Brownie Points.

So DH made a request for some kind of pudding to be purchased on my food shop on Friday, and I decided to do one better and make a chocolate brownie. Yes, from scratch.

I have blogged about various cooking/baking ventures in the past and I can confidently say I am not a big fan of dessert. I much prefer to rustle up a meal, as ingredients tend to give or take. There is no forgiveness with a cake.

I decided to follow the Hummingbird Bakery‘s recipe (see link for full ingredients and instructions). This was my second attempt at baking something from this book, after I had a go at chocolate cupcakes.

Melt the dark chocolate with the butter in a heat proof bowl over simmering water, making sure that the bowl does not touch the water.

Once melted, remove the bowl from the pan. Add the sugar and mix, then add the flour and mix. Finally, crack the three eggs and stir until thick and smooth. Pour the mixture into a cake tin lined with grease proof paper; you might want to spread it over two, like I have, to make a thinner brownie.

The book says to cook for 35 minutes at 170°C/325°F/gas mark 3, however mine was in there for an hour despite my efforts to make the brownie thinner.

All in all I think it was pretty successful. Maybe next time I’ll choose a shallow cake tin to make sure the centre of the brownie isn’t too gooey. Despite this, it set perfectly fine and tasted absolutely delicious with vanilla ice-cream. Yum.

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That’s How I Roll.

When thinking of your favourite typical Chinese food, spring rolls will probably come to mind. However, the Western take on spring rolls is to submerge it in oil and hope for the best. If you have not tried spring rolls in a reputable restaurant (not a Chinese take-away) or from an old Chinese grandma (all old Chinese people are great cooks), you have not come close to the real thing. I have always been a bit snobby when it comes to Chinese food, but I think it is to be expected as I am of Chinese descent.

I hope to one day become a fine cook and connoisseur of Chinese cuisine, so I thought I would tackle my first hurdle and try my hand at making spring rolls.

Ingredients:

 800g of pork mince

20 king prawns

4 spring onions

2 grated carrots

100g cornstarch sticks

40g black fungus

8 seafood sticks

1 clove of garlic

1 tsp of cornflower

A splash of soy sauce

pinch of salt

ground pepper

1 pack of spring roll pastry sheets (usually 30 sheets in a pack)

egg white

vermicelli noodles (optional, to eat with your spring rolls)

Vietnamese fish sauce (optional, to eat with your spring rolls)

shredded little gem lettuce (optional, to eat with your spring rolls)

What’s next?

An hour before you start making the spring rolls, soak the black fungus and cornstarch sticks separately in boiling hot water. This will help them soften and it will be quicker to cook later on.

Prepare the king prawns and add them to the food processor with the pork mince, spring onions, chopped garlic, cornflower, soy sauce, salt and ground pepper. You may have to do this in batches, as I found I had too many ingredients to fit the bowl.

Shred the seafood sticks and grate the carrots, or get your husband to do it… After soaking the cornstarch sticks, boil for a few minutes until they become soft and transparent. The longer they are immersed in water, the better, however I only soaked them for an hour.

Add the cornstarch sticks, black fungus and grated carrots to the prawns/pork mixture and stir well until fully incorporated.

Now you are already to start wrapping. Place the mixture onto a sheet of pastry in a long rectangular shape and fold the bottom corner over the mixture.

Fold in both sides to envelope the mixture.

Roll pastry tightly to ensure the mixture is compact. When you reach the end of the pastry, dab a small amount of egg white to make sure it sticks.

Repeat thirty times until you have used up all of the mixture and pastry sheets…

Cooking the spring rolls requires lots of oil and a big pan, if you do not own a deep fat fryer. My grandma cooks them in a wok but we settled for a large saucepan instead. Do not question the use of the potato masher below, I am only an amateur cook!

If you use a large wok or a deep fat fryer, you will most probably shorten your cooking time. It took us quite a while to get through all thirty!

We ate our spring rolls with vermicelli noodles, little gem lettuce and Vietnamese fish sauce (known as Bún Chả Giò in Vietnam), but of course you can eat them with anything you desire.

