Steamed Pork with Salted Eggs

(#35 in the limited series: cooking/baking in the time of the coronavirus quarantine)

This dish is pretty common in Chinese households.  My ancestry is Chinese but I was born a citizen of my country.  So I have an affinity with food in both cultures…

But, the funny thing is, this was not at all common in my mom’s kitchen.  I first had a taste of this in a “small” food center in the unofficial Chinatown in our city, specializing in Taiwanese cuisine.  This is the first time I would be trying to make this dish.  I tried looking in my chinese cookbooks but somehow I did not see any recipe for it.  So I went to the internet and I found this site so I am basing my dish on it.  I increased the proportion since my ground meat (packed from the market) was at 400g (of course I did not want any leftover meat…)

The original recipe did not add ginger or onion to the meat mix but I always, always add it to all my meat dishes…  A note about the salted eggs, so far I have not found raw salted eggs locally – they are usually boiled and cooked already so I had to use the whole salted duck eggs instead of just the egg yolks, and to replace the salted egg white in the meat dish, I added a regular egg.

400g ground pork with about 15% fat
grated ginger
minced onions
splash of rice wine
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon light soya sauce
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon cornstarch

3 salted eggs, cubed

Combine and mix everything, except salted eggs, by hand. Fold in diced salted eggs.

Place into an oiled glass bowl/lidded plate. Steam 20 to 25 minutes, longer if the plate/bowl is “tall”, internal temperature of the pork should be 160*F.

It was a hit with the family!  The steamed pork was soft and creamy and the salted eggs provided a salty pop (notice I did not add salt anymore to the meat)

Bread, More Bread!

(#36, 37 & 38 in the limited series: cooking/baking in the time of the coronavirus quarantine)

I woke up at 3 am and could not go back to sleep.  So I went down to the kitchen and started making bread.  I ended up with hotdog rolls and parmesan tuna buns…


Then as a last hurrah, I made blueberry loaf (pictured on top).

The kid was happy to have the hotdog rolls for breakfast and we were happy to eat the parmesan tuna buns.  The blueberry loaf was what we snacked on the rest of the day.

After breakfast I went right back to sleep!!!

Magic Vanilla Cake

(#34 in the limited series: cooking/baking in the time of the coronavirus quarantine)

The concept of one mixture that makes a 3-layer cake had always fascinated me.  In fact about 10 years ago, I attempted a flan cake – supposedly one bake (2 batters though) that make a 2 layer cake… but I flopped royally…

I bought the book because I was utterly fascinated and it looked easy enough… in my mind perhaps even “no-fail” but… but…

As you cans see, my cake only has 2 layers instead of 3.  My theory?  I think perhaps I over-baked it a tad…

Anyway, hubby and the kid still liked it… enough to request another one (to which I said, next time since I have others on my list to make while the quarantine is still in effect)

I scaled the original recipe to 3/4 of the original and baked it in a 7×3-in round pan with removable bottom… lined of course, so that the batter does not spill or leak.

3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup (100g) sugar

Mix for about 4 minutes until thick.  Add –

85g butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon vanilla paste

then stir in –

85g (9 tablespoon) flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups (360ml) whole milk

Beat until stiff peaks –

3 egg whties
3/8 tsp cream of tartar

Then fold the yolk batter into the stiffly beaten egg whites.  Leave some blobs of egg white floating on top.

Bake in a preheated 325F oven for about 50 to 55 minutes.  The sides should be firm but the middle should still jiggle slightly (mine did not jiggle in the middle hence my conclusion of having over-baked mine).  Cool completely then chill at least 4 hours.

Chicken in Milk

(#31 in the limited series: cooking/baking in the time of the coronavirus quarantine)

The first time I made this dish was a good 5 years ago.  I was at a second-hand bookstore when I found a second-hand copy of Jamie Oliver’s “Happy Days with the Naked Chef”.  I flipped through the pages and was intrigued with his Baked Chicken in Milk.

That time I used fresh sage from our garden… this time around I no longer had the sage plant – let’s just say the doggies found it an interesting toy and shredded the poor plants into smithereens!

What I used instead was my marjoram.  And I placed some thin potato slices under the chicken (in the milk).

Still yummmm!


