Saturday, January 31, 2009

Yummy Spanakopita!!

Feta cheese, spinach, pine nuts, dill, raisins in a thin crispy pastry..

what's there not to love?!

Spanakopita was something that i had at the farmer's market with my most beloved disciple and then declared: "i can make this..but tastier u know..."
and she trustingly said: I believe you. (which reminds me of a movie i watched when i was a kid...Jia You Xi Shi....Sandra Ng played a dowdy housewife and when her husband brought her out for dinner at a posh restaurant, she refused to order anything..because she said that she can make most of the items on the menu at home.... and then i remembered telling my young self: "ok this is very embarrassing behaviour...i shouldn't do that in the future...."


Anyways so here's my version of Spanakopita!!

modified from here

500g frozen
1 tbs butter
1 large red onion, finely sliced
85g toasted pine nuts
55g raisins
freshly grated Nutmeg
salt and freshly ground black pepper
200g Feta cheese, crumbled
3 Eggs
1 tbs dried dill
225g Filo pastry (I used spring roll pastry)

1. Thaw the spinach and sqeeze out the water. Cook it in with the butter for a few minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 200C/gas 6. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small frying pan and fry the onion for 5-6 minutes until lightly browned and softened.

3. Transfer the onion to a large bowl and add the chopped spinach, pine nuts, raisins, some nutmeg. Stir together, season well and set aside to cool. Stir in the feta cheese and eggs once the mixture has cooled.

4. Lightly butter a 30 x 23cm shallow-sided non-stick baking tin. Press 4 sheets of pastry into the tin, brushing well with melted butter between each layer and allowing the excess to hang over the sides. (If using spring roll pastry, brush two sheets with water and place a tbsp of filling in the middle and scrunch it up and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, till the pastry is golden. Similar to the money bags.)

5. Spoon in the spinach mixture and level off the surface. Fold over the pastry edges and top with a further 5 sheets of buttered filo pastry. Lightly score the top of the pie and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a deep golden brown.

Most other spanakopita recipes i have seen have dill added but not raisins. But i tot the raisins were great- made the spanakopita much juicier and provided a nice contrast to the feta and pinenuts. Oh and why did i make them so small instead of the regular pie shape? cos my shoebox sized freezer is not big enough to store the larger pastry sheets... :P

and this is Mr Alien...the same filling wrapped in puff pastry...actually he was supposed to be just a triangle but there was too much filling...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Baked Nian Gao

this is the second consecutive year that i m not spending Lunar New year at home and i think if there's a third year, i might just start getting used to it... :P

last year, to alley the pangs of homesicknesses, i made the foods from new year that i missed most- Braised chicken with sea cucumber and kueh bangkit..and also ba kwa to the amazement of my mom...and once i can replicate something satisfactorily, i usually lose the desire to eat it now i m in some sort of a dilemma..what should i cook this year to celebrate the new year?

there are three main aussie style bbq with some older friends from church, a reunion dinner with some friends from the northern part of China- mainly dumplings- and a potluck dinner with some other students mainly from Singapore/Malaysia..

for the BBQ, i made this:

Baked Nian Gao ('Year cake' literally)

Chinese food is usually very symbolic- auspicious sounding names and sometimes, even the taste and texture.

Nian Gao- sounds like 'Year Tall/ High'- wishing the eater a good year with promotions/ getting 'higher' in their career..and there was some sort of a story about offering the nian gao to the kitchen god therefore the cake has to be very sticky and sweet so that the kitchen god will carry good tales to his boss- the emperor god- who will then reward/punish each household accordingly.....

so what did i think about this cake? The top is cruchy and the middle is quite dense and sticky and tastes suspiciously like muah chee with red beans...hehe..
wouldn't mind making it again..good for functions where u need to feed alot of people..cos one person just needs a small piece..

for the reunion dinner- my hosts are a young couple- so i am thinking of making a red date + wolfberry dessert to bless them with "zhao sheng gui zi"...but cos i coudn't muster up the energy to go do that...i will now make some cornflake cookies and peanut cookies- "Jin yu man tang" (gold and jade all over the house- have to add some green glace cherries maybe) and still naming the peanut cookies "zhao sheng gi zi"...wondering if i can put some chrysanthemum flowers into the peanut cookies to symbolise the 'gui' part..but peanuts and chrysanthemum seem like a strange combination...or perhaps a milder tasting seed...sunflower seeds?? Hmmm...

And oh, the puppy's finally here!!!!!

introducing Cleo the mini schnauzer!!!!

she's still settling in and it's so adorable to watch her scamper up the step into the house...she's barely the size of a guinea pig...!!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Pork Ribs in plum sauce

My mom will be envious if she knew...that not only i have free access to lemons in my landlord's garden, but also peaches, plums, oranges and apples!!!
the peaches are sweet and juicy and awesome for eating, plums are yummy too but not ripe at the moment...oranges are good for juicing and the apples i m not sure yet...

My landlord had a bbq and asked me to join in...and also to invite a couple of friends along....the friend whom i invited had some ribs but she wasn't sure what to do with them so i happily took on the job...
wanted to make John McCain's famous ribs..but realised at the very last minute that i didn't have garlic i marinated the ribs with an 'Ozzie Outback Seasoning' mix from GFresh which smells like a combination of dried mint, thyme, garlic powder and salt. And also some white vinegar..(because my new bottle of vinegar promises that it makes meat very tender if i use it as a marinate..)
and decided to puree some plums and add it in too cos..there are alot of plums on the trees and my landlords are not fans of the fruit and they told me i can help myself to as many plums as i want...hee...

i don't have a picture of the ribs because...i plain forgot about it and also didn't think that they would be very blog worthy...but they are!!! They take less than 10 minutes to prepare, of which the bulk of the time is washing up the food processor! They are fall of the bone tender and oh so suculent..!

1 kg pork ribs, chopped into 2 inch pieces
2 tbsp ozzie outback seasoning
6 plums, pitted and pureed
1 tsp white vinegar
4 tbs lemon juice
4 tbs white sugar

rub meat with vinegar and then the ozzie outback seasoning. (if u dun want to get it, just use 1 tbs salt, 2 tsp dried mint and 2 tsp black pepper)
marinate overnight or for at least 8 hours.
Place into slowcooker and add plums and lemon juice. Leave it on 'low' for around 4 hours.
Taste for seasoning. (The plums i used were unripe and very sour. If u r using ripe fruit, u can omit the sugar entirely.) Add sugar and adjust according to preference and cook for another 2 hours.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Happy New Year!!!

OLA!!! Hope everyone had a very blessed Christmas and Happy New Year!!!

First post of the year is gonna be a show and tell!!!

Look!! A new toy!!!!

A multi-function electric pot!!! Steam, fry, deep fry, stew and steamboat!!!

The liquid inside the pot is a Chinese remedy for colds- Coke with ginger and lemon!!! It does work!!!!!! You can find the recipe here all u need is one can of coke, a knob of ginger and half a lemon...and not overdose like i did...apparently one glass is enough but i had four...(not because it tasted that good but i was in a hurry to get well..ahahahah..!) What does it taste like?? Braised pork trotters with black vinegar and ginger....really...

I love this pot by the heats up so much faster than the electric hot plates and it also doubles up as a very effective facial steamer...!! Just boil some distilled or filtered water and put your face over the pot for around 10 minutes (a comfortable distance of course and when there is too much steam, please do lower the heat setting)!