Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Celestial Court, Imperial

Considering the world is on the brink of famine, and food shortage, its rather ironic that I and fellow food blogger Lyrical Lemongrass were "complaining" (for want of a better word) about how we are under pressure to use up our Starwood Vouchers that expire 30 April. So, in the last week, I've had to drag myself to Villa Danielli, redeem my free dinner for two, free cake, AND, on on Sunday, to Celestial Court to use up my ALL YOU CAN EAT dim sum voucher for two.

Anyway, thankfully RumputLimau told me to book early, as in one month ago, as Celestial Court is fully book... and at the rate people are dying prematurely, it seems like this Celestial Court is not the only one that's fully booked.

As we were coming after church, and had to go on to meet another friend in Pavilion after lunch, I had no choice but to bring the brood of kids. I had no idea how the mechanism was gonna work, afterall, the voucher was for two, all you can eat, and it would be unfair to expect them to let the children eat free.

But I needn't have worried, they have it all worked out. I get a call from Imperial on Friday.
Hotel Imperial (HI) : Hallo, Mr FBB ah, you got reservation for Sunday at Celeschia Cor hor?
Me: Yes, I'm confirmed coming
HI: You got use voucher ah?
Me: Yes, can right?
HI: Can can, allyew ken it right? But ah, your table for 5 people hor, so the extra tree peepa ah, have to oller at least tree lishes from alakat
Me: Huh?
HI: Yala, so tree peepa, times tree is nine dishes from alakat maynoo la ha
Me: Ok ok....(it was a saturday afternoon and I was groggy)

Anyway, when I came to my senses, I called the hotel again to clarify, and to notify them that the 3 extra people were actually chewdren, aged 9, 7, and 5. So they agreed to let me order for two extra people only.

We got there in good time, as church service was shorter than usual. (this was ironic coz the preacher man was saying how kids these days dont go to coffee shops....mine do, every week, except this week).

Shortly after we arrived, another familiar couple, also rushing to meet the deadline for their voucher, plonked themselves not far from us.

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So common sense dictated that the 6 ala carte dishes I ordered should not be the ones that are in the all you can eat menu. Oooh, tough choice, as most dim sum dishes are replicated in ala carte and AYCE.

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I'm always a bit skeptical when it comes to halal dim sum (with all due respect to Muslim friends), so I was pleasantly surprised by this roast duck, which was juicy and succulent, and sufficiently fatty. This is from the AYCE menu. Theoretically, I could order more. But of course, greed in the Catholic church is one of the 7 deadly sins, as is gluttony.

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Can't for my life remember what dumplings these were, but they were good. In fact, I'll say it now, all the stuff was good. I think this one had prawns and scallops, but can't remember if it was from ala carte.

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This one is nice, its yar char kueh, chinese crullers, with some squid paste on top.

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Their egg tarts are nice too, surprisingly NOT on the AYCE menu, but ala carte. Fluffy pastry, with a gloriously rich egg filling. Meanwhile, the kids were terrorising that nice couple in the first picture.

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These are cod fish sticks, with some other paste. Also from ala carte. The kids loved it, while I quite liked the green dipping sauce. Something different.

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The cheong fun was generously filled with prawns. Again, a pleasant surprise from the AYCE menu.

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Again, I can't remember what these dumplings were. All I remember is the kid eating the wrapper, leaving us adults to deal with the filling. Mainly scallops, roe and prawn. Very nice.

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The siu long baos were decent as well. Very juicy and the meat very flavourful, presumably chicken.

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We did order other stuff too that I forgot to photograph. The yam puffs were VERY good, the Yong Chow fried rice was laden with prawns and chicken char siu, too much liu not enough rice, but tasty. The siu mai's were normal, although there was some crab meat topping. Actually, it's a very worthwhile voucher to utilise. Because of their ruling, our bill, for 5, came up to about RM39, which is fair. It would cost us usually RM 30 to eat at coffee shops anyway, after church.

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The supposedly newly renovated Imperial Hotel.

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Entrance to the Celestial Court

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co

When Boolicious, my blogging idol, asked me if I was free on Tuesday to try out this new place, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co, (for some reason, it my mind, it sounded like Bubble Gum Shrimp Co), also to do a review, I was quite excited. (coz I thought she was gonna be there) Turns out, she wasn't, however, she managed to convince fellow food blogger (the one who won the most recognisable face award), Jackson Kah, to come along, so it wasn't so bad.