Hot Cross Buns

(#25 in the limited series: cooking/baking in the time of the coronavirus quarantine)

The quarantine has been extended. Instead of looking forward to its end in a week, I am (still) trying to get used to the fact that I (we) have to bear the cabin fever until the end of the month! I am now seriously concerned that my flour and eggs won’t last that long…

But, today is Good Friday and I wanted to bake something. Initially I was thinking of baking some sort of Easter bread but (1) I couldn’t wait that long, and (2) the Easter bread recipe I had uses about half a dozen eggs… so, NO.

No, no, no.

Off to find something in my cookbook library, only to realize that it would take FOREVER for me to find a recipe apt for Good Friday… when the kid suggests to just “GOOGLE” it (and I actually cringe at her use of the word “Google” as a verb!) so I did. And of course, in a matter of seconds, millions of suggestions appeared.

(Just a short note here… for some reason, I belong to the old-ways age group who look in books first for information instead of the internet… so in case anyone was wondering why I did the more complicated thing i.e. check my books first instead of typing a few words, well, it’s I guess I’m just more comfortable with books…)

Anyway, the search results were (almost) all for Hot Cross Buns… which is rather alien in our part of the world. But it looked like something hubby would really like so I picked the recipe from one of my favorite internet sources – King Arthur Flour.

I could not be 100% faithful to the recipe, though, since I had to make do with what I had on hand… first change I always make is to halve the recipe… simply because the possibility that we won’t finish a whole batch is very real!

First things first, I did not soak my mixed dried fruits in apple juice or rum.

I did not have 1 large egg nor did I want to use half a yolk, so I used 2 medium eggs.

As for the procedure, I dump everything in the bowl of my stand mixer (because I am lazy) and let the mixer do all the kneading!

2-1/4 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1/8 cup brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon apple pie spice
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon baking powder

2/3 cup milk, room temperature
2 medium eggs
3 tablespoons butter, softened

80g mixed dried fruit, chopped into small bits

The first rise took about an hour.  I divided the dough into 16 (small) balls (about 45 grams each) and arranged them in greased 8-inch square pan.  The second rise took about 40 minutes, after which I placed the pan (covered with plastic wrap) in the fridge overnight.

And, because I am lazy, I did not want to take the extra step of making a flour paste or icing to mark the buns with crosses, so I just cut/sliced cross marks on the buns before shoving the tray into the oven.

The rolls baked the next morning, at 375*F, for about 25 minutes.  (I placed the buns almost straight out of the fridge – it only sat on the counter for the 10-15 minutes it took for the oven to preheat.)

After the rolls came out of the oven, I brushed the tops with apricot glaze (apricot jam plus a little water on low heat).

Orange Chocolate Cookies

(#22 in the limited series: cooking/baking in the time of the coronavirus quarantine)

Yesterday was a particularly bad day for me.  I felt so blahhhh and did not feel like doing anything.  I did not feel like cooking, baking crocheting or doing anything at all, for that matter.  At the 2/3 mark (the quarantine was extended another 2 weeks), the quarantine was finally affecting my mind and heart.

The good news is, I am feeling a bit better… and today I was feeling good enough to bake chocolate cookies… with a touch of orange.

I had a dream last night – I was a kid again, and I was eating a childhood favorite – orange truffles.  The memory was so vivid that I wanted to make the cookies upon waking up.  Of course I had breakfast first!

As it turned out, it seemed to be fate… because when I opened my FB page, a friend had just posted a recipe for … yep… Orange Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies!  I halved the recipe – and started the making the cookie dough right after breakfast!  I was feeling rather energetic that I made another batch of peanut butter cookies!  And even combined a batch to make a 2-in-1!!!

The recipe needed orange zest… so what did I do with the zested orange?  I made the kid an orange-banana-berry smoothie!

1 cup sugar
zest of 1 orange

Rub the zest in the sugar and set aside for a while.

150g butter
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat the butter with the zested sugar until light and fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla; beat well.

3/8 cup cocoa
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Stir in the dry ingredients.  Batter/dough will be stiff.

1/3 cup semi sweet mini chocolate chips
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips

Fold in the chocolate chips.  Chill the dough for an hour.

Scoop dough onto ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake at 350*F for 10-12 minutes.



