What's Cooking (in Yvonne's Kitchen)?

I've changed the name of this blog to What's Cooking (in Yvonne's Kitchen) because I will be getting a kitchen of my own very soon, it maybe small but will be able to produce more goodies to share with everyone!

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Eggless and Sugar-Free Lemon Blueberry Muffins

It's that time of the year that supermarkets are filled with fresh and seasonal dates for the fasting month which is just around the corner.  Besides enjoying the wonderful sweetness these dates offer, I stumbled on a blueberry muffin recipe by cHowDivine that which is gluten-free, egg-free and sugar-free. After glancing through the recipe, my heart started humming a song of joy as this is a super easy, guilt-free recipe.  

I had a quick check at my pantry and kitchen to source for the ingredients which fortunately I had all of them, except the fresh blueberries.  Instead of rushing to the fruit stall to get them, I turned to the frozen blueberries which have been silently sitting in the freezer.

Words can't really describe how easy it is to make this.  All in all, it took me less than 30 minutes to pull things together.  The only thing that may be technical is that you need to use a blender or food processor to make an apple-date puree to replace the sugar in this recipe. The puree tastes so good that you can even spread it on a slice of toast and it's heavenly!

To up the level of wholesomeness, I used whole wheat flour instead of white.  It's definitely more dense but if you make them in small batches and consume them within 2 days, they don't dry up as much.  However, feel free to use regular flour, as you wish.  

Personally, the biggest challenge is to resist the temptation of eating the muffins before they are completely cooled.  It tastes even better on the next day for breakfast and the bonus for me is that my son loves to eat it warmed with butter.  He called it "cake", too cute!  

Here's the recipe, enjoy baking and bon appétit!

Eggless and Sugar-Free Lemon Blueberry Muffins

Makes 6 muffins

1 cup        flour (I used whole wheat flour)
½ tsp        baking soda
1 tsp         baking powder
¼ tsp        salt
8               dates, de-seeded
½              apple (use the sweet variety like NZ rose or 马蹄苹果), peeled and chopped
1/3 cup     virgin coconut oil
½ cup       milk
1½  tbsps flax seeds, roughly grounded
1 tbsp       lemon juice & 
1-2 tsp      lemon zest
½  cup      fresh/frozen blueberries
¼  cup      sliced almonds, toasted (optional)

1.    Preheat the oven at 200°C, line the muffin pan with cupcake/muffin cups. In a blender or food processor, pulse the dates, chopped apple and virgin coconut oil until they become runny smooth puree (like watery porridge), set aside.

2.    In a mixing bowl, add milk, lemon juice, lemon zest and flax seeds to mix well.

3.    In a different bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients--flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Then add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in step 2 and mix until the ingredients are just combined (do not overmix it).

4.    Add the blueberries and almond slices, stir gently. Using a spoon or ice-cream or batter scoop, divide the batter into 6 muffins cups/liners. If you prefer, sprinkle some raw almond slices on top.

Bake at the center rack for 22-25 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Rotate the muffin pan midway to ensure even baking. Remove from oven and allow the muffins to cool in the muffin tin for about 10-15 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack and allow the muffins to cool completely.

To store the muffins, keep them in air-tight containers outside within 24 hours, after that the muffins must be stored in the refrigerator and steam or bake just before serving.  I wouldn't keep them for more than 3 days.  

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Monday, March 03, 2014


Mohinga, literally translated as soup snack, is a much celebrated and beloved noodle soup in Myanmar.  Traditionally, served as breakfast, this comfort food is sold every where in the country.  In fact, some Burmese crown mohinga as one of their national dishes.

I first came to know about this amazing dish when one of my Burmese colleagues.  Dr Htar Htar, a plastic surgeon, made and shared this delightful dish at an office potluck and completely knocked my socks off.  I mean, it's a humble looking noodle soup that is nothing that looks and screams extraordinaire; but boy, once you have had a slurp of the soup, the well-balanced flavour of fish, herb and spice lingers on your palatte and leaving the type of craving that you wanting for the second and more.

