite crisp vegetable.

Avocado –
Substitutes: If not available use slices of roasted capsicum (bell pepper), slices of roasted tomatoes, lightly cooked whole snap (snow) peas, slices of Japanese daikon radish or other cooked thinly sliced vegetables, or slices of 'sushi' grade fish such as tuna, yellow tail and red snapper; smoked salmon, pastrami, salami, various colours of fish roe, or various colours of sesame seeds.

Fish Roe (Fish eggs or caviar) – most roes (fish eggs) are rich so they are served in small portions. Try salmon roe (ikura), smelt roe (masago) or seasoned flying-fish roe (tobiko).
Substitutes: You can use toasted sesame seeds or black onion (nigella) seeds as a vegan choice.

PART 3 : Spiral Sushi Roll
This is easiest 'decorative' sushi roll.

Preparation time: 15 minutes, plus 1¾ hours to make the sushi rice

Yield: One Roll, cut into 8 pieces


* 2½ cups prepared sushi rice
* 2 sheets of toasted nori, each sized 7"x8" (17.5cmx20cm)
* Six assorted fillings, each filling should be the size of a pencil (see note below)

1.Join 2 sheets of nori by moistening the adjacent edges and overlapping them about ½ inch (12mm).
2.Place this double sheet shiny side down on a rolling mat, part of the nori will extend beyond the mat.
3.Using moist fingers place 2½ cups of rice on the nori and gently rake your fingertips across grains to spread rice evenly, leaving ¼ inch (6mm) nori showing on the both ends of the sheet. Do not mash or squash the rice onto the nori, the rice should appear loosely packed and be evenly distributed over the entire sheet, you should be able to see the nori sheet in a few places.
4.Using your fingers form six grooves (in the same direction that you will be rolling the mat) at even intervals across the bed of rice. Make the first groove about 2 inches (50 mm) from the edge of the nori sheet. Form the grooves by pushing the rice away, do not mash or squash the rice, leave a loose one grain layer of rice in the bottom of the grooves. Level the areas between the grooves where you have pushed the rice.
5.Place your fillings in the grooves. Fill the grooves a little higher than the surrounding rice bed.
6.Then roll the sushi up from the edge closest to you, this will form a spiral pattern of nori, rice and fillings inside the roll.
7.Slice into 8 pieces with a very sharp wet knife, wiping the blade with a damp cloth after each cut.
8.Place the pieces on a platter and garnish.

Make each groove about a finger-width wide they will hold about 1-2 tablespoons of filling. Use fillings that compliment each other and are highly coloured. Use parboiled vegetables cut into strips, seafood, left over eel, smoked fish or chicken, whole cooked beans, edible flowers etc....

PART 4 : Nigiri Sushi
Nigiri sushi is the type of sushi most often made in sushi bars. In Japanese, nigiri means "squeeze".

Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus 1¾ hours to make the sushi rice

Yield: 14-16 pieces of sushi


* 2 cups prepared sushi rice
* 8 pairs of assorted toppings, 200 gms/7 ozs total of fish, meat or vegetables (see note below)
* 1 tablespoon Wasabi (paste, reconstituted powder) or any other paste to adhere topping to rice


* Garnishes such as Ginger (pickled), chilli strips, vegetables flowers etc
* Thin strips of nori or vegetables (for tying topping on)

1.When handling sushi rice, make certain your hands are very clean. To keep the rice from sticking to our hands moisten your hands with vinegared water.
2.Form nigiri sushi by scooping up a small amount (about 2 tablespoons) of rice with your forefinger and second finger of your right hand and placing it in your cupped left palm.
3.Use the fingers and thumb of your right hand to form it into a long, narrow mound (about 2 inches x 1 inch wide or 50mm x 25mm) in your cupped palm.
4.Press enough to make the rice hold firmly together. Place the nigiri on a damp cutting board flat side down. Don't let sushi touch or they'll stick to each other. At this point, you can cover the sushi with plastic wrap, and they'll keep at room temperature (not the refrigerator) for several hours.
5.Smear a thin line of wasabi on top of the rice and place the topping piece on it. You may need to press the topping down lightly with your fingers and adjust the shape of the rice accordingly to form an attractive piece of nigiri sushi. If your topping is very loose like fish roe you can place a strip of nori (higher than the rice) around the nigiri and form 'battleship' sushi. The cavity that the nori forms holds the topping so it does not fall off.
6.Garnish as desired and use strips of nori (or vegetable) to tie the topping to the nigiri if needed.
7.It is customary to make nigiri sushi in pairs, so make two of each variety.

