Gong Xi Fa Cai and a Happy New Year! Pineapple Tarts Recipe

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As I mentioned last week, this weekend was Chinese New Year which is a very important thing to the locals here in Singapore and across Asia where many traditions are carried out. When we lived in Switzerland, it was me who was more exposed to the local ways and traditions, here in Singapore that seems to have changed and my Fiancé is the one who is bringing home new foods and goodies for me to try. Chinese New Year was no different, with lots of goodies being bought into our home although some of which I am not sure I will try, like birds nest drink!

SCC CNY Goodies

Some of our Chinese New Year goodies that my fiancé received from work including birds nest drinks, bak kwa, pineapple tarts and goji berries.

One of my favourite things I have tried are Pineapple Tarts, although he didn’t bring too many of these home as I am sure they were devoured before he left the office! These are eaten here like Mince Pies are eaten at Christmas back home in England and they are a yummy tropical version. You can buy them from many stalls and shops around Singapore often in clear plastic pots with red lids as seen above in the middle of the picture. Last week I thought I would give my own pineapple tarts a try. A quick search on google came up with Poh’s recipe which looked easy enough so off I went to Cold Storage to buy a few additional ingredients I needed. I followed the recipe using the tinned pineapple option rather than fresh. It would have been more useful if I had made the jam first rather than the pastry as the recipe suggests as it took so long to cool down I had to leave it for a few hours before I could continue with the recipe. After draining my pineapple chunks I put them into my liquidiser until they were a smooth puree. I probably should of cooked the jam for longer as I didn’t have the right consistency to be able to make balls but a dollop of the jam on top of the pastries worked fine. I also didn’t have the small star shaped cutter they ask for to top the tarts but I don’t think that was the end of the world. They turned out great and really tasty although I had to wait for the man of the house to have a taste as he seems to be the expert of them now! 

SCC Pineapple Tarts in Pot

 

They turned out great! The pastry was really tasty. This was the first time I had made my own pastry since moving here as it is normally so hot but it won’t be the last. Using my food processor made it so much easy and quicker so the butter didn’t melt too fast and the jam, although not as photogenic as Poh’s Pineapple Tarts, made the perfect balance. I had one of the red lidded pots in my cupboard from the one batch that did make it through the front door, perfect for storing my authentic pineapple tarts in!

 

SCC Pineapple Tarts

Gong Xi Fa Cai and a Happy New Year to you all, May you gallop and leap into fields bursting with prosperity and success this year of the Horse!

 

 

Soup of the Week: Carrot and Coriander

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This weeks Soup of the Week is a repeat of an earlier post. In fact, the original post is exactly a year old. It’s amazing how much my life has changed in that last year, the first sentence of the original post just proves this. Back then, I was in my kitchen back in Geneva, just about coping with the freezing Swiss winter, completely unaware that I was about to receive a marriage proposal followed by the opportunity to move to yet another foreign land and now, here I am in sunny Singapore where it’s a muggy 29 degrees this evening! Anyway, back to the soup, it’s such a great recipe (in my humble opinion!) I have to share it with you all again. So if you haven’t tried it yourself yet, here’s another chance! As far as frequent cooking goes, this one is high up there. In fact, I’m sipping a mug of it right now whilst I’m typing this!

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I hope you don’t think I’m being lazy! This one has been a busy week for me. Chinese New Year this Friday means a bank holiday weekend here in Singapore and we have taken the opportunity to skip away to Bali for a couple of nights, our Christmas present to each other. With so much to do before we leave for our short flight tomorrow, this is likely to be the only post from me until next week when I’ll be letting you know how it went with my attempt at traditional Pineapple Tarts. From what it sounds like, these are South East Asia’s version of the much loved Mince Pie and a tasty sweet treat for Chinese New Year!

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I almost forgot, here’s the link back to my original post. See you in the (Chinese) New Year everyone!

Soup of the week! Tomato and Lemongrass

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This week’s Soup of The Week is slightly inspired by the local food here in Singapore with a pinch of inspiration from a food memory back when I was in my early teens. My older brother is a fantastic cook, it all started when he worked part time in the kitchens at a beautiful hotel restaurant smack bang in the idyllic Wye Valley at Symonds Yat. I never used to like tomato soup as a youngster but the chef at The Royal Hotel had a recipe for Tomato and Lemongrass Soup that was highly regarded by the rest of my family. My memory is of walking into the kitchen to find my brother and dad using as many containers as they could find to store the soup. The chef had given my brother the restaurant kitchen recipe for the rather than a downsized home cooking version so we ended up with enough soup to serve around 20 covers! Since my love for tomato soup has been born and as I am experimenting with a lot of south east asian ingredients I’ve never used before, I have come up with my own version of this soup. It’s a very light soup that works well served as a starter before a heavy meal, possessing superb flavours with a little kick of chilli cutting through.

