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Celebrating simplicity with a butter loaf cake

March 18, 2013

Butter loaf cake

Now that I’ve started writing here again, I’ve also started going through some of the food blogs I subscribe to. I’m talking about a hundred food blogs or so here. The thing is, there are so many foodblogs out in the blogosphere. If I were to hazard a guess, I’d say it’s in the tens of thousands. Some are really good, others mediocre and yet many more are really unappealing. The ones that tick the boxes for me do so because they do one or all of three things – they are informative; carry warm, beautifully shot photos; or are written in a style I can relate to.

See, I’ve been trying to find my voice in my writing and with that, the direction of thebountifulplate going forward. Given that I do have a day-job, what do I have time for? Do I play around more with recipes, try to develop a more eloquent writing style that reflects my personality or learn to take better photos? Do I pay someone to develop a better-looking blog for me – but what’s the point in that if the contents are not up to par? What angle do I write from – that of a part expat (part because my husband hails from this corner of the world) in Singapore sharing her stories of her new life here?

I don’t have an answer, just a load of questions. But hopefully I will explore some of these ideas in the coming months, maybe shake my style up a little bit and see where it takes me. I’ve already had so many positive experiences through this little blog of mine, it doesn’t matter the number of visits I get here or if I get freebies. I simply wish to continue enjoying the blogging process – to learn, savour and laugh!

Anyway, I’m not just here to ramble. I also wanted to tell you that I baked. After packing up and moving over to Singapore for over 14 months, I finally baked. Remember last year when I made these no bake Oreo chocolate cherry tarts because I was ovenless? Confession, I’ve had an oven for the last 4 months. I could give you a good few silly excuses as to why but the bottom line is, I’ve been lazy. Then I got scared: What if I don’t know how to bake anymore?

So I chose a really simple recipe to bake from. Nothing fancy, and certainly not my own creation. Just a good ol butter loaf cake. I took out my trusty Kitchenaid mixer, bought a few ingredients and I baked. Last weekend, our home was filled with that gratifyingly delicious scent of baking cake and my heart with simple joy that I haven’t yet lost my baking mojo. I celebrated.

Butter loaf cake

Please head over to Rasa Malaysia by Bee for her recipe of this delicious cake.

Note: I used a loaf tin measuring 23.5 x 8 x 10.5cm. The batter filled just over half of the loaf tin and baked to just about that size. The cake stores well in an air-tight container for about 3 days.

Have a great week ahead, you!

Recipe for my happy minestrone soup

March 11, 2013

Minestrone soup
If you kindly subscribe to my blog you may notice that this is my third blog post in as many weeks. After a 6 month hiatus. You know how that saying goes: You wait for a bus for ages and none arrive. When they do, they all come at the same time. I’m hoping my blogging will not take after this pattern but if it does, feel free to email me and give me a kick. Er.. please.

So, why am I making soup again? Some of you will know that this is the lunar year of the snake and that this new year was ushered in, by all those who celebrate it, a few weeks back. Traditionally, these celebrations last for 15 days. This was always a quiet affair for me in London but this year, K and I joined in the festivities with his family. There was a lot of eating – various goodies (cookies, crackers, cakes) specially made over the period; family dinners with too many dishes to count and more snacking whilst visiting our relatives.

Chinese New Year kueh bangkit and lou hei

The photo on the left is of a traditional cookie called ‘kueh bangkit’ and on the right, we observed the tradition to ‘lou hei’ or toss-up with a Chinese-style salad of sorts. With all this good food, I needed to bring some balance back to my diet (read: my skirts were getting too snug for comfort!). I figured a healthy soup was required and rustled up a big pot of minestrone soup for a few days’ worth of packed lunches at work. My choice of soup worked brilliantly – it kept well in the fridge for 3 days with the flavours developing beautifully.

It’s also the kind of cooking I like – not a lot of finesse required, whack all the ingredients in a big pot and let it do its own thing. I love how all the colours of the vegetables come together, it just puts a smile on my face when I see this beautiful pot of soup cooking away. You can use almost any sort of vegetable you fancy – if you’re in a seasonal country, try using fresh vegetables that are in season. Some recipes throw in bacon, browned at the start (oooohhhhhh….), whilst others finish with pasta or risotto rice (this is also a really good article on how to make a good minestrone soup).

Keep it versatile, make it your own. Be happy.

