New Blog Location!

Hey guys!

Thank you for being such lovely and loyal readers!

Due to China blocking WordPress yet again, I’ve decided to move my blog to a private server.

From now on, please visit and bookmark and subscribe to rufflelicious.net!

Love,
Jean

A Turkish Birthday

Dear Joyceh,
We’ve been very good friends for over thirteen years now, which is quite an achievement by itself, seeing as I am a lovingly insufferable twit. :)

Even though we’ve been friends for so long, it always seems weird to me that I’m older than you if only by a month. This could possibly be because I know how old we REALLY are (averaging about 5 now). Maybe it’s also because you’re already adventuring your way in university and being all grown up -ahem- while I slob around at home, watching 88 episodes of Gossip Girl. Maybe. Or perhaps it’s because I have some great memories of us doing our ‘numa numa’ dance on the bridge over botanical gardens and rocking it out to La Cucaracha.

Either way, I would like to wish you a very happy eighteenth birthday. I would tell you to have a great night and get drunk, but the drinking age in the states is an appalling 21 years, so don’t get caught ;)

Love,
Jean

P.S. I’m in the middle of Turkey right now and have no internet, which is why I have stolen my workaholic of a dad’s blackberry to write this email. Gosh, these keys are TINY!

Test post

Ho hum. Hi from dubai, guys!

bootylicious

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Have you ever noticed just how much a plum resembles a butt?

Summertime

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With recent temperatures peaking at below 30 degrees, the blustery winds can only mean that autumn is heading our way. A mere few weeks ago, I was complaining incessantly about the heat and humidity of Shanghai summers, but now that it’s coming to an end, I find myself rather sorry to see it go. Soon, the summery days where we sat outside in short shorts and skirts, enjoying the rays of the sun and licking candy coloured popsicles and chocolate Cornettos will be gone. Instead, they’ll be replaced with cardigans and light autumn scarves, and a hope that perhaps this year, autumn will last longer than a week.

Whilst going to Australia for university does give me a relaxing extra six months of holiday, the pitfalls include having to watch my friends leave one by one. Some I may see again next year, while others, perhaps never. It’s impossible not to be affected by this, and already, I miss my friends so much that I feel like my heart might explode. Regardless, there is nothing left to do but hold onto the vestiges of summer and happy memories of the past five years.

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One blistering summer week (in the perpetually summery Thailand) was spent on the party island of Koh Samui. Where…well, we didn’t quite party. Nevertheless, it was fantastic fun, patched together by consecutive sleepless nights of Italian Bridge and countless shots (after enough of them, you really do forget how to count). Many mornings, afternoons and evenings were spent in the cool presence of the infinity pool, where we were successfully lulled into a false security – that is, until we were tossed into the pool by nameless individuals (Luke and Francis). The highlight of which was when Francis finally got revenge on Luke by Sparta-kicking him into the pool. Ahh, sweet vengeance.

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Then there was the joint birthday brunch between Gabriel and I. Between the hours of 12 and 6, we partied, feasted, drank and watched Winnie the Pooh. Stuffed full from the tableful of pancakes, sausages, scrambled eggs, bacon, salad, cold platter and freshly home baked bread, we then continued to gorge ourselves upon the dessert end of the table. Laden with fifty odd chocolate banana and vanilla cupcakes, accompanied by whipped chocolate frosting and whipped cream and caramel banana bread, I don’t think my stomach has ever been so close to Winnie the Pooh’s. Luckily for him, the look is adorable on the bear. On me? Not so much. Lastly, we brought out a four layered tiramisu cake that we could barely eat after stuffing ourselves with so many goodies. But we did it anyway. What can I say? There’s always room for dessert.

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On that day, I received not only a ridiculously comfortable, humongous leopard print beanbag (placed next to my laptop for size comparison), but also the best card I have ever seen and received.

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The sangria that we served at this birthday brunch captures the very essence of summer – it’s the kind of drink that unmistakeably builds the vision of tropical fruits ripening on luscious green vines, and is downright delicious. Being a brunch party, it would hardly have been appropriate to serve alcoholic sangria when it had barely hit noon. Instead, I added more fruit juices to make up for the wine, which did make the sangria much sweeter than it would have been, but saved me the effort of boiling simple syrup.

