Pancake Tuesday!

I’ve been home for more than a week now, and I can’t believe how quickly time has flown by. This time next week, I’ll be getting ready to head back to London, eep.

Being in UK for the last 7 years has meant I’ve forgotten about how busy it gets during Chinese New Year. It’s been rather hectic over the last few days, with all the home visits and family gatherings – but rest assured that this has not stopped me from taking lots of photos! And for once I think I may just have more photos of people than I do of food in my camera. It’s been great fun though, and things should get slightly less busy now as it usually does around the 3rd day of Chinese New Year (for those of you who don’t know, we Chinese go all out, and the celebration lasts for a full 15 days).

Although I’ve been surrounded by lots of red & gold decorations, as well as lots of Chinese/Malaysian food, I didn’t want to miss the chance to post something on Pancake Day (even though it’s not in line with my plan to have Chinese New Year related posts). I’m a massive fan of pancakes, and try to make them whenever I can. I still remember the first time I made pancakes – they were upsettingly thin and dare I even say.. not fluffy in the very least! But practice always helps, and after many many experiments, I have found my favourite pancake recipe: none other than the lovely Bill Granger’s ricotta hotcakes.

I have previously blogged about these little babies, but as it IS my favourite pancake recipe, I hope that you will forgive me for blogging about the same thing. What I can say is that I now am able to make them fluffier than I could previously – I used to flatten the pancakes with my spatula as I thought this would make it brown more evenly, but I then realised that this meant my pancakes would flatten out and be less ‘fluffy’. So the best way to do this is definitely to just pour the batter onto the pan, and resist the urge to mess around with it! :P

Bill’s original recipe calls for these hotcakes/pancakes to be served with bananas and honeycomb butter, but as I have never been one for following recipes to the T, I’ve always served it with the fruits I have on hand. I previously served them with a mix of summer berries (which I buy frozen from Waitrose – they come in really handy I must say!), and this time, I went for blueberries instead. And of course, lots and lots of maple syrup.

You can find the recipe for these lovely ricotta hotcakes here. A special mention goes out to the lovely Mowie, who introduced me to these in the first place – for which I am very thankful!

I hope you do try these, even if it’s not today. I promise it’ll be worth it. (And if ricotta pancakes are not your thing, maybe you’ll prefer these chocolate chip pancakes.)

Happy Pancake Day, everyone!

Counting down to the year of the tiger!

First of all, I need to apologise for not blogging for such a long time – I think it’s been 2 weeks now, yikes! Posted the previous post the day I started my week of night calls, and then it was a mad flurry of shopping for gifts to bring home to Malaysia, then the ‘post coming home’ period of pure sloth… But yes. I have neglected my blog for a while, but I will be good over the next few weeks and bring you some hopefully interesting (and festive) posts about Chinese New Year! :) Am very excited about this year as I haven’t celebrated Chinese New Year at home since I first left for UK 7 years ago.

As most of you probably already know, Chinese New Year is centered around two things – family/friends and food. And when I say food, I truly mean food. You may have already come across the various types of cookies found during this season in the blogosphere (e.g. the ever favourite pineapple tarts, groundnut cookies, kuih bangkit). And believe me when I say that this barely scratches the surface of the variety of cookies you can find during Chinese New Year (a future post).

I decided to make these angku kuih when I was still in London as I had a major craving for them. Angku kuih is a traditional Chinese pastry that has always held a special place in my heart. It has a sticky outer skin, which gives way to a yummy green bean or peanut filling when bitten into. The name “angku kuih” translates into “red tortoise cakes” – traditionally, these kuih are made with a special mold, which gives them a beautiful “tortoise shell” pattern and shape (see here for photos of what this looks like). I didn’t have a mold to hand, which is why my angku kuihs are less pretty to look at!

But as I was saying, this pastry is shaped like the shell of a tortoise as the Chinese believed that eating a pastry in the shape of these creatures with such long lives would subsequently lead to longevity. These kuih (pastries) usually make an appearance during special occasions such as religious events (where they are used as an offering to the various gods), birthdays and first month anniversaries of births of babies. You can get them all year round though, as they are a popular snack. And just to mention something rather interesting – for first month anniversaries, angku kuihs for 1 month old boys are oval in shape, whereas the ones for the girls are round. (Having said that, I have friends who said they didn’t know about this, perhaps it’s a Hokkien thing?)


Angku kuih
Tweaked from this recipe on My Kitchen, who adapted it from kuali.com

For the skin:

  • 250 grams glutinous rice flour (this is easily available in the London Chinatown)
  • 120 mls hot water
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 130 grams of sweet potatoes – steamed and mashed (I used 2 medium sized sweet potatoes)
  • few drops of food colouring (optional) – red and orange are the traditional colours, but feel free to use green or even purple

For the filling:

  • 200 grams green mung beans*
  • 2 tbsp of oil (I used canola oil)
  • 150 grams sugar (I used caster sugar)

You will also need:

  • Banana leaves (cut into rounds/squares to fit each kuih, and lightly greased with oil)

1. Prepare the filling first. Place the mung beans, sugar and oil into a blender and whizz it into a fine paste. Leave to cool, then divide into small round balls (~2cm in diameter).
2. Next, mix all the ingredients for the skin in a large bowl until it forms a soft dough. You don’t need a mixer for this, using your hands works best. If you find that the dough is too dry and it crumbles, add more water (a little at a time) until it no longer crumbles.
3. Divide the skin dough into little rounds of ~3cm in diameter. (I played it by ear when it came to this, so please forgive the rather vague instructions here).
4. Flatten a ball of dough, place the ball of filling in it, and wrap it up (it should form a ball). Place this onto a greased banana leaf. Repeat until all the filling and dough balls are used up.
5. Steam the kuih for 8 minutes. I used a bamboo steamer to do this.
6. Remove the kuih from the steamer, and brush with some oil immediately. This helps to prevent the kuih from sticking to one another (and trust me, it is VERY sticky!). Of course, you do run the risk of getting overexcited brushing too much oil onto the kuihs (as I did) – so remember to be less heavy handed than me when doing this…

*Soak the beans overnight, then steam and mash them. It’s best to get skinned mung beans as it gives you a nicer pale yellow coloured filling. I used mung beans with skins still on, which gave me a “dirtier” looking filling – it doesn’t change the taste in any way though!

Here’s wishing you all Gong Xi Fa Cai – may the year of the tiger bring happiness, health and good food to us all! :)