French toast with coconut jam

[dropcap]M[/dropcap]y Saturday was spent wandering a building site, face swapping with a 5 year old, shopping with my sister and letting my Mum literally throw food down my throat. Whenever I visit my parent’s place, my Mum always sends me home with a bag of goodies (and a full belly) and this time round was no different. There was a thick cut loaf of bread from her local bakery and some jars of golden Kaya.

Kaya is a coconut curd or jam, made from coconut milk, pandan leaves, and egg yolks. Its sweet, creamy and deliciously coconutty. You can get it in Chinese shops or in the grocery shops in China Town but it used to be really hard to find- which is why I squirrel away any jars that come my way!

Unpacking my goody bag at home, I knew exactly what I was going to make with my precious haul…

French Toast with dollops of delicious Malaysian coconut curd.

French Toast Recipe

In coffee shops and cafes all over Asia, you can get thickly cut wedges of buttery toast dripping with kaya jam in the middle. Where I grew up, it was called Roti Kahwin, which roughly translates as Married Bread…I can only assume because the pairing of hot buttered toast and kaya is a match made in heaven.

I thought the loaf of bread-courtesy of my Mum’s local bakery- would be perfect for French Toast because the size of the slices were full on Beast mode. Proper fat door stop size!

So! A french toast making we go…

French Toast Recipe 2

French Toast Recipe with Kaya

Spoon a big portion of the coconut jam into a saucer, and serve alongside the french toast with a couple of melting butter patties on the top.

It’s a nice nod to the Roti Kahwin I used to munch on with a morning coffee, but a little twist to your normal French Toast and maple syrup combination.

And if you don’t have time to run to the shops…

…it’s stocked online at Wing Yip!

(the one with Pandan is my preferred choice!)

Banana Pancake Muffins

[dropcap]H[/dropcap]ow can something be a pancake and yet a muffin? This Frankenstein bake is something I whipped up when I had a craving for banana fritter balls that my Mum used to make and yet, couldn’t be bothered having to heat up a pan of hot oil to cook them in. The final result is a mad hybrid- the texture and taste of a banana pancake, but with a few spices and extra flour to make them a little sturdier, like a muffin. So with a little extra banana, a little less flour, and a few spices later, these not-quite muffins and not-quite pancakes came out of the oven and my tastebuds are 100% grateful.

You’ll need to preheat the oven to 200 degrees and the following:

3 over ripe bananas
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of plain flour
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger
A pinch of salt
A little bit of Orange zest (I used a quarter of an Orange)

Banana Pancake Muffins Recipe 1

Banana Pancake Muffins Recipe 2

Banana Pancake Muffins Recipe 3

Mash the bananas into a bowl, but make sure you leave some big lumps. Stir in the flour, salt and sugar until combined, then add in the spices, zest and vanilla. Give it one last fold!

Line a muffin tray with cases and scoop a heaping tablespoon into each cup.

Pop into the oven for 20-22 minutes, until just golden brown.

These aren’t going to rise much- they’ll be quite dense and gooey in the middle. By baking them in a muffin case and using a little extra flour, they hold enough shape without compromising on the texture and taste in the middle. It reminds me of the banana pancakes we ate pretty much everyday in Thailand; in fact, if I had any in the cupboard, I would have dipped these in Nutella!

So there you have it- a weird concoction that shouldn’t work but tastes wonderful!
Here’s the handy printable!

[yumprint-recipe id=’1′]

A Perfect Pumpkin Pie for Autumn

[dropcap]E[/dropcap]very Autumn, as the leaves turn brown, the skies turn grey and predictably drizzly, that part of me that loves baking – usually lying dormant in the Summer months- rears it’s head and all of a sudden I can’t get enough of all things cinnamon and melted butter. I’ve made variations of pumpkin pie over the years, but this recipe…I think this is the one! I’ve made a few tweaks here and there and the end result was a silky smooth, cinnamony, pumpkin pie dream.

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Here’s what you’ll need:

For the pumpkin filling

1 can of Pumpkin Puree
1 can of Evaporated milk
3 eggs
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1/2 cup of light muscovado sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
1 pinch of salt
The zest of half an orange

Now, in the past I’ve used ready made pie crusts and I’ve also made pie pastry from scratch. I’m no pastry purist, so it’s totally up to you! In this case, I used a ready mixed bag of pastry that just needed water added.

After mixing and rolling it into a dough, I blind baked the raw pie crust for 12 minutes in a hot 230c oven, then took it out to cool whilst I made the filling. Keep the oven on at this hot temperature in the meantime.

Previously, I’d whip everything together in a bowl, but this time…we’re going to end up with a lot of washing up. It’ll be worth it, I promise.

In a bowl, whisk the eggs together with the evaporated milk.

PumpkinPieRecipe 2

In a pan on medium heat gently stir the pumpkin puree, sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground ginger and the vanilla extract all together.