Dr Htar Htar and her homemade mohinga.  

What I love the most of this dish is that the herb and spices work so perfectly with one another and they are easily sourced locally, or in Asian market--lemongrass, turmeric, shallot, dried chillies, onion, garlic and ginger and yet their distinctively flavour do not steal the limelight of the star, the fish.  Originally, the Burmese use catfishs to prepare this dish, but I don't take them and it's one of those fish that requires quite a bit of work to clean and get rid of the pungent smell, I used mackerel fillet instead.

There's nothing to lie about this.  The ingredient list is super long and it requires quite a bit of work.  But with the help of electric appliance such as blender, it has helped reducing the preparation work by a fraction.  I used pestle and mortar to pound the ingredients for chili paste but the same result can be achieved with just a few blitz in a blender.

The recipe is extracted and modified from here, there's a short video clip that demonstrates how to cook the dish in English language.  The fish paste can be made in large portion and it can be easily frozen for further use.

Hope you will enjoy cooking, savouring this earthy and wholesome dish, as much as I do.  Bon appétit!  

Fish flakes
200 g              mackerel fillet, marinated with 1 tsp turmeric powder (you can also use canned tuna or salmon)
1 stalk           lemongrass, only white part, bruised
3 slices          ginger
½ cup            water

Chili paste
3 stalks         lemongrass, only white part, finely chopped
2                      red chilies, deseeded, chopped
4                      dried chillies, soaked and chopped
4                      red shallots, diced
4 cloves        garlic, diced
2 cm piece   ginger, finely chopped

Fish paste
2 tbsp            peanut/vegetable oil
2 tsp              turmeric powder
2                      red onion, finely sliced
1 stalk           lemongrass, white part only, finely sliced
2 cm piece   ginger, finely sliced
2 cloves        garlic, finely sliced
2 tbsp            fish sauce

Fish broth
2L                    water
3 tbsp            chickpeas or garbanzo cooked, crushed/blended
60 g                rice powder, toasted
2 tbsp            fish sauce
4                      shallots, peeled and halved
2                      hardboiled eggs, quartered
100 g              banana trunk (optional), boiled with turmeric powder and some water
Salt and pepper to taste

600 g              vermicelli noodles, cooked and set a side

4                      sprigs of coriander, to garnish
4                      long beans, finely sliced
pinch of        dried chilli flakes

  1. 1.       To prepare the fish fillet, add the fish fillet, lemongrass, garlic and water to a large saucepan or stockpot. Bring to the boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the fish fillet and mash it into flakes, strain the broth to remove any impurities. Set the fish flakes aside and reserve the broth.
  2. 2.       To make the chili paste, put the lemongrass, chillies, shallots, garlic and ginger in a blender to grind them into a nice paste. Set aside.
  3. 3.       To cook the fish paste, heat the oil in a saucepan over low-medium heat and add the turmeric. Next, add the chilli paste and sauté until it’s fragrant. Add the red onion, lemongrass, ginger and garlic to cook for 5-6 minutes. Add the flaked fish and coat in the paste. Sauté over low-medium heat for 20 minutes. Continue to cook, over low heat, for another 5 minutes to infuse flavours.
  4. 4.       To prepare the fish broth, return the fish broth reserved in step 1 and water into a big pot, cook over medium heat. When the liquid is hot, add the crushed chickpeas, toasted rice powder, fish sauce, flaked fish mixture. Season with salt and black pepper. Reduce heat simmer for 30 minutes. Add the red shallots and boiled egg, then the banana trunk.  
  5. Divide the vermicelli noodles among 4 bowls. Pour the warm fish broth over the noodles. Garnish with coriander, snake beans and chilli flakes to serve.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Hakka Thunder Tea Rice
serves 4

I tried this exquisite Hakka dish many many years ago and have been addicted to its distinctive taste since.