The invitation was courtesy of this trendy holiday magazine, called HOLIDAY.

A pretty cool travel magazine, which succeeded in making even Taiping look exotic. Then again, I guess Taiping is kinda ...exotic. Editor Vanitha and colleague, Asha (who had been our contact point) are the kind of people you'd love to have at a dinner party. Great company, and very gregarious.

Looking at the pic of this building, I really felt I was in America a bit. Actually, it's on the First Floor of THE STREET, at the CURVE.

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Jackson was sitting in one of those booths, which was hot as hell, and certainly not big enough for 4, so I was pretty relieved when we were ushered to the upstairs, which was airy, bright and comfortable, and private as well. I'm never too comfortable shooting away at food with many onlookers.

Okay, the name, as film afficianados might surmise, is based on Tom Hank's FORREST GUMP. The theme of the restaurant is based on the movie, and you have this replica below of Mrs Gump's resthouse, a room that contrasts dramatically with the rest of the rustic woody interior. Of course, the youth of today, like Jackson Kah, had never watched the movie.

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More pictures of the interior. The place has paraphernalia from the movie, and posters as well.

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The two signs are meant to assist you in hailing the waiters. When the sign is red, it's for the waiters to STOP at your table. And when it's blue, they should run away. The sauces are placed in a bucket, so god forbid you should kick it.

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The specials are mounted on this ping pong bat, since it was Forrest's favourite game. Did he actually play against someone? I only remember him playing with the wall. A good tool to spank wayward children with.

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We were asked to order our drinks, and since it was the afternoon, I thought I would restrain myself and not look at the alcoholic section, since no one else seemed inclined that way, and well, drinking alone in the afternoon is akin to putting a stamp on your forehead proclaiming, I'M SUE ELLEN EWING. However, since the choices of non alcoholic drinks were few, and all but one, contained yoghurt, I very magnanimously let Jackson have the Mango Sparkler I was about to order, which was non alco, while I sacrificed myself and ordered a Lousiana Lemonade, which had Citron Bacardi Rum in it. The servings are huge, ....pity you have to catch a cab to get to the nearest toilet. These mall restaurants toilets are usually miles away.

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Lousiana Lemonade RM22.90

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Asha's Run Forrest Run, I think it was

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Jackson's Mango Sparkler RM9.90

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And Vanitha's Peach Love Rock and Roll, which looked really good and thirst quenching. RM22.90 as well.

The very affable Manager of the place, Rizal, joined us, and ordered for us a sampling of the dizzying array of stuff the menu had to offer. Okay, before that, we should clarify that SHRIMP here doesn't refer to our udang kecik. In America, apparently, Prawn = Shrimp. So when you order Cajun Shrimp, do not expect a plateful of miniscule plankton, cincalok kinda shrimp. They're actually prawns, and rather large plump ones at that.

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Cajun Shrimp, with lovely garlic bread, toasted to perfection with a hint of some cheese...probably parmesan. The cajun sauce flavour, seeped into the prawns from sauteeing, was divine.

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Net catch of the day. A generous platter (and this is the small portion) of prawns, with a bucket of cajun sauce poured over. You're supposed to use the bucket for your used shells. Lots of buckets around. These prawns are boiled and the sauce incorporated later, unlike the first one, which is sauteed in the cajun sauce. It's a large generous serving.

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Bourbon Street Barramundi, charbroiled cajun spiced barramundi in the bourbon street sauce, a creamy seafood bisque-y kind of sauce, that I found overpoweringly rich, and could feel my arteries seizing up. Maybe it was because we were approaching fullness faster that you could say Bubba, so this dish didn't really appeal to me. However, if you like rich sauces, do try it, as the quality of the fish is great, and its a substantial meal. Loved the fried nachos which embellished the fish.

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Ah, my favourite. Dumb Luck Coconut Shrimp. Strips of coconut line the batter in which these prawns were fried, and it is accompanied by the most GORGEOUSSSSSS cajun marmalade. Absolutely yummy. Crunchy on the outside, moist plump prawn on the inside.

