Guest Chef : Cucur Udang by Cik. Zarfilla

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Zarfilla is a mouthful name to pronounce. She is more affectionally known to Agnes, Nona Sofi and I as “follylittlehead” or just Filla. We met in Twitterjaya, and later on shared many “virtual” togetherness on Instagram. The virtual world has brought many people together, whether it is through our common interest in politics, cats, food etc.

Months ago, Agnes made Filla long beans pancake, a popular hakkachan childhood snack food. She promised to cook us her specialty dishes but chose to start from the appetizer or snack food. Follow her on Instagram, you will understand why we truly look forward to the day she will cook us her Masakan Melayu.

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Knowing she is shy, she prefers to share with us her mom’s “agar-agak” or literally means “about” or “more or less” or “estimate” hand-me-down recipe, Prawn Fritters or Cucur Udang. I really welcome a homemade Cucur Udang because those served outside are laden with “alkaline” or “bicarbonate soda” that purportedly to rise in volume but leaves a funny taste to your tastebud. The trick is, always use fresh ingredients to yield great taste, great flavor.

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INGREDIENTS for CUCUR UDANG (8 persons)

  • 500 grams soft shelled shrimps
  • 1 cup asian chive
  • 4 cups bean sprouts
  • 6 shallots
  • 500 grams wheat flour
  • 50 grams rice flour (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric powder
  • salt
  • water
  • oil

METHOD:-

  1. Clean the shrimps and shell it completely or you can choose the leave the head and tail intact.
  2. Cut chives into 2 inches strips.
  3. Cut shallots into thin slices.
  4. Pick, clean and drain the bean sprouts.
  5. In a big deep bowl, put in shrimps, chives, shallots, bean sprouts, turmeric powder, salt, flour and water to make batter.
  6. If you like a little more crisp in the fritter, add some rice flour.
  7. Heat wok with oil and fry batter into bite sizes

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Truly a very simple recipe. You can add more quantities to whichever ingredient you fancy. Feel free to replace the Asian Chive with cilantro or spring onions, shallots with garlic; fresh prawns with pounded dried shrimps or anchovies.

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I like spending the weekend afternoon at Agnes’s abode. You give yourself the little treats and enjoyment without having to spend too much money nor time. An awesome afternoon tea with family. Homemade prawn fritters or cucur udang served with a pot of hot English tea.

Live life joyously and simply.

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going bananas

yoong soon enjoying a pisang goreng breakfast with dad

Yesterday, a huge, I mean a very huge bunch of bananas was delivered to us on a wheelbarrow by Yong Soon, Stevie’s cousin who is also our immediate neighbour in Tanjong Minyak. His family is not a great fan of plantain, while Coco and I love this fruit and it’s culinary versatility.

While cutting them into combs for easy distribution, I overheard pisang goreng being uttered by my father-in-law.

I woke up this morning knowing I must make some pisang goreng for dad before leaving for Kuala Lumpur.

However, there is this battle of the batters: should I use a crunchy recipe I have stumbled-upon online, or should I use Momsie’s simple batter recipe that is equally inviting?

Looking at the insane amount of bananas, I decided to make both.

golden and crunchy

I can’t tell the difference between the flavours of the 2 batters used. As for the texture, my vote goes to batter recipe picked from The Malaysian Cuisine.

a heart of gold, sweet and delicious

The Chans were quickly snapping up these golden fritters. The light crunch outside and sweet sourish soft pulpy flesh inside literally made me go bananas. You just want more!

Anyway, 2 giant combs came home with us. I am seriously itching to ditch out some delicious banana snacks for my friends in Kuala Lumpur.

Banana Fritters or Pisang Goreng Recipe

picked from The Malaysian Cuisine

INGREDIENTS:-

  • 2 Medium Ripe Bananas (Pisang Tanduk) preferred
  • oil for frying
BATTER:-
  • 100 g All-Purpose Flour
  • 50 g Rice Flour
  • 1 Tbsp Sugar
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 Cup Water

METHOD:-

  1. Combine all ingredients for the batter and mix well.
  2. Pour enough oil into a wok on a medium heat.
  3. Slice bananas into desired serving size.
  4. Coat bananas with batter and fry till golden brown in colour.
  5. Remove and drain on paper and serve while warm.

Pineapple Tarts

Mom likes to keep things simple, and improvises a lot.  She prefers to learn from her friends tips on this and that instead of referring to recipe books because they are “too complicated.”

And her favourite go-to person is Ang Cho.

