Archive for May 2009

One of the best parts of having lived in Singapore was its proximity to everywhere else! Southeast Asian metropolises, ancient cultural sites and exotic holiday destination are a mere 1 1/2-hour plane ride away–and thanks to budget airlines like Tiger Airwats, Air Asia and Jetstar, more than affordable.

A favorite destination for hubby and me is Thailand. On our most recent trip, we were on an island called Koh Phi Phi Don, where for 5 straight days we gorged on, sipped, nibbled and devoured some of the best culinary dishes the island had to offer. One such dish was Gai Pad Ga Prao. Though consisting of only a few ingredients, the mingling of flavors from the ground chicken, basil and fish sauce make for a tasty and tangy combination.

Gai Pad Ga Prao (Thai-style Stir-Fried Chicken and Basil)

recipe from


1 tbsp olive oil

4 cloves garlic

2-30 small Thai chilies, to taste

200 g ground chicken

1 tbsp fish sauce

1 tsp dark black soy sauce

1/4 tsp white sugar

2 handfuls holy basil leaves


1. Smash chilies with a stone mortar and pestle  if you have one, or use the side or back of a knife. Smash garlic, and set aside with the chilies.

2. Clean basil by picking off the leaves and flowers, and discarding the stems. Rinse and set aside.

3. Heat the oil in a pan until very hot on high heat. Throw in the chilies & garlic, and stir until browned. You should sneeze from the chili. (You may want to open a window.)

4. 5When the garlic is ready, add the pork. Break it up in the pan with your spatula, to make sure it cooks evenly. Fry until no longer red.

5. Add sugar, soy sauce & fish sauce. Stir and let absorb.

6. When dry, add the water and the basil leaves. Stir until basil is wilted, and serve on rice.

7. If you want to top with a fried egg, add a bit more oil in the pan, and allow the oil to get very hot. Crack an egg in the middle. If it’s hot enough the egg will bubble up and sizzle. When browned on the edges, flip and wait until browned on the other side.

8. Remove and place on top of the rice.


This is a traditional Swiss pie from the Romandie. It’s quite tricky to get the texture of the custard and the crust right. I made this for D.’s 28th birthday. I hope he likes it!  

Despite appearances (this image is from my pre-photography class days), the pie was a nice combination of creamy, curdy, bounce and crisp crust. 

Makes one 9 inch pie (8-10 slices).

Swiss Custard Pie (Nidlechueche)

300 g flour

1/2 tsp salt

100 g very cold butter

5-6 tbsp cold water


1 tbsp flour

4 tbsp sugar

a dash cinnamon

2 large eggs

300 ml heavy cream

1/4 tsp vanilla


1. Prepare the dough: In a mixing bowl, combine flour and salt.

2. With a knife, flake the butter into the mixing bowl.  Then, with your fingertips, gently rub the butter and flour together until evenly combined (small grains).

3. Add cold water.  Then quickly mix together.  Do not knead.

4. Refrigerate for 1 hour or put into the freezer until completely chilled through.

5. While the dough is chilling, prepare the custard: In a mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients.

6. Whisk in the 2 room temperature eggs, combining well (until dry ingredients are completely dissolved).

7. Add the room temperature heavy cream and vanilla to the mixture.  Mix well.

8. To assemble: Pre-heat oven to 240 deg. C. Grease and flour one 9 inch pie pan.

9. Pour custard into the pie pan.

10. Pour custard into the pie pan.

11. Place pie into the pre-heated oven. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden.

12. Remove from the oven and allow to completely cool. Do not refrigerate.

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I served this for dinner a while back and am only now getting to posting it :). The recipe was inspired by several recipes I browsed at online. All in all, it’s a pretty simple dish to put together. And though I’m not exactly a fan on baked tomatoes, I definitely don’t mind eating this–or anything with ricotta and pan-fried breadcrumbs!

Serves 4 as a starter/side or 2 as a main.

Ricotta Stuffed Baked Tomatoes Topped with Pan Gratata


2 medium tomatoes, halved, seeded and flesh scraped (Reserve 1 tbsp for later.)