For four servings you will need:

  • 25g Butter
  • 1 Onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • a pinch of chilli flakes
  • 2 Tins Chopped Tomatoes
  • 3 stalks of lemongrass, remove outer skins and stalks before finely slicing
  • 1 litre of hot chicken or vegetable stock
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Melt the butter over a gentle heat and slowly cook the onion until translucent. Add the garlic and chilli cooking for a further 2 minutes. Next, add the tinned tomatoes, lemon grass and stock and simmer for about 15 minutes to allow all the flavours to infuse. Transfer to a blender until smooth and serve. SCC Tomato and Lemongrass Soup

Sausage Rolls

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I know I mention quite often about being an expat and missing certain foods at home. Despite this, my passion for food is more about just the cooking and the eating, it’s amazing how a specific smell or taste can take you back to a certain point in your life. For some reason, when I think of/smell/eat sausage rolls, it always reminds me of being at a bakery in Coleford, the small town which I grew up just outside of,  my Mum was treating my dad to some of their freshly made sausage rolls. It’s not a huge event but I remember our conversation and joining the long queue to get our goods.

I don’t make sausage rolls that much as they don’t really fit in too well with all the healthy food I’ve been trying to stick too but for a weekend lunch, soup and a sausage roll is so very comforting it’s one of my fiancé’s favourite things to have over a lazy weekend, although he did admit to me yesterday that he thinks it’s a weird combination. Please can you guys let me know whether it’s just me or is soup and a sausage roll a strange mix?!

I only made these for the first time early last summer, we had friends over for our leaving party in Geneva and I made a batch for the guys whilst they were watching the football. Gone, in, seconds, it was like they all performed a disappearing trick with them! They are so easy to make and pretty quick to cook. You can eat them cold or straight from the oven (my favourite!). All you need is some sausages and a pack of frozen puff pastry. I always throw in some additional flavours too. Here’s the recipe for the ones I made that last weekend in Geneva.

Yield: Two large sausage rolls

You will need:

  • Sausages – the type of sausage is entirely up to you but I would recommend using a standard pork sausage. No need to mess around with something that’s already great! I used 4 standard sized sausages. Skins removed.
  • 1.5 Tbsp Colmans Bramley Apple Sauce
  • 1 spring onion, finely sliced
  • Two sheets of frozen puff pastry, approx 20cm x 20cm
  • One beaten egg for washing the pastry

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees

Get the pastry out of the freezer to defrost, you may want to do this the day before but here in Singapore, I buy ready rolled sheets of pastry and once I’ve taken it out of the freezer it’s ready to go in about 5 minutes! Mash together all your other ingredients except the egg. Lay your pastry on a baking sheet and place half your sausage meat mix in a line down the centre of the pastry. Brush the edges with the beaten egg. Fold over both the bottom and the top edges of the pastry and lightly press down to stick them to the egg wash, this is to encase the ends and ensure no precious filling spills out! Brush your new top and bottom edges with egg before folding each side over to cover the sausage meat. Carefully flip over and place on a baking sheet so that the pastry edges are on the underside and cannot be seen before making some gentle slits along the top with a sharp knife. Cover the top in one final layer of egg wash. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry and the remaining sausage meat. Pop in the oven for about 20 minutes until cooked through and the pastry is golden. You can transfer to a cooling rack for later but they are so much better eaten right away. Simply slice each roll into 5 or 6 pieces for party finger food.

SCC Sausage Rolls Folding 1

Soup of the week! Harissa Spiked Pumpkin

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I always have some homemade soup in the fridge or freezer. It’s often what I’ll have for lunch and I love trying out new combinations. Which is why I have decided to introduce soup of the week!

It was a couple of months ago that I started making this one and it’s become a regular. It’s great if you’ve got the sniffles as the spice from the harrissa paste helps clear out those sinuses. It’s really easy to pull together and good for you to boot! The Pumpkin I use for this soup is ‘local’ Malaysian Pumpkin. I’m not sure if it has a season here as it always seems available and so cheap. You really need a sharp knife to cut through that pumpkin skin but it’s worth the hard work for that smooth sweet taste!

