A Colourful Affair

Great Thai food, for me, is synonymous with wonderously generous portions, close friends and family and colour. Lots and lots of colour, both literally – beautiful and brilliant reds, greens, oranges, yellows – and metaphorically, in terms of the taste – a perfect balance of sweet, salty, spicy and sour elements and different textures throughout the dishes.

About one month ago my friends and I organised one of our delightful dinners together (that’s not a typo by the way, we really do need to organise things like this very well in advance) and decided on Thai as a theme, which if I recall correctly was inspired by one of the girls’ recent trips to Thailand and Bali.

There was more than enough food, as there always is at these kinds of things, but everything was delicious (except for 1/2 of my dessert – more on that soon).

There was a refreshing and vibrant tofu salad with lemongrass, crispy noodles and cashews dressed in Thai chilli sauce:

Vibrant Asian salad. Photo: Tao Lin

Photo: Tao Lin

The always-reliable and tasty Pad Thai:

Photo: Tao Lin

Photo: Tao Lin

For mains there was also a Thai red curry with chicken and mixed veges served with sticky white rice but unfortunately I failed to get a photo of it. It was very well-seasoned with Thai spices and red chillis, which gave it a really nice kick.

For dessert, coconut creme brulee with toasted dessicated coconut:

Photo: Tao Lin

Photo: Tao Lin

The reason I say 1/2 of my dessert wasn’t quite as good as everything else is because I tested two different recipes for creme brulee and all the desserts made from one recipe were undercooked and failed to set. I have to say the flavour was fine, it probably needed a good 15-20 minutes more in the oven. The recipe I followed can be found here.

I made the other creme brulees using the same recipe I follow for creme caramel and those turned out lovely. The reason I chose to follow this recipe, as opposed to a traditional/authentic creme brulee recipe was because I’ve made it twice before and it has always tasted amazingly delicate and fresh. I didn’t make it as a creme caramel for this dinner party because I didn’t want to stress about getting the custards out of the ramekins all perfect and in one piece! This recipe is a real winner and just boosts my love of My Kitchen Rules even more.

Because it was the host’s birthday the weekend before, our resident Baking Queen made a gorgeous yellow cake with buttercream frosting and it truly was something spectacular. The birthday girl loves beautiful things and so the cake reflected this:

IMG_0507

Photo: Tao Lin

Photo: Tao Lin

Photo: Tao Lin

Photo: Tao Lin

Photo: Tao Lin

Photo: Tao Lin

Beautiful inside and out. Photo: Tao Lin

Coincidentally, the gift (beauty voucher) and birthday card were also presented in exactly the same colours. It was just meant to be!

We spent a good couple of hours after dinner chatting, gossiping, laughing, conversing and sometimes just sitting in brief silence sipping our tea. There’s something so heartwarming and special about these gatherings and I think a part of it is because we’ve all become so much busier now since we all left school.

When we do manage to get together, we eat too much, our conversation topics change ferociously and they’re always interjected with tremendous laughter and fits of giggles. But no matter what the conversation is about, whether it’s serious, lighthearted, trivial or meaningful, and how much effort it is to organise one of these gatherings, it is always a delightfully colourful affair.

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Something easy for a lazy day

A couple of months ago I made lemon syrup cake following a recipe by Nigella Lawson: this blog presents this recipe in a really pretty, pictorial and easy-to-follow way. The cake turned out really good and I felt that it would taste just as good with some coconut in it. The flavour of the cake begged for coconut to be added and you didn’t have to try very hard to almost taste that coconut flavour.

Google gave me several recipes for coconut cake and lemon coconut cake. This coconut cake looks amazing but it requires way too much effort for me today. Being in the condition I am today – cold and sleepy – I didn’t really want to go out shopping for ingredients or have to make anything too complicated.  I will endeavour to try it another time when I’m feeling more energetic!

It didn’t take long for me to give up on finding a new recipe and I reverted back to my original plan, which was to add desiccated coconut to the recipe I followed for the lemon syrup cake. I also happened to have coconut milk so I added that to the mix as well. Here’s the ingredients list I ultimately came up with:

  • 50g unsalted butter (the only reason I didn’t use the original 125g was because I only had about 50g left and I didn’t want to go out and buy a new block. Lazy, I know)
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • The juice of one lemon
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • A pinch of salt
  • 4 tablespoons of coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup of desiccated coconut

The method I followed was the same as the original recipe, I just sifted the coconut in with the flour and salt. The cake did crack on top but I’m not too bothered by this since the rest of the it cooked really nicely.

For the lemon syrup, I started heating the lemon juice up in a pan and I put about half a tablespoon of icing sugar in before I had a mini epiphany and said to myself, why not use honey instead? So, I ditched the rest of the sugar and melted in about 1.5 tablespoons of honey. I honestly don’t think you can taste the difference but it works all the same.

Ever have cravings for cake but you’re just having one of those days? This is the recipe for you!

I really sold that, didn’t I 😉

Photo: Tao Lin

Photo: Tao Lin

Getting a little bit fancy

The authors of one of my cookbooks say that there is a great sense of achievement when you master creme caramel and while I don’t think I’ve quite “mastered” it, I now know what they mean. I was elated when I turned out my first creme caramel and the custard held its shape as all that lovely caramel ran down the sides. It looks so elegant and tastes quite delicate but actually, if you’re able to get the caramel right and the custard at the perfect consistency, it’s quite straightforward.

For me, the caramel was a no-brainer: don’t let the sugar burn. The slight issue I had was that I used palm sugar, which is brown already so I had to just keep a really close eye and nose on it.

Found out that it was a lot easier to chop up palm sugar than grate it, which was what I had been doing - silly! Photo: Tao Lin

Found out that it was a lot easier to chop up palm sugar than grate it, which was what I had been doing – silly! Photo: Tao Lin

The custard was trickier. I don’t think I whisked it enough because there were little bits of cream still floating about when I went to pour it into the ramekins. I also overcooked it a bit because it was very firm and I’m pretty sure it was meant to still wobble when I moved it. No matter, just some points to remember for next time!

Before the oven. Photo: Tao Lin

Before the oven. Photo: Tao Lin

After the oven. Photo: Tao Lin

After the oven. Photo: Tao Lin

What I find interesting with this dessert is the breakdown of the caramel. It sets pretty solidly very quickly after being made but when you turn it out after it’s been refrigerated, it’s runny. I’d have thought it would go really hard sitting in the fridge for hours. This is probably really simple science, as is most, if not all, of baking, but I’m not really one for thinking about science in any sort of depth; I just follow instructions. Anyone care to explain?

I kind of made a wee bit of a mess when getting them out of the ramekins but just pretend you don’t see the ragged edges 😉 I toasted some desiccated coconut and sprinkled it on top for serving.

The recipe I followed was mostly based on one for a coconut creme caramel that I saw being made on My Kitchen Rules. 

Ignore the messy edges! Photo: Tao Lin

Ignore the messy edges! Photo: Tao Lin