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I never knew that making pilau rice is so easy. Probably the only thing hard about it is assembling the myriad spices you need. Pilau rice, if you must know, is the spiced fragrant rice accompanying Indian dishes. There so many variations of it much depending on how colourful or how much spices you want in it.

I love how easy it is to cook this resulting in fluffy and soft fragrant rice. Highly recommended!

Pilau Rice

250 g  [1-1/3 cups] basmati rice
2 2/3 cups  water
1 Tbsp  ghee or cooking oil
1 small onion - finely chopped
1/2 tsp  fennel seeds
1 cinnamon stick - halved lengthwise
2 cardamon seeds - squashed open
3 cloves
2 tsp  ground turmeric
2 bay leaves
  1. Wash and drain the rice several times with cold water then soak for 30 minutes.
  2. In a saucepan with a tight fitting lid, heat the oil and saute the onion in medium heat until soft (about 5 minutes).
  3. Add the rest of the spices until fragrant.
  4. Drain the water from the soaked rice and add the rice to the saucepan and stir to coat with the sauteed spices and oil.
  5. Add the water, stir, cover saucepan and bring to boil. Lower heat to simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Turn off heat and keep covered and leave to steam for 15 minutes.
  7. Fluff up the rice with fork and serve while hot.
*Note: You can use rice cooker cup to measure the rice and water (1 rice cooker cup = 2/3 cup). The ratio is 1 cup rice to 2 cups water.
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I saw this in the latest edition of the Good Housekeeping magazine and thought how seasonally appropriate it is. The cake came out quite nice especially if served with some custard. Although I thought the cake itself is quite crumbly so I adjusted the milk in the recipe to 1/4 cup. This is highly recommended for your afternoon tea and to use up your strawberries.

The picture is not particularly stellar because I honestly thought it would not taste good so I didn't expend much effort in getting a better image. How wrong I was!

Strawberry Streusel Loaf

175 g  [scant 3/4 cup] unsalted butter - softened
175 g  [scant 1/2 + 1/3 cup] caster sugar
2 large eggs
250 g  [scant 2 cups] self-raising flour
1/4 cup  milk
grated zest of 1 lemon (optional)
200 g  strawberries - hulled and quartered

*Streusel Topping
20 g  [4 tsp] unsalted butter - chilled
20 g  [scant 3 Tbsp]
1 Tbsp  demerara sugar
1 Tbsp  chopped roasted hazelnuts
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/350°F. Grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan.
  2. Beat the butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time until well combined.
  4. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, fold in the flour and lemon zest (if using), then milk until well combined.
  5. Spread 1/3 of the batter in the prepared pan. Scatter half of the strawberry on top of it.
  6. Repeat once more ending with the streusel topping.
  7. Bake for 1 hour or until a skewer poked in the middle comes out clean.
  8. Cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on a rack.
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It's blueberry time again. Every year this time of summer there is a glut of blueberries in the grocery aisle. I thought of baking this with a new recipe from my reliable The New Best Recipe cookbook. I readily found out after taking the muffins out of the pan that I needed paper cases for these. They soon began listing on one side due to collapsing blueberries as they cooked and the cake itself was quite soft which really was not a problem. It was just some aesthetic thing. The topping, by the way, is optional. You can eat straight from the oven as is or put on some topping of your choice.

Blueberry Muffins

260 g  [2 cups] plain flour
1 Tbsp  baking powder
1/2 tsp  fine salt
1 large egg
200 g  [1 cup] granulated sugar
60 g  [1/4 cup] unsalted butter - melted
300 g  [1 1/4 cups] sour cream
200 g  [heaping 1 cup] fresh blueberries

*Topping 1:
50 g  [1/4 cup] granulated sugar
1/4 tsp  ground cinnamon
melted butter

*Topping 2:
50 g  [1/4 cup] granulated sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
lemon zest
100 g  [1/2 cup] sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/350°F. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan or line with paper muffin cases.
  2. Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the egg then add the sugar. Mix well.
  4. Add the butter and then the sour cream. Mixing well after each addition.
  5. Stir in the blueberries into the flour mixture and stir to combine.
  6. Using a spatula, add the flour mixture into the egg mixture. Mix just enough to combine.
  7. Divide the batter in the prepared muffin tin.
  8. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
  9. Cool in pan for about 5 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack.
  10. *For topping 1: While still warm, brush melted butter on top and dip in the combined sugar and cinnamon.
  11. *For topping 2: Combine the lemon zest and 1/2 cup sugar, set aside. Cook the lemon juice and 1/4 cup sugar in a saucepan over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. While the muffins are still warm, brush top with the lemon syrup and then dip the top into the lemon sugar.

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I got this from bonus recipe card from the BBC FoodFood magazine years ago. We paired it with sweet English strawberries which are very much in season today. I only ever buy English strawberries and only when it is in season which is around late May to August.

This is a baked cheesecake compared to some of my other cheesecake here in this blog which required no baking. Maybe later I would try baking this in a waterbath.

