Short and sweet

It’s all over. The constant stress about story ideas, the 8am morning lectures, trying to convince people to talk to student journalists. But also getting to know everyone in my course, whining/laughing/sighing over the lack of story ideas, due dates and unreliable sources while quaffing drinks or staring bleary-eyed at an over-lit computer screen, the heartwarming camaraderie – it’s all over.

Last Friday was the final day of my journalism course and yesterday was my first day in full time employment as a reporter. So far, I’ve done vox pops (horrible, soul destroying things), a couple of interviews and I have an ever-growing list of things to do and follow up on. So far, so good.

Unfortunately my cooking and food blogging suffered a lot during this past month or so. The last thing I made was banoffee pie and I can’t find the recipe I used for it. I do remember, though, the basic recipe was pretty much the same regardless of where the recipe came from. The major difference I saw was that some people bought caramel straight from the store while others boiled condensed milk in the tin.

I used caramel straight from the store and made the base out of crushed digestives, squashed together with melted butter. I stuck those in the fridge while I cooked(?) the caramel with some more butter until it was smooth. After refrigerating that for a solid couple of hours, I placed sliced banana tossed with lemon juice on top and finished it off with lightly whipped cream. I added in about half a teaspoon of coffee granules to the cream as well.

I’m fairly certain the recipe I followed called for sugar to be added to the caramel – WHAT?! I understand this dessert is meant to be really sweet but it seems heart-cloggingly criminal to add even more sugar into something that is already incredibly sweet. On the plus side, it didn’t take long to make.

Sugar enthusiasts, this is most definitely one for you.

Cavities guaranteed: banoffee pie. Photo: Tao Lin

Cavities guaranteed: banoffee pie. Photo: Tao Lin

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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

Second attempt

In my last post I wrote about my enthusiastic use of lemon juice in making lemon herb chicken. I decided to try it again with a lot less lemon to see what it would taste like and not surprisingly, it went down with a lot less puckering. I used less than half the amount of lemon juice I used the first time but you could definitely still taste it.

It’s a keeper for sure but now that I’ve almost used up all the parsley, I’m keen to try something different next time.

Photo: Tao Lin

Photo: Tao Lin

 

A bit of a sour week

There’s a little lemon tree that grows in my backyard and it produces fruit just about every season. This year, it really went all out producing lemons, so much so that we didn’t know what to do with all of it. We hate letting stuff go to waste so we picked every last one off the tree, squeezed out the juice and froze it into mouth-puckering lemon juice ice cubes. I think we came towards the end of summer with about 5 large peanut butter jars full of them.

Since then we’ve been steadily getting through the lemon juice (lots of hot lemon and honey drinks!), sometimes at a struggle because we’re conscious of using it up before next season’s fruit, hopefully, grows. It’s actually not a bad idea to do the whole freeze em up thing because it’s so easy to just melt the juice for a recipe and boy, did I melt a lot of lemon juice last week.

Last Thursday I made lemon and herb roasted chicken breasts. I followed this recipe – it says Armenian herb marinade but it’s essentially a lemon and herb recipe, isn’t it. Instead of grilling the chicken like in the recipe, I pan fried it first and then baked it in the oven.

All the prep and stuff was fine until I got to the amount of lemon juice needed. I’m not the most accurate with quantities of ingredients when I cook because I like to go by taste. It usually works out quite well but I have to say, this time the lemon got me. It was deceptively light and I couldn’t taste it when I made the marinade.

About 7 cubes (one cube is equal to the juice of 1.5 to 2 small lemons) and 24 hours later, I had the chicken in the oven, some potato fries seasoned with salt and paprika in the oven too and was reducing the marinade to make a sauce. I taste the sauce and WOW, sour much?!

I served the meal with the sauce anyway, hoping that it would somehow not seem as sour when eaten together with some chicken and potato…Turned out that’s not quite how it works and I should have just gone without it.

The boyfriend started off saying it tasted good but I soon saw that it’s because he started eating where there was no sauce on the meat. Once he hit the sauce:

“I see what you mean about the sauce now.”

After the meal, I asked what he thought:

“The fries were good…”

Ouch? Not really because I knew it was true. The chicken was cooked nicely  and the herb flavours were really good but I guess I kind of ruined it by the sauce. Oh well, you win some and you lose some.

Photo: Tao Lin

Photo: Tao Lin

Lemon and herb chicken, potato fries seasoned with salt and paprika. Photo: Tao Lin

Lemon and herb chicken, potato fries seasoned with salt and paprika. Photo: Tao Lin

Carrying on with the theme of tangy-ness, I made up some sesame soy sauce for some steaks on Saturday and was a bit heavy-handed with the rice wine vinegar (there’s tahini, sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic, sugar and vinegar), so the vinegar overpowered everything else. Oops, guess I just hadn’t had enough sourness for the week??

The other thing I made that day was a parsley, garlic, lemon and olive oil dressing for some basa fish fillets. Basically just whipped up chopped parsley, garlic, lemon juice and oil in the food processor. This turned out alright but I wouldn’t make it again. Basa is such a delightfully delicate tasting fish and I want to find something that really compliments it – this dressing really didn’t.

Also, I found this for some garlic and parsley roast potatoes (can you tell I really need to use up some parsley? :P) and I quite enjoyed not having to wait ages for the spuds to cook properly in the oven (for some reason they always seem to take forever and I’m forced to serve everything but the potatoes because everything else would go cold otherwise).

So, all in all an okay week for food but maybe a little sweetness next time?

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Steak seasoned with salt, pepper and too-tangy sesame soy dressing. Photo: Tao Lin

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Doesn’t look too bad, does it? Photo: Tao Lin