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Tossed Chicken Cob Salad, lots of leafy greans, avocado, beef bacon, (poor Jackson), and chicken breast. Like Nigella Lawson, I prefer thigh meat to breast, (I'm talking about chicken, not her), and can't fathom how anyone can choose breast meat over thigh meat. The vinaigrette dressing was sweet and tangy all at once, and very refreshing. The only bummer for me was the chicken breast meat. I'd have ordered it without. But if you are a breast-avore, you'd be jiggling with delight.

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Shrimper's Heaven...I was too stuffed to stand up and take an aerial view picture of the contents of the cones, but basically, it was tempura prawns, coconut prawns, chilly (as in brrrr, I'm chilly) prawns, likewise with a variety of sauces. By this time, we were getting a bit prawned out. I was beginning to feel like an overweight blue whale, who had just overdosed on krill.

.........which was a pity, coz this dish, Salmon & Veggie Skillet, with jasmine rice, was rather delicious. The rice is fragrant and fluffy, and the taste overall very palatable.

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By this time, understandably, my waist had increased by a full inch. When Rizal asked if we wanted desserts, Vanitha chirped, "just one small one"...which we found out doesn't exist in American vocab. It's like "TEH TARIK KURANG MANIS"....an order in futility.

The chocolate chip cookie sundae was good. A large chocolate chip cookie at the base of the pan, smothered with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream. I felt for this quality of dessert, they should have also increased the quality of the ice cream, and not use our generic ice cream. But that's me, always feel that if we're going to ingest calories, they should be quality calories.

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Finally, the flourless chocolate cake with ice cream. The cake was lovely and moist, and very chocolatey, (they use good quality, Calibut). By this time, I was like Mt Vesuvius waiting to erupt.... could barely waddle out of the place.

We ended the session with a tour round the very well equipped and well laid out kitchen. A special thanks to Vanitha and Asha from Holiday Magazine for organising this, and to Rizal, the manager of the place. Great food, great company. And alcohol at midday....perfect.

Forrest's famous bench.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Dotter Turns Two

I remember the conversation as if it were yesterday. You see, I have always had this "tradition" of bringing a kid with me to the coffee shop for breakfast on Friday mornings. First, it was dotter no 1, until she went to kindy. Then it was boy no 1, (kid no 2), who used to lift his bowl of half boil egg and go "cheers". Then he went of to kindy. Then it was boy no 2, (kid no 3), the chubby little lad, who whacked adult portions... and I really felt the "pinch" knowing that the following year, (2006), when baby boy went to kindy, I'll have no more coffee shop babies left. ...that is until one morning, when wife told me, "looks like you'll have your coffee shop baby afterall".

9 months later, baby girl was born, and a few weeks ago, she turned TWO. (years). Where have the years gone? I still feel sprightly as a spring chicken on heat, and can stay up late at parties and dinners, (except when I'm pumped on antibiotics), .... I don't look a day older from the day girl no 1 was born... I just look 10 years older, granted, ... but as that charming song says, "Fairtytales, can come true, it can happen to you, when you're young at heart".....

Of all my kids, she is the most "shy", and doesn't take to strangers (as in strangers to her, but friends to me) unlike the first 3, who chat with you like they've known you all their lives. (which of course, is true in the case of some of my friends). However, she is a feisty little one, and certainly demands her fair share of attention.

For her birthday, after a maniacal month of March which had the birthdays of my MIL, my dad and son #1, we thought we'd have a quite dinner at home with the extended family of uncles and aunts, cousins and grandparents.
Steamed pomfret chinese style, with lots of ginger and shallots. Very fresh. I think pomfret is my favourite fish, all types, white, black, tou tai, and gold. And cooked all ways, steamed, deep fried, assam.

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Our own version of KFC, which of course, in my opinion, tastes far better. Is it my imagination, or has KFC (chicken rice and their models aside) deteriorated over the years? The chicken to me taste manufactured.

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The usual fare of the crispy skin siu yoke from the Village Grocer. We used to be die hard Mr Ho's roast pork fans, and it IS probably still very good, it's just that the Village Grocer, being within walking distance from my office, is a more convenient location.