* Tips: A great video on making nigiri sushi
A great web page on slicing fish for nigiri

Seafood nigiri must use sushi grade (sashimi grade) fish. Try tuna, red sea bream (red snapper), yellowtail or salmon. Cooked shrimp, cooked crab, cooked meat can also be used! You can use any vegetable you wish try asparagus, pumpkin, carrot, avocado, cucumber, shiitake mushroom, tofu, thin sliced egg omelette, etc... Thinly slice or julienne vegetables, parboiling if necessary tie on with a thin (1/4" or 6mm) strip of nori or vegetable strip wrapped around the whole sushi if needed..

*MOST IMPORTANT ADVICE YOU MUST READ THIS* – If you are using raw fish or raw meat it must be 'sushi' grade (sashimi grade) ask your fishmonger or butcher for advice and if in doubt don't use. Find your local Japanese market and ask them where the best sushi (sashimi) fish is. Maybe you can buy sushi grade fish at your local sushi bar. Purchase flash-frozen sashimi grade fish which is guaranteed to be free of all parasites. Only salt-water fish and shellfish should be consumed raw. Crab and prawn (shrimp) should always be cooked. Sashimi grade fish should have a clean cool smell if it smells fishy it is a sign that the fish is old and cannot be used. If you are pregnant or have a weakened immune system only use cooked ingredients. There is no need to use raw fish or raw meat in sushi.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Marinara Sauce

Marinara Sauce is very flexible. I noticed from recipes that you can serve it over pasta, meat, seafood or spread onto pizza. I actually used it to cook with some vegetables.

The sauce was a breeze to make and kept very well in the refrigerator for weeks. The sauce can be frozen as well.

This recipe yields about 1 1/2 cups.

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions ; chopped
3 garlic clove ; minced
2 1/2 cups diced peeled seeded tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano ; crumbled
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 pinch dried basil ; crumbled
1 1/2 tablespoon Tomato paste ; or to taste
Salt ; to taste
Freshly-ground black pepper ; to taste

Heat oil in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, oregano, sugar and basil and simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.

When mixture cool, blend until smooth. Stir in tomato paste. Season with salt and pepper.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Jiu Hu Char (Fried Cuttlefish)

Jiu Hu Char is a dish we always have during Chinese New Year. It is a Nyonya dish and consists of long strips of carrots, yam bean and cuttlefish. It is served with whole lettuce leaves on the side. The way to eat the Jiu Hu Char is to take a spoonful of it and put it in the middle of a lettuce leaf with sambal, if desired. The leaf is then folded over the Jiu Hu Char and popped into the mouth.

The dish is normally very oily. My mum's Jiu Hu Char is less oily than most. Her trick is to add glass noodles to the dish for its silky texture.

This recipe serves about 6-8 people.

5 cloves Garlic ; minced
50 grams pork ; sliced
1 Carrot ; peeled and shredded finely
8 grams dried cuttlefish ; shredded; soaked for 5 minutes
5 small dried mushrooms ; sliced; soaked in hot water for 10 minutes
3 shallots ; sliced
170 grams Bangkuang ; or yam bean; shredded finely
15 grams dried glass noodles ; soaked for 10 minutes
salt ; to taste

1. In a wok, heat oil. Saute garlic until lightly brown and fragrant.

2. Add pork and fry until cooked.

3. Add carrot, cuttlefish, and mushrooms. Fry until they soften.

4. Add shallots, bangkuang and glass noodles and fry until cooked.

5. Season with salt to taste.

6. Serve wrapped in fresh lettuce leaves with a side of sambal for spice.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mediterranean Braised Lamb and Couscous

The first time I had couscous was in a Mediterranean restaurant. They served it with loads of stewed vegetables and it quickly became one of my favourite meals. Unfortunately, after patronising the restaurant twice, the restaurant closed down. Just my luck.

