Chinese pickle – turnip, carrot and cucumber


Sushi has become a very common choice for meals these days, for its multitude of flavours and healthy ingredients (perhaps not so the fried pork cutlet with layers of fat-ladden mayo).
Surprisingly, J doesn’t like sushi and I still haven’t figured out exactly why. With her new found love for prawns, I might try a prawn salad filling next time to tempt her. Except she might unpick the whole thing and eat just the prawns. Well that will be an entirely different post and I digress.
One evening I served an extra dish of scallop sushi – bought from Sushi Pac as a reward for S – and J frowned and asked me what the pink coloured slices on the side of the box were.
“They are ginger slices, pickled in vinegar.” and J replied,
“Oh life can be a real pickle, eh?” I was stunned! Where did she pick this up from? So I ask,
“Who taught you this?”
“er…Linda!” (her teacher at childcare)
“Do you know what it means?”
“Yes it means sometimes, some things shouldn’t break, you know, but some things then break! We don’t know what to do. That’s a pickle!” she said a matter of factly.

I was made speechless by that explanation, and was inspired to make some pickled turnip, carrot and cucumber.

Ingredients
600g turnip (about half of a large one) – in Chinese it is called ‘white carrot’
2 carrots
1 small cucumber
2 tbsp salt
750 ml apple cidar vinegar
2 3/4 cups sugar

Peel the carrots and cut them into logs: about finger-length and half centimeter by half centimeter wide. Half the cucumber lengthwise and scoop the seeds out and discard. Cut the cucumber into same size as the carrots. Sprinkle about 2 tbsp of salt over the vegetables and gently massage it in. This draws the moisture content out and makes a nice crunchy pickle. Leave this in a colander to drain for 30 minutes.

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In the mean time, pour the apple cider vinegar into a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Add sugar in, stir to dissolve it. Turn off the heat and let it cool.

Give the vegetables a good firm squeeze and use paper towels to dry them further. Put these in a large glass jar, and pour the cooled pickle solution in. Leave overnight in fridge.

Serve with anything really. After all, you never know what kind of pickle life is going to throw at you.

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Chinese Poached Chicken


This is a dish where most of the cooking is done without spending too much time in front of the stove. You can work on your other dishes while this is cooking. Yes you have a bit of chopping and tearing to do in the end, but to me it is time well spent for a healthy, delicious and succulent dish. Chicken cooked like this remains very moist and tender. J loves this.

Ingredients:
1 size 14 whole chicken
2 litres chicken stock
2 teaspoon salt
8 whole black peppercorns
1 stalk of green onions, chopped into finger long lengths
5 slices of ginger
Enough water to cover the chicken

Dipping Sauce:
5 Tbsp oil
2 stalks of green onions, chopped into small thin rounds
4 slices of ginger, chopped into small pieces
3 tsp salt

Garnish (optional):
Cucumber ribbons
Coriander
Spring onions
Garlic chilli sauce
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Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking and cooling time: 1 hour and 10 minutes

Instructions:

1. Place the chicken, chicken stock, salt, peppercorns, green onions, ginger in a large stockpot and set it over high heat. Add enough water to cover the chicken.
2. Bring this to a boil, reduce heat to a low simmer, and cook for about 1 hour until the chicken is still very tender. Skim the surface of any foam. (If you own a Thermos cooker, then you would bring this to a boil for 5 minutes, take it off the heat and place it in the outer shell of the Thermos cooker for an hour).
3. Remove the chicken and place in a large bowl. Chill it with cold water. Replace water a few times until the chicken has cooled down.
4. Once the chicken is cool to the touch, set it in a large bowl.
5. If you don’t like eating chicken skin, gently remove it and discard.
6. Remove the wings and drums off. Reserve for plating.
7. Tease the two breasts off the bones – they should come off quite easily if the chicken is cooked. (If there are any signs of an undercooked chicken, you can put the whole chicken in the microwave for a short 30 seconds to finish the cooking process.) Set aside.
8. Continue to remove all the meat off the bones. Discard all bones.
9. Slice the chicken meat into thin pieces. Plate up with wings and drums on the side.
10. Make your dipping sauce by heating the oil in a small pan. Add the chopped green onions, ginger and salt. Fry until it is fragrant, about 1 minute.
11. Pour this into a dipping sauce dish, and serve with chicken.
12. Best served with hot rice and optional garnish of cucumber ribbons, coriander, extra spring onions and hot chilli sauce.