White Chocolate Cheesecake

12 chocolate digestives (or graham crackers)
85 g  [1/3 cup] butter - melted
2 tsp  cocoa powder
1 Tbsp  caster sugar (superfine)

900 g  cream cheese (room temperature)
4 eggs
3 Tbsp  plain flour
200 g  [scant 1 cup] caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
100 g  white chocolate - finely grated

2-3 chocolate flakes (optional)
icing sugar (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/350°F. Grease and line the bottom of a 23 cm/9-inch springform pan.
  2. Crush the digestives by putting it in a plastic bag and then bashing it with a mallet or rolling pin.
  3. Mix the crushed biscuits with the rest of the base ingredients. Pour this in the prepared pan. Press the mixture with the back of a spoon to cover the bottom of the pan.
  4. Bake in the oven for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.
  5. In a big bowl, combine all the filling ingredients with an electric mixer until well combined.
  6. Pour mixture on top of the biscuit base in the pan.
  7. Bake for 50 minutes until almost firm but with a slight wobble in the middle.
  8. Remove from oven and cool completely in the pan.
  9. To serve, remove the cheesecake from the cake pan.
  10. [Optional] Dust the cheesecake with icing sugar. Break a few pieces of the chocolate flakes on top.

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Okay I'm not too familiar with this Parmesan Chicken over on this side of the pond. I would assume this is name is popular over in the US. Over here it is called other things like chicken schnitzel or escalope. They may or may not have parmesan cheese but sure does make it very tasty. Some other variations of these involves brining the meat and also putting some tomato sauce and mozarella on top before grilling it for a few minutes. So those would be my next experiments in the mean time I leave you this recipe which I got from the lovely Ina Garten over at the Food Network.

Parmesan Chicken
(Chicken Escalope / Schnitzel)

2 chicken breasts
65 g  [1/2 cup] plain flour
1/2 tsp  fine sea salt
1/4 tsp  ground black pepper
1 large egg
1 1/4 cups  breadcrumbs
1/4 cup  grated parmesan cheese
olive oil
unsalted butter
  1. Butterfly each of the chicken breast into two thin pieces. Pound each piece so that it will be about 1/4-inch thick.
  2. Combine the flour, sea salt, and black pepper. Set aside.
  3. Beat the egg with a teaspoon of water.
  4. Combine the breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese. Set aside.
  5. Dredge the pieces in flour then dip in the egg and then finally coat it with the breadcrumb mixture.
  6. Heat 1 Tbsp of the butter and 1 Tbsp of the olive oil in a pan. Fry the battered chicken pieces in the pan on medium-low heat of about 2 minutes each side.
  7. Serve with green leafy salad with vinaigrette.
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Tried jazzing up the brownies with fruit and nuts. So I got this recipe from the BBC Good Food magazine of years gone. I don't even know what month and year it came out. All I had is the torn out page with the recipe. It turned out quite nice being a quite different variation of the usual brownies. Although I noticed that it isn't as popular as the ubiquitous intensely chocolatey brownies. Nevertheless, quite a good change from the usual especially if you have some dried fruits and nuts to use up in your pantry.

Cranberry Pistachio Brownies

200 g  [1/2 cup + 1/3 cup] butter
300 g  dark chocolate (at least 50% cocoa content)
300 g  [1-1/2 cups] light muscovado sugar
4 Tbsp  milk or cranberry juice
4 medium eggs
200 g  [1-1/2 cups] plain flour
1/2 tsp  ground cinnamon
80 g  dried cranberries
100 g  [1 cup] pistachio - chopped
icing sugar for dusting (optional)
  1. Heat oven to 180. Grease a 9-inch/23 cm square baking tin.
  2. In a saucepan, heat the butter, sugar, chocolate, and milk (or cranberry juice) gently while stirring constantly until the chocolate is melted and everything is well combined. Remove from heat and cool completely.
  3. Whisk in the eggs one at a time.
  4. Add the flour, cinnamon, and dried cranberries. Mix well.
  5. Pour in half the batter to the prepared baking tin. Sprinkle the pistachio over and then pour the rest of the batter.
  6. Bake in the oven for about 30-35 minutes or until a skewer poked in the middle comes out with no wet batter.
  7. Turn out and cut into squares while still warm.
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This is this year's birthday cake for myself. Very nice, moist and chocolatey. I especially like the cream cheese icing. I think I prefer it chilled straight from the fridge since the icing is on the soft side when at room temperature which caused a bit of problem when I brought it to work for my colleagues. The cling film covering it stuck on it so much that it didn't look too appetising.