1 cup day-old bread, cubed

3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 sprig fresh rosemary

salt and pepper

a generous glug of olive oil

1/4 tsp grated lemon zest


1/2 cup ricotta cheese

2 tbsp parmesan, grated

a handful fresh basil, sliced thinly

salt and pepper, to taste

reserved 1 tbsp tomato flesh


1. Preheat oven to 200 C.

2. For the pan gratata: Prepare the bread in the food processor until bread crumb-sized. 

3. In a heated pan, sauté the garlic and rosemary sprig in olive oil. When you can smell the garlic, add in the bread crumbs. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Sauté the bread crumbs until crisp and golden. Remove the rosemary and set aside. (If you dont like chunks of garlic, leave them whole and remove at the end.)

5. For the filling: Combine all ingredients, stirring well.

6. Assembly: Place the tomato halves into a baking dish. Spoon the ricotta mixture into each tomato half, pushing it in as firmly as you can. Top with the bread crumbs, pushing in with your fingers as well.

7. Bake in the center of the oven until golden and the tomatoes are soft, but not collapsing (about 20 minutes). Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.


I’ve been baking for the office lately and every time I do, there always one guy who NEVER eats what I bring. Now I know why! I just found out he’s lactose intolerant (but is fine with eggs)! So now I’m determined to make a super delicious dessert, namely a moreish carrot cake with a non-dairy coconut cream frosting (from the blog Elana’s Pantry – Yum! For the recipe, I decided to go with one I know will withstand all tests – Dorie Greenspan’s recipe for carrot cake.

About the frosting–honestly, this cake doesn’t need it. It’s luscious and decadent without it. Next time, I’ll just make the cake.

Bill’s Big Carrot Cake with Vegan Coconut Cream Frosting (adapted from a Dorie Greenspan recipe and Elana’s Pantry recipe)


2 cups all purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp cinnamon

3/4 tsp salt

3 cups grated carrots

1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans

1 cup shredded coconut, unsweetened

1/2 cup moist, plump raisins or cranberries

1 handful dates, finely chopped

2 cups sugar

1 cup canola oil

4 large eggs


1 cup coconut milk

1 cup honey (or agave nectar)

a pinch of salt

5 tsp cornstarch

1 tbsp water

1 1/4 cups coconut oil


1. Getting ready: Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter three 9 x 2 inch round cake pans, flour the insides, and tap out the excess. Put the two pans on one baking sheet and one on another.

2. To make the cake: Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl, stir together the carrots, chopped nuts, coconut, and raisins.

3. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the sugar and oil together on a medium speed until smooth. Add the eggs one by one and continue to beat until the batter is even smoother. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, mixing only until the dry ingredients disappear. 

4. Gently mix the chunky ingredients. Divide the batter among the baking pans.

5. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, rotating the pans from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point, until a thin knife inserted into the centers comes out clean. The cakes will have just started to come away from the sides of the pans. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes and unmold them. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up. The cakes can be wrapped airtight and kept at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.

6. To make the frosting: In a medium saucepan, heat coconut milk, agave and salt, simmer for 10 minutes.

7. In a small bowl, combine arrowroot and water to form a smooth paste. Pour arrowroot mixture into saucepan. 

8. Mix contents of saucepan with a hand blender and bring to a boil, briefly. Remove pot from heat and very gradually blend in coconut oil. Place pot in freezer for 20 to 30 or 30 to 40 minutes, until frosting solidifies and turns white. 

9. Remove from freezer and blend again, until fluffy. 

10. To assemble the cake: Put one layer top side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper. If you added the coconut to the frosting, use half of the coconut frosting to generously cover the first layer (or generously cover with plain frosting). Use an offset spatula or a spoon to smooth the frosting all the way to the edges of the layer. Top with the second layer, this time placing the cake stop side down, and frost with the remainder of the coconut frosting or plain frosting. Top with the last layer, right side up, and frost the top and the sides of the cake. Finish the top with swirls of frosting. If you want to top the cake with toasted nuts or coconut, sprinkle them on now while the frosting is soft. Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes, just to set the frosting before serving.

11. Serving: This cake can be served as soon as the frosting is set. It can also wait, at room temperature and covered with a cake keeper overnight. The cake is best served in thick slices at room temperature and while its good plain, its even better with vanilla ice cream or some lemon curd.

12. Storing: The cake will keep at room temperature for 2 to 3 days. It can also be frozen. Freeze it uncovered, then when its firm, wrap airtight and freeze for up to 2 months. Defrost, still wrapped, overnight in the refrigerator.