Blackcurrant macaron with grape jelly and chocolate ganache


We went up to the Matakana Farmers Market last weekend and tried some gorgeous local produce. I was really inspired by the produce and picked up some macadamia meal and grape gelly for my next macaron taste adventure. I made some simple variations to my basic macaron recipe:

Macaron shells
90 g almond meal
60 g macadamia meal
144 g icing sugar
6 g freeze dried Blackcurrant powder
58 g egg whites extra

Italian meringue
58 g egg whites (about 1.5 egg)
1 g meringue powder
150 g caster sugar
38 g water
2 drops of Rose coloring gel
1 drop of Violet coloring gel

I substituted 6 g of icing sugar with 6g of freeze dried Blackcurrant powder and did something I haven’t done before – instead of sifting, I blitzed the almond, macadamia meal, icing sugar and Blackcurrant powder until it is a fine powder.

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Put the first lot of egg whites into your stand mixer.
Into a milk saucepan, put the water and caster sugar in and dissolve the sugar over a low heat. Some recipes say you should stir this gently – I’ve found that so long as I didn’t splash the sugar around, I won’t even have to stir. Use a clean pastry brush to brush down the side of the saucepan to avoid any crystallization if the liquid splashes up. Clip the sugar thermometer according to manufacturer’s instructions. Increase the heat and bring to the boil.
To make reddish-coloured shells, I added the gel colourings to my Italian meringue. The amount depends on the strength of your gel, what depth of colour you desire and how it mixes with other ingredients. Practice is the only way to test it out. I scrapped tiny balls out using a tooth pick.

Cook the sugar syrup until it reaches 70°C. You should monitor your sugar thermometer, and as it reaches this temperature, add the meringue powder to the egg whites and whisk in medium until it becomes frothy.

Once the sugar syrup has reached 118°C (soft ball stage), take the saucepan off the heat, decrease the mixer speed to medium and slowly trickle the sugar syrup in, down the side of the bowl. (Be warned not to get the syrup onto the whisk as you will then have spun sugar.) Increase speed to high and whisk until the bowl is warm to touch, about 8 minutes.

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Add the extra egg white to the almond meal mix, then add the meringue and use a large spatula to thoroughly combine it. Continue folding the mixture to soften the meringue. To achieve “macaronnage”, I mixed the batter about 18 times. Don’t over do this.

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Today I waited for 30 minutes for a nice skin to be formed.

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I fan-baked them at 125°C, for 18 minutes. As I have 3 sheets in total, I decided to bake the first in by itself, and then this time add the two last trays in after 6 minutes to see if that changes the results. The macarons in the trays that were baked last were a little bit stickier than the sheet that went in first but still ok wit an extra minute in the oven. I think I will stick with baking them individually next time and only resort to time-cutting measures if I run out of time again.

Once out of the oven, the macarons were left for 2 minutes on its trays before I checked them. They peeled off the baking paper quite easily. I then slid the whole sheet off the baking sheet onto my cool marble counter top. This causes a thermal shock and will make it even easier to peel off.

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I paired this with a chocolate ganache, and the recipe follows:

150g chocolate, chopped
150ml cream
Melt cream in a pot and pour over the chopped chocolate. Let it sit for 2 minutes until the chocolate melts. Mix till the ganache is smooth. Cool in the fridge for 30 minutes until firm for piping.

In the meantime, I used a small icing spatula to lift off thin sections of the grape jelly. I placed these on one pair of the domes and piped the chocolate ganache onto the other pair of the domes.

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These need to be kept in the fridge for 24 hours for the ganache to flavour the shells, so don’t eat it yet! These can keep in the freezer for up to 3 months – just wrap a few of them (4 or 6) with cling film wraps and place them in a airtight box. Bring them out an hour before serving to allow them to return to room temperature. The moisture will cling to the cling film and not your macarons.

