The Occasional Epicure

Occasional updates on my eating and cooking adventures...

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Malaya Corner 4

In which your intrepid correspondents visit - yet again - Sunnybank's finest, Malaya Corner.

My mum was visiting for the weekend so we decided to introduce her to Malaya Corner. Oh, and she saw my blog for the first time, too! (This was handy because she actually reminded me to take a photo of her dinner before she ate it!)

Good old Malaya Corner was bustling as usual, but we still got a table immediately and set about deciding what to eat. We had to have the kari puffs again - just so my mum could try them! We also ordered tahu goreng (fried tofu) for entree. It was big chunks of tofu deep fried and served with crushed peanuts, bean sprouts and some kind of hoisin-like sauce. I forgot to take a photo! Oops - we'll just have to order it again another time!

Because RJ's sambal chilli prawns had been so delicious on a previous visit, I decided to try the sambal chilli chicken. It had just the right amount of chilli flavour and heat. I think I still prefer the prawns that RJ had, but this chicken was pretty tasty!

Sambal chilli chicken

My mum went for the nasi goreng. It was full of all kinds of goodies. I tried a bit of the chopped tofu, but it was a bit dry and chewy. Mum said that the rest of the dish was nice. It was a huge serving too!

That's my mum in the background! She unintentionally teamed with the theme by wearing an Oriental print shirt!

RJ has long been dying to try the Malaya Corner char kway teow. We both love ho fun - flat rice noodles - and this delicious dish combines them with prawns, dark soy sauce, and a fantastic smoky flavour. Once again, the serving was pretty huge. RJ gave it the thumbs up but said it could have been a bit more spicy.

Char kway teow

It goes without saying that we'll be back!

Other Malaya Corner visits:
Malaya Corner, Sunnybank
Malaya Corner 2
Malaya Corner 3

Monday, September 26, 2005

The 23rd Post/5th Line Meme

Barbara from Winos and Foodies tagged me for this meme.

The instructions are...
1. Delve into your blog archive.
2. Find your 23rd post (or closest to).
3. Find the fifth sentence (or closest to).
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions. Ponder it for meaning, subtext or hidden agendas...
5. Tag five people to do the same.

I was pleasantly surprised to realise that I even had 23 posts! Here's the fifth sentence from that post, Choc Hazelnut Friands:
"I took these on a recent visit to my mum's place, and I only ate one!"

This photo and sentence out of context makes it seem like there were only two friands in total. There were twelve! And I only ate one! I wish I'd eaten more.

I learned a very important lesson from this friand experience. If you're going to bake delicious goodies to give away as gifts, make sure you keep some for yourself at home too!

It seems like everyone in the blogosphere has already completed this meme, so I won't tag five more people. But if you haven't already and you do feel like delving into your archives, consider yourself tagged!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Self-frosting cupcakes

I first saw these cupcakes on Niki's blog, Esurientes, where they looked delicious! She had found them on Nic's Bakingsheet. Then they kept cropping up everywhere else:

  • ChichaJo at 80 Breakfasts has made them twice

  • Lushlife at Not Just Desserts

  • Barbara at Winos and Foodies

  • So I thought, "why not see what all the fuss is about?" And I'm pleased to report that these humble cupcakes lived up to the hype!

    Like Niki, I used Kraft Nuts About Chocolate instead of peanut paste or Nutella. When I'd first seen it at the supermarket I wasn't that interested, since chocolate and peanut spread could - of course - never be as good as everyone's favourite chocolate and hazelnut spread Nutella. Could it?

    Before I whacked this stuff on my cupcakes I thought it would be a good idea to eat a spoonful first. Wow! It tastes just like a liquid Snickers bar! I could probably eat a whole jar if I wasn't careful!


    The cupcakes turned out really well. The cake itself was nice and vanilla-y and the Nuts About Chocolate frosting was fantastic. They look really cute and taste great. They were pretty quick to whip up too. Please visit Esurientes for the recipe.

    If you end up baking these cupcakes or know of anyone else who's blogged about them, please let me know and I'll update my little list! I think it's cool that this same recipe has been baked around the world.

    More happy self-frosting cupcake bakers:
  • Violet at and the dish ran away with the spoon

  • Factobrunt at Too Young to be Grumpy

  • Friday, September 16, 2005

    Sugar High Friday #12 - Custard

    I have to admit, I'm not the biggest fan of custard. Besides the egg tarts at yum cha, I usually only eat custard once per year - and that's the ready-made kind poured straight from the carton onto my plum pudding on Christmas day.

