It’s Purim. Time for Hamantaschen!

It’s Purim again, and I’ve been busy making hamantaschen (again). You know, the little triangular pastries with jam-like fillings. Hamantaschen means Haman’s ears in modern Hebrew (and refers to the evil guy in the biblical Book of Esther, the one who, like many before him and many more since, keep trying to annihilate the Jews) and Haman’s pockets in Yiddish.

Trying to make these while following generations-old recipes for pastry is enough to make anyone think of annihilation. Climatic idiosyncracies (humidity levels, cold, etc) may warrant adjustment of various ingredients. In my latest experiment, a few of the pockets annihilated themselves in the oven because (I can’t help it) I decided to be adventurous 1) by deviating from a tried and tested recipe from years before because I was unhappy with the stiffish pastry and 2) by stuffing the darned pockets with new-fangled notions such as lemon curd and strawberry jam. (more…)

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February 24, 2010. Tags: , . Baked Goods, Cookies, Cultural Feasts, Festive, Jewish, Purim. 5 comments.

Chinese New Year: Stories, Sights, Scents (and More Dumplings)

The Year of the Tiger began on Feb. 14th and festivities are wrapped up a good 15 days later with the Lantern Festival.

Here are some snippets of Chinese new year traditions and celebrations contributed by friends in Singapore, Thailand and Wales. Do feel free to add your own in comments! (more…)

February 17, 2010. Tags: , , . Asian, Chinese, Cultural Feasts, Festive, Stories, Stories. Asian. 5 comments.

Dumplings to Greet the Year of the Tiger!

Happy Year of the Tiger!

The Chinese New Year begins on Feb. 14th and continues for 15 days.

Where I grew up, in Malaysia and Singapore, we had lots of Chinese neighbors and this festival, along with Hari Raya Puasa (the Muslim Eid festival), Diwali and Christmas were open-door celebrations, with neighbors and friends dropping in and out of the celebrants’ homes to wish them well and to partake of the festive goodies. They would mostly be invited, although it would be perfectly normal also to visit someone if you knew them.

My late Granddad’s best friend, Uncle Guan (which was actually his first name), was Peranakan Chinese. The term refers to descendants of late 15th and 16th century immigrants to the Indonesian islands, who partially or fully adopted the local customs and style of dress and developed their own hybrid of Nyonya, or Baba Chinese cuisine.

A tradition that was peculiar to the Babas is that they (by this I mean the men) sometimes had more than one wife, and he, his spouses and all their joint children, often lived quite happily under the same roof. This was the case with our lovely Uncle Guan, his first wife, Mrs Guan, his second wife, Mrs Teo, and their 11 children (getting into Big Love territory here, aren’t we?)

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February 13, 2010. Tags: , . Asian, Chinese, Cultural Feasts, Festive. 6 comments.

Birthday Cupcake Gallery

My younger son’s birthday and party came and went over the weekend, thankfully without too much drama. He wanted cupcakes and he got cupcakes. A whole load of them. Hope you have as much fun in the seeing as he and his mates did in the eating of them!

February 10, 2010. Tags: , . Baked Goods, Cakes, Cupcakes, Desserts, Festive. Leave a comment.

Cupcake Calamity in Car

I baked a dozen cupcakes to take along to my younger son’s school today for his birthday on Saturday. I’m afraid I’m one of those awful parents who insists on bringing cupcakes to school! I wonder if the fact that they’re lovingly homemade, with wholegrain flour and the best ingredients (and no nuts), makes a difference. No matter. He wanted cupcakes for his mates and I obliged.

The ones you see here are just the rehearsal lot (later eaten by his classmates). There are more I’ll frost for his party tomorrow.

Anyway, as I had swirled the frosting too high on the cupcakes, I couldn’t use my 24-cupcake carrier as it was, but had to remove the second storey to allow headroom for the little gateaux. With those 12, and another dozen in a separate container, I piled the kids into the car and set off. (more…)

February 5, 2010. Tags: . Baked Goods, Cakes, Cupcakes, Kids Cuisine. 9 comments.

Eye Candy for Design-Hungry Kitchenistas

I have a weakness for shiny things. And colorful things. And sleek, cleverly designed things. If a shiny or colorful thing comes in a beautifully designed package, then I have no choice but to get the credit card out. From where we once lived in central London, I didn’t have to go far to find a plethora of design-centric stores inspired by creative geniuses in Britain or Europe, which offered me perfect visual inspiration, if not gratification for any urgent kitchen-related needs. Apart from the smaller stores on Islington High Street, there were Habitat, Heal’s and The Conran Shop, which luckily came across the Atlantic too.

I came across Joseph Joseph’s attractive website recently, set up by a pair of equally fetching UK-based twin brothers, and noted with glee that they will, for a fee, deliver to the US. As the items are priced as invitingly as the contents of Joseph Joseph’s online shop, I have already popped one (guess which) into my virtual shopping basket.

It’s sitting there for now because I don’t need this beautiful thing, I merely covet it. But if one of you has a special occasion coming up , let me know. It could inspire the right amount of pressure my finger needs (which isn’t much) to push that Buy Now button!

February 2, 2010. Tags: , . British, Kitchen Gagdets, Kitchen Stuff. 2 comments.