Posted on: May 31, 2009

My quest towards becoming a bread baking wonder continues with this ciabatta bread. I found the recipe on a fave Swiss blog of mine called Rosa’s Yum Yums. I’ll admit to having been a little scared to start at first–the idea of preparing a sponge the night before being a completely new experience for me. At the end of the day though, the results make it all worth it. 

The dough is a finicky one, but once you’ve got the technique down, all will be swell! As doughs go, it’s a very wet one. Just be patient with it and don’t expect anything near “smooth and elastic” from this dough. It’s sticky and will cling to everything–so flour generously (don’t go too crazy though) and don’t mess with it all too much. Also key here is proof time. You will need the full amount–the longer you wait, the lighter the bread.

As for the end result, this bread is absolutely lovely. It’s light, has those beautiful air bubbles and is so crispy–it makes me think of being back in Italy! I’ve made it on several occasions, including for a few dinner parties. I always bake it right before guests start arriving, so that it’ll be warm for and ready for munching during cocktails and appetizers.


Makes 2 loaves.



1/8 tsp dry yeast

2 tbsp warm water (110-115F)

1/3 cup water at room-temperature

1 cup bread flour

Bread Mix

1/2 tsp dry yeast

2 tbsp warm milk (110-115F)

2 cups bread flour

2/3 cup water at room-temperature

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp table salt


1. The night before, begin your sponge. First, mix together yeast and warm water. Let stand for 5 minutes.

2. In a small bowl, combine bread flour yeast-water mixture and room-temperature water. Stir well for 4 minutes.

3. Cover sponge with plastic wrap and store at room temperature for at least 12 hours.

4. For the Bread: Combine the yeast and warm milk, stirring well. Let stand for 5 minutes or until creamy.

5. In a stand mixer (using dough hook), combine bread flour, sponge, room-temperature water and olive oil. Mix on medium-speed for 4 minutes.

6. Add salt and continue mixing for another 4 minutes.

7. With a spatula, spoon dough into a large well-greased glass bowl. (It will be quite wet). Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to double in size (1-1 1/2 hours) at room temp.

8. Prepare your baking tray: Line the tray with parchment paper, dusting generously with flour.

9. With a spatula, spoon dough onto parchment and divide into half. Form into two oval shapes. Dust again generously with flour. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to double at room temp. (1-1 1/2 hours).

10. 45 minutes before baking, preheat your oven and oven tray to 250 C.

11. Remove plastic wrap from dough. (It will stick a bit, despite flour dusting; just remove it slowly and gently.) Place tray into preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, first on the bottom half and with bottom heat, for 10-15 minutes. A good indication that it is ready to be moved is if the bottom is golden and crisp when tapped with a knife.

12. During the last 5-10 minutes of baking, switch heat to the top. Allow loaf to turn a nice golden color. 

13. Remove bread from oven and place on a rack and allow to cool a bit before serving.

I am moving to San Francisco! Left Singapore this last Tuesday and am visiting with the parents for a week before driving down to the foodie mecca that is SF! 

It’s only been 4 days, but I find myself gritting my teeth and wanting to pull my hair out sometimes what with all the constant ‘catch up’ chatting I’ve been doing. Don’t get me wrong–I missed them terribly while I was a world away in Asia. (Singapore is just too far away.)–I am just so ready to start my new life in SF and couldn’t be more excited about all the adventures that are coming my way!

Anyhow, to fill my time, I decided to do a little baking. Mind you, I have none of my supplies, no scale,  don’t have the kind of ingredients I’m used to having…and it’s not my kitchen! After a quick inventory and raid of my mom’s pantry, freezer and fridge, I came up with the idea of making  citrusy blueberry banana muffins of sorts. Not surprisingly, there are tons of recipes for just such a craving.

The recipe I chose to test out this time is from a great, little website called “Dragon’s Kitchen”. I followed the recipe (to the best of my ability anyway), though left out the sugar-lemon zest topping, and produced these:


Upon first glance, they look more cake-y/quickbread than muffin. And upon first taste, that is what they turned out to be! Alas, this is what happens when I bake without my almighty scale! 

Here are the issues I encountered:

1) My mom only had jumbo eggs. Though I know that a large egg weighs roughly 60+g, without my scale, I had to guess (gasp!!)

