Sunday, 31 October 2010

Baby's first Halloween!

It's still Halloween (just) here!  Halloween is becoming big business here in UK - even the shop assistants in the supermarket were dressed for the occasion on Saturday!  There are Halloween outfits for children, adults AND babies, but I thought it too cruel to dress Minh as a pumpkin - I mean what if it gives him a complex for the rest of his life?!?!?  lol

Anyway, decided I will buy a pumpkin to carve into a lantern for him - not that he'll understand mind, it was something I wanted to do.  Funny thing being a parent - makes you do the most daftest of things!  Never had inclination to make a pumpkin lantern before and there I was thios afternoon carving one for my (almost) 3 month old son!  Crazy!

Funnier still was going outside to see what the lit lantern looked like from outside and taking a snap of it from outside.  Durrrr....why not just take a picture indoors!?!?!?!? lol

This ghostly Lantern has arms and a body!! It's my reflection silly! 

Minh - Pampered Prince

In the mornings, the little man wakes at around 08:45 to 09:15 and cries in his cot which conveniently is next to the double bed where I'm sleeping.  I used to think he was hungry and crying for milk.  I would run downstairs to fetch him some milk and make sure it was not too cold. 

He would just refuse the bottle, turning his head to dislodge the teat from his mouth or clamping his mouth shut.  Funnily though, he would settle happily in my arms and as I would often still be tired at that time I often snuggled him in he middle of the double bed next to me so we could both get some more shut eye.

He's settled in the bed now and as I'm up and in blogland, I thought I'd make sure he was okay.  He's tucked up so well and propped up on so many pillows so he doesn't fall down - he looks just like a pampered prince!  Sometimes at silly o'hour in the morning when I'm running upstairs and downstairs for milk as he's crying I feel like that.  Especially when I've fetched the milk and he doesn't want any.  I guess it's nightmares they must have.  I wish I could tell the difference between a night time, "I'm hungry!" cry to a "I'm having a bad dream" cry.  They both sound like something is biting his leg off!

The smallest person in the house surrounded by a pile of pillows to suport him in a double bed all to himself!  Pampered or what?  lol  But you can't help but love him!

Sewing - Baby Quilt

My niece was born March 2009 and to mark her arrival I thought I'd make a baby quilt.  I'd only made one the previous year in blues, greens and yellows (didn't think to take photos of my creations back then) for my friend's new baby son.

With this quilt I thought I'd use some pretty pink satin ribbon to give it a different texture.  Hadn't anticipated how difficult it would make sewing.  It's smooth silky and slippery and doesn't feed into machine very well.  Hence wobbly sewing!  Out of frustration I abandoned the project for over a year and have completed it this weekend!  Phew!  Finally!

I want to start a new sewing project but had to finish the quilt.  I have far too many half started craft projects I couldn't stand to have another!

Bun Bakery - Char Siu (BBQ Pork) Bun 叉燒餐包, Pineapple Bun 菠蘿包 & Custard Bun 奶黃包

PlumLeaf Bakery with four trays of buns ready for the baking!
Had a crazy bout of bun bakery this weekend!  I doubled the quantity in EEWIF's Sweet Bread Dough recipe as I intended to give some buns to my brother and his family who are visiting my mum whilst my niece is on half-term holiday.

Char Siu Piggy hiding next to the Pineapple buns!

Piggies fighting in oven?!  Out of place ears and snouts!
Custard Filled Hedgehog

Tray of Custard Buns

We always loved Char Siu Buns as kids and sometimes Dad would buy buns from Chinese Bakery in Chinatown as treats.  I also tried some different toppings and fillings.  My bro' likes Bor Lor Bao ~ Pineapple Bun 菠蘿包 so I thought I'd try recreate that one.  There are several different recipes for pineapple topping floating around the internet but I like the sound of this one from Bao/Bread and as it was enough for 6 buns it gave me opportunity to whip up a batch of custard filling as my third bun flavour.

