Friday, December 19, 2008

Winter Solstice 冬至

Glutinous Rice Balls (汤圆)

As early as 2,500 years ago, about the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC), China had determined the point of Winter Solstice by observing movements of the sun with a sundial. It is the earliest of the 24 seasonal division points. The time will be each December 22 or 23 according to the Gregorian calendar.

The Northern hemisphere on this day experiences the shortest daytime and longest nighttime. After the Winter Solstice, days will become longer and longer. As ancient Chinese thought, the yang, or muscular, positive things will become stronger and stronger after this day, so it should be celebrated.

The Winter Solstice became a festival during the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) and thrived in the Tang and Song dynasties (618-1279). The Han people regarded Winter Solstice as a "Winter Festival", so officials would organize celebrating activities. On this day, both officials and common people would have a rest. The army was stationed in, frontier fortresses closed and business and traveling stopped. Relatives and friends presented to each other delicious food. In the Tang and Song dynasties, the Winter Solstice was a day to offer scarifies to Heaven and ancestors. Emperors would go to suburbs to worship the Heaven; while common people offered sacrifices to their deceased parents or other relatives. The Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) even had the record that "Winter Solstice is as formal as the Spring Festival," showing the great importance attached to this day.

In some parts of Northern China, people eat dumpling soup on this day; while residents of some other places eat dumplings, saying doing so will keep them from frost in the upcoming winter. But in parts of South China, the whole family will get together to have a meal made of red-bean and glutinous rice to drive away ghosts and other evil things. In other places, people also eat tangyuan, a kind of stuffed small dumpling ball made of glutinous rice flour. The Winter Solstice rice dumplings could be used as sacrifices to ancestors, or gifts for friends and relatives. The Taiwan people even keep the custom of offering nine-layer cakes to their ancestors. They make cakes in the shape of chicken, duck, tortoise, pig, cow or sheep with glutinous rice flour and steam them on different layers of a pot. These animals all signify auspiciousness in Chinese tradition. People of the same surname or family clan gather at their ancestral temples to worship their ancestors in age order. After the sacrificial ceremony, there is always a grand banquet.

I will made tang yuan (汤 圆) for the whole family in the traditionally way.


250gm Glutinous Rice Flour
6 - 7 tbsp Brown Sugar (add more if you like it to be sweeter)
5 - 7 slice of ginger
2 pieces of Pandan leaf
1 rice bowl of hot water
3 - 4 tbsp cooking oil
1 drop of red colouring


  1. Sift the glutinous rice flour in a bowl
  2. Add in the hot water gradually and mix with you hand to form a dough. Add more water if you find that the dough it too dry
  3. Divide dough into two portions
  4. Mix one portion with the red colouring
  5. Add in the oil to each portion of dough and continue to form into a smooth dough
  6. Divide the dough in small portion (1 cm thick/length)
  7. Put dough in your palm and roll in circular motion
  8. Complete all dough into small balls
  9. On a boiling pot, fill water to half level
  10. Add in pandan leaf (you can tie around the pandan leaf using the leaf itself)
  11. Add in ginger slice or pieces (depending on own preference)
  12. Put water to boil
  13. Add in brown sugar (Boil for half an hour in low gas)
  14. Put in the Glutinous Rice Ball to cook
  15. Is consider cook once you see the glutinous rice ball float to surface


Using hot water to have chewy effects. Those ready made dough that buy from market, usually melt apart after leaving aside for a few hours. But this home made dough after cook will still remains impact.

I prefers home made dough than those that you buy pre-packed with filling inside. The texture of the glutinous rice ball itself taste very difference. You can add filling (red bean paste, yam paste, peanut, ginko nut) of your choice to the home made glutinous rice ball too.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Charm of Hokkaido


Hokkaido is the second largest, northernmost and least developed of Japan's four main islands.

Hokkaido's weather is harsh in winter with lots of snowfall, below zero temperatures and frozen seas, while in summer, it does not get as hot and humid as in the other parts of the country.

With its unspoiled nature, Hokkaido attracts many outdoor lovers, including skiers and snowboarders in the colder seasons and hikers, cyclists and campers from June to September.

These are some of the photo that I took during my trip in May 08.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Christmas Get-Together

Group Photo

Left : by Cheryll (mixed fruit cocktail & konnyaku jelly), Right : by Yin Yin (brownie)

Left : by Yanti (Chocolate Fondue), Right : by Kirk (Roast Turkey)

Some of the photo shot taken on 9 Dec (Tue) 2008 at our office. These are the most fabulous food contribute by fellow colleagues. Not forgetting the hearty presents too.

Monday, December 8, 2008

American Apple Pie

Last year I tried using Susan's recipe and somehow it didn't turned up well. I picked this out from as it look impressive and instructive. Additional item to contribute.

For the crust

500 gm flour
360 gm butter, cut into cubes
2 tsp salt

3 tbsp sugar
150 ml cold water
Some extra four for dusting

For the filling
6 granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and cubed
65 gm sugar
65 gm dark brown sugar
½ tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp lemon juice
50 g melted butter
1 egg, beaten with 2 tbsp cream

Make the Crust
Pour the flour into the mixer. Add the salt, the sugar and the butter. Mix on slow speed for roughly 2 minutes, only until it becomes the consistency of coarse salt, with some of the pieces of butter still intact. Slowly begin to add in half of the water. Continue adding the water in small amounts, but just until the dough begins to cling together. Remove the dough from the hook and make into a ball. Remove it from the bowl.