    Which is why the Sugar High Friday theme chosen by Elise at Simply Recipes was good. It gave me the motivation to try out a recipe for Portuguese Custard Tarts, which is something that I wouldn't usually get around to making.

    The whole tart making experience was fun, even though it seemed to take forever and mess up my whole kitchen. I'll tell the story using photos and the recipe (from Sweet Food, published by Murdoch Books)...

    155g (1 1/4 cups) plain flour
    25g copha (white vegetable shortening), chopped and softened

    Hold on! What on earth is copha? Well, non-antipodeans, I am pleased to reveal that this strange Australian ingredient is vegetable shortening made of solidified coconut oil. Mmm, sounds delicious doesn't it?

    Actually, I was really annoyed when I saw copha on the ingredient list! I only needed 25g, but it only comes in a 250g packet. And the only other recipe that calls for copha is
    chocolate crackles! What a shame! I will have to whip up a batch of these top Aussie treats to use up the rest of my copha block.

    Also, how authentically "Portuguese" can this recipe be? I get the feeling that copha is not stocked by the shopkeepers of Portugal/Macau/other famous custard tart destinations...

    30g unsalted butter, chopped and softened
    250g (1 cup) sugar
    500ml (2 cups) milk
    3 tablespoons cornflour
    1 tablespoon custard powder
    What a gourmet rebel I am - using a recipe with custard powder!

    4 egg yolks

    Apparently you can freeze the whites, so I did that and I'll use them in my next batch of friands.

    1 teaspoon vanilla essence

    Sift the flour into a bowl.

    Goody! This is the easy bit.

    Add 185ml (3/4 cup) water, or enough to form a soft dough. Gather into a ball, then roll out on baking paper to form a 24cm x 30cm rectangle.

    This is when I started to realise that these custard tarts could turn into quite an interesting part of my baking self-education. The dough was not really all that dough-like, but I rolled it out anyway.

    Rolling the dough

    Spread copha over the surface.
    Hmm. The copha didn't want to melt in the microwave! I thought it would melt like butter but even after a full 60 seconds it was still hard. I nuked it a bit longer and finally spread it over the "dough". There were some significant copha lumps.

    Melt, damn copha!

    Roll up from the short edge to form a log.

    Right-o. I sprinkled a bit of flour around so I could get a grip of the edge. The quick'n'easy rolling that the book seemed to describe did not occur. It was more like squishing the dough back into a big lump.

    Roll the dough out into a rectangle again, and spread with the butter.

    At least the butter melted in the microwave!

    Roll into a log and slice into 12 pieces.

    My 12 pieces weren't very uniform in size! Oops!

    Working from the centre outwards, use your fingertips to press each round out to a circle large enough to cover the base and sides of twelve 80ml (1/3 cup) muffin holes. Press into the tin and refrigerate.

    I just whacked each lump of dough into the muffin tin and pressed it onto the base and up the sides.

    Pastry shells

    Put the sugar and 80ml (1/3 cup) water into a pan, and stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Mix a little milk with the cornflour and custard powder to form a smooth paste, and add to the pan with the remaining milk, egg yolks and vanilla. Stir over low heat until thickened. Put in a bowl, cover and cool.

    It seemed to take forever for this custard mixture to thicken. Just when I started to think I'd done something terribly wrong, it finally thickened up!

    Preheat oven to 220C (425F). Divide the filling among the pastry bases.

    Custard-filled shells ready for baking

    Bake for 30 minutes, or until the custard is set and the tops have browned. Cool in the tins, then transfer to a wire rack.

    Fresh from the oven!

    The finished product

    Makes 12.

    Overall these were pretty tasty. The pastry was hard and crunchy and I don't think that's how it's supposed to turn out. The custard filling was sweet and delicious. If I could just improve my pastry-making skills, I'll be onto a winner!

    Check out the round-up of all the custardy recipes from around the world now up at Simply Recipes.

    Wednesday, September 07, 2005

    Childhood food memories - meme

    How exciting! I have been tagged for my first meme and now I feel like a certified, real blogger! And even more exciting, I was tagged by AugustusGloop from Grab Your Fork who was tagged by the Adam the Amateur Gourmet who was tagged by Clotilde of Chocolate and Zucchini (probably the most famous food blogger of all - she was even included in TIME Magazine's 50 coolest blogs!)!