The wonderful things about tiggers  sangria are that it is deceivingly easy to make, and will taste wonderful no matter what combination of juices you use. While I started with the recipe below, it was all gone in neck breaking speed, so I had to whip up an extra two batches with whatever juices I had left (read: poured in random juices and grenadine syrup that I had lying around).

To keep the sangria cool, half fill a bundt pan with water and freeze. If you, like me, don’t have the freezer room for an entire bundt pan because your fridge is too full of frozen cakes and goodies, then don’t fret! Just fill up a lock&lock box with water, or even more juice and freeze. This will keep the sangria consistently cool without diluting it much.

As for the club soda or soda water, while Pellegrino and San Benedetto are more economical since you can buy them in 1.5L bottles, Schweppes’ club soda has twice the carbonated goodness. I used a mixture of both, since that’s what I had on hand.

When serving the sangria, pour it into a humongous, but pretty bowl (regretfully, I only had my metal mixing bowl. Sad, I know), and furnish with a stack of glasses and a ladle, so that you can sit back and let everyone serve themselves. Not everyone can hire cater waiters like Dan Humphrey. If you do serve some sangria, be sure to ladle a few slices of lemon or lime, or any other fruit into the glasses. It makes a simple drink look effortlessly tropical and classy.

Lastly, I would just like to raise a glass to my friends for being so utterly amazing.

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Virgin Sangria

Adapted from A Sweet Pea Chef

  • 750ml grape juice
  • 250ml apple juice
  • 250ml orange juice
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 1 lime, thinly sliced
  • 1 large orange, thinly sliced
  • 1 plum, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium apple, cored and thinly sliced
  • 500-750ml sparkling water or club soda (to taste)
  1. The night before, put sliced fruits and fruit juices into a jug and let them marinate overnight. Half fill a bundt pan or a lock&lock box with water and freeze.
  2. Just before serving, transfer sangria into a large punch bowl. Add ice and club soda to taste. Stir.

Going Bananas

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The smothering heat of the summer has me going absolutely nuts, so to cool myself down, I’ve been mixin’ up a blender-ful of thick, banana smoothie almost daily.

As you all well know, bananas are kind of my thing. I buy them in bulk and eat them when they’re perfectly ripe, then freeze the spotty, brown ones for later.

After throwing an entire, unpeeled banana into the freezer, I learned a very important rule in banana freezing: never throw an unpeeled banana into the fridge. The skin turns black, and when frozen, is logically  horrendous to peel. I had to shave the skin off. Shave! Learning from my stupid, but delicious mistake, I now peel and slice the bananas into 16 pieces (so that I can easily measure bananas by counting) on a plate. Then I just slip all the bananas into an oversized Ziploc bag (less banana-sessed people can use a smaller one) and freeze!

Unlike smoothies with only bananas, milk and yoghurt, but I’ve found that adding a couple more ingredients adds not only a greater depth in flavour, but also tons of health benefits.

 

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I’m the kind of girl who loves a thick, almost frozen smoothie. Unfortunately, most commercial smoothies attain this texture by adding scoop-upon-scoop of ice cream. Instead, I’ve found that oatmeal is a reasonable substitute. It makes the smoothie thick, prevents the smoothie from being overly sweet, and adds a lovely natural base that complements the banana taste. Health wise, oatmeal is uber rich in fibre, keeping you full for longer, and cleaning our your digestive tract (hint: and saving you calories).

However, you would be right to think that plain, dry oatmeal would negatively affect the texture of your smoothie. Instead of using the cardboardy stuff, I soak equal amounts of quick cook oatmeal and water, letting it absorb for at least an hour, but preferably overnight. This oatmeal is then pulverised with some skim milk, so that you don’t get any gritty textures.

Cinnamon is probably my favourite spice to use on sweets. Akin to blueberries, it’s high in antioxidants and aids digestion. Something cool? It also fights type 2 diabetes!

 

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In short, this is probably one of the easiest and yummiest recipes I can ever give you. Just make sure that you have a strong, willing blender; for mine is minuscule and poots acrid smells of burning acrylic when I try to blend ice.

Oh, and of course. What kind of person would I be if I forgot to tell you the following: to make a healthy chocolate banana smoothie, add 2 tbsp of cocoa powder.

