November 2007


Dates are fairly pricey here in Bangkok, but this past Friday, a week before payday, I decided to spoil us with a small packet of dates. The dates were so good that I was almost torn between just eating them as is and baking them into a moist and tasty date bread. The bread, of course, won.

And here is how you can make this delicious bread.

Round up:

1/2 cup dates, chopped

3/4 cup hot water

1 and 1/2 tablespoons butter

1 cup brown sugar

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 and a 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1 egg, beaten

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Make:

Preheat the oven to 180C. Combine the dates, butter and hot water in a bowl and let it stand. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Add the egg, vanilla, and date mixture and mix until moist. Pour into a greased bread pan and bake for 45- 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out, yes you guest it, clean. Let it cool if you have the patience, or enjoy it almost immediately.

Suggestions for Almond Date Bread:

– If you do not like the taste of almond, use vanilla extract instead. This was a bit of a taste experiment and I really liked the hint of almond in the bread.

– Add chopped walnuts if you like. I could not find any, so I went without. Next time I’ll try to have some on hand.

– Enjoy date bread at various times of the day, as often as possible.

I’m not very good at tagging. Never have been always much better at running away from whomever was doing the tagging. But I thought I’d give this ‘Life in Fours’ tag from VegeYum at A Life (Time of Cooking) a go.

4 Places I’ve lived over the past year

Cape Town, South Africa

Hsinchu, Taiwan

Los Angeles, USA

Bangkok, Thailand

4 Things I miss (or will miss) about each

Cape Town- Cafe Royal (amongst many other things)

Hsinchu- October in Taiwan (My ideal weather and there is a lovely melancholy feel in the air)

LA- Little Ethiopia (amongst many-many-many other things)

Bangkok- Explorations (It’s like an onion)

4 Places I’d revisit again and again if I could

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona, USA (extremely atmospheric natural beauty)

Tokyo, Japan (awesomely overwhelming)

Mlawula Nature Reserve, Swaziland (the basic sink bathtubs overlooking the valley sold me- the picture is Alexander’s)

Nieu Bethesda, South Africa (entranced since my first visit)

4 Places/ countries I want to go to

Eritrea (Art Deco and old espresso machines)

Pakistan (I’m intrigued by the look of the country)

Alaska (Mountain goats, Caribou, Musk Oxen, and the glaciers)

North Korea (The architecture and curious about being in a place as tightly controlled as that)

As I’ve mentioned earlier I was never great at the actual tagging, so I’ll skip that part, but feel free to tag yourself if you want.

Why can’t I just stick to a recipe that has been tried and trusted by many? I always feel the urge to tweak a bit and sometimes the results are a bit odd if not downright weird.

I got the urge to bake muffins again on Tuesday and picked up some yogurt and fresh toasted coconut on the way home. I searched around for a new recipe and found on that seemed quick and easy. I was going to make one half of the muffins adding some coconut flakes and the other using blueberry yogurt and poppy seeds. Instead of just sticking to flour I decided to use whole wheat flour. I enjoy the fiber and thought it would work perfectly.

I guess my whole wheat flour is a bit too fibrous, resulting in pretty dense and flat muffins. They still tasted yummy though and are incredibly filling. But I was bothered by their lack of height, so yesterday I baked another half batch.

I still insisted on using some whole wheat flour, but this time I added less than a quarter cup to the rest of the flour and it came out with a bit more body. The second batch was a chocolate chip one. I felt the need to spoil myself after my latest sewing project finally got to me.

I do think I need a proper muffin tray though, these cupcake cups just don’t cut it anymore. And I still need to get mixing bowls. And now I want a springform pan too after I read a terribly decadent cheesecake recipe earlier today.

Here follows the basic simple muffin recipe.

Arrange:

2 cups flour

1 cup sugar (white or brown)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

150ml plain yogurt

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

4 tablespoons butter, melted

Make:

Preheat the oven to 180C. Mix all the dry ingredients together. Mix all the wet ingredients together. Add the wet to the dry mixture and mix it well. Fill muffin pans to about 2/3 of the pans and put in the oven. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Take out of the oven and let them cool. Of course, just following the above recipe might result in fairly bland muffins, so here are some suggestions.

Suggestions for the Simple Muffin Recipe:

– use different kinds of yogurt. I used blueberry yogurt in one batch, coconut yogurt in another and plain in the third.

– add some fun ingredients. I did not have blueberries, so I added some poppy seeds to make that batch a bit more fun and toasted coconut to the coconut ones. For the chocolate chip muffins I added a tablespoon ful of cocoa and generous helpings of chocolate chips. Yum!

– this is a really easy recipe and I think one can really play around with it, I’m definitely going to work on it and will keep you posted

There are numerous pretty parks in Bangkok that we’ve only seen in passing so far. There is the enormous Lumphine Park, the Benjasiri Park near Emporium and Chatuchak Park next to the weekend market going by the same name. We have long been threatening to visit one of these parks, so inspired by an article in this week’s BK Magazine I suggested going for a picnic yesterday.

