Friday, February 26, 2010

Furry Play-doh Balls

"COME HERE FAT BOY!!" is how my Aussie in-laws would translate the prosperous Chinese New Year verse Kung Hei Fat Choi. I don't care what you call me, if you're offering CNY dishes, I'm coming lol.

Yep, the Chinese sure know how to end the year with a bang. Family, friends and a good feasting to farewell the year of the Ox and a big welcome to the year of the Tiger.

It's the time of the year where I hang up my new age/fusion taste interests and go back to basics. Traditional meals that have been passed down generations that bring a sense of comfort and homeliness. This year I've really embraced this and attempted two dishes.

My first CNY Dish: Black Tea, Soy and Star Anise Eggs

After MiniB's successful dubbing of Bubblenuts, she has fashionably named dish #2 "Furry Play-doh Balls". Furry due the desiccated coconut that looks very similar to the fur of her much loved teddy. "Play-doh" as I tried to dye the glutinous dough red, a more festive colour for the Chinese New Year, which ended up more on the pink side and resembled her favourite past time. Finally "Ball" cos I rolled them up.

Which is Glutinous Rice dough and which is play-doh?

I've never used glutinous rice flour before. The stickiness at first was quite discouraging and I felt this dish was heading towards a disaster with every knead. If you find yourself in this predicament don't be discouraged; work with it more by balancing water and rice flour to get the perfect play-doh consistency. If you have warm hands like I do it's also easier if you rinse your hands in cold water before kneading. Also bear in mind the longer you knead it, the chewier the consistency of the end result.

Once you get over the fear of stuffing up the dough mixture, the rest is actually quite fun to make. And the taste...soft pillowy cases with a pleasant chewy but not stick to your teeth dessert that's actually not too sweet. It reminds me of grandma's Nian Gao which is also prepared during CNY. I was so impressed with my attempt I may try the peanut centered rice balls with a ginger syrup.

Red Bean & Coconut Glutinous Rice Balls


  • 1/2 cup of desiccated coconut flakes
  • 1 tbspn icing sugar
  • 5 tbspn sweet red bean paste
  • 3 tbspn brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups glutinous rice flour
  • 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup of boiling water, or as needed
  • 1/2 tsp red food colouring
  • Water to boil the balls


  • Sprinkle coconut on a sheet of baking paper and sift icing sugar over the coconut. Set aside.
  • Mix together brown sugar with the red bean paste and using a teaspoon roll into small balls about the size of half a teaspoon.
  • Place glutinous flour and condensed milk in a mixing bowl and use a fork to mix through.
  • Add water, 1 tblspn at a time, to the mixture while kneading until play-doh consistency.
  • Add red food colouring knead dough until mixed through.
  • Roll the dough into a large sausage, about 10 inches, and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • Take a piece of dough and flatten it with the palm of your hand until you get an evenly flat circle
  • Spoon in the red bean paste mixture and fold up the ends of the dough and gently roll into a ball
  • In a saucepan bring water to the boil and reduce heat to a dull simmer
  • Add balls in 4-5 at a time and swirl the water to stop them from sticking to the saucepan
  • Simmer for about 6-7 mins or until they float to the top
  • Drain and roll in coconut mixture immediately.

Here's a few happy snaps of our amazing CNY feast. Highlight of the meal would be the 3.4kg monster of a lobster that took up whole sink. It was so huge the meat on the spindly legs were like small chicken drumsticks. Also who can pass up suckling pig with it's crispy crackling!!
My tea eggs did work out and the flavours managed to penetrate through the shell, but probably could have stayed in the tea mixture a few days longer to intensify the flavour and get a better netting pattern on them.

Dried Scallop Soup & Fat Choi vegetarian Hot Pot

Braised Ling fish with Chinese Broccoli & Steamed Abalone with Lettuce

Suckling Roast Pork & a look at my Black Tea eggs attempt

Monster 3.4kg Lobster Before and After (braised in ginger and shallot)

So tell me readers, What is your traditional comfort food?

Till next time ... we eat!!


