Oriental Lasagna with Cream Crackers

How many of you grew up eating Cream Crackers? Well I certainly did as my father has been working with Hup Seng for the longest time as a wholesale distributor and if there’s anything that’s omnipresent in our household, this is it. There are many years Malaysians love to enjoy Cream crackers. Some of you would probably vouch for Milo + Crackers as your breakfast growing up. Kaya is a popular one as well I’m sure. I used to drizzle condense milk on my crackers, definitely not the healthiest but since we are already going there, why not go all the way right?

I remember once I was at a house party in Bintulu (of course I was still very young then), and I came across this savoury snack made with cream crackers, or we used to like to call it Ping Pong biscuits back then. It kinda did blow my mind. The eggy filling with something as simple as luncheon meat was all the more comforting. That was my only encounter with this Foochow hybrid snack. I don’t even know what it’s really called. But google turned up some results and I guess I’m gonna go with Oriental Lasagna.

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It resembles a lasagna because the cream crackers act as “Lasagna sheets”, you’ll do either 5 or 7 layers (depends how much crackers you want to consume). Although, the egg and milk filling also makes it similar to a quiche. The fillings always include Luncheon meat and onions at its simplest, especially back in the days when luxurious ingredients aren’t readily available. I added mushrooms in mine to errr lighten it slightly, haha. When cut up, it looks like this:

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My layers aren’t so distinctive because my egg/milk ratio is slightly higher thus the layers look more filled up. Which is fine for me because I love the filling. How to make this? Very simple, even kids can do it!

Oriental Lasagna (苏打饼千层糕)adapted from My Cooking Escapades.

Ingredients:
27 pcs of Cream Crackers (36 if you are doing an extra layer, which is what most people do I think)
1 can evaporated milk
5 eggs

Filling:
1 Onion, finely chopped
1 can Luncheon Meat, diced
Button mushrooms, a handful and roughly chopped
chili flakes
salt (optional)
White pepper

In a pan heat oil on high heat and saute onions until translucent, then add mushrooms and luncheon meat. Cook until slightly coloured and season with pepper and salt if you want to. i didn’t add any salt at all. Turn off heat and set aside. Depends on the amount of layers you might want to divide into either 2 or 3 portions.

Beat evaporated milk and eggs together and soak cream crackers in small batches (I soaked 9 at a time so I can do the whole layer, you can do it in even smaller amount). Just a few seconds would be fine, you just want the crackers to be less brittle to handle, since you’ll be drowning everything later anyway. Meanwhile, oil your square cake tin too (23cm x 23cm would be ideal).

Start lining the soaked cream cracker, your tin should fit 3 x 3, if not you might want to consider biting off the edges (just kidding, a little bit of overlapping won’t hurt). Spread half the luncheon meat mixture over, then layer with more cream crackers. Spread the other half of the meat mixture, and finish with the last layer of cream crackers.

Pour the remaining of the egg mixture over the top. Use a spatula to press down the top layer gently to ensure all layers are submerged. Steam for around 30minutes, or cover the tin with foil to bake for 40 minutes in 180C oven.

Let cool slightly before removing. I’d suggest at least 30 minutes. It’s lovely when warm, but perfectly fine room temperature. Serve it with chili sauce for extra oomph. I recommend Lingham’s.

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Don’t underestimate the serving. I think this easily feed around 10 people. I’m pretty sure this just blew Kevin’s mind today too. The sweetness of onion, savoury crackers and luncheon meat make such good pairing. A dose of chili sauce really elevates the whole experience too. This is something that will appeal to all ages for sure.

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Our breakfast!

This can keep in the fridge, although I’d guarantee there won’t be much leftover. Just reheat in the oven or re-steam before serving. I use my trusty airfryer of course. Though I’d recommend try baking it for a slightly crispy top for that textural contrast.

Please do try it at home and let me know how it goes!

Grilled Eggplant with Ponzu

Bliss, is when you have found a life partner who is just excited as you are to go on food adventures of different kinds. I’m lucky that Kevin and I seem to agree most of the time on our meal choices, and that has brought us some memorable dining experiences, some are hits and some are misses (usually promptly blacklisted by us). Sometimes, a dish left such lasting impression, I felt compelled to replicate at home.