What you’ll need

  • olive oil
  • 2 small onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 sticks of celery, cut into 1cm dice
  • 2 carrots, cut into 1cm dice
  • 1 large potato, cubed into 1cm dice
  • 1/2 cup green peas
  • 1 can red kidney beans, drained
  • 1 can small white beans, drained
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 litre chicken/vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 150g fresh baby spinach
To make your soup
  1. Heat a large pot over medium heat and add a lug of olive oil. Fry the onion, garlic, celery, carrots and potatoes for about 15 minutes, stirring now and then, until the vegetables have softened.
  2. Add the green peas, kidney beans, white beans, tomatoes and chicken/vegetable stock, then cover with a lid and bring everything slowly to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for about 30 minutes.
  3. Throw in the herbs, chilli flakes and season with salt and black pepper. If the soup is a little bit too thick for your liking, add 1 cup of hot water to it.
  4. Add the baby spinach leaves, cooking an additional 20 minutes. Check you’re happy with the seasoning, then serve. Enjoy!
Minestrone soup
Yields 6 servings

Recipe for watermelon, feta and black olive salad

March 3, 2013

Watermelon, feta, olive salad

Watermelons are sold in abundance here, so is ice-cold watermelon juice. Both are heaven-sent in Singapore’s hot climate. Along with sugarcane juice, watermelon juice makes it to the top of my list as a hot weather thirst quencher.

But watermelon in a savoury salad?

Surprise, surprise – it works! The sweetness of the watermelon (and you must try to find one that’s really sweet) provided a lovely contrast to the salty olives and sharp onion (Nigella says soak it in lime juice to reduce the rasp) . Throw in the creamy feta and tartness from the lime juice. Oh, it was so refreshing and so welcome in this heat!

Some recipes online throw in some fresh mint as well or toss the salad with some greens and balsamic vinegar – just some ideas to get you going on this cool salad. It wasn’t exactly a hit with my husband but I would definitely make this again!

What you’ll need

  • 1 small red onion, halved and sliced thinly then soaked in 2 tablespoons of lime juice
  • 1kg of watermelon, cut into 2cm cubes
  • 200g feta cheese, crumbled to about the same size as your watermelon
  • a handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 100g black olives, pitted and sliced in half
  • 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of lime juice (use the lime juice used to soak the onion slices)
  • Black pepper

How to put your salad together

Simply put the onion, watermelon, feta, parsley and olives in a large, wide shallow bowl. Lightly toss with the olive oil and lime juice. Add a good few grinds of black pepper and Bob’s your uncle!

Watermelon, feta, olive salad

Yields 4 starter size servings

Hello you, gorgeous… uumm…mushroom soup.

February 23, 2013
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Practice makes perfect… and if not, it hopefully makes for at least improvements to whatever the task at hand is. So you know what happens when you don’t practise, you move increasingly further away from improving. That’s exactly what happened to me, blogging and food photography. I got lazy and then lost my sense of ‘blogging direction’ if you like. I tried to get back into it, composing posts in my head, but then life got in the way. Then I started coming up with excuses: ‘My next post needs to be of a really great recipe with amazing photos – no great recipe, no amazing photos, no blogging’; ‘No one gives a damn anyway’.
Why am I blogging now then? There was no lightbulb going off in my head with a brilliant idea for a post. I didn’t cook or bake anything that I thought any of you would be scrambling to reproduce and share with the rest of the world. Sure, I took some photos. But what happened was that after just over 12 months of being a newbie in Singapore, I have yet to find a good soup joint to satisfy my craving for thick, hearty soup (I tried some mushroom soup at a place called The Soup Spoon in my early days here, it was like swallowing gloopy starch.. urrghhh). So I had a look at some recipes online. I bought some ingredients. I made soup.
Now, I can’t promise that there’ll be more to come soon, but today, here and now, I’m simply going to attempt to note down how I mustered up a simple mushroom soup last Sunday for lunch, upload the photos I took and not worry too much about how it all reads and looks. Much like how my mind-frame was like when I wrote my very first blogpost.
Here’s sharing with you my version of Jamie Oliver’s recipe for a mushroom soup. I’ve changed some of the ingredients based on what was available at the supermarket here in Singapore. I also blended all the ingredients but will definitely leave some chunks in next time round. It was so good, I only managed 4 servings instead of Jamie’s 6!
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What you’ll need
  • 2 dried shittake mushrooms
  • olive oil
  • 600g of fresh mushrooms (I used sliced king trumpet, white and brown shimeji)
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 handful of chopped fresh parsley
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon of Greek yoghurt
  • 1 handful of chopped chives
To make your mushroom soup
  1. Place the shittake in a small dish, add boiling water just to cover, and leave to soak.
  2. Get a medium pot nice and hot, then add a good couple of lugs of olive oil and your fresh mushrooms. Stir around very quickly for a minute, then add your garlic, onion and parsley, and a small amount of seasoning.
  3. After about a minute you’ll probably notice moisture cooking out of the mushrooms and at this point add half of the shittake chopped up, and the rest left whole. Strain the soaking liquid to remove any grit, and add it to the pan. Carry on cooking for about 15 minutes until most of the moisture disappears.
  4. Season to taste, and add your stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for around 15 minutes.
  5. Add the Greek yoghurt and chopped chives then whiz your soup up to a purée in the pot using a hand held blender (or carefully ladle into a blender), seasoning carefully to taste.
… and it didn’t taste or feel like gloopy starch! Hurrah!
Yields 4 generous servings
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Mentaiko or spicy pollock roe pasta