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Nockerls, Schweinshaxe and the Mozartkugeln…

For us here at ‘it’s the little things’, one of the best parts about living in Munich is the fact that we are only 2 hours from our favourite European city, Salzburg.  From the moment we first visited this city it was love at first sight. Not only is it one of the most beautiful cities in the world as it sits nestled between the alps and astride the mighty river Salzach, with its gorgeous cobble stone winding streets and historic buildings, it is also home to a some of the most delightful treats that may ever tantalise your tastebuds!  So without much further ado (although I would love to tell you more about Salzburg) may I introduce you to the heavenly Salzburger Nockerl,  the humble schweinshaxe and the delicious Mozartkugeln.

With a very chilly sub zero temperature and after having spent the afternoon wandering around the lanes of the city, we decided a nice warm restaurant with comfort food was the way to go for dinner on Saturday night and let me tell you, boy do the Austrians do great comfort food!  The Sternbräu, a traditional brewery restaurant, which is situated in the heart of the old town and has a history dating back over 600 years, was our choice for dinner. When you are eating in a traditional brewery you can't go past the schweinshaxe as your main.  We call it pork knuckle in English, but it’s one of those phrases that sounds so much better in German.  I have the feeling that it tastes so much better in Germany or Austria than anywhere else too. 
You can guess by the name that it’s not a delicate cut of meat; it's more like a fatty football of meat and tendon and the sawed off protruding bone gives it a look of medieval barbarity!  Just remember looks can be deceiving.  Once you have ordered your pork knuckle it's not long before it arrives laid out on a bed of sauerkraut and is usually accompanied by a potato dumpling or two bigger than the size of your fist.   There is no doubt about it, this is the mans man of meals for sure! The meat has been boiled and then baked with pride, the end result is so moist it just falls off the bone.  I think it is the combination of moist meat and pork crackling with tangy saurkraut that makes this dish a German/Austrian delight.

So that was the main, now comes my personal favourite: the famous Austrian pudding, the Salzburger Nockerl.  With the Nockerl all your senses are activated at once: the delicious sweet sugary smell; the dessert is so light and fluffy that you just have to feel it (or poke your finger into as my children love to do); your eyes tell you it is something special - well just take a look at that photo; your ears hear the slight crunch as you break through the meringue and then of course comes the taste, heavenly.  As you can tell, I am definitely a dessert kind of girl!

This is a reasonably simple dessert and one that I have heard is fairly easy to make, however for me it will always be that special treat to have when in Salzburg. It’s basically a soufflé so it consists of egg whites, sugar, lemon zest, eggs, vanilla, a little flour and some cranberry jam.  Baked until the meringue is puffed and golden and then given a dusting of icing sugar and served immediately …mmmmm, heavenly!

Another great Austrian treat that I love is the chocolate sweet known as the Mozartkugel. In English it would be the Mozart ball…again sounds better in German!  It was first created by Salzburg confectioner Paul Fürst in 1890 and named after Salzburg’s favourite son Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  Fürst’s still produce the original Mozartkugeln by hand according to the original recipe and only sells them from their shop on Getreidegasse, the main shopping drag in Salzburg’s old town area, or from their website.  The chocolate is a ball of green pistachio marzipan covered in a layer of nougat, then placed on a wooden stick and dunked into a dark chocolate coating.  Very nice with a cup of coffee or a hot chocolate on a cold winters afternoon in the old city of Salzburg!

Incidentally, a number of imitation Mozartkugeln have popped up over the years from various other confectioners resulting in (if you will pardon the pun) a war over Mozarts balls! But only Fürst products may be called the original Salzburg Mozartkugeln. 

So that was my wintery weekend treat. What was your weekend treat?

Tschuss! (Bavarian for 'bye for now')

Saturday, February 20, 2010

If you can't do what you imagine, then what is imagination to you?

