Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ciabatta pizza and the Half Chinese Quay Lo

This is actually a recipe that I never thought of blogging but my Quay Lo said I should share this with my readers and my blogger friends because he said the ciabatta pizza is very delicious.  He thought my fusion pomodoro sauce was very tasty and can be used as a sauce for many other dishes like pasta dishes, seafood, or even poultry and meat.  I told him an Italian chef would ban me for adding sambal belachan to the pomodoro sauce and using it with Italian cuisine.  LOL! 

Well, I thought that the sauce would definitely appeal to the Asian palate more than the Western, but then my Quay Lo disagreed. He thinks Westerners will like it too. He pointed out that the dried shrimp is rather like anchovies, with the same flavor boosting quality. He also pointed out that many Westerners like chili, and spicy dishes. I did not argue with him but quietly I said to myself,  you are already half Chinese so you should not be so sure about that.  This reminded me of what our Hong Kong Chinese friend said about my Quay Lo many years ago, after uttering something not so nice about Quay Los in general.  He said that Quay Los are very calculative people, especially Americans, because when it comes to paying for any food bills, they will pay for their share only and seldom insist on paying the whole bill. Then he quickly added "Your Quay Lo is different, he is already half Chinese.”  Of course, this was after his wife kicked him under the table. Maybe he also quickly remembered that my husband and I were hosting the lavish dinner we were in the midst of at the time. But, honestly I think he felt free to speak openly, and was at ease with us, and only afterwards realized he was at risk of being misunderstood. I would not disagree with his assessment that my Quay Lo is half Chinese though, because as much as my Quay Lo teases me for being “Chintzy” ( e.g. for saving up nice wrapping paper or plastic ice cream tubs or bargaining for the best price for my purchases, etc.) , I find that he has picked up quite a lot of my “Chintzyness” lately. I half suspect that one reason he likes these quick and easy half pizza/half sandwiches is that they are far easier on the budget than sending out for pizza delivered. Of course, they are delicious also. No wonder he said to me the other day “Lucy, you are a great trainer.” WOW!

Ciabatta pizza

2 ciabatta bread, halved
1 boneless chicken breast, poached in chicken stock and roughly shredded
½ C black olive, thinly sliced
1 C sliced mushroom, sautéed in butter
2 C mozzarella grated cheese
1 C pamersan grated cheese
1 sun dried tomato, thinly sliced
fusion tomato base sauce (please see recipe below)

Method for assembling the pizza:
Lay the bread on the baking pan. Layer with fusion tomato base sauce, the amount is up to individual preference.  Add a layer of mozzarella cheese. Add chicken meat, black olive and mushroom. Topped with parmesan cheese. Bake at 220 degrees C for 20 mins or till cheese are melted and slightly brown.

Fusion pomodoro sauce

2 tbs olive oil or butter as preferred
6 roma plum tomatoes, cut into small pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
5  bibs garlic, cut into thin sliced
2 tbs chopped parsley
1 C basil leaves
1 tin 6 oz. plum tomatoes
2 tbs tomato paste
1 tsp kosher salt (adjust to individual taste)
1 tsp sugar (adjust to individual taste)
½ tsp ground black pepper
2 level tsp sambal belachan (click here for recipe) (optional)
2 tsp Maggie chicken stock (without MSG, adjust to individual taste)

Method to prepare the sauce:
Heat olive oil or butter in pan.  Add chopped onion and stir fry till slightly translucent and add sliced garlic. Stir fry till fragrant. Add cut tomatoes, parsley and basil leaves and mixed well with onion and garlic. When the tomatoes become a little soft, add the tin of plum tomatoes and break them up with your ladle. Add (B) and turn down heat to low and let it simmer for 30 mins.  

You can save the balance of the sauce to about a week for future use.

I shared this recipe at Miz Helen's Country Cottage - Full Plate Thursday.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

生, 老, 病, 死 (Born, grow old, illness, death)

Chinese have a saying,  , 老, 病, 死 (Born, grow old, illness, death) that points out that every human being is born into this cycle. It is, according to Quay Lo, similar to the western homily that "every man puts on his trousers one leg at a time". In other words, there are few exceptions regardless of station in life, whether rich or poor, religous or secular, evil or good, etc. My Quay Lo (husband) says that this view is too simple, and it is cynical. I think it is the great equalizer and tends to make all of us, in this respect, the same. We all know, we are going to live, and we are going to die. That is very fair isn't it?