Several months ago, Kevin and I went to 炭家 Sumika, a fairly well-known Yakitori restaurant located at SS15 Subang Jaya. This restaurant has a strong following, and you do have to book ahead to guarantee a seat. There is only one grill and one Yakitori master manning it (though he does have help by his side), expertly turning the skewers around and seasoning everything to perfection.

All the skewers we ordered, be it Chicken, Pork, Beef, or various organs (our favourite) were good. But what really won us over was the Grilled Eggplant. I don’t have a good picture to show you, but let me paint you a picture. A long, sizable Eggplant slowly charred on the grill for that perfect smokiness. The skin is then peeled, revealing its silky flesh, which is then cut into smaller pieces, drizzled with Ponzu Shoyu and then covered with Bonito Flakes. Our mind was blown.

Of course, I don’t have a charcoal grill at home (what an investment that would be), but I do have an Airfryer that does amazing things with Eggplants (I’ve made Baba Ganoush and Tortang Talong that employs the same principle of charring the eggplant), so this dish made into fairly high rotation at home.

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Ponzu is a citrus-based sauce commonly used in Japanese cuisine and it’s often combined with Soy sauce. I used a bottled one. You should be able to find it in the Japanese food section of your supermarket. If not, it’s not so difficult to make at home. Here’s a recipe.

This dish really so simple it’s pretty much a non-recipe. With an airfryer, simply set the Eggplant to grill on 180 degrees Celcius for 10 minutes. Once it’s done, carefully peel off the skin (it should come right off), place on a plate and cut into bite size pieces with scissors. Drizzle enough Ponzu sauce and Soy Sauce over, then garnish with Bonito Flakes. Serve when hot.

No airfryer? Fret not, you can still char it over the stove, bake it for another 15 minutes and then proceed with the same steps. Do bear in mind though with the airfryer it won’t have the distinctive charred/smokiness aroma. So if that’s really important to you, then this recipe is not for you (invest in a charcoal grill!).

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Enjoy this with or without rice, along with other dishes (teriyaki chicken is a good one, grilled salmon is fabulous too). If you love eggplant as much as we do, you’ll fall in love with this too.

Salted Egg Yolk Cookies (CNY)

It’s exactly one week to go until Chinese New Year! Have you bought all the necessary things (by necessary I mean mostly food) yet? Some of you have been baking up a frenzy, no doubt. Since we finally got a decent oven for this household, I’ve been hardworking enough to churn out some Chinese New Year cookies as well, and this year I’ve decided to try something new: Salted Egg Yolk Cookies!

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Salted Egg Yolk (SEY) anything have always been hugely popular in Malaysia/Singapore and people are putting them in everything: ice cream, croissant, waffles, pasta…. you name it and it has been tried. It’s hard to resist the allure of it, of course. It’s the very definition of umami, and adds that extra decadence to your dishes, be it sweet or savoury. Because of the SEY craze, I’ve tried putting it on pizza, pasta and our favourite concoction has to be these melt-in-the-mouth cookies. Easy to make, absolutely delightful to eat. You just can’t stop at one bite!

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Here’s the recipe I use with a little bit of adaptation of my own. It’s pretty straight forward and it goes without saying that the better ingredients you use, the better it will taste. So try to get Salted Egg from the market, and best butter you can buy (I’d suggest Kerrygold because I only use Grassfed butter, the cheaper alternative is Anchor). I added milk powder because I like the taste, you can totally omit it if you wish. Let’s get to it!

Salted Egg Yolk Cookies (adapted from Bake for Happy Kids)
125g Plan Flour
10g Corn Starch
1/8 Teaspoon Baking Powder
2 Salted Egg Yolks
85g Butter
40g Sugar
1 Tablespoon Milk Powder
Pinch of Salt
Egg wash
Sesame Seeds

First, cook the salted egg yolks, you may choose to cook the salted egg whole and just scoop out the egg yolks, or steam the yolks alone. What I do is I usually boil the whole egg for about 9 minutes (I’ve tried cooking for shorter time but the egg yolks tend to be undercooked). By the way if you have some fantastic ideas for leftover salted egg whites, send it my way! Mash the egg yolk with a fork and set aside until needed.