The Opportunity: Bring in a plate of food at work in celebration of Chinese New Year.
The most prominent thing for me about Chinese New Year is colour. From red envelopes to red dates, the tear-jerking gold joss sticks, the reddish brown suckling pig, the loud fireworks and elaborate costumes of the prancing lions bursting the senses with vibrant sights, tastes and sounds. So red and gold it is.
The Evaluation: Proceeding with Mah Lai Go which is an Asian version of a sponge cake but steamed and golden. My friend's recipe's pictures looked good, but I am missing ingredients. A couple of hours were then wasted trawling through the Internet for easier recipes, even stumbling upon some aproned woman on YouTube. But seriously, who's got 2 oz of lard lying around?
Finally stumbled onto a recipe with only 3 ingredients - authored by none other than Poh from Masterchef. Her grandmother's recipe consists of self raising flour, eggs and sugar, in equal amounts. The pictures presented a snow-white cake with a bread-like texture. Am slightly worried but appearance is secondary and Poh always messes around with recipes anyway.

The Execution:
The recipe was simple enough, 1 cup of each: eggs (~5), self raising flour and sugar. Probably best not to experiment with 5 eggs at a time...

Batch 1: To try achieve a more darker/golden coloured cake, I substituted with dark brown sugar first. Using an electric blender, once the sugar was added, it went everywhere. Which of course, lead to the discovery of an ant posse invasion, taking another 15 mins for them to vacate the premises.

Back to baking, home made self raising flour (also documented in the recipe) was added along with red dye then poured into silicon moulds and into the steamer with fingers crossed.


Batch 1 Result:
Definitely red in colour, except they're dense... like rubbery dense...? Fail.

Batch 2: Now using caster sugar as stated from the original recipe. Also changed over to a whisk. Simon on The Cook and The Chef made stiff peaks by hand so it's definitely possible (one imagines)!

20 mins later, the eggs have multiplied in volume; more than Batch 1.
Mixed in remaining ingredients and added dye to the bottom of the moulds for a change. Stick the next batch in to be steamed.

Batch 2 Result:
too rubbery and wow, even uglier than before. Epic fail. It's time to admit defeat.
The Post Implementation Review:

  1. Silicon moulds don't work for steaming, the moisture stays with the cake.
  2. 1 egg probably doesn't equate to 1/5 cup of sugar...
  3. The iPhone camera under this lighting sucks.
  4. If these for whatever reason happen to fall on the floor, how high will they bounce?
  5. Have never witnessed people jumping from their seats demanding Mah Lai Go at Yum Cha, why would colleagues be any more interested now?
  6. Bakeries selling fresh egg tarts open early enough before work starts.
The conclusion: I imagined there was a genius baker lurking within. Failing that, following a recipe seemed simple enough. Even though what we dream and what actually eventuates may not always align, keep on experimenting.

Congratulations on the first 100 posts and here's to many hundreds more!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The BLACK TRUFFLE of Potato Chips

No, for once the headline is not a tease. This is not a metaphor for grading chips by the number of their flavour enhancements. This is truly BLACK TRUFFLE POTATO CHIPS!

Originally hailing from France, the black truffle is the fruiting body of the fungus Tuber melanosporum.  Black truffles have been a delicacy for some years. Originally so expensive that it could only be added in sparing quantities as a highlight rather than an ingredient, it's been elevated by restaurants (the now defunct Two Chefs on Stanley's Black Truffle Risotto and Tetsuya's Truffle Butter are my enduring memories) and programmes such as Iron Chef (for whom no expense is spared!) to such a high level that from early adopters in Tasmania, truffle farming has spread to mainland Australia, making this (let's face it!) ugly little fungus more accessible.

For those who haven't tasted good truffles (and there is a difference) they have a kind of earthy, hint of mushroomy, something indescribable that you have to taste for yourself! For some it's an acquired taste, for me, any time I eat out, I will be "hunting" for truffles on the menu. As long as it's not offered in omelette form (egg allergy!), I will most likely pick that as my first choice.

But enough about my love affair with black truffles! We can thank Jenius for leading Yaya to the source of these. It was her blog on the 100 Yen ($2.50) shop which inspired the visit and the subsequent discovery of these. They have spared no expense on the design of the pack, make no mistake, these are a premium product. The pack itself is a glossy black to purple gradient and the big diamond on the "i"  and the strip of silver "Black Truffle" graphics in "sterling" silver should tell you something too!