This reminds me acutely of Ribena, my favourite childhood drink (actually still is!).

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Scallop envelope window box of delightful macarons


Now that I’ve made enough macarons to last our family for a while, I think it’s time to spread the love around. I don’t think I will do these beautiful little morsels justice by stuffing them in a plain box, so decided to use my Stampin Up! Big Shot to make some transparent scallop envelopes, and make a box out of them.

For this you will need:
Stampin Up! Big Shot Die-cutting machine
Scallop envelope die
1 x window (transparent) sheet
Sticky strip
Stampin’ Dimensionals
DSP (for this one here I used Sweet Always which is retired for the box, SAB Everyday Enchantment for the butterflies)
White card stock for the little sentiment
Chocolate Chip stamp pad
Simply Sent stamp “live love life” (retired)
A small rhinestone brad
Butterfly punch
Decorative Label Punch
Chocolate Chip 5/8″ grosgrain ribbon

This is easier than you imagine.

1. Cut the window sheet to fit over the die.

2. Build the die ‘sandwich’ – from the bottom: standard cutting pad; scallop envelope die; window sheet; standard cutting pad.

3. Put this sandwich through the Big Shot machine, and there you have it, a scallop envelope. Repeat with the other window sheet to get another scallop envelope.

4. Fold along the score lines and put sticky strips on the inside of the flaps. Peel off the protective cover of the sticky strips and stick the two envelopes together.

5. Make two butterfly punch-outs and hold it together with a small clear rhinestone brad. Slightly curl the top butterfly to make it stand out a bit.

6. Stamp the sentiment with Chocolate Chip stamp pad on White card stock. I punched the sentiment out with a Decorative Label punch, and trimmed it down.

7. Adhere both the butterfly and the sentiment with Stampin’ Dimensionals.

8. Fill box with colourful macarons (they fitted perfectly!!).

9. Tie the box with a piece of Chocolate Chip grosgrain ribbon.

10. Gift to friend!

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This is making its way to my friend, I hope she and her family will enjoy this =)

If you are interested in this box or the tools I’ve used to create this, email me!

Dumplings with Pork and chinese chives


I haven’t always made macarons. Believe it or not, I cook more savory dishes than sweet! When I feel stressed and in need to do something to relax, I make dumplings*. It’s quite therapeutic really, mixing ingredients and wrapping the little parcels of joy. I think it is the repetitive nature of the process, that calms me down and allows my thinking brain a rest.

Today J will demo for you how these are made.

Pork and Chinese chives filling
400g lean pork mince
100g fatty pork mince
1 large bunch of Chinese chives
1 egg
2 tsp chicken stock powder
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp shao xhing wine ( or sherry)
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp corn flour
1 tbsp sesame oil

wraps
1 packet of dumpling wrappers (60 pcs), these can be round or square shape.
Small bowl of water, for sealing
Extra flour, for dusting

Mix all of the filling ingredients together and let it marinate for 20 minutes.
In the mean time, take the dumpling wrappers out of the fridge and let it return to room temperature before starting to make the dumpling. They are more pliable i.e. if you are greedy you can fit more into each dumpling.

Take a little spoonful of filling and place it in the middle of the wrapper.

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Dip your finger into the bowl of water and wet the edge of the wrapper.

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Fold the wrapper over the filling, forming a moon shape.
Pinch the edges of the dumpling to seal it off (there are many ways of pinching the dumplings, however this is the easiest way, at least for J.)

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Fill half of a large pot or saucepan with water and bring it to a boil. (note not to fill over two- thirds of the pot as you will be adding more water later on.) Add 1 tsp salt to the water and add the dumplings in, be careful not to over crowd the pot.

When the water returns to a boil, pour in half a cup of cold water and wait for it to return to a boil. At this point, you add a second half cup of cold water. This is repeated until you have added water three times in total and the water has returned to a full boil. The dumplings are ready!

Serve with chilli paste, soy sauce and/ or Chinese red vinegar.

* It is very possible that next time I feel like doing something repetitive, I will be making macarons!

A blog about my kitchen adventures, photography, family and experiences

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