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Weigh out the ingredients accordingly. I usually do the flour, corn starch baking powder, salt and milk powder together.

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In a big bowl, weigh out butter and sugar and mix it together well (you can use a handmixer for this too). Pour the rest of the dry ingredients together along with the salted egg yolks, and mix well.

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The dough now should come together easily when you gather by hands.
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Flatten the dough to a disc (around 6mm thickness would be ideal) and wrap in cling film to cool in fridge for around half an hour. When you are ready, pick your favourite cookie cutter and cut out the dough. When it’s sufficiently cold, it should be quite easy to handle. If it gets too soft, put it back into the fridge for a while and then continue working.

By now you should have your oven preheated to 170 degree Celsius. This number should yield around 80 small cookies so you can do it in 2 batches. Brush the top with some egg wash and sprinkle sesame seeds on top. The egg wash is important here because not only it will give the cookies a nice sheen, it also acts as a glue for the sesame seeds.

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Send the baking tray into the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until lovely golden. Let cool completely and try not to steal too many of it before storing it in airtight container.

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I’ve already made 3 batches of these and there’s barely anything left now (it’s only a 3 person household, mind you). Kevin actually finished the first batch in one seating. So much for watching his diet. Hehe. I guess I need to make some more before next week then.

Happy Baking (and Eating)!

F&N Full Cream Sweetened Condensed Milk & Banoffee Pie

Did you know that nowadays most of the “condensed milk” you see on the market aren’t actually made with real milk? And the “real” ones generally can be quite expensive as they were all imported. Well here’s a piece of good news for you: F&N recently reintroduced the Full Cream Sweetened Condensed Milk and is currently the only local company that offers Malaysians the creamy goodness of full-cream sweetened condensed milk at an affordable price.

I remember when I was growing up, condensed milk played a big part of my life. There was always an opened can (poured into small container) in our fridge and it was used for many things. One of my favourite snacks was a Cream cracker drizzled with a hearty amount of condensed milk. Back then it was a fun challenge to finish the cream cracker without the condensed milk dripping from the holes. As soon as I moved to Australia, condensed milk disappeared from my life. I guess it’s very much a Malaysian thing as you’ll see condensed milk used everywhere in local kopitiams and mamaks, and most household too.

So what’s so special about F&N Full Cream Sweetened Condensed Milk? First of all, it contains the wholesome goodness of milk, which makes it richer, fuller and creamier. Secondly, it’s also nutritious, with high amount of calcium, and the added benefits of vitamin A, B1 and D3; and as you know, milk is a good source of protein too. Tasty and beneficial, what’s not to love? Of course, enjoy it in moderation as it does contain quite a bit of sugar. But occasional indulgence is essential, let me tell you that.

I was sent a batch of F&N Full Cream Sweetened Condensed Milk to review and while I normally wouldn’t be consuming so much sweet stuff, I was curious about the taste (I guess you can say that condensed milk is my weakness). Upon receiving the package, I immediately open one and tried a spoonful (don’t judge k?).

Mmmm!!

It is indeed rich and creamy and tastes really sinful. The next few days I proceed to add this into my coffee. Such bliss. I also used it in a couple of recipes which I will show you in a minute. By the way, I really dig the new packaging which has a pull ring for easy opening (I remember the day when I used to dig 2 holes on the can and let the condensed milk slowly drip out into another container), and a plastic lid so I can store the can itself easily.

So I finally attempted to make my own Dulce De Leche! Dulce De Leche is basically caramelised milk and is prepared by slowly heating condensed milk to change its flavour and colour. Traditionally, it takes hours to achieve this, often requiring boiling for up to 4 hours. But I had the perfect tool to save me some time, in a form of Philips Pressure Cooker!

That’s right, with a pressure cooker, making Dulce De Leche takes only about an hour (that is if you don’t count the essential cooling down time, of course), and it’s definitely foolproof too! Let’s take a second to admire this heavenly creation of mine, shall we?

Oh My!!!

To make perfect Dulce De Leche, first place the can of Condensed Milk side way in the Pressure Cooker Pot, and fill with water to cover at least an inch above the can. Then, set your timer to 40 minutes and start the cooker. Once the time is up, release pressure, remove the can cautiously. This is super important: let it cool COMPLETELY before you attempt to open the can. If you don’t, the content will explode, and you’ll end up with severe burns. But when it’s cool it’s absolutely safe to open. Then control yourself not to finish this by the spoonfuls (will probably get into diabetic coma if you do).