When I was in KL, it was difficult to come by a really good an authentic Hakka thunder tea rice but now that I am in Johor Bahru, I can get really decent thunder tea rice at almost any food stall.  And I am very fortunate to be able to get my fix from a local vegetarian restaurant on weekly basis.   One of the many blessings of living in JB.

The key to a very good thunder tea rice is the soup.  To make the soup paste, one needs a special mortar and a guava-tree stick, otherwise a blender or food processor will do all the work.

Bon appétit!

Ingredients (for soup paste)

4 bundles of fresh basil (available at wet market)
2 bundles of peppermint leaves
1 tbsp black peppercorns
1 cup lightly roasted sesame seeds
2 cups lightly roasted peanuts

Accompanied with
garlic stir-fry with:
pucuk manis, de-stalked
long beans, finely chopped
cabbage, finely shredded 
fried firm tofu (tau-kua)
fried peanuts
preserved radish (chai poh)

1. To make the paste, grind all ingredients in a blender until all mixed thoroughly, add some water if the paste is too dry or thick.
2. Season with salt.
3. Add hot water to the paste make it into soup.
4. Serve with stir-fry veggies, tofu, peanuts, preserved radish and hot rice (brown rice preferred).

Ahhh... another satisfying Hakka meal!

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Kai Chai Paeng (鸡仔饼) Little Chicken Biscuits

makes about 60 crispy thin biscuits

Have you ever craved for a food so badly but cannot source it in the area you live in, so much so that you decided to take the matter into your own hands--to make it from scratch?  Well, I have.  In fact, ALL. THE. TIME.

And for that, the baking/cooking bug in me always gives myself the "excuse" to attempt the recipe for the first time, regardless whether it's a success or a total failure.  Thank God that most of the time, it turned out quite well.

The recipe calls for a long list of ingredients, but most of them are easily found in your pantry!

This time, I have decided to make kai chai paeng, a type of biscuit originally from Kampar, Ipoh, to fix that craving of mine.  So, I looked no further than my two gorgeous gourmande girlfriends, May and Karen, for inspiration.  As always, they never disappoint me by providing me with a recipe by Lily and I did some cross-referencing different recipes on Google (I know, OCD much?).  I realized that most of the recipes resemble the recipe posted by Amy Beh on Kuali.

I did some tweak the recipe, and here they are:
- the original recipe calls for ammonia but I didn't have it and this ingredient sounds too "chemically" (Yes, I am aware that a lot of food contains ammonia, but if I have the choice of NOT including it, why should I?)
- use organic ingredients such as flour, egg, salt and sesame seeds to make the biscuit wholesome
- cut the sugar level by 30% (I didn't do it for the first time, but I've gotten smarter)
- to make the biscuits vegetarian, I replaced chicken granules with mushroom seasoning, which is equally yummy!

Replacing the chicken granules with mushroom seasoning makes these biscuits vegetarian

It's a rather simple recipe and if you have a food processor, it will save at least 50% of the physically mixing and kneading.  The only time-consuming part is the shaping.  I shaped them into thin and crisp oval-shaped biscuits by shaping them in small balls and rolling them thinly.

Mixing ingredients A in a food processor (right) and whisking ingredients B in a mixing bowl (left) before combing the two.

For semi-chewy kai chai paeng, baking them for 10 minutes (top), if you prefer crispy texture, bake them for 12 minutes (bottom).  But keep an eye on them once you smell the aroma.  

This recipe will definitely be included in my Chinese New Year cookie repertoire and I hope you enjoy making and eating them as much as I do.  Bon appétit!

Ingredients A
300 g self-raising flour
70 g icing sugar
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly-ground pepper
1 tsp five spice powder (
1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp stock granules (I used mushroom seasoning granules )
2 cloves garlic, minced
80 g white sesame seeds
70g candied winter melon strips (
冬瓜糖), finely chopped or easier done with a food processor

Ingredients B
1 large egg
1 tbsp malt or commonly known as glucose (
2 pieces red fermented tofu
(南腐), mashed
1 tbsp dark soy sauce (kicap manis)
100 ml sesame oil

1. Preheat the oven at 175⁰C.  Pulse all ingredients A in a food processor, pulse until all mixed.

2. In a mixing bowl, add all ingredients B, whisk until all mixture blended.

3. With the motor running on slow speed, pour ingredients B mixture slowly into the food processor until all ingredients combined (it feels a little greasy and sticky when you touch it).  Transfer the mixture into a large bowl and knead with hand until a dough is formed.  Let the dough rest for 10 minutes (no need to put in the fridge).

