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I just realised it’s been a while since I last posted a recipe for harassed working mothers. I know, I know, “steamed fish” hardly sounds like an easy recipe but trust me, it is.

The star of this dish is a fish known in Malaysia as ‘bawal emas’ or golden pomfret. This fish is known in the Philippines as pampano or pompano. For best results, use the freshest fish that you can find (clear eyes, bright red gills, firm texture)…or, at the very least, cook the fish immediately upon reaching home (i.e. the same day you bought it).

Filipino Style Steamed Golden Pomfret with Sesame Oil & Soy Sauce

Ingredients:
1 pc ikan bawal emas
2-3 inches ginger, peeled and sliced into strips
Daun kuchai (Filipino: kinchay), a bunch about the diameter of a 20-sen coin, washed and cut into ~2″ pcs
Daun bawang (spring onions), 2 or 3 stalks, washed and cut like the daun kuchai

1/3 cup soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
Sesame oil to taste

Water for steaming
Cooking oil (preferably coconut oil or peanut oil)
Salt & pepper for rubbing into fish

Directions:
1. Clean and gut the fish. Trim the tail and fins using kitchen scissors for easier handling. Make 2-3 diagonal slices on each side. Pat dry with a piece of kitchen towel. Rub with salt and pepper (I used white pepper) inside and out.
2. Take about 1/5 of the ginger/kuchai/daun bawang and stuff inside the fish cavity. Divide the rest of ginger/ kuchai/ daun bawang into 3 portions.
2. Prepare your steamer. Place an appropriate amount of water. Put 1/3 of the ginger/ kuchai/ daun bawang into the water. Allow to boil.
3. Steam the fish for about 10-15 minutes. You might want to flip the fish halfway for more even cooking but do it very carefully. Place the fish into a serving plate.
4. Heat up some oil in a wok/pan. (I used coconut oil.) Stir fry the remaining ginger strips for about half a minute, then add the remaining daun kuchai and daun bawang. Stir fry for another half minute so as to retain the green colour. Take the spices out, leaving behind the oil; arrange over the fish. Save the oil for later.
5. Pour the soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, and a bit of water into a small saucepan and allow to boil for about 30 seconds. Adjust soy sauce/sugar/sesame oil to taste. (Note: I used a bit of water which was used to steam the fish since I only made the sauce after the fish was done steaming.)
6. Reheat oil saved earlier until it’s almost smoking, then pour over the fish.
7. Serve immediately with hot rice.

This recipe is adapted from Overseas Pinoy Cooking.

This is one of my go-to recipes when the kids and I are craving for pasta but:

a) I’m too tired.
b) I’m feeling too lazy.
c) I don’t have any fancy-schmancy ingredients in the freezer/pantry.
d) All of the above.

This recipe so easy, you’ll find that the hardest part is actually boiling the pasta.

Quick & Easy Sausage Pasta

Ingredients:

– 1 pack of pasta (I prefer spaghetti for this recipe)
– garlic, crushed & chopped
– 1 tin of button mushrooms, drained & sliced thinly
– mixed herbs of choice
– 1 pack of sausages/hot dogs, sliced thinly into discs
– salt & black pepper
– olive oil
– knob of butter

Method:

1. Cook the pasta al dente. This is important. If you overcook it, it will turn to mush later as you try to mix it. Drain and set aside. Do NOT throw away the pasta water as we will need some of it later.

2. In a large non-stick pot with handle, pour in some oil olive and a knob of butter. Swish the oil and butter around to melt the butter over medium heat. The butter adds a nice flavour to the dish; it’s totally fine to omit it altogether.

3. Saute the garlic briefly in the oil/butter mixture. I deliberately did not specify how much garlic to put in because it all boils down to your personal preference. My family loves garlic, so I can use easily half a head of it for this recipe!

4. Add in the mushrooms and lower the fire. Sprinkle generously with herbs of your choice (I use mixed herbs, or oregano, or basil, or whatever I have on hand). Cook just long enough for the mushrooms to absorb the taste of the butter.

5. Add in the sliced sausages and stir around just to brown the sausages a bit.

6. Dump the cooked pasta into the pot and stir away. You might want to add some of the pasta water to make it easier to stir the pasta. Add olive oil as needed.

7. Season with salt and black pepper and continue stirring just long enough for the flavours to come together. (Remember, everything’s already been cooked, so there’s no need to cook it any further too long!)

8. Serve and enjoy. You’re welcome! 😉

A few quick notes:
– Linguini and angel hair will probably work with this recipe, also.
– Fresh mushrooms will surely taste better.
– If you’re doing Meatless Mondays, try making this with ONLY the mushrooms, omitting the sausages.

For my OnlyGirl’s 11th birthday on 11/11, I had to think long and hard about what cake to make. The children’s expectations have been raised after RoundBoy’s spaghetti cake so I was under a lot of pressure to come up with something novel. Then it hit me — ice cream! OnlyGirl loves ice cream! I’d make ice cream cake then. At least, that’s what I thought initially.