So what did I make for with the Dulce De Leche? Banoffee Pie of course! This has been on my to-make list for years and I didn’t go through because I didn’t want to waste 4 hours of gas just cooking a can of condensed milk. The Pressure cooker is really a life-saver sometimes. Oh, I digress, this post is about F&N Full Cream Sweetened Condensed Milk. Haha. Here’s the Banoffee Pie.

Oh you, get in my mouth!

Move over, Lemon Tarts. This is officially the best dessert I’ve ever made! I’ve opted for shortcrust pastry case because well, that’s my expertise right there. Fill it with the Duche De Leche, Sliced Bananas marinated with lemon juice, and then a dollop of whipped cream. So simple, so delicious no I mean RIDICULOUSLY delicious, it makes my skirt fly up. Here’s the recipe:

Shortcrust Pastry (makes 3 mini pies)
1 cup Plain Flour (I used double 00 flour because that was what I have)
1/3 cup Almond Meal
100g Grass-fed Butter
1 teaspoon Salt
2-3 teaspoon Iced Water

To make pastry, mix flour and salt together then rub in the cubed butter until mixture resemble breadcrumbs. Add ice water (add 1/2 first, and pour in more as needed) to draw the moisture and mix until the dough just comes together. Form pastry into a disc, enclose in plastic wrap, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 180C. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface until 5mm thick and use to line 6 x 12cm tart pans. Trim edge carefuly, then line with baking paper and fill with dried beans or rice. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove beans and paper, and bake for a further 5 minutes or until golden. Set aside to cool.

Other ingredients:
A Can of Dulce De Leche
2-3 Bananas
Lemon Juice
250ml Whipping Cream

I guess it goes without saying you need to whip the cream until stiff peak, then set aside.

Once the tarts are nice and cool, spoon over the dulce de leche and spread it flat. Slice bananas and coat them with a bit of lemon juice (this provides a little acidity to balance the taste and also keeps the banana fresh for longer), then lay them however you like on top of the dulce de leche. To serve, spoon generous amount of whipped cream on top.

Make this today to impress your friends! I brought this to my gig for my musicians and made them very, very happy.

F&N Full Cream Sweetened Condensed Milk is now available at selected outlets (Ben’s Independent Grocer, Jaya Grocer, Hero Market, AEON, Jason’s Foodhall, Mercato, Village Grocer, Isetan, Cold Storage and Presto Grocer) throughout Peninsular and East Malaysia for RM5.00 per 392g can.

For more details, tasty recipe ideas and list of participating outlets, please visit www.fndairies.com

AFF Indochina: Ping Kai (Laotian Roast Chicken)

My second contribution to AFF Indochina is a Laotian recipe: Ping Kai. It’s also called Kai Yang in Thailand but essentially the recipe is brought over to Thailand by the Lao people too. This is a very popular street food you can find pretty much anywhere locally, often paired with the tam mak hoong (Lao version of Green Papaya Salad) and sticky rice. Ping Gai literally means roast chicken or barbecued chicken, and here the chicken is coated with an aromatic marinade for hours before grilling over low heat over charcoal. I don’t have the luxury to run a fire at home so oven it will have to be.

I’ve never used Coriander in a marinade before and not surprisingly, it’s super refreshing and delicious. There are many versions of this recipe. A lot of people use a combination of soy sauce, fish sauce and sometimes oyster sauce. Well, oyster sauce is something that no longer exist in my household so fish sauce with soy sauce (liquid aminos, rather) it is for me.

Ping Kai

Recipe adapted from BigOven.com

500g Chicken Drumsticks

Marinade:
bunch Fresh Coriander
3 cloves Garlic
1 tbsp Black peppercorns
1 tablespoon Fish Sauce
1 tablespoon Soy sauce (I used Liquid Aminos)
1 tablespoon Coconut oil

Dipping Sauce
1 tablespoon Honey
2 sprigs Fresh Cilantro
1 cloves Garlic
1 tablespoon White vinegar
1 tablespoon Lime juice (I used lemon juice)
1 tablespoon Sriracha (I used Homemade)
1 tablespoon Fish Sauce

Put the washed coriander (including stems and roots) into the blender/food processor with garlic, black pepper, soy sauce, fish sauce and oil, and blend until smooth.