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A new discovery, that one of the family cooks, from my sister's household, can make lor mai kai. I recall Precious Pea had also made these in bulk before. Anyway, this homemade glutinous rice thingie was superb. Lots of quality ingredients, such as premium chinese sausage, mushroom, etc. I must learn this dish and procreate it in future dinners.

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Our signature home made Lam Mee. A gorgeous pork broth, with noodles, water convulvulus, (kangkong), bean sprouts, and big prawns. With the sambal belacan, this dish sometimes form a staple for dinner.

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There was other stuff too, which I forgot to shoot, like the Ju Hu Char, (Lettuce Wrapped With Some turnip filling), curry chicken, etc.

And finally, the burfday cake. It was a durian sponge cake.

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I think the durian filling wasn't overpowering enough. I like my durians STRONG, whether they be in cake, or otherwise. I don't see how to make this commercially viable, as there was already 400gms of pure durian flesh in there, and still tasted a bit weak to me.

I wonder if 20 years from now, I'll be blogging about my kids' weddings.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Gurney Drive At The Gardens

Walking from MVM to the Gardens is like going from one world to another....that passageway is a porthole of sorts. Exclusive as the Gardens may be, if I were a retailer, I'd much rather be in the world that MVM is in, ie, lots of human traffic, etc. You see, I'm not a very exclusive person. Don't believe in branded stuff, and all that hoitty toitty-ness. The Gardens generally repel me the way Shelltox repels a cockroach, or the way cake repels an anorexic supermodel.... and ordinarily, I would not bother venturing through its hallowed halls. It's a bit like Bangsar Village II, which doesn't interest me in the least. I merely use it as an aircond walkway to get to the old wing of Bangsar Village, where I frequent the Village Grocer.

It was one of those RARE saturdays when I had nothing on the diary. So much so, had planned a pok kuat session for later that night, (dead gin...I still need players, hallo, anyone out there). Then inlaws called to say they were at the Gardens, so we decided to join them for dinner. My inlaws love Penang, and visit a couple of times a year, so they have a pretty good preconception what Penang food should be.

To be honest, (bracing oneself for the onslaught), I find Penang hawker food overrated. That chendol in that alley, that supposedly famous Cha Kueh Teow, ..... it's good la, but really, I'm sure if you look hard enough, there's are other fare, probably in KL even, that's just as good, if not better.

I've been meaning to try the Delights of Gurney Drive, on the 3rd floor of the Gardens, a glorified but comfortable food court of sorts, offering a dizzying array of delights from Penang. So I was quite pleased to finally have the chance to dine here.

The orr chien, aka known as Cholesterol Platter Deluxe, was quite good. Egg, and oyster. Two of God's most wonderful culinary creations. Well, the oyster portions were generous, and rather plump. I'm not sure where the golden standard is in Penang, but for what it was worth, it tasted rather good. Then again, how wrong can you go, with oyster and egg. It's like botching up bread and butter.

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I felt like something soupy, so I went for Cholesterol Bowl Deluxe, which was Pork Intestine and Other Spare Parts, in soup with meehoon. Flavoursome, and did not taste terribly unhealthy. In fact, the clear soup was rather devoid of excess floating fat, which was good. The meehoon texture was great, I like this kind of meehoon. Very fine, and aromatic. Yet, not overcooked. I hate soft mushy meehoon....

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The supposedly famous chendol. Gone are the days of the 20 sen a bowl, from the mamak who uses that ice shaving bench, in his knee length sarong. My mother never ate mamak chendol again after she saw her usual chendol vendor pop over to the nearest tree to wee wee, and came back and nonchalantly continued shaving the ice....this is a true case of IGNORANCE IS BLISS. I remember in St John's, the chendol man used to be in front of the AIA building. 15 sen a bowl. 20 sen for some addition. [mind floating on a cloud to nostalgia land....dreamy, glazy look in eyes].

So yeah, whatsit now? RM4.50 a bowl? This particular one was la, at any rate. Argh, just talking about chendol has given me cravings. [Pops head out the window to see if pasembor van is around] I notice these fancy smancy coffee shop cendols have santan thick enough for you to stand your spoon in... (hor, can see in the background ya, the standing spoon). The caramelly gula melaka is usually very fragrant, and viscous. Incidentally, I hate those red kidney beans. And I hate places that serve ABC with that instead of our traditional red beans. DEATH TO THE KIDNEY BEAN! Bring back the azuki, I say.

