Beef Stew

I don’t usually cook beef and this is probably the first beef dish I ever posted!  This is because hubby does not eat beef.  If he does, unintentionally at that, he gets stomach and digestion problems.

For a while, I joined hubby and by choice, did not eat beef.  But I fell off the wagon (blame BFF… joke!) and while I rarely eat beef (or cook it), once in a blue moon, I do… at least for the other members of the family!

But since I am not used to cooking beef, I needed a recipe to get me started –

One of my favorite cookbooks is The Williams-Sonoma Family Meals:  Creating Traditions in the Kitchen (I liked the book so much that I got BFF her own copy several Christmases ago!) –

wsbook family meals
my copy of the book…

The recipe I used –


But, if you notice, the color of the stew pictured in the book is more brownish, but mine was more reddish…  I can’t explain it, since I (thought I) was quite faithful to the recipe, with a few changes like using broth because I had no red wine (it was chicken broth, at that!), dipping the beef cubes (brisket instead of short ribs) in seasoned flour before browning the beef, cooking the stew in my magic (thermal) cooker instead of the oven (which meant I had to start cooking very early in the day)…

800 grams beef brisket, cubed
seasoned flour, as needed (optional)
olive oil, for sauteing
1 medium yellow onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 large carrots, cubed 
2 large potatoes, cubed (instead of parsnips)
1 cup broth (or red wine)
1 small can canned tomatoes
1/4 cup tomato paste, optional
1-2 pieces bay leaf
1 teaspoon Italian mixed spice
salt and pepper, as needed or preferred

Brown the beef in olive oil.  In the same pan, saute the onion and garlic until soft and fragrant.  Put the beef back in the pan and add the carrots and potatoes, and the broth, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, bay leaf and Italian mixed spice.

Cook until the mixture is lightly simmering.  Transfer to the inner pot of the magic cooker and let the stew simmer for about 10 minutes before putting the inner pot into the magic cooker.  Leave in the cooker for about 4 hours and checking if the beef has been tenderized.

If the beef is still tough, simmer again another 10 minutes and returning to the magic cooker.  In my case, it took me about 10-12 hours to get the beef soft and tender.

Season to taste!

Then enjoy!

Sunshine Peaches & Cream Cake

I made peach danish last weekend… and had some pastry cream and peach halves left over. Not wanting more peach danish, I decided to make cake!

While I already have a “perfect” vanilla cake recipe, decided to try a different recipe. Guess where I found it?

My friends know that I collect recipes and cookbooks. I like new, off the bookstore shelf books, as well as ebooks. But i also keep a lookout for nice pre-owned ones… this particular recipe for “vanilla cake” is a recipe written on paper that was stuck in between pages of a second-hand cookbook that I bought in a bazaar!

(recipe copied as written)

I thought this could be the perfect time to try it out! I wanted only a small cake, so I halved the recipe…

and then I discovered that I DID NOT have buttermilk! I thought of making the substitute of milk and vinegar, but realized that I had used up all my milk to make the pastry cream!!!!!! I was contemplating using plain water when my eyes chanced upon the syrup that was drained from the canned peaches! So I thought of using it (and maybe infusing the cake with a bit of peach flavor???) and reducing the sugar a bit (because the syrup is very sweet already).

My adapted, halved recipe –

1/3 cup sugar
1-1/4 cups cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 tbsp vanilla (mine is homemade)
1 egg + 1 egg yolk

Preheat oven to 325F. Line and butter a 5×3-inch round pan.

Mix the dry ingredients together. Add wet ingredients and mix well, until just combined.

Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, rotate midway. Cool completely.

After the cake cooled completely, spread the pastry cream all over the top.

Slice 4 peach halves into quarters to make 8 pieces. Arrange the peach quarters around the edge of the pan (to look like petals or rays) then place a peach half in the center. Lightly brush the top with peach glaze (heat the peach syrup until reduced and thick).  (Someone suggested that it would be better to pour clear gelatin over the top in the style of Crema de Fruita…)

Chill and enjoy!!!

Peach Danish

I dream of food (truly!) and it is not unusual for me to wake up in the middle of the night and scribble on my trusty cellphone the food ideas that I had dreamed of.  This peach danish was one such instance.

We had planned to serve cake for the kid’s piano teacher’s snack.  But having dreamed of a lovely peach danish, the cake idea had been shelved and I set about making the peach danish.  Up front, I have to say that we in a tropical country where peaches do not grow.  This is not to say that fresh peaches were not available, but when they were available, their prices were sky-high and so I simply got a can of peach halves from the supermarket and drained them.