Char Siu buns had more room on tray at front - ugly ones at back of queue!
I must remember to space out my buns better as I had Char Siu Buns that had merged into one another (like my red bean ones did a few weeks back).  Instead of being beautiful burnished domes of porky bun goodness, it resembled burnt honeycomb.  Not a good look.  Had fun making a couple of Char Siu Pigs though!  Those two had slightly more filling than the rest (only 5 g extra) so I thought I'd make fat pigs out of them!  They did swell out - looked almost ready to burst!

Custard Buns

Have still yet to make my Hong Kong favourite - Tuna Bun 吞拿魚包.  Also got to dream up of some more tasty fillings! Yum Yum!  Am loving this recipe so much!  I have to thank Everybody Eats Well In Flanders again for sharing an excellent recipe!

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Macaron Madness!

Bite-sized tea-time treats

I'm obsessed with the baker's arch enemy - The Macaron!  Notice the spelling - one 'o'.  The single 'o' spelling of macaron is normally used to describe the french confection of two meringue and almond discs sandwiched together with buttercream, ganache or jam.  Macaroon, however is known in England as a coconut or almond small baked confection.

You do get more than that in each pack, I've just eaten half the pack!

It appears that these dainty and colourful creations (french macarons like Lauduree or Pierre Hermes) are popular in blogosphere at the moment as well as being a hit outside in major cities all around the world.  They are made from sugar, icing sugar, ground almonds and egg whites and are exceedingly difficult to get right.  I've gone through a craze of sitting up late at night reading blog after blog about macarons, the best recipes, different fillings, flavours, what went wrong......  Now I've never even eaten one of these pretty pastel coloured confections but I must make some!  I tried.  I failed.

I heard Waitrose were stocking these in packs of twelve to buy (where I heard that I forget now, too many blogs, too many sites!), so off I popped to the shops yesterday (it was wet and drizzly too) in search of these little treasures.  Nope.  My local didn't have these on offer but I did find the English equivalents, both the Coconut and Almond Macaroon. 

Soft chewy centre full of almond flavour

Moist sweet coconut - for the exceptionally sweet-toothed!
My fave has to be the Almond Macaroon.  Looking like a crunchy cookie it's deceptive as you bite into that crisp exterior that gives way to a soft chewy centre with a flavour reminiscent of marzipan but less dense.  It's usually has a thin edible rice paper sheet lining it.  The coconut cousin however, is a much, much sweeter affair.  A rough, rocky lump of lightly browned coconut which is very slightly moist in the middle, like eating a Bounty Chocolate bar without the thick chocolate covering.  I now recall making these coconut delights when younger.  My mum said I was never to make them again as they were far too sweet.  Afterall, it consisted of mixing egg white, sugar and desiccated coconut together before dropping rough heaps on a tray to bake.

Dense chocolatey gooeyness

So, what went wrong with my macarons?  Well, I saw a chocolate macaron recipe and thought the bitter chocolate would take away the sweetness of egg whites and sugar.  I anticipated a fail and so split the recipe in thirds.  On mixing the meringue with almonds, cocoa and sugar I knew something was wrong.  The mixture was far too dry.  So I quickly whisked up another egg white to combine with the mixture.  Maybe I got my sums wrong when scaling down the recipe?  I checked if I was being a scatter brain.  Nope.  I guess it may be down to the eggs being on the small side (they're from our own hens) or me getting the method wrong.  The mixture still seemed thick and it didn't make me think of flowing magma like other blogs described.  I won't use the words I thought the lumpy brown mix looked like, never-the-less, I dropped blobs on a baking sheet to bake anyway and wished for a miracle to happen.  Hmmm....well, they kinda cooked.  They aren't right at all.  It's deep dark and chocolaty but not crisp and chewy.  Just moist and gooey.  Actually, I think I've invented chocolate flavoured marzipan as that what it reminds me of.  Ho-hum.  Back to the drawing board and I will summon up the courage to try making these elusive babies another time. 