Keep stirring until all the sugar has melted and the puree takes on a brown colour- be gentle at this stage, you just want to warm it through and melt the sugar.

PumpkinPieRecipe 4

Once it’s warmed through (3-4 minutes tops) take it off the heat, and then slowly stir in the evaporated milk/egg mix. Go slowly at this part, or else you’ll end up with scrambled egg! Fold the mix together and add in the orange zest.

Pour the filling into the pie crust and gently tap away any air bubbles.

Turn the oven down to 190c, then place the pie into the centre of the oven and bake for 45 minutes.

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The pie will have a slight wobble to it, but don’t worry as it’ll continue to set after you’ve take it out of the oven. Leave it on a rack to cool for half an hour…

And tuck in!

My past trial and errors meant that I took it out of the oven too late, not realising that it needed to be a bit wobbly. This was a success!

The orange zest adds a little hint of citrus which is divine. The sweet pumpkin flavour is a little more intense as it was warmed through on the stove before we mixed it all together.

Now. If this isn’t a perfect Autumn treat meant to be enjoyed with a cup of tea or hot chocolate…then I don’t know what is.

Lovely.

Honey Garlic & Pepper Chicken Caesar Salad

[dropcap]B[/dropcap]ack when I worked at an advertising agency, buying lunch everyday was a sure fire way to drain my bank account- especially in Soho. I was lucky that my workplace was intent on feeding us healthy food (but also plied staff with massive amounts of booze…) but as Simplyhealth have written, eating well promotes good productivity. We had an amazing cafe on the ground floor serving up healthy and delicious food that was pretty cheap and every Wednesday would be the big, green, chunky salad day aka the best day of the week.

Honey Garlic Pepper Chicken Caesar Salad Recipe 7

Working from home now means that at lunch time, instead of popping out to my nearest Pret or market, I have to get into the kitchen and whip something up. And you know what that means…it has to be easy and quick, because a girl can’t live on cereal alone. A Caeasar salad is my usual go to lunch- it’s easy, light, and quick to put together. I’ve tweaked the recipe a few times depending on what I fancied, but this flavour combination is my recent favourite- Honey and Garlic Pepper!

Here’s my take on my favourite lunch time meal…

You’ll need the following: (serves one)

1 chicken breast

a handful of lamb’s leaf lettuce 

a handful of rocket

half of a gem lettuce

croutons (store bought is fine) 

Parmesan cheese

Caesar salad dressing

Honey

Garlic Pepper

Cut the chicken breast length ways- cutting the meat this thin will help it to cook through quickly and thoroughly. Sprinkle both sides with garlic pepper, salt, and a very small drizzle of honey. Rub the mixture all over and then fry in a pan on medium heat, until brown and caramelised all over (about 3 minutes on each side, depending how thick the chicken breast is) Move the chicken to a chopping board, then you can assemble the salad.

Cut the Gem lettuce in rough pieces, add to the bowl and throw in the lamb’s leaf lettuce and rocket too. Add in your croutons and drizzle the salad dressing all over, to your taste.

Honey Garlic Pepper Chicken Caesar Salad Recipe 1

Honey Garlic Pepper Chicken Caesar Salad Recipe 8

Cut the chicken breast into slivers and add to the salad bowl.

Lastly, grate as little or as much parmesan cheese as you want all over.

Honey Garlic Pepper Chicken Caesar Salad Recipe 4

Honey Garlic Pepper Chicken Caesar Salad Recipe 3

Honey Garlic Pepper Chicken Caesar Salad Recipe 6

The chicken will still be warm and the cheese will melt into it- it’s heavenly.

Garlic pepper is one of my favourite ingredients and I use it in almost everything! It gives a nice little something to any dish and I always have it stashed in my spice cupboard. You can add any extras you fancy to this- olives, pecans, roasted red peppers. It takes no time to put together and feels a lot healthier than a Pret baguette everyday.

A week of cooking with Gousto

[dropcap]E[/dropcap]veryday I make that trip to the refrigerator, stare inside it half heartedly and then text Robin what he feels like having for dinner- half the time we cave in and get takeout sushi from a local restaurant instead. I love cooking, but when it becomes mundane I’d rather pick up the phone to have something delivered instead. Just before we went to Copenhagen for the weekend, Gousto got in touch and offered me a meal kit for 2 to try for the week. Gousto deliver weekly meal kits, with all the ingredients you need packed inside a box with easy to follow recipe cards. This way you get to cook new, interesting meals without the headache! Plus, I have a nice discount code for your first box…

Steak and Blue Cheese Gousto box ingredients

Our flight home was full of delays and by the time we stepped through our front door, we were tired, grumpy and pretty hungry- bordering on the hangriness! It was nice to have one less thing to worry about, knowing that inside the fridge was everything we needed to have a decent dinner that night. Our first meal from Gousto was to be the Steak and Blue cheese!