While I was still being lazy in bed, Alexander made fresh tortillas. I’ve never had home made tortillas before, so I was used to the generic taste of the store bought variety. The ones Alexander made was super fresh and oh so delicious! I was bouncing around with excitement (literally), while being fed bites of warm tortillas.

So into our picnic bag went the still warm tortillas, some cupcakes, hummus and tomatoes picked up at the Emporium Gourmet section and two coffees. We went and hung out at the lush and inviting Benjasri Park. There weren’t too many people and the atmosphere was relaxed. I thought too late about taking a picture of the tortillas, so this blurry image of the best tortilla I’ve ever had will have to do for now.

And of course we enjoyed cupcakes for dessert.

This picture of a used cup was taken by Alexander. I like how the bit of pink icing that dropped onto the bench contrasts with the grayish background.

Yesterday I baked cupcakes for which the Afrikaans word is kolwyntjies (pronouncing it like col-vane-kiss might sound close). I got a real simple recipe at cupcakerecipes.com, made the basic batter and then had fun.

I cannot recall the last time I baked cupcakes, so even though I knew it should be relatively simple I was nervous. I guess I am always a bit nervous when I am making something new.

I picked up, the day before I made the cupcakes, some blue and pink food coloring to add to my tiny collection of food color, a packet of cocoa, and a couple of candy bars. The packet of M&M’s disappeared between arriving home Friday afternoon and the time I started baking.

The recipe yielded about 30 cupcakes of varying sizes (and shapes), so I had a lot of batter to play with. I divided it into about three equal amounts and experimented from there on. Into the first batter I mixed some chocolate food coloring and scooped it into the cups, adding a bit of chocolate bar into each cup. The next batter became electric blue and was kept pretty simple. Except for two into which I scooped some peanut butter as a surprise. Into the last batter I mixed in cocoa powder and peanut butter and in a few I dropped chopped pieces from a Sneaker’s bar. Notice in the picture on the right that I finally bought a hand mixer. Loving it. Now I just need mixing bowls.

It took a while to bake all the cupcakes in our tiny oven. After they cooled I decorated them with a really simple milk and powdered sugar frosting.

The shocking pink and electric blue one’s I called queercakes, after the bunch of cupcakes my friend Christel and Alexander baked for a friend’s birthday last year which looked quite similar (you can see the peanut butter in the queercake in the first picture). The peanut butter one’s each got a cashew on top of the icing and some of them come with a yummy surprise in the center. The chocolate one’s look quite plain but they all have a candy bar surprise inside. Delightful!

– Alexander took most of the pictures in this entry. My favorite is the one of the giraffe overlooking the candy bar surprise cupcakes. –

I tried a variation on a fall stew recipe I read the other day for dinner last night. It’s supposed to be cooked in an oven bag, but seen as I do not have such an item, (as a matter of fact I’ve never heard of it before!) I just used our aluminum baking tins. Yes, I still do not have a proper baking pan or casserole dish, but in the meantime this is working well and we do recycle them.

The original recipe, and many other great ones, can be found at here at Almost Turkish Recipes.

Collect:

1 Asian eggplant

1 carrot

1 zucchini

1/2 red onion

1 tomato

1/2 cup red cabbage

1 banana chili

2 cloves garlic

100 grams pork loin

handful of chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 tablespoon tomato paste

1/2 cup water

Make:

Preheat the oven to 200C. Chop, dice, cube and round all the ingredients, anyway that you like. Combine them all in a large mixing bowl and mix well. Put this mixture into an oven pan (like I did) or a casserole dish. Mix the water and tomato paste and pour over. Cover with aluminum foil and make three holes in the top. Cook in the oven for one hour.

I served it with some toor dal and a roasted beetroot salad. Fresh and satisfying.

Suggestions for the stew:

– this was way to much for two people for one meal. The rest is going into the blender tonight to become soup.

– you can use any other meat or none at all and you can add some more veggies or different kinds.

– the ingredients added their own flavors to the dish, for some additional flavor you can add other dried or fresh herbs to your liking.

I’m starting on a new project this week. I’ve been stagnating for a while, but that is over now. I’m not telling what it is until it’s finished and I am happy with it. After that I’ll be working on one more bag and then move onto shirts. I made a wildebeest shirt for Alexander’s birthday last year, which, unfortunately we never photographed, but it was a pretty fun shirt. I think I feel ready to take on collars and cuffs again.

I’ve been keeping an eye out for a notebook I could use as a recipe book. I found the perfect retro notebook at the Robinson’s Department Store near Asok this week. It seems like it would fit in perfectly with my grandmother’s old recipe notebooks.

I also tried using a recipe for honey cake to bake cupcakes. They did not exactly come out looking like cupcakes and I think I need to tweak the recipe a bit. Maybe too much baking powder. So I’ll work on that before I post the recipe. They looked fun though.

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