Dayap Blueberry Coffeecake

(#19 in the limited series: cooking/baking in the time of the coronavirus quarantine)

I only knew it as dayap… a citrus fruit that looked like calamansi but bigger.  It was more common when I was young; these days it is a rare find in the wet markets much less the supermarkets.  Once in a while I would see some at the weekend market but…

So when I saw dayap plants at the plant nursery a good 5-6 years back, I bought 3 at once… never mind the price that was more costly than I care to admit…

In any case, when my dayap plants (now just 2, the third one having been murdered by our doggies) bear fruit, I zest them and freeze them.  

Anyway… this cake…

I basically followed Ina Garten’s recipe for Blueberry Crumb Cake, but, of course, changed a couple of things because well, I used my dayap (limes in English) and I did not have blueberries per se… I had blueberry jam

First, make the steusel topping –

Mix together: 1/4 cup sugar, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon apple pie spice, 1-1/3 cups flour, and 1/2 cup (113grams) melted butter.  I placed the bowl in the fridge while I went about making the cake batter.

Line a 9-inch round pan with baking paper and preheat the oven to 350*F.

Then, rub 1/2 teaspoon grated dayap (lime) zest in 3/4 cup sugar; let stand about 5 minutes.

Stir together 1 1/4 cups AP flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda and 1/4 teaspoon fine salt.  Set aside.

Beat 85 grams of butter with the sugar until light and creamy.  Add 2 large eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Stir in half of the flour mixture.  Add 1/2 cup sour cream.  Stir in half of the remaining flour mixture then add 3 tablespoons of dayap juice.  Stir in the remaining four mixture.

Spoon the batter in the prepared pan.  Spoon dollops of blueberry jam on the batter (I used a little over 1/2 cup) then sprinkle the streusel on the top.

Bake about 50 minutes.

Enjoy with a cup of coffee or tea!


My New Favorite!!!

(#18 in the limited series: cooking/baking in the time of the coronavirus quarantine)

For the last (almost) 4 decades I have “THE” best peanut butter cookie recipe – my absolute favorite from a 1980s Better Homes and Gardens cookbook!  The basic recipe is always the same but my mix-ins have varied- the most common being chocolate chips and the most decadent being coarsely crushed peanut brittle.

Because of the quarantine, the kid is bored and has taken to requesting all sorts of things… her own FB account (NO…), her own messenger account (still NO…), her own youtube account (heck NO!)… and various food requests like chocolate chip cookies (done)… pizza (done)… and her latest – peanut butter chocolate chip cookies.

I was set to make my favorite… but I guess I had quite a lot of time on my hands so I took a quick (but really not-so-quick) look at my “notebook” (which in actuality is several notebooks and sheets of paper where I write recipe notes, ideas and stuff).  There I found a recipe for “extra PB cookies” which was basically similar to my favorite recipe except that it had twice the amount of peanut butter, less flour, and a rather unexpected ingredient – graham flour.

Of course the question is… where in the world would I find graham flour???  And in the midst of a quarantine at that?!?  What I did have was graham cracker crumbs… and to my mind I thought it would do (I just need to lessen the sugar a bit since the crumbs were sweeter than flour).  In any case, what did I have to lose in experimenting?

½ cup butter, softened
⅓ cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 cup extra crunchy peanut butter
1 egg
½ tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup very fine graham cracker crumbs
2 50g bars of Meiji Black chocolate, chopped

Beat butter and sugars together until light and creamy. Add peanut butter and beat well. Add egg and vanilla; beat some more.

Combine soda, salt, flour and graham cracker crumbs. Stir into the peanut butter mixture.

Chill at least 1 hour (mine got stuck in the fridge for 2 hours). Form into balls and place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten lightly with a fork, making a crisscross pattern.

Bake in a preheated 375F oven for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies have lightly browned.

I was blown away with the results!  So much so that I told hubby that my (now ex) favorite has been de-throned!!!

The cookies have a wonder texture – it is delicate and crumbly but with edges that have crunch.  The center is delicate and soft… and the double dose of extra crunchy peanut butter brought with it an extra bang of peanut butter flavor and bits of crunchy peanuts… the black chocolate, bitter with only a slight hint of sweetness, and not overly plentiful at that, brought a pleasant surprise when bitten into…

It was just… wow (!!!!!)

I kept shoveling one cookie after another!!!

It was exceptionally good with coffee!


