Birthday Saga Part 2: Mumzie’s 5-course and 4-course meals

Mumzie’s birthday was in early November, but just so unfortunately it coincided with the first day of the Lunar month. To some of us stricter Buddhists it means we gotta go vegetarian. Vegan vegetarian, with additional stuff we can’t eat like garlic, spring onions and ginger. That meant that she’d miss out on a lotta delicious foods on her actual birthday! To make it up to her, I decided to cook a non-vegetarian meal a few days before her actual birthday so she could enjoy a lil! And so the menu goes:

1. Lemon jelly and sauteed barley with prosciutto
2. Crispy pork floss rolls topped with tomato salsa
3. Steamed fish with fresh and fried garlic in flavoured sauce
4. Wolfberry and chrysanthemum jelly with chilled almond cream and ginger-tea cooked ginkgo nuts
5. Ginger honey cake with chai spiced yogurt

Lemon Jelly and Sauteed Barley with Prosciutto

The first 3 dishes are actually adapted from Sam Leong’s cookbook “Sensations”. I was originally going to make some other contemporary European kinda dishes I always cook, but then I saw his recipes and got so excited by the look of them! Finally, a man who seemed to nail the delicate art of Chinese haute cuisine! Take note I’m referring to his recipes and cuisine alone. I personally don’t like him and his haughty arrogant tv persona. Oh but that aside, the recipe wasn’t that bad. Sisters loved the lemon jelly and the prosciutto, but they couldn’t appreciate the sauteed barley. I guess that’s mostly my bad cause it wasn’t soft enough. I’d make this dish again but change the prosciutto and use something a little less neutral in flavour. Maybe a salmon carpaccio.

Crispy Pork Floss Rolls topped with Tomato Salsa

These were actually real good! The combination of the pork floss and diced chicken inside the rolls gave it a really nice savoury sweet balance, and the salsa was a wonderful textural contrast to the crispy spring rolls. The rolls ain’t looking pretty here though, cause once again anal me didn’t want to deep fry the spring rolls (have I mentioned how much I hate fried stuff?) so I baked them. Not a gorgeous sight, but hey everyone loved it. That’s what counts in the end (:

Steamed Fish with Fresh and Fried Garlic in Flavoured Sauce

Another fave of the night! Simple, elegant and absolutely delish.

Wolfberry and Chrysanthemum Jelly with Chilled Almond Cream and Ginger-Tea-Cooked Ginkgo Nuts

I cooked the ginkgos in a ginger-honey tea that I made, but I couldn’t really taste it in the ginkgo. Wonder if it’s cause of the ginkgos, or if infusions just don’t work that way with ginkgos hmmm. I got a lil’ lazy here though cause there was just so many things to prepare, so the almond cream was store bought.

Ginger Honey Cake with Chai-Spiced Yogurt

This, was my favourite. My mum and I loved ginger, so I was looking for an intensely ginger flavour. Recipes I found seemed more sweet than spicy though, so I upped the amounts of grounded ginger called for, and added freshly grated ones! A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. Brought it to school the next day and everyone loved it! Success!!

I was going to cook a one-dish vegetarian meal on her actual birthday, but then I got ambitious. I thought “nah heck it I might as well go all out and give my mama a wonderful unforgettable vegetarian birthday meal!” So here goes!

1. Vegetarian soy fish and cucumber salad with sweet vinegar dressing
2. Maple roasted shiitake mushrooms with mash
3. Grilled portobellos with romanesco sauce
4. Thai pumpkin curry with raw cauliflower ‘rice’

Vegetarian Soy Fish and Cucumber Salad with Sweet Vinegar Dressing

Everything was ok for this dish, except that the cucumbers were cut way too thick. Hmm I think I need those kinda cut veges press machine things.

Maple Roasted Assorted Mushrooms with Mash

I was kinda worried about this one and wondered if it would work, but surprisingly the match was simply perfect and everyone loved the dish!

Grilled Portobellos with Romanesco Sauce

And I’m totally not exaggerating when I say they dig this sauce. Even I did. Just between you and me, I shoved a lot of it down my throat while I was making it xD oh and cause I don’t own a food processor, I had to combine everything using the mortar and pestle. Old style, but I think the chunky texture definitely worked to my advantage. It tasted real great with this simple grilled portobello.

Thai Pumpkin Curry with Raw Cauliflower ‘rice’

Thinking everyone might be sorta full by now I decided on replacing the rice staple with raw cauliflower. I was glad I did that cause everyone was pretty much filled by then! Ohmy ohmy but this dish…absolutely heavenly. The first time anyone in my family had ever attempted curry, and from scratch too, and it was a total success!! The right amount of heat, the right amount of tastiness, mmmm loved it. My fave of the night!