You will need:

  • One onion, roughly chopped
  • 25g butter
  • 900g pumpkin, skin removed and cut into chunks
  • 1 tsp of harissa paste, you can add more or less depending on how spicy you want to go. I used green harissa.
  • 1 litre of hot vegetable or chicken stock
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Once you have all of your ingredients prepared, heat the butter in a large saucepan on a low heat and slowly cook the onions until translucent. Next, add the harissa paste and sizzle for one minute. Add the pumpkin and stir to coat with the harissa before pouring over the hot stock and simmering with the lid on for 5 – 8 minutes or until the pumpkin is soft. Whizz through a food processor until smooth and serve with your favourite bread.

SCC Pumpkin Harissa Soup

Happy New Year!

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When do you actually stop saying Happy New Year? I’ve always wondered where the line is between being rude not saying it or just plain weird to still be greeting people with such an excitable yelp. Is there an unwritten rule I haven’t heard of where Jan 31st is the stop date? To confuse it all even more, this will be my first year living in a country where Chinese New Year is celebrated, I’m then going to go through it all again, so is it the 28th Feb? Who knows!  I just thought I’d go for it and wish you all well for the new year anyway. I’ve been away for a while, first on holiday, then busy getting my tax return completed for her majesty and finally heading back to blighty for some much needed family time over the Xmas period. But I’m back, settled in after having done god knows how many wash loads (would you believe it takes almost 3 days to dry a pair of jeans in this humidity?!) and back in the kitchen. Before I post my first recipe of the year, I wanted to share with you some of my epicurean adventures back in the UK. I never understand why Britain has got a bad rep for food. I was asked by an Australian expat here in Singapore why you can’t buy fresh vegetables in the UK, she’d seen a Jamie Oliver programme which showed a child who didn’t recognise a potato and assumed, as many other viewers probably did, that they are not available in the supermarkets on our small island. Come on Jamie you’re not helping here! You rarely see british themed restaurants yet French, Italian, German, Beligian, American Diners and Indian restaurants are seen everywhere. I was tempted by so many culinary delights when at home, from fish and chips to roast dinners. I was utterly delighted when I met a friend for a pub lunch and found Gloucestershire Old Spot Sausages on the Menu. Gloucestershire old spot is an English breed of pig, just don’t look at a picture of their cute piglets before you tuck in! Being from Gloucestershire I used to have these yummy sausages when I was growing up so I had to order the sausage sandwich and it did not fail to impress! Next stop was Borough Market, the next friend I was meeting is a big fan of Bratwurst sausages and I was keen to prove to him that you can buy these in the UK! We stopped off at German Deli on Park Street (yes, it is quite simply called German Deli)  before wandering the stalls. I did stop off for some Swiss cheeses on the way but had to pick up some Melton Mowbray Pork Pies and a Cornish Pasty for my fiancé who was staying in Singapore for an extra few days due to work commitments. I couldn’t leave Borough without getting a coffee from Monmouth to walk along the Southbank with, not to be confused with the small town in South Wales, The Monmouth Coffee Company actually opened shop in Covent Garden back in 1978. They make a killer flat white worth joining the long queue for. The staff make their way down the queue taking orders so expect you coffee to be ready by the time you get to pay.

The delights of Borough Market

The delights of Borough Market

Unbeknown to us, a few days later we ended up in a pub owned by Chris Evans, TV Presenter and Radio DJ. The Mulberry Inn, just outside of Woking was a real treat – I ordered a superfood salad that was delicious and dove straight in so no pics here I’m afraid. The next day, we were meeting our friends from Geneva and lucky us, my friend had managed to secure us a table at The Hinds Head, Heston Blumenthal’s pub in Bray. I was very excited to try Heston’s Scotch Egg, followed by a delicious roast beef dinner and for pudding, lack of photo here as it looked so yummy I completely lost myself, a treacle sponge with lemon butterscotch sauce and cream. YUM!

The Hinds Head in Bray

The Hinds Head in Bray

The next day we were to visit Smithfield with my Dad, Smithfield Meat Market is in London proper and the biggest wholesale meat market in the UK. It’s an early start as the market is closing by around 9 so to get the best of what is on offer, we jumped in the car at 4am! Christmas day was spent with the in laws to be, a traditional Christmas Dinner being the key part of the day, we then headed to my parents early boxing day morning. I was really looking forward to the rib of beef Dad had bought at Smithfield! He was using one of Heston’s recipes for a 5 hour slow cook and it was definitely worth the wait!!

