Monday, 31 December 2012


All I did was suggested a few things she could do when Catherine visited Taipei last week.  I've only been to the city twice myself and wasn't even sure if my recommendations were any good.  So when Cat dropped by this afternoon bearing gifts, she took me by surprise.  

I've always loved Taiwanese pineapple cakes. Sweet and sour pineapple filling encased in a shortbread crust. Now there's even mango cakes made from Taiwan's famous Aiwen Mango (爱文芒果).

Thin sheets of crispy pork with slivers of almond. I can't wait to try it! Thanks, Cat! Happy New Year!

Wednesday, 26 December 2012



I recently rediscovered the recipe for this Cranberry-Orange Walnut Tea Bread. I had it scribbled in an old diary. I don't remember where the recipe came from. I do remember, however, the person who gave me the diary. I also remember that I bought the Christmas linen (featured in the photo above) during a day trip to the Blue Mountains, NSW in 1999. Three days ago, I retrieved it from my drawer and put it up on a hanger to air it. Yesterday, it wasn't on the hanger anymore. I searched high and low only to find that I had already returned it to the drawer myself. 

They say that people with dementia can remember things from long ago, but not things from a few minutes ago. So if you ask me what I had for lunch today, my answer is "I can't recall it now but check back with me again in ten years and I'll tell you."

Makes one 7" x 7" cake

75 grams butter, softened
150 grams sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
110 grams fresh orange juice
110 grams buttermilk
260 grams all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
65 grams dried fruit (I used a mixture of chopped dried cranberries, glazed cherries, orange peel and raisins)
65 grams chopped walnuts

Preheat your oven at 180 degrees C.  Line a 7" x 7" pan with parchment paper. (In the original recipe, the bread is baked in a 9" x 5" pan.)

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter until creamy and smooth then add sugar, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl. Continue to beat until the mixture is very light in colour and texture.

Add the egg very slowly, about 1 tablespoon at a time. Continue beating until mixture is fluffy and pale ivory in colour. Stir in the vanilla extract, orange juice, then buttermilk.  Add flour mixture in 3 - 4 additions until incorporated.  Fold in the dried fruits and walnuts.

Spoon batter into prepared pan, and spread evenly with a rubber spatula.

Bake the cake until the top springs back when pressed lightly and a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out free of batter, 50 - 55 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 10 – 15 minutes before turning the cake out of the pan.


Tuesday, 25 December 2012



One Christmas Eve many moons ago, my friend Hans and I were treated to a ballet performance of The Nutcracker. The evening began joyously enough. The sweeping Tchaikovsky score, the visually entrancing set, the glittering costumes – what a cosy winter dream! Yet somewhere between the Waltz of the Snowflakes and the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, my eyes slowly glazed over ... When I recovered I stole a glance at Hans who was seated next to me. His eyes watery from yawning. (He later claimed it was because he was very much moved by the bravery of the Mouse King. The liar!) 

Every Christmas Day, I play my Nutcracker Suite CD, just to get into the spirit of things because even though watching ballerinas flirt, prance and dancing en pointe just isn't my cup of tea, I do enjoy listening to classical music.

Mum has been bugging me for weeks to make Rock Buns for Auntie Xia (阿霞). I must have told you about Auntie Xia before. She’s the neighbour who occasionally looks in on my parents while I’m at work. When we run out of eggs, Auntie Xia helps us buy and deliver them right up to our doorstep! She shares with us her homemade laksa, yam rice and chilli paste. And as if babysitting the neighbourhood kids doesn’t keep her busy enough, she still finds the time to ask my mother out to Rochor to buy dried seafood, and then have coffee with her afterwards. Needless to say, our family love Auntie Xia to bits.

I'm spending eleven slothful days at home during Christmas, Mum presses me to bake something nice for one of the most helpful neighbours we've ever had.

"来烘点饼阿霞啦!"  ("Come on, make something for Har!")
"烘什么饼好呢?" ("What should I bake?")
"就烘 'lock bun' 吧!" ("Rock Buns, of course!")

Mum labels everything ranging from Digestives to cream crackers, chocolate chip cookies to Tau Sar Piah, as 饼 (biscuits). Needless to say Rock Buns (or '骆笨' as my mother calls them) also falls under the same category. So if you're in our kitchen and my mother offers, "要不要吃饼?" ("Would you like a biscuit?") you should confirm with her which kind because you never know what you might get! 

By Jane Brocket

Makes 15

340 grams all-purpose flour 
8 grams baking powder 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
Finely grated zest of one lemon 
175 grams butter 
100 grams brown sugar 
75 grams caster sugar 2
255 grams mixed dried fruits (I used a mixture of chopped dried cranberries, glazed cherries, orange peel and raisins) 
1 large egg 
1 to 2 tablespoons milk or buttermilk 
Egg wash 

Cut the butter into 1-inch cubes and place them in the freezer until you're ready to use them. 

Preheat your oven at 180 degrees C. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. 

Place the flour, baking powder and butter in a mixing bowl and roughly chop the butter with a round-bladed knife. Rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the lemon zest, sugars and dried fruits. Add the egg and, using the knife, bring the ingredients together to form a stiff dough. If the mixture is too dry, add a tablespoon of milk. 

With the aid of two teaspoons, dollop heaps of the mixture on to lined baking sheets, spacing them well apart. Lightly brush the tops of each cookie with egg wash. Bake for 15 minutes or until cookies are golden brown. 

Cool on a rack.


Monday, 24 December 2012


Santa Claus has come to town!

A box of Christmas treats from my French boss - all the way from Paris. 

Fauchon pink!  Ze ooh la la!

It eez no secret that I love all things French.

Merci, Stephane!  Joyeux Noël!

Saturday, 8 December 2012


I've been going to an acupuncturist for my wrist inflammation for some time now.  Dr. Liu is a devoted Buddhist, and vegetarian.  Last weekend she raved about the goodness of mushrooms and how easy they were to bake.  

Dr. Liu tops her mushrooms with shredded cheese and mayonnaise.  I didn't have mayonnaise at home and thought topping with only cheese might be a tad plain.   I contemplated buying some bacon but we haven't had bacon in the house for ages.  Then I spied a few slices of luncheon meat in the fridge - something leftover from yesterday's lunch, I suspect. 

I even made a crumb topping.  I got the idea from watching MASA make his Seafood Baked Rice. I love Masa.   He makes cooking look downright easy.

Baked Mini Portobello Mushrooms
Serves 3 - 4 as a side dish

200 grams Portobello mushrooms stalks removed, caps cleaned and aired dry
50 grams shredded Mozzarella
40 grams ham or luncheon meat, cut into 5mm dice

Crumb Topping
2 small cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 slices of cream crackers, crushed
2 teaspoons dried Italian herbs
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, if desired

Preheat your oven at 200 degrees C.  In a small bowl, mix together the crumb topping ingredients and set aside.

Place Portobello mushrooms, cap side down, on a baking tray lined with parchment paper or aluminium foil.

Divide and top mushrooms with the Mozzarella, followed by the luncheon meat.  Spoon crumb mixture over the tops.  I didn't add any seasoning since luncheon meat is already quite salty.  Bake in preheated oven for 12 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and the topping start to brown.

Dr. Liu is right, baked mushrooms are super easy to make, and seriously yummy!  I did well to add the crumb topping.  Adds a bit of crunch to the otherwise soft textures of the ingredients.


I just discovered that the new Blogger interface works with CHROME. How come no one tells me this?! I've been blogging with SAFARI sin...