What may not be fair is the way we have evolved,  which I have illustrated below.……LOL!

Birth through teen age years :
Have lots of energy but no money

Working Age:
Have money + energy but no time

Old Age:
Have time + money but no energy

Which stage are you? 

More to the point, we know that finally, if we are fortunate enough to go through all the above stages, it will be time to say goodbye. How about those of us who are left bereft? When we lose a loved one, do we remember their perfections or imperfections? Click on the link below and watch the video. See if you agree with what Mrs. Lee says in her eulogy for her husband. She reveals that his little imperfections made him perfect for her and her children. This video made me laugh and cry. Watch and see if it has the same effect on you. It is worth the time spent viewing it because it reminds us of an important point of view we all may tend to forget.

The dish that I am going to share with you today is one that my Quay Lo and I love for its beauty, and its incredible flavors, which truly achieve "umami".  Yet the dish is minimalist simplicity. We had this dish at Xi Yan Restaurant in Singapore several times.  The last time we were there, I bought their cookbook and tried to replicate this dish at home. I managed to get the flavors and textures right but the appearance of my tomatos was disappointing.  During the peeling of the skin, small bits of the tomato flesh pulled away, leaving unattractive holes on the surface. If not peeled with extra care they will look like the tomatos in the following photo.

I wanted them to look perfect like these. (Here is a photo extracted from the cookbook.) Obviously I failed to do so.

No matter what angle I tried in various compositions, there was no way to avoid showing the inperfections. 

So, I have decided not to worry about it further but to go ahead and share the dish and the photos as is. To my Quay Lo and I, the little imperfections on the tomatoes reminded us that we are beautifully imperfect for each other now and forever! He was excited about the results because it was the taste experience we had before. He pointed out that the small imperfections tended to hold more of the exquisite wasabi sauce.  We are pleased that we can now enjoy this appetizer any time we wish to. I hope you enjoy this dish as much as we do. I also hope that you will find value in the little imperfections in life that reveal character. Much more than flaws, they are features, that we can grow fond of. 

Pick the very best, vine ripened and large tomatos you can find.
Be as exacting as possible with timing the hot water dip at the start.
Then, as  mentioned, peel very carefully. 

Chilled Green House Tomatoes in Wasabi Sesame Sauce
largely adapted from Xi Yan's Cook book with modification

For the Tomato:
1 whole, large, fresh, vine ripened tomato for each diner. (Sauce recipe is based on 4-5 servings)

In a two quart pan heat approximately 1 1/2 quarts of water to scalding (but not a roiling boil).
Dip the tomatos in scalded water for 15 - 20 seconds.
Remove and place tomatoes in ice water as quickly as possible
Allow to chill, then remove peel carefully and refrigerate.

For the Wasabi Sesame Sauce
1 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup light olive oil
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 tspn lemon zest
3 tbspns brown sugar
1 1/2 tspns wasabi
pinch of salt
1 egg yolk

Toast sesame seeds in a frying pan
Remove seeds and using mortar and pestle, grind the seeds into a paste
Add olive oil and blend until well combined.
Sieve into a mixing bowl (to eliminate any lumps)
Add remaining ingredients, blending well. Chill before serving.

Make a horizontal slice across the bottom of each tomato, taking just enough for the tomato to stand freely. Then slice vertically into quarters.
Plate on chilled plates in the center and poor sauce over the tomato generously so that it runs down on all sides and pools on the plate. Decorate with a bit of basil or mint leaf.

Enjoy, and if you have a few imperfections in the tomato's surface, no worry about it lah. They will hold a little extra sauce.

Monday, September 19, 2011

My macs became a platter of "Dolly Partons"

I always hear this old saying; “ Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Look at these macarons of mine. Do you think they are pretty? When I brought them with me to a Hari Raya lunch which hosted by one of my girlfriends, I received a lot of oohs and aahs from her and the other guests. 