All in all, this delightfully slurpable smoothie clocks in at just under 200 calories, while delivering a large dosage of your daily fibre and very little cholesterol. But a smoothie is nowhere near as good without someone to share it with!

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Banana Oatmeal Smoothie

Makes 600ml, or two servings

  • 1 large banana, frozen
  • 1/2 cup oatmeal, soaked
  • 150ml skim milk
  • 100g plain or vanilla yoghurt
  • A dash of cinnamon

For strong blenders:

  1. Pulverise oatmeal and half of the skim milk, until oatmeal is shredded into tiny pieces. If adding cocoa powder, add here.
  2. Add everything else, and blend until smooth.

For weak blenders:

  1. Pulverise oatmeal and half of the skim milk, until oatmeal is shredded into tiny pieces. If adding cocoa powder, add here.
  2. Add frozen banana and remaining skim milk. Blend until smooth.
  3. Add dash of cinnamon and yoghurt. Blend until smooth.

Mango Madness

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Honestly, summer is no time for baking. With the already scorching temperatures outside, the most we can do is lie on the floor, trying to forget the blaze of the sun. Only a masochist would want to open an oven to 180 degrees and undo the fruits of our air conditioner’s labour.

It’s rather a shame, actually, because besides loving to bake cakes, I am one serious tropaholic. Pineapple, mangoes, bananas…I love them all! Right down to each little passionfruit and mangosteen. There’s something so blatantly summery, and happy about tropical fruits, which is why we shouldn’t let the heat get us down. Instead of baking them into delicious carbolicious snacks, we should embrace desserts (and foods) that use other methods to obtain our tastebud’s delight.

So, how about some mousse? Mango mousse, to be specific. It’s deliciously creamy, and easy to make – at the most requiring a quick stir on the stove, which heats up your kitchen considerably less than an oven.

This recipe is actually more of a bavarian cream, but it’s still light and fluffy, while maintaining an explosive burst of mango flavour. This simplistic, but rich dessert can be served at both casual and formal tables, and the fact that it can be pre-made only makes it an easier choice when it comes to serving at events.

Also, I really like mangoes.

Back when I lived in Australia, we had a tree in our backyard. It seemed rather uninteresting, so when we moved in, we never paid it much mind. Then one day, our neighbour came over to see the new house and exclaimed how lucky we were to have a mango tree.

Wait. What?!?!

Before we knew it, my dad returned home with a bulging bag of fertiliser. Unfortunately, no one told him that adding too much fertiliser to a plant will burn its roots. Oops. However, the tree was hardy and survived the burned roots, living for many, many more years and bearing hundreds of mango for me to eat.

In some countries, you can buy canned mango puree, which makes this dessert even easier. Alas, Shanghai is lacking in the canned goods aisle, but using fresh mangoes is hardly a downside. I actually prefer to use fresh fruit, rather than their syruped counterparts. For this recipe, you will need 2 medium mangoes. Peel and cut the flesh off, then blend in a blender. Just remember to be careful of your fingers!

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Mango Mousse

  • 2 1/2 tsp gelatin
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 250g mango puree (approximately 2 large mangoes)
  • 100g or 1/2 cup sugar
  • 227g/8 oz whipping cream.
  1. Pour the water into a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the water, and set aside until it the gelatine has swollen and sunk.
  2. Heat the sugar and half of the mango puree in a small saucepan until the sugar has dissolved. Do not boil. Stir in gelatine until  completely dissolved, then stir in remaining mango puree.
  3. In a large, chilled bowl, whip cream to soft peaks. Gently fold in cooled mango puree mixture, then continue whipping until well incorporated.
  4. Pour mousse into moulds and refrigerate until set.

The dessert picture is actually a combination of lemon cheesecake and mango mousse that was served with an afternoon tea a while back. Whilst the mango mousse was perfect, I found the lemon cheesecake not lemony enough, and too cheesy by far. More on that once I improve the recipe (:

have you ever wondered what 2.7kg of cheese looks like?

Good cheese is expensive here, so it’s much cheaper to buy it in bulk. That is, if you can eat it all.

I went to Metro, a bulk supplier, and brought home this slab of cheese.

Unfortunately, that hunk of cheese wouldn’t fit into my already bursting freezer, so I had to chop and package it into little bags for future use.