Place chicken in a large bowl and pour over the marinade to coat all over. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate for at least a few hours or overnight in the fridge.

Lovely green marinade.

Dipping sauce: Combined everything (except coriander) and stir until honey dissolves. To get rid of the rawnesss of the garlic, cook on stove for a few minutes until mixture thickens, then stir in the coriander when it has cooled down. Taste for seasoning and set aside until ready for use.

Preheat oven to 200C, place chicken drumsticks on baking tray and cook for about 20-30 minutes until skin is nicely brown and chicken is cooked through. Serve warm with dipping sauce.

Juicy Succulent Roast Chicken, done!

I was glad to have some extra because while it was tasty freshly made, it tasted even better the next day! I love the subtle zing of the coriander along with the umaminess of fish sauce. The dipping sauce is tangy and spicy, which is a perfect match. I will definitely make these again!

I am submitting this post to Asian Food Fest – IndoChina hosted by Kelly Siew Cooks.

 

Cauliflower Crust Pizza

I’m starting to think that I’m eating way too much cauliflower. I’m using it as rice, replacing potato in hash, faux-potato mash, and even faux ‘English Muffin’, while at the same time I also quite like it as a side dish anyway. But I think this recipe might just be the ultimate as it ticks 2 important boxes: Frank’s favourite food, and making unhealthy food healthy. That’s right, I’m talking about Pizza!

Eating the rainbow while at it.
Eating the rainbow while at it.

Cauliflower crust pizza doesn’t sound too appealing and in fact when I mention the idea to Frank the Pizza addict he simply said “You can’t cal that a Pizza”. Fine, so I made the Not-Pizza and guess who gobbled it up and then asked for more?

Make it vegetarian, make it meatlover friendly, both awesome for your waistline.
Make it vegetarian, make it meatlover friendly, both awesome for your waistline.

The best thing about Cauliflower Pizza crust, apart from having far lower carbs content and just much more nutritious for us, is that it took hardly any time at all. Gone were the days I slave over the kitchen counter working the dough and spending hours waiting for it to rise, now whenever we feel like having a pizza I can simply whip it up in about half an hour. I just have to make sure I have a constant supply of cauliflower.

So here’s how to make this almost guilt-free treat.

Cauliflower Pizza Crust:
1 (Small Head) Cauliflower
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
1/4 cup Mozzarella Cheese
1/4 teaspoons Kosher Salt
1/2 teaspoons Dried Oregano
1 Tablespoon Almond Meal
1 Egg

Wash and throughly dry a small head of cauliflower. Cut off the florets and pulse in the food processor until you get powdery snow like cauliflower, this will take less than a minute. Place cauliflower onto a cheese cloth and squeeze out all the liquid with all your might. Then place the dry cauliflower in a microwave safe bowl and cover, cook for 4 minutes.

In a bowl, add the cooked cauliflower, cheese, salt, dried oregano, almond meal and egg and mix well together. Once mixed together, spread the “dough” onto a baking sheet and work it into a flat round. Bake for about 10 minutes in 250C oven until starting to brown at the edges. Now we are ready for the toppings.

Toppings
Tomato Paste
Broccoli, break into small florets
Onion, roughly sliced
Zucchini, sliced
Red Cabbage, thinly sliced
Mozzarella Cheese

As these would be cooked in a shorter time than regular pizza, I recommend you get started with a sauteeing all the vegetables beforehand, especially the onions.

Once the crust is out of the oven, start by spreading spoonfuls of tomato paste (or homemade pizza sauce) on the crust and however much toppings you like. Top with cheese. Bake for further 5 minutes in the oven or until cheese is melted and starting to brown. Let cool for several minutes (very important) before serving so the crust will hold together.

Yum!
Yum!

Pizzas are always vegetarian here because Frank rarely eats meat. I love adding colourful vegetables as I believe we eat with our eyes and of course extra antioxidants can’t hurt. I do believe the cauliflower crust tastes better than the regular wheat flour dough, but you might want to try it out to make your judgement. The base holds together perfectly, tasted cheesy and aromatic. The edges are slight crispy while the middle is soft but not really fluffy like regular pizza. It’s a winner! No doubt this will be our regular.