Minh Update - 11 weeks

For a change, the sun is shining and it always makes for a better photo.  I've taken these photos not because Minh has changed much in appearance but just for your viewing pleasure!  Minh has started to babble more now, sometimes his cries can sound like "Mere, mere...." which sounds like he's speaking french as that's the word for mum.  Hubby (Mr Leaf) tells me that's the Vietnamese word for mum too.  Other sounds are "Gurr, gurr, gurr."  No idea what that is.  Funny how they repeat their words/sounds.

Minh makes me laugh when I'm talking to him as it sounds as if he's answering to me.  I often speak to him in English (living here so long it comes second nature) occasionally I remember my Chinese roots and speak to him in Hakka - my mother tongue.  He replies with "Hair, hair, hair." Sounding like Hakka for "Yes".  Makes me smile!

Here are today's snapshots for you to coo over!

"Where's the camera?"
"Well Helloooo There!"
"Say Cheese?  That's silly! I don't eat cheese!?!!"

"All that posing makes me zzzzzzzz........"

...and a rare appearance from yours truly.

Saturday, 23 October 2010


The great thing about going on holiday is sampling the local fare.  No, haven't been on hols recently, neither likely to in near future  :0(  We like to recreate our favourite dishes at home - I guess it's to relive the fun had in sunnier climes when there was nothing more important than, "What shall I wear today?" or "Where shall we eat?"
Paella packed with squid, scallops, prawns and chorizo

Our first holiday together was almost six years ago when hubbs took me away to Spain for a week.  Neither of us had visited Spain so it was a first on many counts.  A popular dish is Paella.  It has several variants; true Valencian Paella (where dish originates) includes rabbit, chicken, beans, seafood or snails.  Seafood is just a mix of prawns, mussels, clams, langoustine and crab.  There is even one made with squid ink!  At home, I make a mixed paella which contains, chorizo (cured, smoked pork sausage which contains spices and paprika), chicken and seafood.

This is how I make mine at home - although I may change the seafood each time I make it the basis is the same.
Scallops halved and squid cut into rings.


1 onion, chopped
3 chicken wings, jointed then each joint cut in half, tips discarded
150 g chorizo, 1cm cubes, or 0.5cm slices cut in half
paella rice (I measure in a jug up to the 8fl oz mark)
Cooked Tiger Prawns that I used as garnish instead of mussels
1 pepper, red for colour but not essential, cut in small strips
handful of peas
few saffron threads
1 fish stock cube
raw seafood: scallops, prawns, squid, mussels - any mix of your choice,

Chorizo is richly flavoured with paprika which gives it wonderful colour and flavour

The bright sunny colour from just a few strands of saffron

Soak the saffron threads in a little hot water to infuse.  Leave aside for later.

Keep close eye on the chorizo - don't let it frazzle like I did!
Put the chicken pieces and chorizo in a deep frying pan (I use a non-stick pan so I don't even worry about heating it up first and make sure pan is large enough as everything is cooked in it).  I don't add oil as there will be oil from the chicken wings and the chorizo is fatty too.  Fry lightly so the chicken begins to go golden and the chorizo browns lightly.  Remove the chorizo and keep aside for later.  I take it out now because I don't like it to get too hard and crispy.

Add the chopped onion and continue to fry gently until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes.  Tip in the rice and stir to coat all the rice grains in the fragrant chorizo-infused oil.  Keep stirring and frying over a low heat for 1-2 minutes

Dissolve the fish stock cube in 1 pint of water and add to the pan.  Pour in the saffron threads and water.  Turn the flame up to bring the liquid to boil, then turn down to simmer. 
Return the chorizo to the pan and simmer gently for 5 minutes then scatter the pepper strips and peas over the top.  Continue to simmer for another 5 minutes or so until the water begins to fall below the level of the rice. 
If the rice grains are not plump enough,  add a little more water to the pan - they won't be fully cooked at this point as it will continue to absorb liquid and will steam through later.

