Valentine’s Day Churros

Hooray for churros! I’ve been craving these babies every day since returning from the Gold Coast last week. Despite the crazy rain up north we managed to pay a visit to Warner Bros Movie World (which was awesome btw), where we were greeted with churros stalls every 20 metres we walked. I was in heaven! Lucky for me the prices at theme parks are always pretty steep – churros were selling for $3 a pop! – otherwise I probably would’ve come home 10 kilos heavier.

If you haven’t tried these spanish donuts before you are seriously missing out! These crunchy deep fried golden sticks of heaven are delicious. Being the hopeless romantic that I am, I wanted to incorporate a Valentine’s Day theme into the recipe so I piped the churros out into heart shapes. Nawww cute huh? I rolled them around in cinnamon sugar which is how they were served at Movie World but I’ve also eaten them before dusted with icing sugar and dipped in chocolate sauce, which tastes just as good. It took under half an hour to whip these up from start to finish so if you’re looking for something easy to put together for your man/woman this Valentine’s Day then this is definitely the recipe to try!

Valentine’s Day Churros (serves 4)

Churros Dough
1 cup water
2 1/2 tablespoons white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 quarts oil for frying

Cinnamon Sugar
1/2 cup white sugar, or to taste
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Method
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine water, 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar, salt and 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Stir in flour until mixture forms a ball of dough.

Place dough in a piping bag and pipe heart shapes onto a sheet of parchment paper.

Heat oil for frying in deep-fryer or deep saucepan to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). You can test this by placing a wooden chopstick or skewer into the oil and if it bubbles around the chopstick the oil is ready.

Use a deep frying spatula (or similar) to carefully place the hearts into the oil. If you’re not making heart shaped churros you can pipe strips of dough into hot oil using a pastry bag to form a long churro. Fry until golden and drain on paper towels.

Combine 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon. Roll drained churros in cinnamon and sugar mixture.

Enjoy!

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Chinese White Radish Cake (Lor Bak Goh / Luo Bo Gao)

There was a period in time where I’d wake up every Saturday morning craving yum cha. Spinach dumplings, pork dumplings, beef rice noodles, pork buns, taro puffs, radish cakes, mango pancakes, that thing with the tofu skin wrapped around it.. you name it. Lucky for me Mr Girl Meets Sugar and I share pretty similar tastes in food so it was never a hard task to convince him to trek it down with me to the closest yum cha restaurant where we’d stuff ourselves silly with dim sum.

The annoying thing about yum cha is you have to go in with a big group to really enjoy the variety of dishes on offer. Each dish usually has 3-4 servings so it makes it impossible for people who want to dine on their lonesome to have the same enjoyable experience. Do people even go to yum cha alone? It occurred to me that there could come a day where I’d be in the mood to go on a dumpling rampage but not be able to get my fix because there’d be no one to go with.. so why not just make these dishes myself?

While researching I stumbled across a dumpling recipe goldmine, that is Andrea Nguyen’s asiandumplingtips.com. My first tried and tested recipe of her’s was for Chinese White Radish Cake and it did not disappoint. The outside of the dumpling is seared to a crisp which contrasts amazingly with the smooth and fluffy textured innards. Slap on some hot chilli sauce and you’re winning. I was so impressed with the end result that I went out and bought her book “Asian Dumplings“. The best thing about this recipe is that it makes a batch big enough to have leftovers ready to be fried off at a later date. These can be stored in the fridge for about a week, or frozen for a couple of months. Sometimes I’m lazy and don’t even bother frying; I just defrost and heat them up and they taste just as good.

Chinese White Radish Cake

Dumplings
2 cups white rice flour, preferably from China or Thailand
1/4 cup wheat starch
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
10 to 12 small or medium dried shrimp, soaked in hot water to cover for 30 minutes (I replaced this with a handful of shitake mushrooms soaked for an hour – I’m not the biggest fan of shrimp)
1/2 kilo daikon radish
2/3 cup Chinese pork sausage (lup cheong), chopped very finely
3 shallots, chopped finely

Cooking and Serving
Neutral oil to coat the cake pans and the skillet
Oyster sauce or hot sauce

Equipment
2-inch-high steamer rack
Two 9-inch round cake pans
Pot large enough to hold both the rack and the cake pan when covered

Method
Make the Batter: Combine the rice flour, wheat starch, salt, and pepper in a large bowl and set aside.  Drain and finely chop the shrimp.

Peel the daikon and grate it through the small holes of your grater onto a kitchen towel.  Bring together the ends of the cloth and twist to squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can into the bowl.  Measure out the collected juices and add enough water to the juice to make 3½ cups.