Wonton Soup.

I finally invested in a food processor (my previous handheld mixer died) and inevitably this was going to result in another food post. I decided to make Wonton Soup without following a structured recipe, but instructions from my Grandma which is near enough the same thing.

Ingredients:

For the dumplings:

20 king prawns

200g pork mince (half of the small box)

1 clove of garlic

2 spring onions

1 tsp of cornflower

1/2 tbsp of oyster sauce

pinch of salt

ground pepper

1 pack of wonton sheets (usually 30 sheets in a pack)

egg white

For the soup:

Water (use your judgment for how much you need)

Dash of soy sauce

1/2 vegetable stock cube

What’s next?

Start off by preparing the prawns – You will need to de-shell them and remove the intestines (as shown in my previous post). Once this is done, add the prawns, pork mince, spring onions, chopped garlic, cornflower, oyster sauce, salt and ground pepper into the food processor. You can add other ingredients too, so do not feel restricted.

Blend the mixture until it turns into one clump.

Place small scoops of the mixture in the centre of the wonton sheets. Dampen the corners of the sheets with water and bring two of the corners together to a point. Then bring the other two corners together and wrap them around. There are various techniques to folding wonton sheets, the key thing is to make sure the filling is fully concealed and the sheet is wrapped tightly.

Thirty wonton dumplings is an excessive amount for me to eat, so I have stored them in boxes of ten in the freezer.

To cook the dumplings, all you need to do is place them into boiling water for approximately five minutes; they should float to the top once they are done. To make the soup, simply boil the water, add the soy sauce and vegetable stock and simmer for a few minutes. Pour into a bowl and wonton dumplings once they are cooked, sprinkle some spring onions as a garnish and there you have your wonton soup!

Icing on the Cake.

I was given The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook a while ago but have only used it as a picture book, not daring to actually make one of their magnificent cakes. A few days ago I decided I would try a simple recipe (you can follow the same recipe as the book on the websites I found) and make vanilla cupcakes, but instead of the vanilla frosting they suggest, I made chocolate.

Here are my ingredients. For a detailed list, please refer to the websites I have linked above.

After mixing the  flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter together, it looked something like this.

Once the egg, vanilla extract and milk have been incorporated, I spooned the mixture into paper cases.

Whilst they were baking in the oven, I prepared the chocolate frosting. When beating the icing sugar, butter and cocoa powder together and adding the milk, it may appear that the mixture is too dry. It is deceiving you and after a further few minutes beating the mixture together, the frosting will form perfectly.

After the cupcakes are cooked through and have cooled down, spread the chocolate frosting on top and sprinkle the hundreds and thousands.

Quick Fix.

As you know, I am rather pernickety when it comes to DS’ diet. Pizza is not something I would usually allow, however when it is homemade you know exactly what goes in, and what stays out. I am not a big fan of pizza bases, so I use ready rolled puff pastry. You can also buy ready rolled pastry especially for pizzas if you prefer. These can generally be found in the same aisle as butter in the supermarket; it took me quite some time to figure this out.

Making a pizza only takes ten minutes and it is self-explanatory so I will avoid going into too much detail. The main parts are the base, tomato purée, toppings and cheese. I use this as a great opportunity to add healthy toppings DS would not normally eat; as it all fuses together into the melted cheese, DS is oblivious of what he is actually eating. It is not that he dislikes the taste of certain food, but he finds the colour or texture most peculiar. If he was a talking child and you asked him whether he liked red peppers, he would probably say no. Little does he know, he eats these on a regular basis. I am not convinced when children say they dislike particular foods. Fussy eaters start from an early age, especially when parents make a point of avoiding certain foods.

Before

After

I also made roast potatoes and peas to accompany the pizza. Depending on how you chop the potatoes, you can also make wedges. Once chopped boil until soft, then add a generous dash of olive oil, a pinch of salt and black pepper. I sometimes add herbs such as basil, sage or parsley, when it is fitting. When all the seasoning has added, put the lid on the pan and shake; this makes the potatoes fluffy once cooked. Place in the oven at gas mark 7 (200 degrees Celsius) for 30-40 minutes, or until golden.

