Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Maple Pouding Chômeur - Poor Man's Pudding

Everyone has an ingredient that they couldn't live without, so what is your favourite that you must absolutely use? Maple syrup is my favourite ingredient of all time, this natural and versatile ingredient can be used both in desserts and savory dishes. Not only it is good for drizzling on pancakes, it also gives a hint of sweetness in glazes or sauces for seafood, poultry, and meat. 

The traditional pouding chômeur is an irresistible sweet and comfy dessert for French Canadian. The Poor man's pudding was popular since the Great Depression of Quebec and remains a favourite dessert in the homes of Quebecers to this day. Made of basic baking ingredients, one can define this dessert as a syrupy pudding with a cake on top. Usually served warm, a cold glass of milk will make a good companion.

Serves 12
Preparation Time: 15 mins
Baking Time: 30 mins
Printable Recipe


1 cup maple syrup
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cup water

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
2/3 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 cup milk


1. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. In a saucepan, mix maple syrup, brown sugar, and water. Bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 mins until slightly reduced. Transfer sauce to a 8-inch square baking pan.

3. With an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until creamy.

4. Add in eggs and vanilla, beat until uniform.

5. In another bowl, sift flour and baking powder.

6. Incorporate dry ingredients to butter mixture, alternate with milk.

7. Transfer batter to baking pan, spreading uniformly over the sauce.

8. Bake for 30 mins until golden or until it passes the toothpick test.

9. Serve warm.


You can prepare this a day in advance, reheat the pudding for 10-15 mins at 250F.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Classic Crème Caramel - Caramel Flan

Does it occur to you that after eating lunch or dinner, you crave for something light and sweet to cleanse your palate? Crème caramel is one of these desserts that awaits for you in the fridge. Once you are in need for  desserts, you only need to take it out from the fridge, run a sharp knife around the sides of the flan, and turn over onto plate. The caramel syrup runs over the flan, and it is ready to be indulged.

Flan is quite popular in several countries, notably in Latin America, France, and Japan. The variations are quite minimal. Since I never grew up using butter or cream, even though French cuisine is one of my forte, I tend to develop an alternative recipe to make a dessert which is low in fat and low in calories. This classic dessert usually requires heavy cream, but you can still make a good crème caramel with only whole milk, or even with coconut milk.

The caramel flan is smooth, silky, and creamy. Not overly sweet with an underlying hint of vanilla, it reminds me of a light version of a crème brûlée. If this is your first time making a caramel, it takes a few tries to get used to it. When I did my tarte tatin, my caramel burnt twice, before I got it correctly. The trick is to not lose sight of it. 

Preparation Time: 15 mins
Baking Time: 40 mins
Chilling Time: 3 hours or overnight
Printable Recipe


3 tbsps water
3/4 cup white sugar

2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
1/3 cup white sugar


1. Preheat oven to 325F. Place a cloth at the bottom of a 13'' x 9'' baking pan.

2. Prepare the caramel. In a saucepan, heat water and sugar over medium heat. Do not stir. The sugar will froth and start to change colour. Remove from heat when the caramel start to turn a honey-gold colour.

3. Immediately, pour the caramel over 6 ramekins and tilt each ramekin to coat the bottom. Transfer ramekins to the prepared pan and pour hot water halfway up the ramekins.

4. In another saucepan, heat milk and vanilla over medium heat until hot. Do not boil.

5. In a bowl, whisk eggs and sugar until blended. Slowly incorporate milk mixture into the egg mixture while constantly whisking.

6. Sieve custard and pour mixture into prepared ramekins.

7. Bake for about 35 mins until centre is lightly wobbly or until a knife inserted in centre comes out clean.

8. Let it cool for 30 mins, cover with cling film, and chill for at least 3 hours or overnight.

9. Just before serving, run a blade around the ramekin and flip onto a plate. Serve cold.

Monday, November 14, 2011

My Deepavali experience - The Hindu Feast

Two weeks ago was the celebration of Deepavali or Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, which marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year according to the Lunar calendar. This holiday is celebrated by Hindus to mark the victory of good over evil.

I never heard of Deepavali until I met Wayne, the co-president of the Malaysian and Singaporean Student Association (MASSA). He is also the undergraduate student in my research group which I am currently supervising. I had the chance of experiencing this holiday as well as the food that was prepared. The best way to learn how to cook the food, is to experience the cooking at someone's place. I went to two homes of the association's executives.

My first stop was at Wayne's place with another MASSA executive member Cher Tieng which they showed me papadums, a thin crispy Indian tortilla. Papads (raw papadums) are generally made of Udal Dal, a type of bean which are grind to make bean flour. Once papads come into contact with hot oil, they expand rapidly and are set within 20 seconds. Here is a video on my astonishment of cooking papadums:

My second stop was at Siva's place, also the co-president of MASSA. He made spicy mutton curry. There are several versions of this dish, depending on the spices used and the person who cooks it. This spicy mutton curry is hearty, saucy and full of flavours: a dish where sweet, spicy, salty, tangy, and citrus ingredients are well harmonized. You can find the spicy mutton recipe on

Spices and aromatics for the spicy curry mutton.
I will end this post with some pictures that the other members have prepared.

Banana leaves on serving plate.
Papadums and Raita. The raita consists of yogurt, cucumber and onions.
Spicy curry mutton for 60 people.
A palate cleanser made of soy milk and chin chow (grass jellies).
A job well done. Despite midterm season, they manage to pull the event off. Over 60 students joined and the event was a great success. Congratulations MASSA!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Broccoli Macaroni and Cheese

Do you know your five mother sauces? Knowing your basics is quite important. Whether it is in science, in sports, in photography or simply in cooking, we have to start with the fundamentals. As a scientist, I make advancements in my field of research and publish several scientific articles because I know my basics in physics and chemistry. This is also true in photography. To take good pictures, one should know all the functions in their own camera, and know about composition.

The great splendor in French cuisine is the sauce as Julia Child would say. From the five mother sauces (béchamel, velouté, hollandaise, espagnole, and tomato sauce), one can make hundred of sauces to  compliment, enhance and bring out the flavour of the food that it is served with. 

Last week, my bro and I were craving for some comfort food, and we thought of making our own mac and cheese. There are several ways to make it. One neat and simple recipe can be found on The Hot Plate which uses a package of cheese fondue to make a creamy and delicious cheese sauce. The traditional method,  presented here, is to start with a béchamel, melt the cheese and mix it with the pasta and vegetables. For the non-vegetarians, you can add ham or bacon to the mac and cheese.

Serves 4
Preparation Time: 25 mins
Cooking Time: 25 mins
Printable Recipe


375g elbow macaronis
2 broccolis, cut into florets
3 tbsps butter
3 tbsps all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 1/2 cup sharp cheddar, shredded
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1 pinch nutmeg
2 tbsps garlic powder
Salt and pepper


1. In a large pot, cook elbow macaronis in salted water until al dente. Drain water and reserve.

2. In a small pot, cook broccolis until it turns colour. Drain water and reserve.

3. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.

4. Add in flour and stir for 1 minute.

5. Gradually add in milk and stir until mixture boils. The mixture should be thick and creamy.

6. Add in cheddar and parmesan cheese and mix until cheese has melted. Add in garlic powder and nutmeg. Taste the cheese sauce, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

7. Stir in cooked pasta and broccoli to the cheese sauce.

8. Serve.


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