Add the seafood to the pan.  I nestle the halved scallops into the rice and mussels if I'm using them.  The squid and prawns cook easily so these are just sprinkled on top.
Cover the pan with a lid and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes on a low heat.  It doesn't matter if you get a little golden brown toasty rice on the bottom as it's made like that (bit like clay-pot rice you get in Hong Kong Dai-Pai Dong.).  The steaming should make the rice lift off the bottom of the pan.

If you don't have a large enough lid, cover with square of foil and twist corners - it makes the foil tighten and form to shape of pan

Turn off fire and leave covered to steam through for 5-10 minutes and serve.  It's usually served with lemon wedges but we don't find that necessary.

Taa-Daa!  Looks good with mussels too!

This is a polite sized serving - I ate more than this! :0)

This amount makes enough for three hungry people sized portions (that's me, hubby and his lunchbox) or four polite appetites.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Minh Update - 10 weeks old ~ Little Poser!

(* Edited - as I typed 10 months in the title instead of 10 weeks!?!?!!?  I know babies become a part of your life very quickly but still!)

Got camera snappy yesterday - although am wishing I used hubby's posh camera - his Canon Digital SLR.  I mainly use his Fuji Finepix - especially when snapping whilst cooking and my hands are far from clean and dry!

Anyhow, he had a bath yesterday afternoon after a messy nappy change and he just loves the hairdryer!  Couldn't resist the urge to capture his movements!  Then once dressed he was ready for his milk and looked positively adorable - like butter wouldn't melt!  When he locks his deep dark eyes on you whilst being fed - that's what makes me melt!  Hope he doesn't remember that trick when he's older and been mischievious!

Do you think this is my best side?

Yeah!  I win!

Gimme cuddles!

After Minh had dried off (and stopped posing in the warm currents from the hairdryer!) it was time for an afternoon snack.  Still feeding every 3-4 hours, sometimes even 5 hours!  He only gained 6.5 oz in 11 days when he usually puts on around 7-9 oz in a week.  His dad is now trying to fatten him up by increasing his milk from 5 oz to 6-7 oz.  Will take him for another weigh-in next week so we'll see how Minh is then.

I'm off to attempt to make some macarons - the fancy fiddly french ones.  Don't ask me why - just feel I need to try (and probably fail) these!  Personally, I blame it on far too much blog-surfing and stumbling upon these devillish delights!  How can you not resist after that?!?  Wish me luck, I hear they are notoriously difficult to get right!

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Minh Updates - 10 weeks old ~ Breakfast Time

Thought I'd change the scenery here a little today and show you some photos I took this morning.  It's my favourite time because despite being-groggy eyed, it's when Minh is at his cutest.  It's also precious me 'n' him time - no-one else with us and I've not yet decided what we're up to for the day.

He usually wakes me up (yes, can be several times in night/morning) at around 9am.  It's not neccessarily feed-time.  It's his cuddle-time.  He's a good boy now and does sleep in his cot at night. He used to hate it but once he turned 7 weeks he slept in it happily - no unnecessary fuss, crying or tantrums.  Yes, so, he cries and it wakes me up, I pick him up and he is instantly soothed.  We have a double bed right next to the cot (where I sleep so I can tend to his demands) and as I'm ususally still tired, I bring him right in.  He loves it!  It doesn't matter how tired and heavy my eyes are, one smile and chuckle from him and the tiredness just falls away.  (I'm just a sucker really!)

Here's some photos that I hope brighten your day as much as they brighten up mine!

".....there were two in the bed and the little one said, "Rollover, roll over," so they all rolled over and one fell out....."

"Hey!  Where is everybody?!"

"OK, time for milk!"

"So, where's the milk then?"

"Bring me milk or I'll punch ya!"

"Mmm....nice breakfast in bed!"

"That's better.  Fully fed."

"Hi there!"

"Heh heh heh!  Your jokes are the best!"

"See you later, Alligator!"

Too cute to be cheeky!