Sunday, November 30, 2008

Heaven's fingers and my fourth Daring Bakers' challenge - caramel cake

Someone's idea of a snowman with an identity crisis? This was taken earlier this week at the lake park in Cham.

Fingers of God or rays from heaven -- call them what you will, there's no denying that shafts of sunlight breaking through clouds and slipping between trees are one of Nature's quiet wonders.

Here are two pictures were taken by my other half on Zugerberg (Mount Zug), several kilometers from where we live, a couple of weeks ago. By now, there's some week-old snow on the ground in the lowlands but the mountains seen from afar seem to be freshly dusted with white every few days or so.

OK, who took a bite out of my cupcake?!

As for my fourth Daring Bakers' challenge, it was an exercise in reducing amounts of sugar. My other half does not like his cakes very sweet and frosting doesn't rock his boat. Me? I will tell you innocently I don't like very sweet things either, but then I happily finished the leftover browned butter frosting on crackers and such over the following couple of days.

Making the caramel itself was a scary thing. The sugar and water were heated till they turned amber (very hot!), and then cold water was added to stop the caramelization process. (That's when it spits and sputters.) So, following someone's tip, I placed a piece of foil with a hole in the centre over the caramel pot and poured in the cold water. That prevented me from jumping back.

CREDITS: This month’s challenge was courtesy of the author Shuna Fish Lydon’s recipe ( … he-recipe/)

Hosts this month are Dolores (, Alex (Brownie of the Blondie and Brownie duo: and Jenny of Foray into Food ( Thank you!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Cool days and hot saucy curry

Foggy afternoon on Mount Zug makes a mysterious picture.

Going for walks between meadows and by the lake is a balm for the soul. As the seasons change, you note the greening or yellowing of leaves. Now, between autumn and winter, the trees are like bears - they're tired and want to go to sleep for a few months. The flowering plants have packed up their petals, seeds and buds like they've brought in their dried laundry and folded them away. At the lake, different birds come and go, and you watch the cheeping cygnets getting as big as their mute elders but they're still innocent enough to let you gently touch their downy heads as you feed them morsels of bread.

When the days are turning chilly, one thinks of something warm and spicy to tuck into in the evenings. I've recently experimented with salmon in a curry. The smooth, oily texture of salmon and its rich flavour are tastily balanced by the pungency of onions, chilli and ginger and the aromas of turmeric and cumin.

Salmon Curry

80g shallots or purple onion, chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped roughly
2 dried chillis, presoaked for 10 minutes in freshly boiled hot water and deseeded (sub with another fresh red chilli)
1.5cm ginger root, skinned and chopped
2 stalks lemongrass, thinly sliced cross-section

300g fresh salmon
2 tbs sunflower seed cooking oil (or other neutral-tasting vegetable oil)

1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
3/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp powdered cumin
1/2 tsp powdered coriander (sub cumin and coriander with 2 tsp seafood curry powder, or add it if you like it very spicy)
3 star anise
4 cloves, or 1/4 tsp powdered clove
10 slices vegetable of your choice (fennel, okra or brinjal)
1 medium tomato, cut into chunks
100ml water
2 slices dried tamarind or sour fruit, soaked in hot water (sub with lime juice)
100ml coconut milk
Sea salt to taste

Pulse the shallots/onion, chillies, ginger and lemongrass in a blender or with a Stabmixer, adding a bit of the coconut milk to help the blades to move.
Panfry the fish in 1 tbs of the oil on a frying pan on medium-high heat for two minutes each side. Set aside.
In a medium pot, heat 1 tbs of oil and cook the spices on medium heat for a minute, taking care not to burn them.
Add the shallot mixture and stir for 6 minutes on medium-low heat.
Add tamarind and vegetables of your choice. Cook for 2 minutes. Add tomato, water and cook till hardest vegetable is almost tender.
Taste to see if tangy note is to your liking. Add some of the tamarind soaking water if necessary.
Add fish, rest of coconut milk and half teaspoon salt. Cook for five minutes.
Adjust taste with salt and thickness of sauce with water if necessary.
Serve hot with rice, roti canai or roti jala. Add a squeeze of lime at the table if you like it tangier. ;-P

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Murukku made by madness

Murukku cocka-doodle-do! That's almost the sound of my alarm clock in the morning (cellphone actually). Just before Deepavali recently, the Hindu festival of lights, I was inspired to make Murukku, a semi-spicy and savoury snack of Indian origin. During the festival period when I was living in Malaysia, Hindu colleagues and friends would ply me with the wonderfully aromatic snack. One can't eat enough of it!

Crazy enough to stink up the flat with deep-frying, I used a recipe from, pressing the dough out from a cookie pump (another round of eye-gouging cleaning, I tell you) directly into the hot oil. Dangerous work, this. However, I did not have bean flour at hand, so I used only rice flour added with a couple of tablespoons of wheat flour. It was pretty nice and crispy but oily.

A couple of days later (having recovered from an almost sore throat after eating too much deep-fried Murukku), I toyed with the idea of baking Murukku in the oven.

Here's the recipe I ended up with:

Oven-Baked Murukku

200g rice flour (sub with all-purpose flour)
2 tbs wheat flour (sub with cornflour)
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp aniseed
1 tsp powdered cumin
1/2 tsp powdered coriander or fennel
3/4 tsp chilli powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder (optional)
4 tsp dried chopped curry leaf (optional)
1 tsp ground Himalaya or kosher salt
4 tbs gently melted butter
120ml coconut milk or half cream (more might be necessary depending on absorbency of flour)

Celtic Murukku, anyone?

Preheat oven to 160 degrees C.
In a medium bowl, mix rice and wheat flours, baking powder, spices, curry leaf and salt. Drizzle melted butter over the flour mixture. Slowly add coconut milk and stir with a fork. Add a bit more coconut if necessary to achieve a consistency that enables you to pipe the dough out of a cookie pump with a small serrated nozzle.
Line an oven tray with a baking sheet. Pipe coils or long strands as your fancy takes you. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the Murukku is lightly browned and crispy when cooled on a wire rack.

Rorscharch test Murukku - what does your Murukku pattern say about you? ;-)

Camouflaged Murukku - hiding from voracious snackers!

My old living-room

My old living-room
In Petaling Jaya, Malaysia

A cherished dream

A cherished dream
To live on a pale beach by a crystal clear sea. (This was taken on the east coast of Johor state, Malaysia.)