And if you thought this delectable mound of mozarella cheese is overdoing it, this is the SMALLEST block of cheese we could find. When you think you can take on 10kg of Cheddar, I’ll take you to Metro.

the ultimate hummus

finished
Hummus is yummy, hummus is great,

The day before this, five jars I ate.

It’s creamy and tangy, but perfect in taste.

Get into my tummy, I don’t want to wait!

Yeah. As you can tell from my poem, I really like hummus. It’s super healthy, tasty, and easy to boot.

Really. It’ll only take you 10 minutes to make. I promise.

All you need is a blender.

recipe card

I mean, look at that recipe. It  fits easily onto a little note card.

And because this recipe is so easy, let’s begin. Now.

chickpeas

These are chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans. They make up the bulk of hummus, are high in fibre and all other sorts of good things. You can buy them dried and soak them overnight. Or, if you were lazy (and intelligent, hah!), you can just buy them ready-to-go in a can.

Before tossing this into the blender, you want to drain the can of chickpeas, but reserve 1/2 cup of the fluid. You’re gonna add that in later, to make your hummus extra flavourful!

chickpea skins

If you were so inclined for a even creamier and smoother hummus, you could remove each of the little skins on the chickpeas before tossing them into the blender.

I got so far as these in my hand, figured they would add more (good) fiber, so I just dunked the entire can in the food processor. Lazy and healthy! That’s how I roll.

garlic

Mince two cloves of garlic. Add it to your blender.

sesame paste

Dig the tahini out of the back of your fridge. Tahini is basically white sesame paste. Living in China means that although there is no tahini here, I can just buy…white sesame paste.

You’ll need 4 tablespoons of this.

before blending

To your pile in your blender, add: 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 4 tablespoons lemon juice (more or less, according to your taste).

Then prepare your spices: 1 tablespoon of cumin and 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. I substituted this with a 1/2 teaspoon, since I love me some spicy, and used a mixture of paprika and chili powder instead.

Lastly, season lightly with some salt and lots of pepper.

BLEND!

BLEND!

BLEND!

Leave the food processor running and pour in 1/2 cup of the reserved drained water from the chickpeas in a steady stream – or until the consistency is correct.

BLEND!

BLEND!

BLEND SOME MORE!

and voila!

Don’t be afraid. Dip a cheese rice cracker in it!

I eat hummus on crackers, on bread…straight from the jar.

cracker

Hummus

  • 400g/2 cups of cooked chickpeas (reserve 1/2 cup drained liquid)
  • 1/4 cup tahini*
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 lemons, juiced (about 5 tbsp lemon juice)
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • salt
  • pepper
  1. Drain chickpeas, reserving 1/2 cup of the liquid to be added later.
  2. Crush, and finely chop garlic.
  3. In a food processor, add drained chickpeas, garlic, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, cumin and cayenne powder. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Pulse until roughly chopped. Stir, if needed.
  5. Turn food processor on, and pour in 1/2 cup of water in a steady stream until hummus is at the preferred consistency.
Serve with pita chips, rice crackers, on bread etc.
Hummus can be stored in a clean jar for about 1 week, when refrigerated.
*Note: Tahini can be substituted for white sesame paste

Happy Father’s Day!

Wait, what did you say?! Father’s day was two weeks ago?!

I’m just kidding. I actually celebrated Father’s Day on the third Sunday of June  and made dinner for my dad. And my family. I didn’t just feed my dad.

Being the sort of girl who has tons of ideas to put on a celebratory menu, but is seriously impaired at whittling them down into something feasible, I decided that I would stick to something simple.

Now, unlike my mom and grandpa, my dad doesn’t like sweet things. He doesn’t like cake. Or cookies. Or ice cream…which leaves my repertoire at…nothing.

So, I got out my handy dandy notebook, and jotted down a couple of things my dad might like. As a rule of thumb, I’ve figured out that guys really like meat, which meant that it had to be the feature of the meal. But as my dad is master of slab-of-meat cooking in the house, steak and salmon were surely out of the question, especially as my experience with cooking  meat is thimble-sized.

Luckily for my tender and un-meaty hands, I came across a recipe for apple pie, which inspired me to make a beef meat pie studded with red bullet chillies (though my dad doesn’t like sweets, we are both absolutely coco for chilli).

