Friday, 27 November 2009

The Premier Chinese Fruit

Lychee, also spelled litchi or laichi, is a tropical fruit tree that originated in southern China. It is the most popular Chinese fruit and has been cherished for over 2,000 years.

Lychee fruits are showy and are borne in loose pendent clusters of 2 to 30. It is a drupe, oval, heart-shaped or nearly round shaped and is quite small though at only about 2.5 cm wide and 4 cm long; about the size of a small plum. The fruit is covered by skin or pericarp that is thin, leathery, roughly-textured or minutely warty rind that comes off easily but is inedible. It is usually strawberry-red, sometimes rose, pinkish or amber, and some types tinged with green colour. This skin often referred to as the "shell" encases a layer of glossy, succulent, thick, translucent-white to grayish or pinkish fleshy pulp which usually separates readily from the seed. The flesh is similar in texture to a grape but is chewier. It is edible and consists of a highly developed aril enveloping the seed. The flavour of the delicately scented flesh is distinctive, sub acid, sweet, exotic, and very juicy. In the centre is a single glossy dark-brown nut-like seed of about 2 cm long and 1–1.5 cm in diameter. The seed, which looks like a buckeye seed, is inedible as it is slightly poisonous.

Fresh lychee fruit still in their skin will explode if thrown onto a fire. Lychee naturally dehydrates in just a few days. The skin turns brown and brittle and the flesh becomes dry, shriveled, dark reddish brown and the flesh becomes brown and crisp. As it resembles a nut, dried lychee is nicknamed “lychee nut”. It has a raisin-like, richer and musky flavour. The flesh of the dried lychee is eaten like raisins, as a snack. The Chinese use it to sweeten their tea.

Other than potassium, lychee contains various minerals. It is rich in vitamins B & C and is a fairly high source of vitamins E and D. Eaten in moderate amounts, it is believed to relieve cough and is said to have a beneficial effect on gastralgia, tumours and enlargements of the glands. Though the Chinese believe that excessive consumption of fresh lychees causes fever and nosebleed, they use the seeds to relieve neurological pains and orchitis. A tea of the fruit peel is taken to overcome smallpox eruptions and diarrhea. According to legends, ancient devotees have consumed from 300 to 1,000 of fresh lychees per day. In India, the seeds are powdered and used for intestinal troubles. Decoction of the root, bark and flowers are gargled to alleviate ailments of the throat. In the USA, lychee roots are being experimented on a type of tumour.

When purchasing, choose lychee that has bright coloured skin and free of blemishes. Lychee could be kept at room temperatures for only two or three days. Therefore, place it in a plastic bag and refrigerate unpeeled for up to a week.

Lychee is a premier dessert fruit. Though available tinned and dried, it is most relished fresh; peeled and pitted. It is also used to make ice cream, juice, candies and wine. Recently, I flavoured my jelly with lychee.

Lychee Jelly

What do we need:

1 tin lychee
5 g agar-agar strands
2 cups water
1/4 cup sugar
A pinch of salt
A few drops of food colouring

How do we do it:

Soak the the agar-agar strands in water for an hour. Wash and drain. Cook with water.

Strain the lychees and save the syrup.

When the jelly strands have dissolved, add the lychee syrup, sugar and salt. Cook until the sugar dissolve. Colour the jelly mixture with a fre drops of food colouring. Mix well.

Roughly chop the lychees and scatter in a mould. Strain the jelly mixture into the mould onto the lychee pieces. Chill in fridge. To ease unmoulding of the jelly, ensure that the moulds are wet before pouring the jelly mixture. Serve Lychee Jelly cold.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

That Perfect Breakfast

I was so hungry this morning. Starving for a sweet buttery breakfast. So, quickly whipped up a pancake of my favourite flavour; vanilla.

Vanilla Custard Pancake

What do we need:

1 1/4 cup plain flour
1/4 cup custard powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp melted butter

1 tsp butter

How do we do it:

Sift the flour, custard powder, baking powder and salt.

Mix the egg, milk, sugar and the melted butter together. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Combine the egg mixture with the flour mixture. Cover and leave the batter to meld for about 30 minutes.

Lightly grease pan with a touch of butter. Drop a tablespoonful of batter. When the pancake is full of bubbles, flip over and cook for another 30 seconds.

Serve Vanilla Custard Pancake warm with a drizzle of maple syrup, honey or vanilla sauce.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Happy Deepavali 2009

This year is a special Deepavali to me as I get to celebrate it for the first time in my own place after marriage. Though busy at work, I still managed to make some festive delicacies.

Clockwise from top: Ghee Balls, Achi Muruku, Pineapple Jam Tarts & Muruku
Centre from left to right: Blackforest Cookies, Orange Cookies & Custard Cookies

Wishing Hindus Thoughout The Globe a Very Happy & Prosperous Deepavali

Sunday, 4 October 2009

The Rocky Pastry

Rock bun is a specific type of pastry, distinguished by the hard, crust-like texture and sweet taste. This spicy British pastry usually also has a sugar-crust topping and is full of coarsely chopped dried fruit. Rock bun is also called rock cake as it is a cross between a cookie and a small cake. It is made using the rubbing in method. This method achieves a dry and open texture. Rock bun is baked in small mounds, which take on a rocklike appearance.

I made my very first batch of rock buns at school when I was 14 years old. Ever since then, I fell in love with the rocky pastry. Similarly, my sister and children too love them.

Rock Buns

What do we need:

2 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup cold butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup mixed dried fruits
1/2 tsp ginger powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp clove powder
1 cold egg
1/4 cup cold milk

How do we do it:

In a food processor, place the flour, baking powder and cold butter. At a low speed, mix the ingredients until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Mix in sugar, the spices and the dried fruits with a metal spoon.

Slightly beat the cold milk and egg together. Gradually pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture. Gently stir just until the dough binds together. Drop the dough by teaspoonful on a greased or lined baking sheet. Bake at 200° C for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and cool on wire rack.

Enjoy Rock Bun with a cup of tea.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

A Comeback, an Anniversary and a Birthday

Hello there everyone. Here am I once again, back to the blogosphere after a loooooong gap. I am now living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for good. It took me this long to really settle down.

Yesterday we celebrated 2 occasions, the 5th anniversary of my motherhood and my dearest daughter’s 5th birthday. It is the greatest day in my life. Being a mother is an invaluable gift. 5 years passed by just too fast. My lovely daughter has grown up that it’s now difficult for me to carry her.

She said “amma, for my birthday I want everything princess.” As a doting mother, it’s my duty to fulfill her desire. I made a princess cake, my brother made a princess jelly and my sister dolled my daughter up to become a princess.

The 3 Princesses

As usual I prepared quite a number of items for the party.

The Food Spread

My brother made multi-layered and multi-coloured jelly. I baked Pineapple Jam Cake as the base and Vanilla Cake as the gown.

Princess Jelly and Princess Cake

Prawn Fried Rice

Grilled Spicy Chicken

Carrot and Broccoli Soup

Potatoe and Tuna Bruschetta

Mixed Vege Salad

Rock Bun and Marble Jelly
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