    Anyway, enough of the "!" and on with the meme. Growing up on Queensland's Sunshine Coast hinterland meant that I was surrounded by plantations of sugar cane, Macadamia nuts, avocados and pineapples (including really big ones).

    Funnily enough, none of these local agricultural goings-on really had much impact on my childhood food consumption.

    Instead, let me tell you about my most significant memories surrounding food.

    1. Cheezels

    OK, I'm starting out with a story that I hardly remember myself, but I've heard it so many times from my mother that I can picture it in my mind anyway.

    When I was born in the late 70s my parents were kind of hippy idealists. I'm not quite sure how to describe them, but they didn't want my brother and I watching "American garbage" on we didn't have a TV. They didn't want us drinking soft drink and eating junk I tasted McDonald's only once before I was 17.

    At my cousin's birthday party when I was two or three there was the usual junk food selection spread across a table. Apparently I stood there, dumbstruck, looking at a bowl of Cheezels. I asked my mum, "What's that?" to which she replied, "Some people say it's food." So I picked one up and popped it in my mouth. I obviously liked what I tasted, because after all the other kids helped themselves to some snacks and ran off to play in the garden I stood there putting a Cheezel on each finger and then eating them one by one, totally mesmerised by the colour, the texture, and (most likely) the salt!

    I still love them!

    2. The lettuce leaf

    My mum was big into feeding my brother and I a healthy diet. She seemed to have a "no negotiation" policy when it came to finishing our veges at dinner time. We had to eat everything on our plate before we were allowed to leave the dinner table.

    I always hated lettuce. Even now I'm not a fan. On one particular occasion I had finished everything else on my plate except one lettuce leaf. I really didn't want to eat it! It was a horrible brown mignonette lettuce! I couldn't bear the thought! I didn't like the flavour, the colour or the texture!

    So I sat there and looked at it. My mum sat there and looked at me. I thought I could get away with it. But there were no exemptions from the "finish your veges before you leave the table" rule. This lasted for half an hour. I couldn't win. I ate the lettuce and I was finally allowed to go.

    3. Eating sugar

    Back when I was little, I used to eat sugar straight from the sugarbowl, which was kept on the shelf next to the teabags and the tin of instant coffee. It was raw sugar - nice and crunchy!

    The year was 1986. I was eight. Don't ask me why now, but my mum and I were really keen to go and see Elton John in concert in Brisbane. We had been putting our spare coins aside in a jar to save up for our tickets. Then one day I was in the kitchen helping myself to another serving of sugar and got busted by my mum who really hit the roof! She said, "That's it! I've warned you before and now we're not going to see Elton John!" And she took the jar and all my hard-earned coins away. I was devastated!

    In the end we did end up going to see Elton John. It was my first concert and I remember having a fantastic time. I don't eat sugar like that anymore.

    4. Mum and the sweetened condensed milk

    By now you might be thinking that my mum was very strict and tough. Of course, she just had our best interests at heart and was doing what mums need to do to keep their vege-hating, sugar-scoffing kids in line. Now we're the best of friends.

    One day, I realised that - in addition to being my mother - my mum was a normal person too. Innocently wandering towards the fridge one day I saw that my mum was standing there with the door open. Not that unusual, as the was the only cook in the household. What was unusual and made my eyes light up was the fact that in one hand she was holding a tin of Sweetened Condensed Milk and in the other hand was a teaspoon. I couldn't believe my eyes! My mum was eating Sweetened Condensed Milk straight out of the tin! When she saw me, her face took on the same super guilty look that I probably sported when I got busted eating sugar.

    5. Hog's Breath Steak

    This event took place after I had technically left my "childhood", although my culinary appreciation was still in its infancy. I was 18 when I first visited the Hog's Breath Cafe in Airlie Beach. I ate the Hickory Smoked Prime Rib.

    I was amazed. Until that day, "steak" had just been the meat in the "meat and three veg", less than 1cm thick and often coated with pepper. Hog's Breath was responsible for making me understand just how tender and delicious steak can be. I've never looked back!

    Who's next?
    I'd like to hear about the childhood food memories of:
    Fanny from foodbeam - I'm sure she's got plenty of yummy French food memories to share
    Barbara from winosandfoodies - an Aussie wine-lover in New Zealand
    Pseudo Chef from Cook & Eat - a food and cat fan from Perth