Pizza is more delicious eaten with hands.
Pizza is more delicious eaten with hands.

Oh yeah, cheese is not included in the Paleo diet. But as long as you are not lactose intolerant, there’s no problem consuming dairy at all. In fact most cheeses would have lower content of lactose and you still get the nutritional benefits. So treat yourself once in a while and stick to full fat cheese.

Busy weekend ahead! Shall see you again sometimes next week if I made it through (recovering from respiratory woes no thanks to the crazy hot weather and my easily-overheat-body).

Bacon Bakkwa

It’s the first day of the Chinese (Lunar) New Year and here I would like to wish everyone Happy Year of the Horse! May this year be a successful one filled with joy, good health and prosperity! How are you celebrating your first day? I’ve been drooling at all the CNY feasts and checking out all the pretty outfits and cheongsam my friends have shared over their social media sites.

As for me, I’ve had a small dinner last night with Frank, and today I am spending the day baking at home. My hometown is over an hour flight away and this year I’m remaining in my third home (KL). Thus I don’t really have relatives to visit. I’m meeting up with a few friends tomorrow and didn’t want to go empty-handed, so I prepared something very special for them: Bacon Bakkwa!

Sinful delicious!
Oh will you look at that glistening goodness!

Couple of years ago, a friend of mine brought over a pack of these for me, and it was love at first sight (the Bakkwa not my friend). I heard that people have to queue up to buy these and they are not cheap at all. So I decided to google and found a couple of useful recipes. Turns out it’s incredibly easy to make, and even easier than regular bakkwa! So off I went for an emergency groceries trip and these crazy deliciousness were born. The recipe I was referring to uses a few salty ingredients; I simplified it because Bacon itself should be salty enough. Feel free to adjust to your own taste though.

Bacon Bakkwa
Bacon Bakkwa

Bacon Bakkwa (adapted from I am What I Cook)
300g Streaky Bacon, sliced in half
1/4 Cup Castor Sugar
1/3 Cup Honey
1/2 Cup Water
1 tablespoon 5 Spice Powder
1 teaspoon Shao Xing Wine
1 teaspoon Soy Sauce

Rinse the bacon to get rid of the excess water from the packaging if any, pat dry and set aside.

Mix sugar, honey, water and microwave for a minute to dissolve sugar, then mix in the 5 spice powder and soy sauce.

Coat bacon slices with marinade, cover and leave in fridge overnight (or 12 hours)

Preheat Oven to 200C and bake the bacon slices in batches for about 10 minutes or until caramelized. Drain off the fat, let cool completely and store in airtight container for up to 2 weeks (That’s if you can control yourself not to consume everything at once).

I think you should be able to make this a little more Paleo friendly by omitting sugar and soy sauce, just use more honey or maple syrup. I shall experiment more with these soon!

Beautiful!
Beautiful!

Of course, I had a small piece to taste and they were just as good as the one I was given last time, maybe even better! Chewy, sweet, savoury, smoky, addictive! I have no doubt they will go empty in minutes. Do try this if you want to impress your guests!

Paleo Banana Bread

Over the years of living in KL, I have become a bit of a hermit. If there’s nothing important, I much rather stay home. It probably doesn’t help that when I gig I have to be around a lot of people. So being at home means I can put my feet up and work at my own pace. And because of that, my shopping habit have become quite hermit like too. When it comes to groceries shopping, I either go to the supermarket down the road (5 minutes walk) or for heavy items, order from Tesco.

However, of late I have heard some negative reviews about Tesco, mostly about Tesco delivering items close to (or past) expiry date. Well, my advice is to shop for only fresh fruit and vegetables, drinks, dry goods, household items such as cleaning supplies, toilet papers etc (cat owners would find it useful for buying huge bags of cat litter). I order vegetables all the time and never had a problem with them. Except sometimes they do go a little bit crazy with the sizes. I’ve once received a beetroot the size of a baby head. Last week, I had a massive bunch of bananas delivered to me. Amusement value aside, you know what happens when bananas starts to go a little overripe? It’s perfect time for some Banana Bread!