They did not know that my macarons had a flaw on the surface. Did you notice the little flower design on them? You likely did, as it is uncommon to see macarons decorated like that. So I won't keep you guessing. The decorations are to hide a small flaw in the confection's shape. Somehow, my baked little gems had developed "nipples", meaning a raised feature in the middle on top of all of them. I believe they turned out this way because I underfolded the batter. When I tasted them, the texture was perfect, a little crispy on the skin and soft and chewy on the inside, exactly the way I like it. I showed the macarons to my Quay lo. His first response was that I should use some red food colouring and "rouge" in the unwanted feature. After regaining my composure, I explained that might be ok for him but hardly suitable for a luncheon with my lady friends in celebration of a religious holiday. A platter of "Dolly Partons" just would not do.

Since they were delicious, at least by my own estimation, I thought it was worth hiding the flaw. I piped the little flower on to each of them. Bless my lady friends, they were all duly impressed, and I was duly relieved, while my husband was still at home laughing his head off.

This experience made me think of how outside flaws can sometimes be covered up easily and sometimes not. Have you come across someone who looks attractive and beautiful but as you get to know the person better, you find out that the true character is so ugly that it goes to the bone? Or the reverse, that there are also people who may appear unattractive outwardly, but inwardly they are a gem?
When we look for a soul mate, don’t we all wish we could get someone who is beautiful inside and outside? However, if we are given a choice, which would we prefer? Remember, our ideas of outward beauty seem to change with the times, and the latest fashions, or the latest "look", as popular culture tends to tell us what to think. Too many of us fall prey to those ideas. Quay lo always rants about high heels. He thinks the women of the world have been sold a form of self-torture. I think he may have something there.

In the case of my food and bakes, I would prefer the taste to be right and if they don’t look good, I will find ways to cover up the flaws where I can, and serve anyway if I cannot. But if the taste is not right, there is no way to salvage and one must simply start over.

Oh, and in one respect the same is true of me. I cover up my outside flaws with "war paint", but as for my inside flaws, I must work very hard to get rid of and I hope I will always know them and work on them. Thank goodness I am not a tray of cookies. And thank goodness that my Quay Lo loves me for who I am, flaws and all. And I love him, even though he keeps asking me to recreate those "Dolly Partons".

Okay, I said I will share with you what I learned from the demo of “How to make macarons” by Chef Frederic Oger from Academy of Pastry Arts. He pointed out few important points:

When to stop whipping the egg white. Notice the peak with a hook? That's when you stop.
When to stop folding the batter. Stop folding when the batter slowly flatten

Get to know the behavior of your oven to determine the temperature and the time required.

Lastly, don't forget to tap the base of the baking sheet to flatten the batter before letting it to dry out for at least 30 minutes or more. They should be ready to go into the oven as soon as  it does not stick to your finger when you gently touch it.

Macaron Chocolate
Recipe from Academy Art of Pastry, Malaysia

Chocolate Praline
Recipe from Academy Art of Pastry, Malaysia

The correct way of piping out the batter

How to make a piping bag from parchment paper

It was a great demo and we get to eat lots of wonderful pastry. Here are all the goodies displayed in the Academy which is truly a feast for the eyes.
All kinds of breads
 These are the cakes on display
 The Mac fever
Look at all these breath taking pastries!

Work of Art - Chocholate sculptures

I would like to thank Academy of Pastry Art Malaysia for inviting me to attend the demo. It was a wonderful experience and I learned a lot about making macarons. It was an eye opening to see so many breath taking and artful bakes! AWESOME!!

After attending the demo, I took heed of all the advice given by Chef Frederic and here is my 3rd batch of Macarons. I must say, I have them perfect, both look and texture! I just need to practise more on my piping and I would say I have conquered the intimidation of making macs! WOOHOO!! I got positive feedback from 5 of my friends whom I get them to taste my macarons and I can't tell you how thrill I am. LOL!