For the recipes, I turned to Michel Roux’s 1994 book “Desserts:  A Lifelong Passion”


Of course the first thing to do is to make the puff pastry, which is the base of the danish.  I am not an expert by any means and this was my first attempt.  It was not quite what I had envisioned.  In short, I needed more practice.

BUT Teacher F was scheduled to arrive in about 4 hours so I abandoned the homemade puff pastry idea and rushed to the baking supply store and bought puff pastry.  And to make things even easier for me, I got the one that was already cut into 4-inch squares!

Problem?  Lunch with hubby extended 30 minutes past my schedule and Teacher F arrived thirty minutes early!  This meant I had about 45 minutes to finish my peach danish otherwise Teacher F would have no snack at all!!!!!

The first thing I did was make the pastry cream.  I halved the recipe since I was planning to make just 4 pieces of peach danish. And I used vanilla extract instead of a vanilla bean, as well as vanilla sugar.

3 egg yolks
60 grams vanilla sugar
20 grams flour
250 ml full fat milk

Mix a third of the sugar with the egg yolks until “light ribbon consistency” as specified in Roux’s recipe.  Stir in the flour and mix well; set aside.  Heat the milk and remaining sugar in a heavy saucepan until almost boiling.  Pour about one third of the heated milk into the egg yolk mixture, mix well and add the egg yolk mixture back to the milk mixture.  Continue heating over low heat and stir constantly for about 2 minutes.

Roux’s recipe had instructions how to cool the pastry cream faster but I did not have a marble work surface so I just poured the pastry cream into a glass baking pan (13×9-in) and stirred it lightly with a spatula.

Meanwhile, I cut the puff pastry into rounds and folded the edge to form a “wall”.  I pricked the inner circle and placed about 2 tablespoons of pastry cream in the middle.  I topped the whole thing with a peach half with the dome facing out.  It went into a (preheated) 400*F oven for about 12 to 15 minutes.  Midway through, I brushed the top with peach glaze and back into the oven it went.  After the edges are slightly browned, I took the danish out of the oven and brushed it again with peach glaze.

I made it just in the nick of time!  The kid was running down the stairs (and yelling “I’m done, I’m done!) as I snapped a picture of the danish in its serving plate!  I hurriedly brought the peach danish up!

(Somehow, the peach danish in my dream looked waaayyy better than what came out from my oven.  In my dream the puff pastry “hugged” the peach half and no pastry cream was visible.  My finished product was not bad, neither was it ugly, but I think next time I will put a bit less of pastry cream and I would fold the puff pastry right up of the edge of the peach!)


Maruya is our local term for banana fritters.  It was a favorite snack all throughout my childhood… my late father also loved it, so we had it pretty often.

The problem?  The recipe is unwritten and largely by estimation.  And while I’ve made maruya before, it was not exactly what we had as kids.

As luck would have it, I found a recipe for banana fritters in my mom’s files.  And I tried it the first opportunity I had.

And it was… PERFECT!

It was soft in the middle and crunchy/crispy on the edges!


(If there’s any change that I made, it was to use turbinado sugar flavored with real vanilla, instead of white granulated sugar.)


Another Fruitcake

This is the last one, I promise!!!

The recipe for this one looked easy – it mixed in one bowl, with no pre-soaking required.  Best of all, it was ready to eat after baking (and cooling)!

The secret? Condensed milk!

I followed this recipe from Eagle Brand.  But not knowing where to find mincemeat I just used mixed dried fruit, about 2 cups worth.  I also added about half a tablespoon of apple pie spice…

Fast.  Easy.  Delicious.



Lemon Tart

I was left with 10 skinless lemons after making limoncello.  I juiced the lemons and froze it while I pondered what to do with the juice.

There was the usual lemon cake, or maybe lemon curd, or maybe just lemon juice, etc. etc.  But I wasn’t really fully convinced until I saw the recipe by Alice Medrich in her book Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts for an Easy Lemon Tart.

It was truly easy!  I was done in less than an hour!  But we could not enjoy it since we preferred it super cold!

But it was soooo yummy!  Even our guest was impressed – he had seconds!!!


Homemade Limoncello

I have never tasted limoncello before.  I don’t know if any is sold in the local markets.  But I saw it in one of the free ebooks I downloaded from Amazon, and the internet is full of instructions and recipes on how to make it.  And everyone, I mean EVERYONE, says that the homemade version is loads better!

So here is my version –

I used 3 cups of vodka and 10 lemons, taking care not to include the white pith with the peel, which steeped for about 2 weeks.  After straining the mixture I added simple syrup (1 cup sugar and 1 cup water) and stored in the fridge for 1 week and in the freezer for another week.

Truthfully, hubby did not like it much (he preferred the homemade Irish cream!)