August 26, 2012

One of the advantages about our move to Singapore is the easy availability of Japanese ingredients. In London, I used to shop at Japan Centre and a few other smaller Japanese grocery stores along Berwick Street in Soho but even these were far from extensive in terms of variety and volume. In Singapore, generalist supermarkets (e.g. Cold Storage; Fairprice) have dedicated Japanese sections selling dried and frozen ingredients. Go to a specialist Japanese supermarket (e.g. Medi-Ya, Isetan Scotts, Takashimaya) and you’ll find anything from Japanese imported fruits, coffees, ready-made salads, hot food to ‘fresh’ seafood.

With the variety of Japanese ingredients available, I was finally able to recreate a dish that I’ve loved for years but have never been able to get the main ingredient for in London – mentaiko pasta. It’s such a simple dish, the only cooking required is boiling pasta! However, in all my years in London, I have simply never found mentaiko sold anywhere. Sure, I’ve seen the instant packet stuff but having used it a couple of times, the intensity of flavour is no where near that which you get from fresh mentaiko. Here in Singapore though, I have found this chili-spiced, salted pollock roe sold in bright sacs either refrigerated or frozen in the specialist Japanese supermarkets mentioned above.

The two sacs of roe I bought were already sliced open so all I had to do was to carefully scrape the membrane with a teaspoon to release the eggs. It doesn’t sound like a terribly appealing task but trust me, the eggs are delicious, packed full of umami. Once the roe is free, it can be mixed with softened butter, mayonnaise or cream (or a combination of all but I think that may taste too rich), and tossed with cooked pasta along with a little shredded nori. In my simple recipe below, I also added a little mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine) for a hint of sweetness then topped the pasta with some tobiko (flying fish roe – this dish is all about fish eggs isn’t it?). Other great variations includes topping the pasta with a mollet egg as ChubbyHubby does or with green shiso leaves by Marc Matsumoto.

What you’ll need

  • 2 sacs of mentaik0
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon Japanese mayonnaise
  • shredded nori
  • 200g angelhair pasta
  • 2 tablespoons of mirin
  • 4 teaspoons of tobiko

To make your pasta

1. Scrape the mentaiko into a large mixing bowl together with the butter and mayonnaise. Mix well with a small pinch of shredded nori. The mixture should pack a punch in taste but season with salt if required. Set aside at room temperature.

2. Cook the pasta according to packet instructions or until it is al dente. Drain and add it to the mentaiko sauce together with the mirin, tossing well to ensure that all of the pasta is coated evenly in the sauce.

3. Plate the pasta and top with a teaspoon of tobiko each followed by a pinch of shredded nori.

Yields 4 individual servings

No bake Oreo chocolate cherry tarts – because I’m still oven-less!

July 24, 2012

I haven’t been baking. At all. My excuse since we moved to Singapore in the last 6 months was that we do not currently own an oven here. However, when I saw Mowiekay’s blogpost on these no bake oreo chocolate cherry tarts, I knew that excuse wouldn’t fly anymore!

These little tarts were easy to make and totally more-ish. I’d be deluding myself if I said they were good for my diet but it certainly made me feel better that there were cherries on them! Please hop on over to Mowiekay’s blogpost for the full recipe (and his gorgeous photos because seriously, mine does not even compare.. at all).