Friday, September 16, 2011

The only way to have a friend is to be one - Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you were to ask me one year ago if we can make friends through blogging, I would probably said, quite unlikely. Today, I have a totally different opinion because after just one year of blogging, I have made many friends, some I have met and some I have not. All my blogger friends and readers are very supportive. They not only leave encouraging comments often, they also share their knowledge and offer advice without expecting anything in return. Isn't that amazing? For example, when I made mistakes in my recipe, I was not criticized but instead they take time to alert me about my error in a very polite manner. Two blogger friends who take time to do that are Wendy of A Table for two or more and Elisabeth of food and thrift. I really appreciate it. Thanks again Wendy and Elisabeth. Then, I have LeQuan of love to eat, who always take time from her busy schedule to read almost all my posts and leave comments which always put a smile on my face.  Diane from My life in Charante too visits my blog often and I was so happy to receive a postcard from her sometime ago. Not forgetting David of Alokoli, he is a sweetheart, always leave kind words on my post. He is an amazing writer.  I love all him poems, always strike one of my nerves. Another great blogger friend is Sonia of Nasi Lemak Lover. Whenever she goes on holiday, she will bring back goodies from abroad to share with us. She has given me a bottle premium fish sauce from her Vietnam trip and Shanghai noodles from her Shanghai trip.  How thoughtful is that? Oh another blogger friend, Pei-Lin of Dodol Mochi who is a busy bee but it was so nice of her to spend a weekend with me, to teach me how to make macarons.  Swee San of Sweetspot is a talented and generous baker. She had shared with us so many of her wonderful bakes. Last month, we had a gathering at the Chillis in Empire, I managed to catch up with Reese of Reese Kicthen and also Ann of Pigpigscorner. We had a great time together and we got to see Wendy's new born! He is such a cutie! 

Just yesterday, I received a package from a blogger friend Joelyn.  She posted a photo of her and her girlfriend on facebook. I noticed the beautiful scarf around her neck and I complimented her. Guess what? The next moment, she messaged me and said she is going to send me the similar scarf because she had bought two!  Isn’t she sweet?  Then when the packaged arrived yesterday, I was surprised with two more gifts. A box of fragrant soaps and a nice looking shopping bag! 

Hey Joelyn, I love them all and I can’t wait to wear the lovely scarf. The shopping bag is so handy to go shopping with and the soaps smells good. Many thanks, I am touched by your thoughtfulness.

I love all my friends and I would love to maintain our friendships for life. I hate to loose a friend for what ever reason. Here are some guidelines I used to help me to be a better friend to my friends:-

I must always remind myself not to ever judge my friends’ choices. I should trust that their wisdom will guide them through their life not mine.

I will always respect my friends’ decision even if I think it may be wrong and let them know I will be there when they need me.

I will never do anything out of guilt for my friends. Whatever I do for them is always from my heart and if there is something I can't do for them, I will be truthful and tell them even if I have to disappoint them.

I will never trash talk about one friend to the other. I will speak my mind directly with them if I think they treated me unfairly. Good friends are those who will speak the truth even when the truth hurts sometimes.

I will always try to be there to share big moments, sad moments as well as stupid moments with my friends. 

Here is to our friendships! Have a healthy, refreshing, colorful and delicious salad, just like how friendships should be!

Couscous Salad

2 cups vegetable stock
2 tbs butter
2 cups instant couscous
50g rocket
¼ tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp paprika
1/2 tsp lemon juice
2 tbs fresh parsley
3 tbs softened butter
¼ red capsicum, diced
¼ orange capsicum diced
¼ green capsicum diced
½ cucumber, removed seeds, diced
50g feta cheese , cubed
1 small purple onion, thinly sliced in rings

In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock and butter to a boil over medium heat. Gradually, stir in the couscous. Remove from heat, cover and set aside to steam for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Place rocket in a serving plate. Add (B) to cooked couscous and mix well. Sprinkle ground black pepper and paprika. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Where is the birthday cake and the moon cakes?

Sorry no birthday cake. In my last post I ended with a photo of a candle on a macaron.  That was what I gave to my step brother, Vic on his birthday. Where is the birthday cake? Good question! Vic’s favorite cake is baked cheese cake so that was the first thing I did when I came home after attending the Demo on making Macs. (I will share with you in my next post.)  I could not find the recipe that I have used before so I found a new one at  It looks easy and I followed it to the tee.  The result was disappointing! I do not think it is the recipe. I think it is my oven misbehaving. Guess what, my cheese cake had a burnt top before it is cooked.