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MIL's assam laksa was a disappointment, and she wasn't the first to say so. Pretty sad when Penang Laksa isnt up to scratch at a Penang food establishment. No pictorial evidence as I was tucking away happily into my intestines. (not MY intestines, but those in my soup)

The acid test that is to become the mother of all benchmarks, Penang Char Kueh Teow. Checklist. Chinese sausage, check, kerang, check, prawns, check, taugeh, check, kueh teow, check, egg, check, age old residue of gunk from 50 year old wok, NO CHECK. Aitelyu, that is why all these high class places cant replicate hawker food in its full glory. The armpit sweat, the years of tempering with the wok, the saliva, ...... the absence of all these condiments ensure that hawker food in fancy places are never the same.

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But the taste is okay. Not bad. I wouldn't really complain.

The good news is, for most dishes in Gurney Drive, they've now come up with two sizes, large, and not large. And its a large differential. Eg, my intestines, is about RM12 for large, and RM8 for not large. For RM4 more, I'm wondering if its more meehoon, or intestines, or soup.

But things like CKT, only one size.

Well, do check it out, it's not too bad.

Monday, April 14, 2008

When The Fatboybakes Falls Sick......

I have always prided myself on almost never falling sick. Even after my trans Malaysian Qing Ming tour, where we suffered the effects of Yeet Hei (Heatiness, equivalent to consuming 20 durians), I fought off the impending cough by pumping myself with liberal doses of vitamin C, fruit juices, ( a healthy cocktail of carrot, celery, bitter gourd, orange juice, every morning, freshly made in juicer) and looked like I was about to emerge victorious. Meanwhile the nefarious army of germs were regrouping, like the orcs of Sauron, as I basked in my temporal victory, and even made a pavlova to celebrate.

This was on the Tuesday night. I even went to the gym, for Body Combat. The family ooh-ed and ah-ed, (the adults only, the kids looked at the fruit and went, EUGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH), when I brought this out for dessert. I am confident in saying that since making the one for Lemongrass, I am now confident I have mastered the art in making a decent Pavlova nest, crispy and crunchy on the outside, soft and tender on the inside, almost marshmallowy, but lighter. Initially the stars did not seem aligned for this dessert to happen. Blueberries had shot up in price, nearly doubling (to RM22 a punnet) since two weeks ago, (and people complain about 20 sen in hike per kg for noodles), organic passionfruit was nowhere to be found, leaving the option of those expensive shrivelled types, which cost RM6 each, ..... and the base of the meringue nest broke.

But good deeds beget good karma, and as I trotted to Bangsar Village again, later in the afternoon, to check for Lemongrass if they sold bulgur, (for tabouli), I found the passionfruit I was looking for, and the stars looked aligned again.

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So, after a hearty family dinner, a good workout, glorious dessert, I plonked myself in front of the TV, relegating the parental duties of homework assistance, reading to the kids etc, to their mother, who does it so much better. Also, I feel, the father participation should be occasional, so as to make it "special", and not taken for granted. Ya wat, it's like Unkaleong who always jual mahal for invites, so when he DOES show up, people think its a big deal.

I digress. As I was in this happy state of affairs, little did I know that this little army of cretinous bacteria were regrouping, and at about 10pm, launched their attack. Charrrrrrrrrge, I coulda sworn I heard them say.

Suddenly clutching my heart.... okay, maybe not that dramatic, suddenly, that Grease Song ran through my mind...
I got chills.
They're multiplyin'.
And I'm losin' control.
'Cause the power
you're suplyin',
it's electrifyin'!

Badabush, it hit the way the opposition hit the National Front on March the 8th. I started shivering, and thought I had been teleported to a winter in Siberia. It's a horrible feeling.

By midnight, my temperature had risen to 39.5C, and I administered some panadol, ....it was dark, they could have been the ones for menstruation for all I know....