Pour the daikon liquid into a medium pot.  Add the grated daikon and bring to a boil over high heat.  Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 5 minutes.  Mix in the sausage, scallions, and chopped shrimp, cover, and cook for 5 minutes longer. Remove from the heat. Slowly add the rice flour mixture and whisk continuously until free of most large lumps.  The batter will be thick and sticky and a little lumpy.

Steam the Dumplings:  Place the steamer rack in the pot, add 1½ inches of water to the pot, and bring to a boil over high heat.

Brush both cake pans with a little oil and divide the batter between the 2 pans.  Dip a spoon into cool water and use the back of the spoon to smooth out the surface of the batter.

Carefully place one of the filled pans on the steamer rack, cover, and steam for 40 minutes.  The other filled pan should be covered and left sitting at room temperature while the first one cooks, or it can be cooked simultaneously in another pot.

Remove the pot from the heat.  Carefully lift the pan out of the pot, place it on a folded kitchen towel, and allow the radish cake to cool to room temperature.  Cook the other filled cake pan.

Unmold the radish cake and gently turn it onto a cutting board.  Cut each dumpling into 8 equal slices.

When ready to serve, coat a large skillet with oil and heat over medium heat.  Carefully place the slices of radish cake in the pan and cook until their bottoms are crispy and golden brown, about 4 minutes.  Turn them over to brown the other sides.  Serve with a side of oyster sauce or hot sauce.

Enjoy!

Easiest 5 Minute Chocolate Cake

Okay, this isn’t exactly the best looking cake around but what it lacks in aesthetics is made up for by the fact that this is one of the easiest recipes you will ever find – it takes 5 minutes to put together from start to finish and you cook it using the microwave! If you’re the type to get sudden rushes of cake cravings in the middle of the night but can’t be bothered to get off your butt and into the kitchen to bake then this is the recipe for you. The best thing is in order to satisfy your craving there’s no need to make one giant sized mountain of a cake – this recipe serves one.

The difference between making this an average tasting cake and a great tasting cake lies in the amount of chocolate chips you put in. You’ll need at least 3 tablespoons of chocolate chips to make this awesome. If you don’t have chocolate chips then just crush up any other chocolate bar you have lying around. Just make sure you put in enough otherwise it might be a little on the bland side. Also, the instructions below are what I used for my 1100W microwave. You’ll need to adjust the amount of cooking time depending on how powerful your microwave is.

Easiest 5 Minute Chocolate Cake

Ingredients

4 tablespoons flour (any type of flour is fine)
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
2 tablespoons whisked egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons chocolate chips (if you don’t have chocolate chips, try a broken up chocolate bar – I can’t stress how much this amps the awesomeness of your cake)
splash vanilla essence or other flavoring – try peppermint or cinnamon

love in a mug: (left) pre-microwave, (right) post-microwave

Method

Add all of the dry ingredients to the mug and mix.
Add the egg and combine well.
Stir in milk and oil.
Add chocolate chips and splash of vanilla. Stir well.
Microwave for 3 minutes on medium in a 1100w oven, or 4 minutes in a 700w oven.
It will start to crown over the top of the mug. Don’t panic! It will collapse once the heat stops.

Enjoy!

HP Sauce Onion Rings

crunchy goodness

I love sauce. Given the chance I will put sauce on anything and everything. And lots of it. This recipe caught my eye because 1) it uses HP sauce as its flavour base, and 2) because I love onion rings. ONION RINGS!!! Oh and 3) these are baked not fried so they’re relatively healthy. If this isn’t the perfect snack recipe then I don’t know what is.

I think HP Sauce originates from the UK but I’m pretty sure it can be found quite easily in Coles or Woolies in Australia. For those who aren’t familiar with this sauce, it’s usually used as an accompaniment for steaks and is made of malt vinegar, tomato, dates, tamarind extract, and spices. I’ve included a substitute in the recipe if you don’t have HP sauce readily available.

Baked HP Sauce Onion Rings

Ingredients
2 medium brown onions, sliced into rings
3 tbs flour (doesn’t really matter what kind)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup HP Sauce (or ketchup mixed with Worcestershire sauce and BBQ sauce)
1 large egg
dash of hot sauce (Tabasco is perfect for this)
1 cup (enough to coat rings) crushed cereal or bread crumbs

Method
Place a rack in the centre and upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 200C.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and salt and set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together egg, HP sauce, and hot sauce.

In a separate bowl, place bread crumbs/crushed cereal.

Slice onion into rings, and separate into individual rings.

Dip onion rings into the flour mixture, then the egg mixture, then coat in bread crumbs/cereal.

Place in a single layer across the prepared baking sheets. Spray them with cooking spray (this will make them taste fried) and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, carefully flip the onion rings, and bake for another 10 to 12 minutes, until rings are browned and crisp.

Remove onion rings from the oven and serve immediately. Dip them in the sauce of your choice.

Enjoy!