So now what? Sometimes, when you are a desperado, you could come up with some clever ideas. Haha, I’ve some macarons in my fridge so I decided to let Vic blow the candle on a mac instead. I got to be creative when I have no birthday cake at the last minute. It worked out fine. hehe.

The three of us, me, my mum and my Quay Lo, each made a dish for Vic’s birthday dinner. My mum made no fish paste yong tau foo, my Quay Lo made Kurma prawns and I stir fried some butter garlic shimeji mushrooms and asparagus.

I think Vic enjoyed himself and was pleased with what we have installed for him.  Before he called it a night, I gave his a personal moon cake in a grand packaging. His favorite is the tradition lotus paste with egg yolk. 

Actually that was the the birds nest box. Yes, double boiled bird nest with red dates and rock sugar was the dessert for the evening. It has been quite a while since I had bird nest and it was delicious. Oooo but cannot eat so often, too expensive lah! 

After a wonderful time spent together, it is time to go home for Vic and Jeanie. As I send them to the door, I handed him another box of moon cakes to bring home to my nephews and niece. 
Then after half an hour, I received a phone call from my Jeanie. She said, “Yee Ku (2nd sister-in-law), when I reached home, your nephew Calvin saw his dad’s personal moon cake and he asked which shop offered such an elaborate moon cake packaging? I told him it is from Quay Po Cooks. Then, when he checked out the BIG box of moon cakes you gave them, he said, why these moon cake box so light?” Before she went further, I already burst our laughing. OMG!  When he opened each and every little box, there is no moon cake inside!!  Then I realized, I have given them the wrong box, the one that I am supposed to throw away! I laughed SO HARD until all my intestines were twisted. What a way to end a happy night!! When I told my Quay Lo what happened, he shook his head but I knew what that means. “She is LUCY again!” Can you imagine if I have given that box with no moon cakes inside to one of his clients? OOOO EMBARRASSED!! I think next time, when he asked me to arrange anything for his clients, I better tell him this, “Don’t count on Lucy, Honey.” LOL!

Of the three dishes above, I think I will share my mum’s recipe with you first. Once my Quay Lo gives me the recipe for his korma prawns, I will post it. His version of korma prawns tasted a little Indian and a little "Mat Salleh". The flavor was unforgettable.

No fish paste Yong Tau Foo 

12 small shitake mushroom, soaked and squeezed dry
2 red capsicum, cut into small pieces
3 pcs tau foo, cut into half and sliced 3/4 through the center

2 tbs sunflower oil
2 tsp chopped garlic
oil for frying the stuffed mushrooms, capsicum and tau foo
1/4 c chopped spring onion for garnishing

Heat oil in wok and fry all the stuffed mushrooms, capsicum and tau foo till filling is cooked and set aside. Heat 2 tbs sunflower oil and put in the chopped garlic and stir fry till fragrant. Pour in the mixture of sauce and let it simmer till thicken. Return all  the stuffed mushrooms, capsicum and tau foo in the work and coat them properly with the sauce and garnish with spring onion and serve. 

Ingredients for the fillings:
300gm minced pork
2 florets wood ear soaked and chopped
3 medium shitake mushrooms, soaked, squeezed dry and chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 egg
3 tsp corn starch
1 tsp ground white pepper
2 tsp maggie chicken stock 

Mixed all the above throughly and let it marinate for 30 mins.

Ingredients for the sauce:
2 tbs oyster sauce
2 tbs hoi sin sauce
4 tbs water
2 tbs sugar
1 tbs sesame oil

Mix all the above and set aside for later use.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Gnocchi knew me in 2006 but it's only now that we became friends

The first time I saw how gnocchi was made was when I went to a cooking demo with my girlfriend ,Kam at an Italian Food Demonstration in 2006 at an Italian Restaurant in Bangsar called The Mango Tree. The chef is a friend of ours. This restaurant no longer exist. The chef and his family has moved to Ipoh. 