SCC Smithfield Meat Market

The couple of days we had left before out flight home, we wanted to spend as much time as possible in the great outdoors. We ventured on some lovely walks near to where my parents live before heading to Heathrow for the long journey back to Singapore.

SCC Runnymede collage

A walk around Runnymede, the site of the signing of the Magna Carta and memorials to commemorate WW2 Commonwealth airmen and women and the JFK Memorial

Beetroot Hummus

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I love colourful food, it always stirs an interest and makes it so much more fun to eat. Anything seems more edible when it looks good and who doesn’t love a good dip? Experimenting with hummus is really easy, there are so many different flavours you can add to this much loved dip the options are endless. I had a couple of beetroots knocking about in my veg draw so decided to put them to good use. I couldn’t decide what to do with them at first as the colour they give off can give anything a beety twist, but as I was doing a deli board style dinner on Saturday night I decided to go for a hummus. Since purchasing a real food processor a couple of months ago (I had a small hand held thing before) I’ve been mixing together all different kinds of things, making pesto’s and sauces and soups. I keep it on the work top so it’s ready to have something thrown into it. I’m not sure whether the novelty will wear off soon but it’s been helping me make some lovely meals! Here’s the latest…

You will need:

  • 2 medium sized cooked beetroots – I bought mine raw and steamed them for about 50 minutes until soft, then allowed them to cool, topped and tailed, peeled them carefully so as not to colour myself purple and roughly chopped
  • 400g tin of chick peas (drained, rinsed and skins removed)
  • 1 Clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbsp Peanut Butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • juice of 1/2 Lemon
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 100ml olive oil plus a little extra for drizzling

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and whizz until smooth. Transfer to a serving dish and make a swirl in the top before pouring over the extra olive oil. Chill until serving. We enjoyed eating this with the Crispy Crackers I had made a day earlier and it went down a treat!

SCC Beetroot Dip with Sea Salt Crackers

SCC Beetroot Hummus Blurred Wine

Crispy Crackers

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Crackers are something we always like to have in the cupboard. They’re so versatile, you can eat them with cheese, salads, pate, soups and dips. A few  weekends ago, I really felt like baking but was begged not to bake more cakes as a large amount of chocolate and salt caramel cupcakes had been devoured over the last couple of days. I decided to give making crackers a go out of a basic flour, water, salt, sugar, oil mixture and this was the end result. I did a couple of versions. The first batch were slightly soft and the second batch were nice and crispy. The second batch went down a treat so they’ll be the ones I’m making from now on but you can easily make softer crackers by simply cooking for less time. You can give them more taste and texture by adding seeds, nuts or some Maldon Sea Salt just before cooking.

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees celcius

Yield: About 35 crackers

  • 180g Plain Flour
  • 180g Wholegrain Bread Flour
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • 2 tsp Sugar
  • 75ml Olive Oil
  • 200ml Cold water
  • Your choice of toppings, here I used pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Maldon sea salt and coursely ground black pepper

Start by mixing all the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Next add the olive oil and and mix using a table knife, gradually add the water until you have a ball of dough, you may not need all of the water. Cut the ball of dough into two pieces and place one on a well floured surface. Roll out the dough as thin as you can and cut into cracker sized rectangles. Transfer onto a baking sheet and brush with a little water, this will help to make the topping stick. Scatter the toppings over the top and lightly press into the crackers. Before placing in the oven for about 10 minutes. Keep an eye on them as when they start to brown, they will finish soon after. We like ours really golden, almost burned, but if you like yours a bit paler than just reduce the cooking time. Remove from oven and transfer to a cooling rack, as soon as they have cooled down transfer them to an air tight container and eat within 3 – 5 days. If they last that long! This recipe is quite flexible, you can adjust the flour to use whatever you have in your kitchen cupboard.