Like most of the exotic chips I've been tasting, the flavour is sealed in a separate little sachet, a point of difference which means that the chips stay dry and non-greasy and the flavour stays untainted by the oil in the potato. The powder was non-descript but at least it wasn't an unnatural colour.

 So this ...

  plus this ...

equals this! But this would be unappetising to eat as is so following the helpful back of pack instructions to rock and roll:

the chips looked more like this!

And how did they taste? You could really taste the truffle, it didn't taste "manufactured" or like it was a flavouring. I'm not sure what kind of new technology or how much R&D is allowing the production of such authentic taste replication in a humble potato chip but whatever it is, I hope it's not bad for you because I really want to keep eating these chips. At a mere $2.88, I can get my truffle fix a little more often even if the ingredients (E621 & E635) tell me otherwise! : D

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Goldilocks and the 3 (gummi) bears

Once upon a time there was a little food blogger named Goldilocks who went for a walk in
the forest. Pretty soon she came across a house. Goldilocks tried the front door and noticed that it wasn't locked. Opening the door a crack she was confronted with an alluring aroma. Salivating, she entered the house. Goldilocks wandered into the dining room where food was cooling on the table. She stepped up to the first dish and eagerly took a bite.

"Yeouch! This simmering pot of homemade feijoada though delicious and hearty is too hot!"

So she tried the second plate.
"Brrrr this amazingly presented Kobe Jones sushi tasting plate is too cold for my sensitive teeth"

So she tried the third plate.
"Wow this aromatic and delicate, tomato based goat's curry is too spicy!"
So she headed over the what looked like a communal table filed with canapes.
"Yum these pan fried pieces of chorizo and oregano scented meatballs (along with the other nine different canapes present) are a taste sensation and just what I'm craving. So goldilocks proceeded to eat all the canapes (after taking photos for her blog of course).

"Hey the feijoada has cooled down, and the sushi plate is at room temperature, and the goat's curry is still spicy but it smells so good I'll tough it up and get through it anyway". And Goldilocks did just that, and happily ate everything else on the table.
"Wow what a feast for the senses that was. I really should continue my walk in the forest and burn off some of these calories but I'll do that after a quick nap".
So off she went upstairs where she found three beds. Yada yada yada, she fell asleep.

Moments later the three bears came home from a food bloggers picnic.
Papa bear said "Hey! What the heck happened to all our food?!?"
Mama bears first response was "Papa, did you remember to takes photos of the food for our blog!" followed by "call the police I think we've been robbed! (but at least we have the photos and can post the blog on time)".
Baby bear tipped toe'd down the stairs and whispered "I think a lady ate all our food and is sleeping in my bed right now".

The three bears rushed up to Baby bears room and saw Goldilocks waking up. Golidlocks screamed and made a run for the door only to be crashed tackled to the ground by Papa
bear and torn to shreds. The only thing remaining of Goldilocks was her heart.
A few months later, the three bears had put the horriffic breaking and entering incidence behind them and were doing quite well in there new business of manufacturing anatomically correct gummi hearts as novelty Valentine's day cards.
And the moral of the story is? Well as a food blogger I think we all have a bit of Goldilocks in us, a part of us that will occasionally yield to temptation. Willing to cheat, lie, steal to get the last macaroon on sale, or drive miles and miles out of the way to satisfy a hunger for the perfect pie so I kinda feel sorry for Goldilocks. On the other hand, I also have a bit of the three bears in me and that part says "Hands off my food lady!"

Giant gummi bears available from I couldn't really justify spending $40 on one gummi bear so the one pictured is the "small" size. The part of Mama bear tonight was performed by Buderim Ginger Bears (can't get enough of them!) and baby bear was a run of the mill gummi bear (hard to find these days! Head to Aldi's or Coles have their own branded ones).
Oh yeah and whilst I'm on the topic of of novelty giant sized confectionery treats:

Anatomically correct gummi heart was from

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!