Then I decided to take it one step further. How about ice cream cupcakes?

ice_cream

I remembered seeing one video about how it’s done so I googled it up again:-

I chose to use my favourite chocolate cake recipe for the cupcake base. In hindsight, it wasn’t the best choice for ice cream cupcakes given how runny the batter is. Some of the batter seeped through the ice cream cones, leaving only half inside the cone and the other half all over the muffin baking tin.

ice_cream_cupcakes_muffin_tin

Note to self: the next time I’ll attempt making these again, I’d have to use a recipe with a thicker batter.

For the ‘ice cream’, I whipped up some buttercream frosting, mixing in 1/4 cup Krimwell (a type of vegetable shortening specifically meant for making frosting) with 3/4 cup butter so that the frosting would last through the heat of Malaysia’s tropical weather. I’m against using shortening and other forms of transfats but since I wanted OnlyGirl to take these cupcakes to school, the frosting must not melt so I had to relent.

After the cupcakes have cooled, I piped the frosting using a big star tip and made huge ice cream-like swirls on top. I splurged on a small jar of chocolate fudge at Cold Storage, which I heated up in the microwave as per label instructions, then I piped it on top of the ice cream. Some of the cones ended up with rainbow sprinkles, others were topped with a cherry.

ice_cream_cupcakes_cherry

The only downside to this recipe is how the cones end up being soggy — and at times, a bit too chewy — once they’ve cooled down.

If I do make these again, I’d serve them while still warm (and the cones still crispy!), scoop real ice cream on top, and let the kids have a field day putting their own toppings on their ice cream cupcake cones 🙂

Tired of my usual repertoire of chocolate cake, vanilla cake, and carrot cake, I decided to try making strawberry cake for a change. I looked up my favourite online recipe source, AllRecipes.com, and found this recipe:-

Strawberry Cake From Scratch

strawberry_cake

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 (3 ounce) package strawberry flavored gelatin
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 4 eggs (room temperature)
  • 2 3/4 cups sifted cake flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup whole milk, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup strawberry puree made from frozen sweetened strawberries from fresh strawberries

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour line with baking paper two 9-inch round cake pans.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and dry strawberry gelatin until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Combine the flour and baking powder; stir into the batter alternately with the milk. Blend in vanilla and strawberry puree. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.
  3. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a small knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow cakes to cool in their pans over a wire rack for at least 10 minutes, before tapping out to cool completely.

The cake came out soft, moist, and lovely, although it was a bit too sweet for my taste. So next time, I will probably reduce the sugar to just 1 cup instead of the original 2 cups.

I whipped up some frosting using whipping cream, cream cheese, icing sugar, and vanilla, playing it by ear with the measurements. I guess that’s why the icing ended up quite runny but the kids loved how the cake looked anyway.

I used up the extra strawberries that I had as garnishing on top, as well as filling in between the two layers. The slight tartness of the strawberries balanced out the sweetness of the cake and the frosting.

The children made short work of the cake, finishing up everything in less than an hour — a sure sign that this recipe’s a keeper. One more cake recipe to add to my files at long last!

This recipe is so easy, it’s almost embarrassing to post here. But since the results are phenomenal (DH: “You must cook it again tonight!”) and preparation is quick and simple, I thought I’d share it with you.

Mushroom Soup With Puff Pastry Lid

Ingredients:
– mushroom soup
– frozen puff pastry
– one egg, beaten

Equipment:
– ovenproof cups or bowls
– pastry brush
– baking tray

Method:

  • Prepare the mushroom soup according to package instructions. (Or make from scratch!)
  • Preheat oven 200°C (about 390°F).
  • Thaw the frozen puff pastry at room temperature for about 10 minutes. [NB: You can find frozen puff pastry in the frozen section of your local supermarket.]
  • Ladle the soup into the ovenproof bowls — about 3/4 full.
  • Separate the sheets of the frozen puff pastry and cut them into squares slightly bigger than the top of your bowls.
  • Take one square, put it on top of a bowl and press lightly to create an indentation. Take off the pastry square and brush some beaten egg on the indentation of the bowl on the pastry, as well as portions of the pastry outside the circle. Cover the bowl with the pastry. Press the pastry firmly but gently so that it sticks to the top and sides of the bowl. Make sure the pastry sticks so that the pastry will puff up as the soup inside the bowl is boiling.
  • Place the bowls on a baking tray, making sure there’s adequate space in between bowls so that they don’t stick together, then put inside the oven. [NB: Don’t use a tray with holes like the one in the photo because some of the soup is bound to overflow and create a mess!]
  • When the pastry has puffed up, brush the tops with a little of the beaten egg.
  • Continue baking  until the pastry is golden brown.
  • Serve hot.