Paleo Banana Bread
Paleo Banana Bread and my lousy attempt at food styling

Ever since I’ve adapted to Paleo cooking, I have stopped baking desserts and Frank is definitely feeling a little abandoned, food wise. So I thought I’d treat ourselves a little bit by changing our favourite Banana Bread to a Paleo Friendly Version. Well, almost anyway since it’s still got a little bit of added sugar in the form of high grade maple syrup. But the natural sweetness of bananas helps too. I’ve used the same recipe I posted a while ago and just swapped the non paleo ingredients out. To my pleasant surprise, it tastes just as good as the regular banana bread, if not better!

Yum!
Yum!

Paleo Banana Bread
100g Grass-fed Butter, softened
3 tablespoons Organic Maple Syrup
2 eggs
3 large Bananas, mashed
2 cups Almond Meal
1/2 teaspoon Bicarbonate of soda
3 tablespoons Flaxseed
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Preheat oven to 170 degree Celsius. Grease the loaf pan.

Using an electric mixer, beat butter, maple syrup in a bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition until just combined.

Transfer butter mixture to a large bowl. Add banana. Stir with a wooden spoon until just combined. Add almond meal and bicarbonate of soda over butter mixture. Stir until just combined. Add the flaxseed and mix well.

Spoon mixture into prepared pans. Smooth top. Bake for 35 minutes or until a skewer inserted in centre of loaf comes out clean. Stand in pans for 5 minutes. Turn onto a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or toasted with spread.

Fluffy Texture just like 'normal' banana bread
Close up look at the loaf

The texture of this banana bread is a little denser and holds together well. I love the nutty flavour, goes well with bananas. It keeps well overnight, though it was hard for Frank not to finish the whole thing in one setting. No additional spread needed for this, but I’d imagine a little almond butter would be fantastic. Do try this recipe if you feel like baking/eating healthier.

Oh! My new batch of Tesco delivery has arrived! Laters! (Let’s hope the yam I ordered doesn’t come in giant size…)

Paleo Turkey Pot Pie

One of the next best things about Christmas is definitely the leftovers. Sure, they taste really nice as they are the next day too, but it’s more fun when you use a little bit of imagination and give them a new lease of life. It’s no wonder that there are so many leftover turkey recipes out there. This year, I’ve turned my turkey into a delicious Pot Pie. And this is no ordinary Pot Pie as it’s also gluten free and dairy free, aka Paleo friendly.

Since I started trying to eat Paleo, I have kinda stopped making my own pastry. My flour section has been abandoned apart from the occasional use of almond meal. However, for this pot pie I tried a pastry using entirely almond meal and was pleased that the pastry held together pretty well. It does have a different texture compared to gluten version, and goes a bit crumbly when you poke it, but fortunately the taste is great. Most important it is delicious with the comforting filling.

It goes without saying you can subtitute the vegetables as you please, and you can definitely make this with chicken. I had some leftover Spiced Cauliflower Salad and decided to throw that in as well. Yum!

Nom!
Paleo Turkey Pot Pie

For the filling:
1 small onion, chopped
2 clove garlic, minced
2 cups leftover turkey, cut into chunks (mixture of white and dark meat)
1 Carrot, chopped
1 cup Cauliflower florets
1 cup Chicken stock (optional: leftover Turkey gravy to substitute part of the stock)
Handful of Fresh Thyme
1 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1 teaspoon Potato Starch (omit if strictly Paleo)
Salt and Pepper

For the topping (serves 1 only):
50g almond meal
25g Grass-fed Butter (Kerrygold is a pretty good choice)
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon water

In a large pan, heat olive oil and add onion, garlic and carrots with a pinch of salt to sautee until soft. Then add the Turkey chunks, chicken stock, cauliflower, leftover gravy followed by thyme and cayenne pepper. Cook for around 15-20 minutes.

Make a slurry with the potato starch and add to the mixture. Cook for few more minutes until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Delicious Filling, good on their own too with a side of vegetables
Delicious Filling, good on their own too with a side of vegetables

Meanwhile, add almond meal and salt in a bowl. Cut butter into small cubes and rub into the almond meal until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add a little water so the dough come together. Flatten into disc, wrap with clingfilm and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.