4. To shape the biscuits in rustically just like the original ones from Kampar, form small balls like the size of marbles and put them on parchment papers or silicone sheets, use a rolling pin or glass bottle to roll over the small dough balls, so they will be flattened to 1/8-inch thick.

5. Bake the biscuits 10 minutes (if you prefer a crisp on the edges but slightly chewy in the middle texture) or 12 minutes (if you like crispy and crunchy biscuits).

6. Cook the biscuits on a rack before serving and storing them in air-tight containers. 

Storing these biscuits in a mason jar with a cute ribbon would make a thoughtful gift.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Oatmeal and Prune Buttermilk Scones
makes 8 jumbo-sized 3" scones

Hmmmm... scones are perfect for afternoon tea.   

I am a purist when it comes to ingredient selection as I want to use the best and freshest ingredients in cooking and baking.  But I am NOT usually a purist when it comes to gadgets/equipment in food preparation.  So when it comes to the debate of making scones either by hand or by food processor, I would choose the latter.  This is also the reason why I hinted my husband for a food processor as my Christmas present few years back... and I got it, hehe.

There's nothing more luxurious and intimate than enjoying a tête-à-tête with a friend or two with freshly-baked scones and a cup of good quality English tea such as earl grey.  So, to take matter into my own hands, I opt for homemade scones instead of store-bought ones.

I have sourced for scone recipes from my good & trusty cookbooks and online recipe sites.  But the recipe that impressed me the most is this one from Epicurious.  I hope you will find the time to bond with your kitchen this weekend by making these scones.  

The ingredient list of this recipe is pretty short--buttermilk, oats, flours (baking powder+baking soda & salt), brown sugar, butter, orange zest and prune.

Most people think it's difficult to make scones, but I beg to differ.  Even if you do not have a food processor, you can also rub the cold butter cubes into dry ingredients with your hands or a pastry cutter to form coarse crumbs.

Flatten the dough into a 1" thick disc by hands, cut out the scones with a cutter, brush the top with buttermilk, sprinkle with some brown sugar before shovelling them into the oven.

These scones would be ready under 20 minutes, by then your kitchen will be filled with refreshing aroma of orange and prune.  

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup brown sugar plus additional for sprinkling
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
Finely grated zest from an orange
1 cup buttermilk (1 cup regular milk + 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice and let it sit for 5 minutes)
1/2 cup prunes (about 12 of them), quartered

Special equipment: a food processor and a 3-inch round cookie cutter

  1. Preheat oven to 220ºC. 
  2. Sieve together flour, brown sugar, baking powder and soda, and salt into a food processor, then add oats and pulse 15 times. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal with small (pea-size) lumps, then transfer to a bowl.
  3. Stir together zest and buttermilk. Toss currants with oat mixture, then add buttermilk, stirring with a fork just until a dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead 6 times. 
  4. Pat dough into a 1-inch-thick round disc, dusting surface with more flour if necessary. Cut out as many scones as possible with cutter, dipping it in flour before each cut, and transfer scones to a lightly buttered large baking sheet. Gather scraps into a ball, then pat into a round and cut out more scones in same manner until all dough are used. 
  5. Brush tops of scones with buttermilk and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Bake in middle of oven until golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes, and transfer to a rack to cool.
Serve warm or at room temperature with cream or cheese.

These scones are amazing!  They are so best eaten fresh or can be stored in a freezer for up to 2 weeks!