Refrigerate the dough
Next, cut a third off the dough. Flatten and wrap both pieces of dough in cling film. Now place them in the fridge for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Preheat the Oven
Set the oven to 180ºC

Roll out the dough
Sprinkle a little flour upon your work surface. Take the larger piece of dough and unwrap it. Dust the top with some flour. Roll it out to a large circle about less than half a centimeter in thickness. Move the dough around to help create a circle and to stop the dough sticking to the table. Wrap the dough around the rolling pin. Place it into to pie pan, being careful not to let it tear.

Mould the dough to the shape of the pan using your fingers. Cut off the excess dough that’s over hanging leaving half a centimeter above the rim. Pinch the edge of the crust with your fingers to make little ridges, Transfer the shell into the fridge or freezer. Let it chill for at least 15-20 minutes.

Make the filling
Into the bowl of apples add the white sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, lemon juice, flour and the butter. Mix together well.

Prepare the top
Flour the work surface with flour. Roll out the remaining dough into a rectangle of ½ centimeter in thickness. Move it around in the flour to stop it sticking to the table. Then cut the dough into 8 long strips of about 1.5 centimeter wide.

Prepare for the oven
Pour the apple filling into the chilled pastry shell. Spread and flatten the apple around the pan with a spoon. Brush the pastry edges with the beaten egg. Place the pastry strips diagonally across the top of the apples. Then weave them together, to create a lattice effect. Cut off the overhanging excess pastry. Press the edges down into the rim. Brush the pastry lattices with a little bit of the egg wash.


Place the pie into the oven. Bake for about 50 minutes. Once brown, remove it from the oven.

Allow the apple pie to cool before serving.

Pot Luck Preparation

Office is going to have shut down soon. We bring forward the celebration of Christmas as many of us will be away during this festive season.

In my menu is Roast Lamb Leg.

Here I try a new recipe from


1 leg of lamb weighing 1 ½ to 2 kg
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut into 4 slices lengthwise
2 to 3 tbsp of rosemary
6 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
Roast lamb seasoning

Preheat the oven
Set the temperature at 250º

Season the lamb
Rub the leg of lamb with the mustard and generously season with roast lamb seasoning
Make incisions in the lamb with a small knife and insert the garlic and rosemary
Drizzle with oil and place on a roasting rack
Place the leg of lamb onto a roasting rack above the try and drizzle over the olive oil

Roast the lamb
Put the roasting tray in the oven and cook for 1 hour
After about 30 minutes, lower the temperature to 200º and continue cooking for the remaining 30 minutes.
Leave the meat to rest
After the cooking time, check that the lamb is ready
Insert a knife into the thickest part of the leg. The cooked meat should be of a pinkish colour
Remove it from the oven and leave to rest for 15 minutes
Carve the leg of lamb and serve with roast potatoes, a selection of vegetables, gravy and mint sauce.

Hari Raya Haji

Celebrated by the Muslims on the tenth day of the last month of the Muslim calendar. This is an occasion celebrated marking the conclusion of the annual Haj - the pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca, when the pilgrims are given the title of Haji for men and Hajjah for women. Thanksgiving prayers are offered in the mosques. Goats or buffaloes are sacrificed and the meat was distributed among the relatives and the poor.

So for this holiday, Mr Chef cooked for us Ramdan Chicken.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Creamy Seafood Spaghetti

Oh, my long waited weekend!

To have a day or two to spend time with family members and unwind from the hectic work schedule. It also time for tranquility one soul & mind.

"What's cooking today Mr Chef"


Mr Chef : "Why not make a round to the supermarket and see what they have up there"?


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Weekend Chef = Hubby

Every week, Mr Weekend Chef will cook something for the family. This week he choose to have western meal. Yummy Yum !
Broccoli, tomatoes, carrot, steak, fried egg, baked potatoes, garlic bread with mushroom soup.

Opening **

Guess what for today ??

Yes, Marble Cake !

Did some research from Internet and with the valuable advice from Yin and G', here it goes....

Marble cake recipe


Four eggs
250 grams butter
200 grams caster sugar
250 grams self-raising flour
2 tbsp milk powder
2 drops of vanilla essence.
3 tbsp cocoa powder


  1. Cream the sugar and butter with a mixer till white and fluffy.

  2. Add in eggs. Fold in flour (use a wooden spoon and gently add in). One egg and one fold of flour until all eggs and flour are used up.

  3. Add milk powder (for soft dropping consistency batter)

  4. Add 1 - 2 drops of vanilla essence

  5. Take 1/3 of the batter and put in the cocoa powder. Mix well.

  6. On 8" x 8" cake tin, plop the first layer with vanilla cake mixture, next chocolate and vanilla alternately.

  7. Swirl with a chopstick.

  8. Preheat oven to max temperature for about 3 - 5 mins. Continue baking at 160º for about 45 mins.

  9. Cool cake before cutting

Recipe : Marble cake (tips to avoid lousy cakes)

Making nice cakes involve precise measurements. One cannot skip or add extra ingredients. For The butter and sugar, it must be beaten fast and hard to avoid the butter from melting too much. The butter and sugar has to end up fluffy and white. To get the best result, use a electric cake mixer. Add in egg one by one, alternating with flour. I.e. One egg, fold (as in gentle motion with a wooden spoon), add flour, fold, one egg, fold, flour etc.

If the cake tin is too small and there is not enough place for the cake to rise it will create crack after baking.

Preheat the oven at max degrees and turning it to moderate is for better cake texture.

Pointer taken from Lilian of