I've been wanting to buy some couscous and make a dish of it but I never got round to it. A few days ago while shopping, I saw this box of couscous on a shelf just taunting me. Well, needless to say, I decided it was time to try to make a meal with couscous.

I came across this lovely recipe by Jamie Oliver. I was looking for a sauce of purely vegetables but couldn't find one that suits my taste. But if there should be meat, I think lamb is the way to go.

3/4 small onion ; peeled and sliced
Light olive oil ; or vegetable oil
375 grams Lamb shoulder ; or leg or lamb; diced into small pieces
3/4 clove Garlic ; peeled and crushed
3/4 red pepper ; diced
3/4 teaspoon tomato paste
300 grams tomato base sauce ; OR
300 grams plum tomato
300 mililiters water
1 1/2 sprig Fresh basil ; shredded
~~ -- Couscous -- ~~
94 grams couscous
113 grams vegetable stock

Heat a large saucepan and gently fry the onion in a little olive oil for 10 minutes. Add the diced lamb, the garlic, red pepper and tomato puree. Stir in the tomato base sauce, or tinned tomatoes, water and basil. Add salt to taste cover with a lid or a couple of tight layers of foil, then simmer on a low heat for around 1½ hours or transfer into a deep baking tin cover with foil and finish cooking it in the oven at 150 C/300 F/gas 2 for about 2 hours, or until the meat is tender.

Tip the dry couscous into a serving tin. Then pour the boiling vegetable stock on to the couscous - it should just cover it. Leave to stand for 10 minutes and then fluff up with a fork just before serving.

Serve the lamb with couscous and a mixed leaf salad.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Peanut Dessert

This is not the typical peanut dessert made of pureed peanuts. For this dish, the peanuts are boiled in water and the water is then sweetened. The dessert is usually taken with yu char koay which are Chinese crullers.

300 grams Raw unsalted peanuts ; shelled
sugar ; to taste

1. In a pot, put in peanuts and add enough water to reach 1 inch above peanuts. Boil.

2. Once it has started boiling, bring it down to a simmer. Simmer for 2 hours.

3. Add sugar to taste.

4. Serve hot with crullers.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Daring Bakers' Challenge: French Macarons

The 2009 October Daring Bakers' challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming's The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

For me, this was by far the toughest challenge in The Daring Bakers' Challenge. First of all, I've never eaten a macaron. I would know one on sight as, recently, they have gotten quite popular with home bakers in America, hence their blogging about them. However, I do not know how the texture should be. So even if my macarons happen to look like the ones in pictures, I would still have no idea whether they are truly macarons. This dilemma aside, I was quite adamant to have a go at it. They look so cute!

I tried the recipe provided in the Daring Bakers' Challenge and failed spectacularly the first time. I thought I had not whipped my egg whites enough. As you can see from the two pictures below, my batter was too wet and once the macarons baked, you can see little bubbles forming and no feet!

So I gave it another go. This time, I am very sure my egg whites have been whipped correctly. However, once I started to fold in the dry ingredients, I realised I'll be getting the same batter consistency as my first batch (which was too wet). I started mixing in extra almonds and sugar to get a drier consistency. The second batch was much better. I actually got tiny feet. However as I had to add dry ingredients, I had to fold the batter more times than is required. So my macarons didn't turn out well. They were all crinkly on top.

For my third try, I decided to use Syrup and Tang's formula for macarons. This time, my macarons finally turned out right. I was so excited when feet formed in the oven. They deflated a little when I took out the macarons but they still looked good. The shells had a hard-ish outer layer which cracks when you bite into it. The insides of the shells were moist and soft and sort of cake-ish. They were very good.

I decided to flavour my macarons with green tea. I added green tea powder to the shells and I whipped up a batch of green tea custard for the filling. For the sake of variety, I filled some macarons with good ol' peanut butter.