These 2 menus feature dishes I never regret making, and I’d definitely definitely keep in my “Frequent!” list.

Lemon Jelly and Sauteed Barley with Prosciutto (serves 4)
Adapted from Sam Leong’s recipe Beef Carpaccio with Sauteed Barley in Yuzu Jelly, from his book Sensation

1 packet of prosciutto, about 6 slices
45g barley
1 tablespoon cooking oil
20g carrot, peeled and diced
10g cilantro stems, diced
10g celery, diced
1/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon chicken stock
1/4 teaspoons cornstarch, mixed with 1 teaspoon water

Lemon jelly
1 cup chicken stock
3 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 tablespoons powdered gelatin, bloomed in the lemon juice

1. Prepare this dish one day ahead.

2. Prepare the barley y bringing a small pot of water to the boil. When the water is boiling, add he barley and cook for 20 minutes or until the barley is tender.

3. Heat the oil in a wok and add the cooked, tender barley together with the carrot coriander and celery. Stir-fry the mixture lightly, then add salt and chicken stock. Stir-fry again to mix the seasoning well, then add the cornstarch mixture to thicken the sauce. Remove the mixture from heat then transfer to a small container and refrigerate overnight.

4. Meanwhile, place all the ingredients for the lemon jelly in a pot and cook over medium-low heat, stirring until the gelatine melts. Remove the pot from the heat and leave to cool slightly before refrigerating overnight to set the jelly. Cut the jelly into smaller cubes before serving.

5. To serve, spoon the chilled barley mixture into a serving plate, topped with a slice of rolled prosciutto, and lemon jelly cubes. Serve immediately.

Crispy Pork Floss Rolls topped with Tomato Salsa (serves 4)
Adapted from Sam Leong’s recipe Crispy Chicken Floss Roll coated with Seasame seeds and topped with Tomato Salsa, from his book Sensation

Some cooking oil to brush the surface of the rolls
1/4 teaspoons minced garlic
1/4 teaspoons minced shallot
45g shiitake mushroos, caps wiped and minced
100g minced chicken
1/4 teaspoons cornstarch, mixed with 1 teaspoon water
100g pork floss
4 sheets of wafer paper/rice paper

1/2 teaspoons yellow bean paste
1/2 teaspoons oyster sauce
1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoons ground white pepper
1 teaspoon chinese cooking wine (hu tiao)
4 tablespoons chicken stock

2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
1 mango, peeled and diced
Olive oil

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a wok and stir-fry the minced garlic and shallot until fragrant. Add the mushrooms and stir-fry lightly, then add the minced chicken and seasoning ingredients. Stir to mix well and bring the mixture to the boil. Stir in the cornstarch mixture to thicken the sauce, then remove it from the heat. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, then toss with pork floss and refrigerate it for about 30 minutes.

2. Remove the chicken mixture from the refrigerator and divide it into 4 equal portions. Spoon 1 portion of the mixture in a row on a sheet of wafer paper and roll it up like a spring roll. Repeat to make 4 rolls.

3. Heat the oil for deep-frying in a wok. Dip the rolls into the beaten egg yolk, then roll them in sesame seeds to coat them. Deep-fry the rolls for about 1 minute, or until golden brown and crisp. Remove and drain well

4. Prepare the salsa. Toss the tomatoes and mango with olive oil, then sprinkle the salt over.

5. Cut each roll into 3 rounds and top with salsa. Serve immediately.

Steamed Fish with Fresh and Fried Garlic in Flavoured Sauce (serves 4)
Adapted from Sam Leong’s recipe Steamed Australian Lobster with Fresh and Fried Garlic in Flavoured Sauce, from his book Sensation

800g snapper fish (or any other fish)
2 tablespoons olive oil
160g garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoons sesame oil
1/4 teaspoons cornstarch
Chopped chives

2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 clove ginger, peeled and sliced
1 scallion, cut into short lengths
2 sprigs coriander leaves
100ml chicken stock
4 teaspoons light soy sauce
10g rock sugar
1/4 teaspoons dark soy sauce

1. Prepare the sauce. Heat the oil in a wok and saute the ginger and scallions until fragrant. Add the remaining ingredients for the sauce and bring to the boil. Remove the sauce from the heat and set aside.

2. Prepare the fish. Remove its scale and rinse it. Place it on a steaming plate.

3. Heat the oil in a wok and fry half the garlic until crisp and golden brown. Set the garlic aside.

4. Combine the remaining minced garlic with salt, sugar, sesame oil and cornstarch. Sprinkle the mixture over the prepared fish and steam for about 10 minutes, or until the fish is cooked.