When the dough is ready, pour the pot pie filling into a ramekin or small baking dish and seal the pastry around the top. Then place in freezer for further 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 180C, and bake the pot pie for 20 minutes or until the crust is golden. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Mmmmm! So good!
Mmmmm! So good!

You can see that the texture is more cookie like here. Luckily that was all for me!

Tender turkey chunks
Tender turkey chunks full of flavours

I’m only sad that I have no more turkey left and have to wait another year for this! What have you done with your Christmas leftovers?

I am submitting this to the “Baby Sumo’s Christmas Recipes Collection 2013” event.

Roasted Cauliflower – The Pioneer Woman

The ‘star’ featured this month for Cook Like A Star bloghop is Ree Drummond, more commonly known as The Pioneer Woman. I first come across her blog few years ago when I was only starting to get into cooking and sharing food posts online. The way she narrates her stories, the photographs she takes, and the simple dishes she makes were inspiring for me to widen my own repertoire. I like her so much, that I bought both of cookbooks, “The Pioneer Woman Cooks” and “Food from My Frontier”, I have even pre-ordered her latest cookbook “A Year of Holidays”.

There’s only one catch though. Ree cooks in a similar way as Nigella, just in different countries. A lot of the times they use ready-made stuff (sauces for Ree, pastry for Nigella), and tends to be a little bit on the unhealthy side (cream, butter, cheese, sugar, bacon…. all that stuff I’m trying to avoid at the moment), and that was why I haven’t used any of their recipes for ages. I prefer to make things from scratch. Nevertheless when it comes to busy times, Ree’s recipes can be very helpful. I have made the Cajun Chicken Pasta, The Hot & Sweet Drumsticks, Meatloaf (best recipe I’ve tried so far, but I modified it by adding a bit more vegetables), Mac n Cheese (normal and fancy version) and they all worked pretty well.

Flipping through her second cookbook, I bookmarked a few vegetarian side dishes and thought the Roasted Cauliflower looked pretty good and straightforward. A bit too straightforward, even. So I have changed it a little bit to make it tastier.

Roasted Cauliflower
Roasted Cauliflower

Cauliflower is probably not many people’s favourite dish for it’s bland taste. But when cooked right, it can be a good vehicle for flavours. It’s also incredibly good for you: nutritiously dense, it’s low in fat, low in carbohydrates but high in dietary fiber, folate, water, and vitamin C. There has been plenty of studies to demonstrate cancer fighting properties too. So what if this dish contain a little bit of cheese and butter then, right? *wink*

I have halved her recipe for my personal consumption as I ate only that for my lunch today, and it was delicious.

Roasted Cauliflower (adapted from “The Pioneer Woman Cookes – Food from My Frontier” pg 220)
Half cauliflower head, separate into small florets
1 drizzle of olive oil
salt and black pepper
1 sprinkle of ground cumin
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/4 cup of Shredded Mozzarella and Cheddar

Preheat oven to 200C. Spread the cauliflower on a large baking tray and drizzle with olive oil. Add salt and pepper, and ground cumin and toss them evenly.

Olive oil, salt, pepper, before the cumin and turmeric.
All ready to go into the oven.

Roast the cauliflower for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown with some darker parts.

Melt the butter then add the panko bread crumbs and mix well.

Place the cauliflower in a small baking dish top with the cheese, then mound the bread crumbs on top.

Looking pretty good so far, let's take it a bit further.
Looking pretty good so far, let’s take it a bit further.

Roast for 5-10 minutes until the bread crumbs are golden brown on top. Let cool a little before serving.

Love the golden hue!
Love the golden hue!

Not much energy used in preparing this, but the flavours are comforting. The buttery bread crumbs paired so well with the tender cauliflowers. And I think a little bit of cheese just provided a bit more depth of flavour as well as moisture to the dish. I finished this in minutes. Yum.

Can you smell it from here?
Can you smell it from here?

I am submitting this to the “Cook Like Ree Drummond” event which I am co-hosting with Zoe of Bake for Happy Kids and Mich of Piece of Cake. To join, simply cook or bake any recipe from any Ree Drummond websites or cookbooks for the whole month of September 2013. You can link your posts at one of the host’s pages.