I cracked open the freezer, defrosted the steaks and set to work quickly chopping the potatoes and onions. While the chips were cooking in the oven, I fried the onions, stirred in the blue cheese and sprinkled the parsley over. The steaks took minutes to fry. The whole thing took less than 30 minutes from start to finish and it was nice that everything was already to hand and labeled in packets!

Steak and Blue Cheese Gousto box 2

Steak and Blue Cheese Gousto box 3

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Steak and Blue Cheese Gousto box 4

As our small flat was cramped and busy with building work from the bathroom, shopping was the last thing on my mind. So the next night, it was a relief that dinner was once again taken care of thanks to a second Gousto meal. This time, it was a Stroganoff with mushrooms, green beans, chives and potatoes.

Again, so quick and easy!

Gousto box Pork Stroganoff 1

Gousto box Pork Stroganoff 2

Gousto box Pork Stroganoff 3

This one was Robin’s favourite out of the meals cooked. Some of our own potatoes were added to this meal though, as I used all the ones Gousto had packed for the steak and chips the night before. Anyone who has had a meal with Robin knows just how much food he can pack away (and still stay skinny!)

The third meal was probably my favourite, and that was the Chicken Tamarind Stir Fry.

Gousto Box Chicken Tamarind Stirfry 1

As before, I set out all the ingredients on the table and read through the recipe card. Even the rice had been measured out for me, so all I had to do was add it to the rice cooker! If you don’t have a rice cooker, I can’t recommend them enough. No more sticky pots and mess! You just add the rice, top with water, click the button and it does all the work for you.

Gousto Box Chicken Tamarind Stirfry 2

Gousto Box Chicken Tamarind Stirfry 3

Ta da! This was so good. The tang from the tamarind sauce and five spice was delicious.

Gousto Box Chicken Tamarind Stirfry 4

I was actually really sad when our meal kit was finished. It made dinner super easy and it was nice not having to fuss around the kitchen cabinets trying to pull something together. I had made three meals that I had never tried before and it rekindled my interest in cooking again! Plus all meals are kept healthy and organic, so you get a home cooked meal and skip the guilt from succumbing to a salty takeaway. Winner, winner, chicken dinner! Incidentally, all of their meat is 100% British and sourced from British farmers. They’ll even tell you where your free range eggs came from (a gentleman called Steven Rowbottom if you must know)

If you would like to give Gousto a try, use code THEAWKWARDBLOG20 to get £20 off your first order; you can decide whether you want a meal kit for 2 or 4 people and the frequency of delivery.  Each meal works out at around £4 each and you can pick from the menu (changed every week) what you fancy for dinner- to me that’s the fun part…order ahead!

Japanese Cheesecake

[dropcap]F[/dropcap]rom time to time, I crave the kinds of cake that used to be abundant in the Far East. Chiffony, soft cakes in pastel pinks and greens, usually topped or decorated in something kawaii and twee like Hello Kitty. I had searched Pinterest for something similar that I could attempt at home, and decided to try a Japanese Cheesecake with a few simple ingredients. It was also a good excuse to dust off the bundt cake tin!
This is a bit of a fiddly recipe. Prepare to find yourself washing up a few bowls! So, first preheat your oven to 175C. You’ll need these ingredients:

7 ounces of cream cheese
1/4 cup milk (I used semi-skimmed)
3 eggs
1/4 cup of cornflour
juice of 1/2 a lemon

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In a bowl, add your cream cheese and milk and mix together until smooth, then set aside.

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Now, separate the eggs. Yolks in one bowl, whites in the other. I love separating eggs, it’s one of the weirdly calming things I like doing, like laundry (?!)

Add the eggs yolks to the cream cheese mix, along with the sugar, cornflour and lemon juice. Mix it all together and set that aside again.

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I whisked the egg whites with my handy dandy Kitchenaid- or if you’re built like Jillian Michaels, mix it with just muscle power and a whisk- until fluffy and you could happily hold the bowl upside down over your head without any fear.
Gently fold the egg whites into the cream cheese mix- I’m not a fan of this step as it requires some patience! Once it’s folded in, pour the mixture into your greased cake tin.

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Place the cake tin into a tray and fill it with boiling water, until it reaches halfway up the cake tin. Then place it into the oven for 35 minutes. Once the 35 minutes are up, turn the oven off and leave the cake inside for an hour. This helps to prevent it from sinking.

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After my hour was up, I found that my cake sank a little bit, but the texture was there. After flipping it onto a plate, I found that the bottom of the cake, baked in the part of the tin that was submerged in water, had a really dense texture to it whereas the top of the cake was light and fluffy. However, I was still really pleased with the outcome; a light, citrusy, soft cheesecake. I’d like to have a go at this again, using matcha flavours instead. Also, this is gluten free, if that floats your baking boat!