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Homemade Savoury Popcorn
serves a big bowl of popcorn enough for two but one hungry person like myself 

Yes, I am a self-confessed savoury popcorn lover.  Like many people, I used to settle for convenient microwave popcorns in different varieties--butter, extra butter, kettle etc.  Yes, I know they are packed with chemicals which are hazardous to our health, but they were the fastest popcorn fix, I can enjoy in minutes without washing any utensil. 

However, I have been a new convert ever since I bumped into plain popcorn recipes from Epicurious and Simply Recipes!  And I never looked back.  Nothing beats freshly-popped (savoury) popcorn, drizzled with melted butter and freshly ground parmesan cheese, so so so divine!    

Some variety of flavours I have tried and loved:
olive oil + seasoned salt
salted butter + freshly ground pepper
parmesan cheese + chives
garlic powder + seasoned salt
parmesan cheese + paprika
salted butter + curry powder + parsley flakes
olive oil + nutritional yeast + sea salt (for vegans)
So I am dedicating this recipe to popcorn lovers, especially to my dear friend, Sheila, who enjoys salted popcorn just as much as I do.  Bon appetit!  

3 tbsp olive oil (or any high smoke point oil)
1/3 cup of high quality popcorn kernels (I prefer white kernels)
2-Litre stainless steel pot with lid
2 tbsp of butter
Salt to taste

1 Heat the oil in a pot on medium high heat.

2 Put 3 or 4 popcorn kernels into the oil and cover the pot.

3 When the kernels pop, add the rest of the 1/3 cup of popcorn kernels, level them in an even layer with a spatula, cover with lid, turn off the heat and count 30 seconds. (It's fun to count out loud with kids.) This method first heats the oil to the right temperature, then waiting 30 seconds brings all of the other kernels to a near-popping temperature so that when they are put back on the heat, they all pop at about the same time.

4 Return the pot to the heat. The popcorn should begin popping soon, and all at once. Once the popping starts in earnest manner, gently shake the pot by moving it back and forth over the burner. Try to keep the lid slightly ajar to let the steam from the popcorn release (the popcorn will be drier and crisper). Once the popping slows to several seconds between pops, remove the pot from the heat, remove the lid, and dump the popcorn immediately into a serving bowl.

5 If you are adding butter, you can easily melt it by placing the butter in the now empty, but still very hot pot.  Then pour the popcorn back to the pot to coat them evenly.

6 Sprinkle salt* to taste.

*If you mix the salt into the oil in the pot before popping, the salt will be well distributed throughout the popcorn.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Simple Oden

serves 4

Oden (おでん) is a Japanese stew, typically prepared in a hot pot. To me, it's a celebration of late-autumn harvest as it is a winter dish slowly cooked/stewed using root vegetables such as potato, lotus roots, daikon (aka white raddish), konnyaku (aka konjac or devil's tongue), hard-boiled egg and yong tau fu (fishballs, fishcake, tofu etc). In fact, my friend calls it the Japanese version of yong tau fu hot pot.

If you look up for traditional way of preparing oden, it would require quite of bit of work including preparing dashi stock made with bonito, kelp, mushroom, mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine) and soy sauce from scratch. My unorthodox approach to this repertoire is a no-fuss, all-in-a-pot type of cooking.

All the ingredients you need are the freshest selection of root vegetables, shiitake mushrooms, konnyaku (my favorite as it gives a crunchy texture to the stew which is an excellent source of fiber) and a good concentrated dashi stock which is available in Japanese grocery store.

So, here is it my simple oden recipe. Enjoy!