SCC Close Up Crackers

Sea salt and cracked black pepper crackers with a spiced pumpkin soup

Delicious served with soup

Serve with hummus
Serve with hummus

Sea salt and cracked black pepper with spiced pumpkin soup

Sea salt and cracked black pepper with spiced pumpkin soup

Salted Caramel Sauce

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It’s probably a bit too late to jump on the salt caramel band wagon now as it has certainly been the cool kid for a while, but with it’s popularity just increasing why not?! You see it everywhere and if you’ve tasted it you will know why. I was working hard in the gym the other day and started to crave something sweet towards the end of my work out, day dreaming of the soft chocolatey cup cakes I’d made the night before I imagined them with the sweet and salty hit of salt caramel in the middle. It certainly gave me that extra push to work harder so I wouldn’t feel so guilty afterwards! Later that afternoon I decided to make some salt caramel sauce, it keeps for a while so I made a decent size batch to keep in the fridge. I almost wish I hadn’t now because I just want to eat it with everything in sight! When I was a kid, my mum would catch me eating sugar right from the bag in the cupboard, this time it’s my fiancé catching me with the jar of salt caramel in hand! I wasn’t sure if he would like salt caramel but with the single chocolate cake remaining (I did manage to save him the last one!) I lobbed off the top like I used to when I made butterfly cakes as a child, and filled it with my sticky new friend. He looked quite sad after he had finished it and I quickly realised it was because there were no more left!

Salt Caramel Sauce is actually pretty easy to make, all you need is sugar, butter, cream and flakey salt. My favorite flakey salt is Maldon, don’t ask me why because I just don’t know but I love the stuff and put it on almost everything, now even chocolate cake it seems! Thankfully they stock it in my local supermarket so I can always have some to hand!

So far I have used this batch of Salted Caramel  in chocolate cake, as a dip for apples, in my coffee, on ice cream and just on it’s own.

400g Granulated Sugar

170g Unsalted Butter, you’ll need to cut this into small chunks and have it ready at room temperature

240ml double cream (I actually used Emlea Light as that’s what I had in the fridge)

1 tbsp Maldon Sea Salt

One sterilised jar

Heat the Sugar in a heavy saucepan over a medium heat, when it begins to melt, start whisking to prevent any burning. SCC Heating SugarWhisk and whisk until the sugar has completely melted. Now continue to heat the sugar until it is a dark amber colour, this won’t take long, just be careful you don’t burn the sugar here as it will give your finished sauce a bitter taste. SCC Melted Sugar Remove from the heat and slowly add the butter bit by bit, it will sizzle from the heat of the sugar when you add it so go careful and gently whisk it in until it’s all melted. Now add the cream and gently stir in until everything is mixed. You can now add the salt and stir until incorporated. Allow it to cool for about 30 minutes before pouring into a sterilised jar. SCC Caramel from aboveDon’t put it in the fridge until it reaches room temperature. Enjoy with a spoon.. or an apple!

SCC Apple Salt Caramel

Bangers and Bulgar

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‘Remember, remember the 5th of November, Gunpowder, Treason and Plot’ It’s the most well known song that relates to Guy Fawes Night. This is the first year in a long time that I have missed a display on bonfire night, there doesn’t seem to be anything happening in Singapore but I have fond memories of watching displays previous years. Wrapped up in hats, scarves and gloves it seems a world away from our life here. Apart from sparklers, I always think of slightly burned sausages when I think of bonfire night. I have no idea why as my Dad would probably gasp at the prospect of a sausage being given such disrespect. I had tried to find some decent sausages here in Singapore and finally hit the jackpot a couple of weeks ago when I found a packet of British Sausages in the freezer section of my local supermarket. From a farm in the home counties they really are a taste of England. The last couple of weeks I’ve been eating a lot of grains, pulses and wholewheat. I always thought that Bulgar Wheat was really boring and tasteless, but cooked with the right herbs and spices it can be really full of flavor. It’s also a pretty quick dinner and to top it all off, this week is British Sausage Week, what better excuse do I need to open a packet of good old british bangers!

Here’s my recipe for Bangers and Bulgar

What you’ll need for two people…

100g Bulgar Wheat, this will need a good wash to take away any bitter taste

25g Raisins

1 tbsp Olive Oil

1 Red onion thinly sliced

2 Cloves of garlic

1 tsp Cinnamon

1 tsp Garam Masala

25g Toasted Pine Nuts

One large pack of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

4 Sausages

SCC Bangers and Bulghar Ingredients

Get the sausages cooking as they’re going to take the longest. While they’re having a sizzle, take a small sauce pan and heat the onion and garlic until soft. This should take just over 5 minutes. Add a little salt and pepper along with the cinnamon and garam masala and cook for another couple of minutes. Meanwhile, place the bulghar and the raisins in a sauce pan, cover with water and boil for 5 minutes. Once cooked, drain and mix with the cooked onions and garlic, add the pine nuts and serve with the sausages cut into chunks.

SCC Bangers and Bulghar