5. Sprinkle the deep-fried garlic over the fish and drizzle the sauce over. Serve the fish hot, garnished with chopped chives.

Wolfberry and Chrysanthemum Jelly (makes about 10 cubes)

500ml chrysanthemum tea
2 3/4 teaspoons powdered gelatin
Handful wolfberries

1. Sprinkle the gelatin over a few tablespoons of room temperature chrysanthemum tea and let it bloom for a minute or two.

2. Pour the bloomed gelatin back with the remaining chrysanthemum tea and heat it over a double-boiler, stirring till the gelatin has melted, without bringing the tea to a boil.

3. Pour it into molds/containers then refrigerate it for a few hours to set. If set in a container, cut it into cubes before serving.

Ginger Honey Cake with Chai-Spiced Yogurt (makes about 20 cubes)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 tablespoons grounded ginger
1 teaspoon allspice
3/8 cups olive oil
1 1/2 cups honey
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cups milk
10g ginger, grated

Chai-Spiced Yogurt
1 cup of nonfat greek yogurt
3 teaspoons of a mixture of nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon and ginger (I forgot my proportions!)
2 tablespoons of honey

1. Preheat the oven to 180C.

2. Sieve the dry ingredients; mix the wet ingredients.

3. Fold the liquids into the dry ingredients till combined. Fold in the grated ginger.

4. Pour the batter into a well-greased rectangular pan and bake for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 150C and bake for 10-15 minutes or when the cake is done. Do the toothpick test. Let the cake rest for 5 minutes, then remove it from the pan and cool completely before serving.

5. Mix the ingredients for the spiced yogurt together till combined, then drop a dollop on each slice of cake before serving!

Vegetarian Soy Fish and Cucumber Salad with Sweet Vinegar Dressing (serves 6 as appetizers)

1 Japanese cucumber
1 teaspoon salt
12 slices of vegetarian soy fish
1 teaspoon olive oil
3cm old ginger, shredded and soaked in ice water

Sweet Vinegar Dressing
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1.5 teaspoon soy sauce

1. Prepare the dressing by mixing all the ingredients with your fingers till dissolved.

2. Rub the skin of the Japanese cucumber with salt to smoothen the skin, then rinse it with water and slice thinly.

3. Heat the olive oil over medium heat and pan fry the soy fish.

4. Drain the shredded ginger. Combine the cucumbers and dressing, then top it with 2 slices of soy fish and the ginger to serve.

Maple Roasted Assorted Mushrooms with Mash (serves 4)

2 pounds shiitake mushrooms
1 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon salt
2 big pinches of paprika

1. Preheat the oven to 200C.

2. Toss all the ingredients together, spread it on a baking sheet and roast all till the mushrooms are tender. Took me about 20 minutes I think.

Grilled Portobellos with Romanesco Sauce(serves 6)

6 big portobello mushrooms

Romanesco Sauce (makes more than required)
2 large red bell peppers
150g lightly roasted hazelnuts
1 clove garlic, peeped
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
4 teaspoons paprika
4-6 tablespoons olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 225C. Cook the peppers for an hour, rotating it every 20 minutes. Pop it into a bowl, cover and allow it to steam and cool.

2. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, removed the seeds and blakcened skin.

3. Transfer the pepper flesh to a food processor with everything but the oil. Whizz for a minute or until a smoothish puree is obtained. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and combine. Do a taste test and adjust for seasonings, adding a little more vinegar or paprika if needed.

4. Grill the portobello mushrooms, then top each with a few tablespoons of romanesco sauce to serve.

Thai Pumpkin Curry with Raw Cauliflower ‘rice’ (serves 6)

1/2 small pumpkin or 1 squash, cubed
1 small sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1-2 medium carrots, cut into thick slices
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into bite-size pieces
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1/2 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons grated orange rind

Curry Sauce
3-4 cloves garlic
1-2 fresh red chillies
1 can coconut milk
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 lime, juiced
1 medium orange, juiced
1/2 teaspoons turmeric
1 tablespoon rice/apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon groun coriander seeds
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/3 red onion, sliced

1 cauliflower

1. Make the curry sauce by placing all sauce ingredients together in a food processor or blender. Process it well and set aside.

2. Place the pumpkin, carrots and sweet potatoes together with the curry sauce in a wok over medium-high heat. Stir it well.

3. When the curry begins to boil, reduce the heat to medium. Let it simmer 6-8 minutes until the vegetables have softened, stirring occasionally.

4. Meanwhile, wash the cauliflower and grate it till it resembles rice. Put it in the colander and dry it well before dividing it into 6 bowls.

5. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to incorporate. Simmer for 2 more minutes, then check for seasoning.

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