Le Lasagne.

We have been making them for many years now but lasagne is still one of my favourite dishes. Prior to meeting DH, I would insist that I did not like lasagne and refused to eat it. This stems from my previous experiences of lasagne in my old school canteen and those pre-made packets from M&S you shove in the oven. But now I have had a change of heart and I can assure you, my homemade lasagne tastes delicious and nothing like those artificial meals.

Ingredients:

4 lasagne sheets

400g beef mince

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

1 onion

3 mushrooms

garlic (however much you like)

an array of vegetables (this is optional – it will be fine with just the onion, mushrooms and garlic, however I like to mix in lots of veg for variance. This time I included baby sweetcorn, leek, red pepper and spinach)

grated cheese

For the white sauce:

knob of butter

1/2 tsp of plain flour

5oz of milk (add more as needed)

What next?

Heat the pan, add some oil and start cooking the mince. After it has browned a little, pour in the whole tin of chopped tomatoes and allow it to simmer whilst you chop your veg. You can also pre-heat your oven to gas mark 7 or 200 degrees Celsius.

Add the veg, minus the spinach, to the pan and stir. Do not allow it to boil, keep at a medium heat for around 20 minutes. As the mixture simmers, the flavours will absorb into the chopped tomatoes and the mince will become tender.

Whilst this is cooking, you can start to make your white sauce. Add the knob of butter into a saucepan and allow it to melt. Once melted, add the pain flour and mix it together. As it turns into small clumps, slowly add the milk and stir as you go. Keep this at a low heat because you do not want it to boil. After a few minutes, the sauce should thicken. If it becomes too runny, add some grated cheese.

Once the white sauce has been made and the mince/veg are ready, you can now start preparing your casserole dish. Cover the base with a layer of mince, followed by a sheet of lasagne, then spread the white sauce on top.

Continue layering until you have reached the top of your casserole dish. I usually do mince, lasagne sheet, white sauce, spinach, lasagne sheet, mince, white sauce and so on. The reason behind putting the spinach within the layers is so it keeps its shape.

Once you have piled it high, sprinkle lots of grated cheese on top. It is now ready for the oven! Cook for approximately 30 minutes, but obviously regularly check just in case.

Once it is cooked, it should look something like this… Yum.

 

Chicken Tonight.

I have been seeking an alternative sauce to include in my rice dishes for DS, without it being too flavoursome (he dislikes strong tastes) or too bland. My grandma has taught me how to make a very tasty dish, which is incredibly simple and only takes a few minutes to cook.

Ingredients:

A small portion of diced chicken – however much you think you/your baby can eat (I tend to use thighs as I find the breast very dry)

An array of vegetables (I tend to use whatever I have in the fridge. This time I used baby sweetcorn, cauliflower and baby spinach)

Thai Fragrant Jasmine Rice (measure as needed)

1 tsp of potato flour

2-3oz of water

dash of soy sauce

1 tbsp of oyster sauce

You can buy these ingredients from some Tesco stores or any Chinese/Asian shop. I only know of the Asian Market on Queen Street in Gravesend and Thais ‘R’ Us on Lower Bridge Street in Canterbury, other than the obvious China Town in London.

What next?

You need to start cooking your rice first as this will take longer. If you have a rice cooker, use a little more water and throw in your vegetables with the rice. If not, then you can boil them together in a saucepan.

All cooked.

Using a very sharp knife, dice and mince the chicken so that it forms into tiny clumps. It does not need to be neat, just turned into manageable pieces for your baby. Heat the pan with a dash of oil, then toss in the pieces of chicken with the oyster sauce. After a few minutes of browning the chicken, mix the potato flour with the water and add to the pan. Next add a splash of soy sauce, give it a stir and leave to cook on medium heat.

Continue to stir the chicken in the sauce until you think it is done. Make sure you do not overcook it as the sauce will thicken and become gloppy. Once the rice is cooked, it is ready to be served!