4 cups water
1 cup or more concentrated dashi, depends on the concentration level of the stock
1 konbu/kelp (optional), cut into strips and make them into knots
1 carrot, chopped into chunks
1 potato, chopped into chunks
1 daikon (radish), chopped into chunks
1 lotus root, sliced thinly
4 shiitake mushrooms (if use dried mushrooms, soak in cold water for at least 30 miutes)
1 konnyaku, cut into triangles
4 soft-boiled eggs
10 pcs different variety of fishballs, fishcake, or yong tau fu

1. In a heavy bottom pot or hot pot, mix the water and concentrated dashi until the broth tastes slightly saltier than your preference. Add the knotted konbu if you have any.
2. Add all the chopped root vegetables, mushrooms and konnyaku into the broth, bring it to a boil and let it simmer slowly for approximately 1 hour.
3. Once the vegetables and mushrooms are tender, add in eggs slowly (without breaking the egg white) and fishballs, fishcakes or yong tau fu and let them simmer with the rest of the ingredients for another 30 - 45 minutes.
4. Serve the oden while it's warm.

Note: Do not use silk or soft tofu in the oden because they tend to break into small pieces during the simmering.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Mango Pickles

The good thing about having a mango tree in the office compound is that when the fruits are almost ripe, they will be hanging gloriously on the tree and gently 'whispered' :"Come get us while we are still green, sappy and oozing tangy aroma. You can make us into rojak, sambal belachan, chutney, pickle or just eat as we are." So like Pavlov's theory, all of us in the office are conditioned to salivate upon the visual of such enticing sight.

Thanks to the male colleagues who are so very kind to climb up the trees and pluck those emerald green apple mangoes while they are at their prime, we managed to bring home bags of raw mangoes.

In the past, I have made the mangoes into rojak petis (a Malaysia-style fruit salad with pineapple, cucumber, sengkuang, papaya and mango, drizzle with belachan-infused black sauce) but this time around, I want to be able to enjoy the mango for a longer period of time, so I decided to preserve them into mango pickles.

I am going to share two types of mango pickles--the typical salt-and-sugar traditional pickle and another is a humble creation of my own inspired by the making of kimchi with a twist, of course. The young baby mangoes (while the seed is still tender, can be cut through and removed easily) are used for the former; while the "older" and slightly more fibrous raw mangoes (the seed can no longer be cut through) are used for the latter.

Baby mango (right) is suitable for making salt-and-sugar mango pickle; while the "older" mango (left) is suitable for "kimchi"-style pickle.

There's no specific quantity for the ingredients in these recipes because the recipes are rather forgiving and the quantity depends on personal taste/preference. If you are unable to get apple mangoes, use the rawest mango you can possibly source from your local store for these recipe.

Salt-and-Sugar Mango Pickle (Jeruk Manga Muda)

raw baby mangoes (make sure it's young enough that the seed can be cut through)

1. In a big pot, boil the water and add enough salt to make the water taste as salty as sea water. Let cool.

2. Wash and peel the mango skin, cut the mango into quarters, remove the seed and a thin white membrane between the flesh and seed. Let dry.

3. When the brine (salt water) comes to room temperature, soak the mango pieces into brine, cover it with plastic sling and leave it for 20 - 24 hours. Note: for stronger-flavoured pickle, I let them soak for 48 hours

4. Drain the brined mango pieces, put them in a container (preferably a mason jar or glass container). In a pot, boil water and add a lot (I mean really a lot a lot a lot... of sugar) to make the water sweeter than syrup. Let the syrup cool before pouring it into the container until all mango pieces are soaked completely with syrup, cover the jar and store it in a fridge for at least 24 hours before you can enjoy homemade mango pickle.

Note: the longer the mango is soaked in the syrup, the sweeter the pickle becomes.

"Kimchi-style" Mango Pickle

raw mangoes (the seed CANNOT be cut through)
preserved mandarin peel
Korean red pepper flakes (the type used in making kimchi)

1. Wash and peel the mango skin, cut the mango into slices (like those in rojak petis).

2. Chop preserved mandarin peel finely, sprinkle it just enough to coat the mango slices. Add in the red pepper flakes, mix well. Note: the mango slices should have a beautiful yellow-red colour mix.

3. Keep the mango slices in a container (preferably a mason jar or glass container) store it in a fridge for at least 24 hours before you can enjoy homemade mango pickle.

Keep the mango pickles in glass (or mason) jar for better preservation of colour and flavour. Enjoy!

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