Kimchi Stew

(#14 in the limited series: cooking/baking in the time of the coronavirus quarantine)

I generally followed the recipe found here, but I used boneless chicken thighs, regular tofu and omitted the egg at the end.  I also added cucumbers and some leftover spaghetti.

How in &^$@# did I think of making kimchi stew?  Blame it on the kdrama series that I have been watching since the beginning of the quarantine!  In all of the kdrama I have watched, they always have barbecue (samgyupsal), noodles (ramen), and kimchi!  and in one particular episode, a kimchi soup dish that looked so attractive and tasty.

And, yes, hubby had a couple of tubs of kimchi in the fridge!



Fat Double Choco Chip Cookies

(#12 in the limited series: cooking/baking in the time of the coronavirus quarantine)

The kid, presumably bored because of the imposed community quarantine, bugged me to bake her favorite chocolate chip cookies, with one “strange” request – she wanted fat chocolate cookies…

I like my cookies on the thinner/flatter side, for some reason, and that’s how I have been baking it.  I wasn’t exactly sure how to make fat (or thick) ones.  But I always aim to please the kid so I asked around my (rather small) baking circle… most told me to swap out a third to a half of the butter with Crisco, or shortening.

Luckily, I had some butter-flavored Crisco left over… it was barely a third of a cup!  But it was enough!  The recipe I used is the all-time favorite TollHouse, swapping some of the butter with the butter-flavored Crisco.

The other tip was to shape the cookies “taller”, meaning still rounded but slightly oblong with more height than width…

The other change that I made was to use 2 different kinds of chocolate chips.  I had semi-sweet chips that were small and I had a bag of Hershey’s dark chips which were twice the size of the small chips.

Was it a success???

The kid was over the moon!!!

And she made another request…

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies!

(I need to check if we still have peanut butter…)


Pork Yakiniku

(#11 in the limited series: cooking/baking in the time of the coronavirus quarantine)

To be honest, when I looked in my (Japanese/Asian) cookbooks, I kept searching for “yakiniku” but could not find it anywhere… there were a lot online but the recipes were so varied I really didn’t know which was “authentic”…

After doing a little bit more research, I finally figured it out that “yaki” means grilled and “niku” means meat… and “tori” means chicken… And wouldn’t you know it, all my cookbooks had Yakitori!!!  So I followed their basic recipe and just used thinly sliced pork instead of chicken!!!

500g pork shoulder, thinly sliced

Marinate the pork slices at least overnight; drain the marinade before grilling.  Mine went for 24 hours… Serve with steaming hot rice!

Marinade –  mix together

2 tablespoons mirin
2 to 3 tablespoons Japanese soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon honey or brown sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
4 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
toasted sesame seeds, as desired (I omitted)

I found this dish a bit similar to the Korean bulgogi… but I am not so sure which I prefer… both are delicious anyway!


The Best Porkchops. Ever.

(#9 in the limited series: “cooking/baking in the time of the corona virus quarantine”)

I remember the porkchops of my childhood – they were thin, hard and dry.  So I never really liked them.  But I definitely love the thick porkchops that I found in restaurants!  And I’ve always wondered how to make them thick, juicy and flavorful…

So off to Google I went… and I found /The Secret to Juicy Pork Chops Every Time/

Wow, am I glad I did!  The pork chops were AMAZING!  I did not grill mine, instead my pork chops were pan-fried.

Ok, so it always has to be pre-planned but hey, I am willing if my pork chops will always end up thick, juicy and flavorful!

So, the secret is BRINING!

2 cups water
1/4 cup sea salt
1/8 cup brown sugar
2 cups very cold water
8 cloves garlic, lightly smashed
1/8 cup white and black peppercorn mix

about 1 kilogram boneless pork chops, about 3/4-inch thick, fat trimmed off

Place the 2 cups (not cold) water in a saucepan.  Add the sea salt and sugar (original recipe specified 3 tablespoons).  Heat over medium heat until salt and sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat and add the cold water.  Cool the brine completely.

Cover the meat completely in the brine.  Chill at least 6 hours, at the most 22 hours.  I made my brine in the evening and left my pork chops swimming in the brine overnight.

The next morning, I took the pork chops out of the brine and rinsed them.  I scooped out the peppercorns and the garlic and pounded them in a mortar with a pestle into a coarse paste, which I rubbed on the pork chops.  After a couple of hours, the pork chops were pan-fried and served for lunch.

Best pork chops ever!!!