The next morning, visit to the doctor. Antibiotics. Continued sleeping. Total hours in bed = THIRTY SIX. Gosh, I never knew I was capable of that much sleep!!!!! Did Lemongrass, whom I chat with REGULARLY on MSN even bother to sms to find out why I was unannouncedly missing in action for that entire duration? NOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

By Thursday evening, I was returning to some semblance of normality, and as I hadn't eaten for the last 36 hours, I suddenly felt a craving for THIS:

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BUTTERCAKE!!! Bizarre, don't ask me WHY!!!! I just had to have cake. And nothing the the aroma of golden churn wafting through the oven to make me feel that I was alive again....the sun was breaking through the dark clouds of Mordor, as the orcs were slaughtered by the forces of Good.

I have to say, the buttercake, with Golden Churn, was absolutely yummy. The others in the household, deprived of my delightful company for the last 2 days, delightedly chomped up the cake, which was finished in no time. (it did last a day la).

Friday, I was about 80% there, and so, for bible study, as an offering of thanksgiving.... I decided to swamp by cell group with food, spiritual and physical. Have always wanted to try this recipe from the Golden Chocolate Book, ORANGE CHOCOLATE SQUARES.

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It's only today that I realised there's a blood pressure monitor in the background. Anyway, to cut a long story short, PTOOOOOOOOOOOOOI, its a horrible recipe. Okay, granted I didn't follow it to a T, but in fact, the original recipe would have been even WORSE, I reckon!!!

So, to really potong steam, DON'T EVEN BOTHER trying it. It ranks right up there with Lemongrass's baking disasters of late. At least her mitosised choc chip cookies tasted okay. These look okay, but taste horrid. HORRIBLE. The son took one bite and spat it out. The adults were a bit more polite, and said, "not that bad la". (which is the Adult equivalent of going "Ptoooi")

But the saving grace were these babies. My favourite, Pigs in Blanket. Seeing as to how I had spent a lot of hours curled up in a blanked recently, it was a dish after my own heart.

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The name is inspired by Nigella Lawson, but I didn't follow her recipe this time. Instead, I used a cream cheese based pastry, (usually for Rugelach or cream cheese spirals), which is lovely, light and aromatic. See, I do feed them well. (my cell group).

Anyway, I think I'm almost fully recovered, except for this slight cough I cant seem to shake off.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Pie Are Square (revisited)

Those of you old enough to remember, I did blog once about this. Alas, at that time, no one got it. Further enquiry revealed that 90% of the females I asked had NO idea what pi r square(d) meant, and about 50% of the guys had forgotten the area of a circle. Which begs the question, why are parents so obsessed about children's education, when by the time they are in their 30s, they would have forgotten 80% of whatever they learnt in school.

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Anyway, I have always thought that when I do write a cookbook, the cover would be something like the above. Of course, it would be doomed to fail, since few would get the pun.

I still had one organic passion fruit leftover from Lemongrass's pavlova, (that's ORGANIC, in case some of you read too fast) so I decided to serve it to my cell group on Friday. Alas, one can't just serve one miserable passion fruit. So I decided to use my virgin Square Pie Tin which I bought from Pantry Magic ages ago. (a year, I think). I couldn't decide what to make, and since I was running out of time, at 8pm on Friday I decided to make a strawberry tart, as I had some leftover strawberries as well.

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Didn't bother following any recipe this time, just made the usual tart casing, and a custard filling.

I altered the pastry recipe because recently I find that an addition of instant custard powder makes the pastry nicer.

1 ½ cups flour
½ cup instant custard powder
120gm butter
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoon ice water

Either rub in the butter into the dry ingredients, and when resembles bread crumbs, add in the water. Or use a food processor and zzzzzzing the dry stuff and butter, and add the water.

Refrigerate 30 minutes or so. I was in a hurry, meeting a 9pm deadline, so I took it out after 20 minutes. Roll out and line tart tin, whatever the shape. (Recipe enough for 9" round pie tin). Prick holes with fork, and bake blind at 180C for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, make custard filling:

4 eggs
2 cups cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat the cream until almost to the boil.
Whisk the eggs with sugar, add vanilla
Pour the hot cream onto the egg mixture
Place back on saucepan and slowly boil till mixture thickens.

When tart case is ready, pour filling into tart case and bake at 140C for a further 20 minutes or so, until set.

Once ready, let cool a bit, and use whatever fruits you want. Glaze with an apricot glaze.
(some apricot jam with a little water, boiled, and strained....use the strained mixture to give it that glaze)

I guess you can also prepare overnight and serve cold.

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