Instead of the six course dinner that I imagined, I made a lovely Aussie Meat Piesalad with dressing and taters. That’s po-tae-toes. You can boil ‘em, mash’em or stick ‘em in a stew. I mashed them good, Samwise Gamgee. I mashed them goo-od!

Blabbering aside, let’s make some pie!

First of all, I love my glass baking dishes. It means I never really have to make a pie crust, which not only saves me tons of time, but also makes the food way healthier, since there is usually truckloads of butter hidden in those  crusts. Either way, some simple premade puff pastry will result in a deliciously  flaky crust.

You’ll also notice that I use my glass baking dishes for brownies. This is because when you grease them, they’re wonderfully non-stick so that I never have to use greaseproof paper, which doesn’t really seem to available here. Also, they’re easy to clean, and look super pretty!

Anyways, you’ll want to dice some onions really small. Because this recipe uses beef mince, and not chunks of beef, you want the onions to be indistinguishable from the meat when you’re eating the pie. While you’re at it, finely chop three cloves of garlic and two or three red bullet peppers. They look a bit like this. They’re really small. Like…well, bullets.

Stir fry your finely chopped onions until they’re yummy and sort of translucent, then throw your beef mince, chilli and garlic in. Keep cooking until your beef is nicely browned. I actually precooked the beef and garlic so that I would have less to do on the day, and  because the beef needed to be cooked while it was still fresh.

Combine 1 tbsp of cornstarch with an equal amount of beef stock. If you actually have real beef stock, that’s great. Your pie will taste amazing. If that sort of thing isn’t just laying around your house, a beef stock cube will also work, and your pie will still taste amazing. Cornstarch is usually used as a thickener, so that the sauce from the beef in your pie will be thick instead of watery. Now put that aside, or your beef will burn.

To your beef, add in the rest of the beef stock, Worcestershire sauce and tomato paste. Stir well to combine, then taste it. If it’s not salty enough, add some Vegemite. However, my beef was already salted, and I used a beef stock cube, so my filling was already plenty salty.

Add in the cornflour mixture, then stir well to combine again. Bring it to a boil, then simmer on low heat for about ten minutes, or until the sauce is thick and has a gravy-like consistency. While it’s simmering, preheat your oven to 220°C and take out your package of puff pastry to defrost. Using a sharp knife and the pan as a guideline, cut puff pastry about 1cm larger than the pan. Wait for it to soften before removing it from the plastic.

By this time, your filling should be about ready, so tip it into the pan and even out the filling with a spoon. Peel off the puff pastry and cover the filling, folding in any sides that are too large.

Beat an egg, then brush onto top of pie. All that’s left to do is bake for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make your mashed potatoes.

By the way, this is the professional way to fish potatoes out of the pot.

I like lots of pepper in my mashed potatoes, especially freshly ground pink peppercorns. Extra cute!

Stop. Check out your awesome french manicure.

Start. Make salad, with dressing of your choice. I made a Greek Salad Dressing with olive oil, garlic and balsamic vinegar (more on this next time!)

Pop open a bottle of red wine, and fill your plate with a scrumptious dinner!

P.S. I always find it helpful to make short, cooking notes.

Spicy Aussie Meat Pie

Ingredients:

  • 400g beef mince, defrosted
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 3/4c beef stock or 1 beef stock cube
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp Vegemite (optional)
  • 2-3 red bullet chilies (optional)
Crust:
  • 1 sheet puff pastry
  • 1 small egg, lightly beaten

Method:

  1. Heat oil in saucepan at medium-high heat. Add in garlic and onions. Stir fry onions until soft and translucent (approx 3-4 minutes).
  2. Add beef mince to the pan, and cook until brown.
  3. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and 1 tbsp beef stock. Stir well.
  4. To the saucepan, add remaining beef stock, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste and Vegemite (to taste). Stir well to combine.
  5.  Add cornflour mixture and stir well. Bring filling to a boil, then simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes until thick. Remove puff pastry from freezer.
  6. Preheat oven to 220ºC. Using a sharp knife, cut puff pastry to the correct size.
  7. Fill the pan with the filling and even out with a spoon (as in, press it down, not eat all the uneven bits). Place the puff pastry on top of the filling, folding in any sides that are too big.
  8. Brush puff pastry with beaten egg.
  9. Bake approx 20 minutes, or until puff pastry has puffed up, and is browned at the top.
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