After the demonstration I never followed up and made any gnocchi at home. That is because back then, I was really not interested in cooking at all.  To be honest, I was not a big fan of gnocchi but after I tasted the gnocchi from this recipe that I am about to share with you, I would say I could even have a craving for it.

It has now become a trademark dish for me. So I will share with you this wonderful recipe of spinach ricotta gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce. I urge you to try it because the delightful smooth texture of gnocchi, with the  edgy flavor of the creamy sauce, is insanely pleasing to the palette.  I poured myself and my Quay Lo a glass of white wine each and we enjoyed the meal. We both said at the same time after our bite of the last piece of gnocchi on our plates… Aaah…DIVINE!

Largely adapted from

 Making the gnocchi

This recipe was featured in Asian Food Channel (Official) Facebook page on 5th September 2012

Ingredients for Gnocchi:
3 ounces fresh or frozen spinach
1 egg
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 pounds whole milk ricotta cheese, drained of excess moisture
1/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch of nutmeg

1 Fill a medium saucepan halfway with water and heat until bubbles just begin to form. Add spinach and cook until tender, about 1 minute. Drain. Let spinach cool enough to touch, then squeeze as much moisture as you can out of it. You can also use a potato ricer if you have one to squeeze the excess water out of the spinach.

2 Add the spinach, egg, salt, and half of the ricotta to a food processor. Pulse until completely blended. Transfer mixture to a large bowl, mix in the remaining ricotta and the Parmesan cheese. Stir a pinch of nutmeg into the flour. Add the flour in by hand, starting with a half of the flour. Mix everything with your hands until the mixture holds together as a pliable dough.

3 Put the dough out on a lightly floured smooth, clean surface. Knead gently for about a minute, adding additional flour if needed, if the dough is too sticky. (At this point, if you wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for an hour, it will be easier to roll out.) When the dough is smooth and pliable, and still just a little bit sticky, divide it into 4 portions, each the size of an orange.

4 Flour your hands lightly. Using both hands, and a light touch, roll the dough out with a back and forth motion, starting at the center and stretching the dough out, to form a roll. This is the tricky part. You don't want to put so much pressure so that you compress the dough, but you do need enough pressure to create a rope of dough. The trick is to stretch the dough sideways as you are rolling. Once the segment you are working on gets to be about a foot long, you may find it easier to cut it in half, and then start working on each separately.

Roll the dough out until the roll is about the size of a middle finger. (Note that if your hands or the board is a little too floured, you may not have enough traction between your skin and the dough to easily stretch it sideways.) Cut each roll into 1-inch pieces.

5 Hold a fork at a 45% angle with its tines facing down on the work board, the curved part of the fork facing away from you. Starting with the curved outside bottom of the fork, press each piece of dough up along the length of the tines. Let the gnocchi fall back down. This is a pretty quick motion, the result is an indentation of the fork tines on one side of the gnocchi, and an indentation of your fingertip on the other side.
Place the gnocchi on a lightly floured cookie sheet. At this point they can be cooked, or kept in the refrigerator several hours or even overnight for prep minded chefs.

6 To cook the gnocchi, fill a large wide pot half-way with water. Bring to a boil, add 1 teaspoon of salt for every quart of water. Once the salt has dissolved, gently drop the gnocchi in the water, one by one. Try to do this in a way that the gnocchi are not falling in on top of each other, but rest on the bottom of the pan in a single layer. As the gnocchi cooks, they will rise to the surface of the water after a couple minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the risen gnocchi from the pot, place in a serving bowl. Sometimes the gnocchi can stick a little at the bottom. If you suspect this, nudge them a little to unstick them. As you remove some gnocchi, you can add a few more to the pan.

Gorgonzola Sauce

½ C whipping cream
100gms gorgonzola cheese, cut into cubes
¼ C chives, chopped
¼ tsp ground black pepper

Bring cream to near boil. Add cheese a bit at a time while stirring until well blended. Pour over gnocchi and finish with black ground pepper and chives.

You can serve your gnocchi with a meat chop of your choice, such as a small beef steak, or chicken, or as the "primo" course in a full multi course Italian meal. I have served it with a fried chicken chop and garnished with truffle balsamic in these pictures.