2) I had to use a measuring cup to measure out the flour, which I think led to my adding too much flour. And to think–I used to SCORN metric-based recipes. It was not until I really started getting into baking that I realized how scientific baking really is and how helpful a scale is in maintaining exactness.

3) I only had 1 banana.

In any case, the resulting batter was a bit thick. Though I tried to remedy this by adding a little banana yogurt, I’m not sure it did any good in the end. 

All in all, I’d say it’s unfair of me to judge this recipe based on my results. The muffins themselves are tasty–mildly sweet and moist–however, they’re a bit too dense for me and texture-wise feel more like a quickbread than muffins.

Oh, well. Once I settle in SF and get my kitchen back in order, I definitely plan on trying the recipe again. If you decide to try it, do let me know how it goes for you!

Lemony Blueberry Banana Muffins (from Dragon’s Kitchen)

2 1/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large ripe bananas, mashed
2 eggs
2/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup blueberries
2 tablespoons grated lemon rind
3 tablespoons sugar


1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Lightly grease muffin tin.

2. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and 1 tablespoon of the lemon rind.

3. Beat together bananas, eggs, brown sugar, butter, lemon juice and vanilla until blended.

4. Stir in dry ingredients until blended. Stir in blueberries just until combined. Spoon into prepared muffin cups, dividing batter equally.

5. For the topping, combine sugar and remaining lemon rind in small dish. Sprinkle evenly over the muffins.

6. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden.




In Switzerland, there’s bread and then there’s Zuepfe. I lived in the country for 4 years; I even married a Swiss man–and yet, I still don’t understand the distinction. It’s a really dense, milky butter yeast bread that is great eaten slathered with buttered and layered on with ripe Gruyere or is tasty just on its own, still slightly warm from the oven. Thinking about it, I suppose it really is more than just bread. It’s hearty, it’s rich, and is a staple for every Sunday breakfast or brunch.

Confusion aside, Bernese Zuepfe is the ultimate in yeast breads. Not being Swiss myself, Zuepfe making and baking did not come naturally. It took quite a few tries (i.e. failures) and taste tests to get it just right. I knew I had finally arrived when I served it for the in-laws. Crisp and golden on the outside, good tearing consistency on the inside, and a buttery, yeasty flavor–the entire loaf was devoured!

The key to this bread is proofing–well-risen dough will produce a light and airy loaf. Adding a little egg yolk to the dough supposedly makes it even lighter; however, this also makes the loaf go stale faster. I’m also convinced that using really good butter and fresh yeast yields a better product.

Bernese Sunday Loaf (Berner Zuepfe) (Recipe from TipTopf)


500 g plain flour (I use bread flour)

1 1/2 coffee-spoonfuls salt

1 coffee-spoonful sugar

60 g unsalted butter, at room temp.

15 g fresh yeast or 2 tsp active dry

300 ml lukewarm milk

1 egg lightly whisked, plus 1/2 an egg yolk


1. Warm the milk for 20 seconds in the microwave. Stir in the yeast and let stand for 15 minutes or until slightly frothy.

2. In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, mix flour salt and sugar.

3. Cut in the butter. Use your fingertips to work the butter and flour in together, creating a uniform mixture.

4. Add a little egg into your yeast and milk mixture. Mix.

5. Make a well in the flour mixture. Pour in the liquids. Knead for 10 minutes (by hand or in stand mixer) until the dough is smooth and elastic.

6. Place dough in a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise until doubled in size.

7. Once dough has risen, place it onto a clean surface and cut in half. Roll the dough back and forth with your hands until you end up with two  equal-lengthed 18 inch snake-like strands. The middle of the strands should be thicker and the ends, thinner.

8. Braid the dough. Place it on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate and let rise for 15 minutes. (This last proof is optional.)

9. Then with remaining egg, brush two layers of egg onto the dough.

10. Place braid in cold oven, set oven to 220 C and bake for 35 to 45 minutes.

11. Remove the bread, knocking on the bottom for doneness. It should sound hollow. Allow to cool and then slice and serve!



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  • Mama Leah: Well, my darling, I am extremely impressed and inspired. I, of course, don't have one iota of the culinary skills that you have (except for baking, b
  • saffronandbasil: Thanks for the recipe. By the way, LOVE LOVE your site.