This recipe is from my favourite epicurious.com food website

Sour Cream Chocolate Cake

195 g  [1-1/2 cups] plain flour
3/4 cup  cocoa powder
3/4 tsp  bicarbonate of soda
1-1/2 tsp  baking powder
1/2 tsp  fine salt
1 cup  sour cream
1/3 cup  water
2 tsp  vanilla extract
250 g  [1 cup] unsalted butter - softened
270 g  [1-1/3 cups] light brown sugar - firmly packed
3 large eggs

*For icing:
185 g  [3/4 cup] unsalted butter - softened
250 g  [1 cup] cream cheese - room temperature
115 g  dark chocolate (70% cocoa) - melted and cooled
1 tsp  vanilla
2 cups  icing sugar - sifted

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/350°F.
  2. Grease and flour two 9-inch pans or 13 x 9-inch baking pan.
  3. Sift all the dry ingredients into a bowl. Set aside.
  4. Combine the sour cream, water, and vanilla in another bowl. Set aside.
  5. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until fluffy.
  6. Add eggs one at a time making sure to beat well after adding.
  7. Add flour mixture in batches alternating with the sour cream mixture beating well until well blended.
  8. Pour and spread the batter equally between the pans and smooth the top.
  9. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes for the 9-inch pans (40 minutes for 13x9-inch) pan or until a skewer poked in the middle comes out clean.
  10. Cool in pans for about 10 minutes. Turn out in rack and cool completely.
  11. Cake layers can be made 1 week ahead and frozen, wrapped well in plastic wrap. Thaw layers before putting on the icing.

*For the icing:
  1. Cream butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and beat until well combined.

*To assemble:
  • Lay first layer on the cake plate and spread some icing on it.
  • Top with the second layer and spread the rest of the icing on top and around the cake.
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Here's another version of the classic chocolate chip cookie with emphasis on being thick and chewy. This recipe is adapted from The Best New Recipe of Cook's Illustrated. There is an optional step on chilling the dough to make it spread less when baking. I prefer to chill it after balling it since it is easier to do so rather than the other way around.

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

300 g  [2 1/2 cups] plain flour
1/2 tsp  bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp  fine salt
185 g  [3/4 cups] unsalted butter - melted
200 g  [1 cup packed] light or dark brown sugar
70 g  [1/3 cup] granulated sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
2 tsp  vanilla extract
200 g  [about 1 1/2 cups] chocolate chips
  1. Pre-heat oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/350°F. Grease or line baking sheets with baking paper.
  2. Combine the flour, bicarbonate of soda, and salt in a small bowl until well mixed.
  3. Mix, either by hand or electric mixer, the butter and sugars until well combined.
  4. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until well blended.
  5. Add the dry ingredients until combined.
  6. Add the chocolate chips with a wooden spoon and stir until combined.
  7. Roll the dough into 1 1/4-inch (about 50 g) balls.
  8. [Optional] Chill the dough balls for about 2 hours or until firm.
  9. Arrange dough balls on the baking sheets about 2 inches apart.
  10. Bake for about 11 minutes or until the outer edges start to brown and the centres are still soft and puffy.
  11. Cool the cookies right in the baking sheets for about 5-10 minutes.
  12. Remove from the baking sheets with a wide spatula and cool completely on a rack.
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There are many variations in cooking pancit canton. You can be as elaborate as you want with cooking/blanching each vegetable to something as simple as a all-in-one cooking method. This version of mine is a happy compromise. It is very similar to what I do with pancit bihon but the main difference is in the type of noodles used. The one here is wheat-based which is certainly more flavourful than the bland rice noodle bihon. Also, liver and mushrooms are used lending difference in the filling. Do serve this with lemon juice to foil the saltiness of the sauce.

As with most of my recipes, this is a work in progress so I will be updating this from time to time.

Pancit Canton

250 g  pancit canton noodles
100 g  chicken meat - sliced into serving pieces
100 g  chicken liver - sliced into serving pieces
50 g  prawns (optional)
2 Tbsp  cooking oil
2 pieces  dried shiitake mushrooms
2 tsp  minced garlic
1 medium onion - sliced
1/4 cup  julienned carrots
1/2 cup  shredded cabbage
1 1/2 cup  chicken stock
1 Tbsp  oyster sauce
2 tsp  light soy sauce
1 Tbsp  cornstarch
2 Tbsp  water
salt and pepper
  1. Divide the garlic and onion. Soak the dried mushroom in boiling water for at least 30 minutes. Once mushroom is soft, remove stems and slice into thick strips. Set aside.
  2. Combine the cornstarch and 2 Tbsp water and mix well. Set aside.
  3. In a wok, heat 1 Tbsp of the cooking oil. Saute half of the garlic and onion.
  4. Add in the meats, season with salt and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes.
  5. Add the vegetables, saute for 30 seconds and then add about 1/4 cup water or stock. Bring to boil and simmer covered for about 3-4 minutes or until the vegetables are almost done.
  6. Transfer to a bowl or container and set aside.
  7. Heat up the same wok with the rest of the cooking oil.
  8. Saute the rest of the garlic and onion.
  9. Add the chicken stock, oyster sauce, and soy sauce. Bring to boil.
  10. Add the cornstarch mixture and cook until thick.
  11. Add in the pancit canton noodles. Bring it back to boil. Lower heat and simmer until noodles are soft (about 5 minutes).
  12. Mix in the vegetables and meat. Stir to combine well. Dish up and serve while still hot.

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