The recipe from The Daring Bakers' Challenge is listed first, followed by the recipe I used for my third batch (including the custard).

The Daring Bakers' Challenge Recipe

Confectioners' (Icing) sugar: 2 ¼ cups (225 g, 8 oz.)
Almond flour: 2 cups (190 g, 6.7 oz.)
Granulated sugar: 2 tablespoons (25 g , .88 oz.)
Egg whites: 5 (Have at room temperature)

1. Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C). Combine the confectioners' sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl. If grinding your own nuts, combine nuts and a cup of confectioners' sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind until nuts are very fine and powdery.

2. Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.

3. Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time. Sift in the remaining almond flour in two batches. Be gentle! Don't overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients.

4. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip (Ateco #806). You can also use a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off. It's easiest to fill your bag if you stand it up in a tall glass and fold the top down before spooning in the batter.

5. Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper).

6. Bake the macaroon for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 375°F (190°C). Once the oven is up to temperature, put the pans back in the oven and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or lightly colored.

7. Cool on a rack before filling.

Yield: 10 dozen. Ami's note: My yield was much smaller than this. I produced about two dozen filled macaroons.

Recipe following Syrup and Tang's formula

112 grams Confectioners' Sugar
91 grams Almond flour
1/2 teaspoon Green tea powder ; if desired
56 grams Granulated sugar
2 aged Egg whites ; (at room temperature) (about 70g)

1. Sift the confectioners' sugar, ground almond and green tea powder twice, into a medium bowl. The mixture should be dry and clump together only slightly. If the ground almond is too moist, bake in oven at 140°C for 5-10 minutes before adding the sugar and green tea powder.

2. Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Gradually and slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.

3. Add 1/4 of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold hard and fast to knock out some of the air in the whipped egg whites. Then add second batch and do the same; then the third and last batch. At first the ingredients will not mix well, but it comes together quickly. Then fold more slowly and gently as you continue until you get the consistency of "very cold honey". When small peaks dissolve to a flat surface, stop mixing. The final batter is pale and smooth, with no visible aeration.

To test the batter, place a tablespoon of the batter in a thin line on the remaining batter. It should disappear in 30 seconds. If not, do a couple more folds.

4. Stack 2 baking sheets together. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip. Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto the back of baking sheet lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper). Dab each corner of baking paper with batter so it does not slip. Pipe vertically over the centre, about 5mm above the tray surface. Tap the underside of the baking sheet to remove air bubbles. Air dry macarons on the counter until they are touch-dry (about 1 hour or up to 4 hours).

5. Preheat oven at 200°C. Put in macaron tray in the middle shelf, and immediately turn down temperature to 160°C. Bake for 8 minutes, rotating tray and baking a further 5 minutes. They are ready if shell moves only reluctantly on its foot when you lightly nudge it with a finger.

7. Turn off oven and leave the tray in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove macarons and cool on a rack face up before filling.

8. Pair macarons of similar size, and pipe about 1/2 teaspoon of the green tea filling onto one of the macarons. Sandwich macarons, and refrigerate to allow flavours to blend together. Bring back to room temperature before serving.

To store: Place in airtight containers and refrigerate.

Green Tea Filling

3 yolks
60 grams sugar
10 grams plain flour
10 grams custard powder
250 mililiters milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoons green tea powder (or more, if you like it stronger)

In a medium bowl, whisk together yolks and a third of the sugar until very thick and pale. Add in flour, custard powder and green tea powder. Whisk until well-combined.

In a saucepan, boil the milk with the remaining sugar. Once it boils, stir in vanilla and pour it onto the egg yolk mixture. Mix well. Pour mixture back in the saucepan and return to stove.

Over a very small flame, bring to boil, stirring continuously with a whisk. Let it simmer for two minutes, stirring. Strain the custard into a bowl. Immediately place bowl into an ice water bath and stir until custard cools.

To store: place some cling film over the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate.

Personal note: I'd like to thank Audax Artifex here for his tremendous help and encouragement.