Whilst I used all the same ingredients in making these tarts, I did amend the method slightly in making the chocolate ganache. Instead of heating the cream, chocolate and golden syrup together, I broke the chocolate into pea-sized pieces in a bowl, brought the cream and golden syrup to a boil in a small saucepan, then poured the hot cream mixture over the chocolate. I then slowly stirred with a small balloon whisk until all the ingredients formed a thick glossy ganache.

Since most of the flavour in a chocolate ganache comes from the chocolate, I would advise you to use some good quality chocolate – I used Green & Black’s dark chocolate. My bar of chocolate was 150g and the double cream (or thick cream in Singapore) was 200ml. I didn’t want to waste the cream (the recipe calls for 200g dark chocolate to 200ml double cream) so just used up all of both. This would have resulted in a thinner ganache than in the recipe but I was satisfied with the consistency.

This ‘non-baking’ session reminded me of how much I miss baking and generally pottering about in my own kitchen. As most of our kitchen equipment (including my beloved Kitchenaid mixer) remains in storage, my activities in the kitchen have been limited to putting together salads for lunch and these non-bake tarts. I miss having easy access to my props and cookbooks; and long for the day when they can be displayed in all their glory in a dedicated bookcase in our own home. Until then, I feel like I’m still in a transitional period of sorts and can’t seem to find the focus or inspiration to make anything more complicated; or to style and shoot food – I really struggled to take photos of these tarts that I was happy with.

That aside, if you’re oven-less like I am at the moment but want to treat your loved ones to something sweet and delicious, I hope you’ll enjoy making these tarts. They really are lovely jubbly (bless you Marco!)!!!

Easing back into the kitchen with a Yum Woon Sen

May 1, 2012

Hi all! Thanks for sticking around and your continued support on the blog. Unbelievably, Chef K and I marked our three months move here to Singapore a few days ago. Can you believe that we’re STILL trying to settle in, in this sunny little island-country? We’ve been really blessed though, to have K’s family around us. My MIL’s been feeding us really well but as a result, I’ve not been in the kitchen much, except to help with the washing up (I know, lucky me!). My beloved kitchen gear remain in storage and when I saw ‘Red’ today, resting in her Kitchenaid box, I felt a little pang of sadness that she lies there so unloved.

However, I did make a resolution a couple of weeks back to cook something and photograph it. Something that didn’t require an oven (we’re oven-less here) or too much time in the kitchen. Looking through my previous posts, I found my variation on the Thai Yum Woon Sen (mung bean noodles salad) which I blogged about last year. Last year, in London. In the summer. Sigh. *shakes self out of missing London mode*

I’ve changed the recipe a little bit, based on what I could find in the supermarket here and in my MIL’s fridge. Certain produce like coriander and celery leaves are really cheap here. Others like tomatoes and lettuce are a little bit more expensive than in the UK, being imports from Australia/the US but still readily available.

The great thing about this dish is that the change in ingredients still made for a really good hearty salad (though not necessarily authentic), the key is simply to make sure the dressing is spot on!

Thai mung bean noodles salad (Yum Woon Sen)

What you’ll need

  • 2 small bundles of mung bean/glass noodles
  • 100g minced pork
  • 12 fresh tiger prawns, peeled, deveined and butterflied
  • Salt
  • 1 fresh red chilli, finely sliced
  • 1 stalk of spring onion, finely sliced
  • A handful of chopped celery leaves
  • A handful of chopped coriander
  • A handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced length ways
  • Chopped roasted peanuts to garnish

For the dressing

  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3/4 tsp sugar

How to make your noodles salad

  1. Mix all the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl until the sugar has dissolved and set aside.
  2. Soak the mung bean noodles in boiling water for about 1-2 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  3. In a saucepan/ wok, fry the minced pork in a tablespoon of oil until cooked then toss in the prawns and fry for a further 3 minutes or until the prawns are just cooked. Season with salt according to taste. Remove from the heat to cool for another minute.
  4. Add the mung bean noodles into the saucepan/ wok together with the chilli, spring onion, celery leaves, coriander, tomatoes and dressing. Toss well.
  5. Arrange the lettuce on a large platter so it holds the salad, then spoon the noodles on top of the lettuce and serve warm with chopped peanuts on top (the observant ones amongst you will notice I forgot the peanuts before the shoot!).

This platter of salad easily serves four as part of a meal with other dishes or as a starter.

We used the lettuce leaves to wrap a little serving of noodles and ingredients together before devouring in one big mouthful!