Ang Cho is widely regarded as the grandmaster of kueh-making in our kampong, and has no peer in this department. At a distant second would be a man named Nam Hua, a baba who makes very high quality nyonya kueh as a home business.

Mom is very close to Ang Cho, a recent breast-cancer surviver who lives a stone’s throw away.

Ang Cho never use ready-made rice flour that comes in the bags. She mills her own, at home, using heavy granite mill, like we used to do too, when grandma was alive.

Although mom is not as meticulous as Ang Cho, there is a certain art to her seeming chinchai-ness.

And that very chinchai-ness gives her culinary a charm unreplicatable.

RECIPE for Pineapple Tarts

makes more than 100

INGREDIENTS:-

  • 1 kg of flour
  • 500 grams of margarine (set aside some to line on trays)
  • 13 eggs
METHOD:-
  1. Heat oven at 160 degree Celsius.
  2. Sieve flour into a large bowl for kneading.
  3. On the side, crack 8 eggs and beat them lightly but even.
  4. Slowly add the margarine and pour beaten eggs, use your fingers lightly to combine them.
  5. Lightly knead and form them into a few manageable portions.
  6. Set aside a small portion to be cut into tiny strips for decor.
  7. The balance 3 eggs to separate and beat the yolks for glazing.
  8. Use a large piece of polystyrene to roll out the dough.
  9. Use the tart cutter and form the tart base.
  10. Glaze egg yolk over the dough before placing the pineapple jam inserts.
  11. Decorate with trimmings for presentation as necessary.
  12. Glaze egg yolk over trimmings.
  13. Bake for 20 minutes.

RECIPE for Pineapple Jam 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 bowls of scraped pineapples
  • 3 bowls of sugar

METHOD:-

  1. Skin pineapple and scrape out the flesh. Drain flesh on a sieve for 10 minutes to obtain ½ cup of juice.
  2. Place the scraped pineapple flesh in a non-stick pan and add granulated sugar and pineapple juice.
  3. Place pan over low heat and cook, stirring occasionally for about ½ hour until pineapple jam is sticky.
  4. Set aside to cool.

Chickpea Socca or Farinata

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I knocked out too early last night. I was drunk.I forgot and overzealously sipped too much expensive pu’erh served over a bakuteh lunch.

Hubby always label me a “cheap date” cos I rarely could hold alcohol. Who would spent that much if a coffee and tea can knock me out.

In short, I am allergic to caffeine.

Waking up early, I managed to catch the beautiful horizon of the morning sunrise from the balcony of our new home. Now, I am waiting for the cheery Negara-ku anthem to be sung daily by my very young neighbours. They are kids residing and studying in this Muslim boarding school right next to my block. Soon, in another 5 minutes.

I work alternate Saturdays. How I wished this is not a working Saturday?

I would be doing a million other better stuff. I would be happy shopping with Agnes. Like going to the wet market in Happy Garden and having a bowl of curry noodles for my breakfast. Grocery hunting at NSK Supermarket at Kuchai Lama, an awesome place for the best bargain for most produce.

In the afternoon, we will either be hosting a brunch or lunch. Agnes’s kitchen and oven will be fired up all times. I miss the simple food we cook together for a leisure weekend.

At this moment, I am craving for a socca.

Agnes makes the best of socca. Honest, I am biased and I have only ever tried hers. Anyway, trust me because if you know Agnes, you know quality. She stocks the best wine, whiskeys, herbs and spices. Epicurean.

Agnes and I had many great afternoons eating adventure perfecting her socca. Made with very readily available ingredients and in very simple steps. You can either bake it in an oven or fry it over stove in a cast iron pan. We had experimented by “localising” it by adding lentils and shallots, bearable but I still prefer it original and neat.

I think I shall pop over to Agnes’s after work.

I need a serving.

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Madagascar multi colored peppercorns.

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Rosemary from Agnes’s garden.

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CHICKPEA SOCCA RECIPE

INGREDIENTS:-

  • 1 1/4 cup of chickpea flour
  • 300ml water
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground pepper
  • fresh rosemary, a small sprig
  • 3 tablespoon olive oil
METHOD:-
  1. Mix together the flour, water, salt, cumin, rosemary leaves and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Let batter rest at least 2 hours, covered, at room temperature.
  2. Heat the oven to 230F.
  3. Oil a 9 inch pan with a tablespoon of olive oil and heat pan in the oven.
  4. When pan and oven are blazing hot, take out the pan and pour batter, and sprinkle pepper evenly.
  5. Swirl pan to let batter sits evenly and quickly pop it back into the oven.
  6. Reduce temperature to 200F and bake for 20 minutes.
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Mee Hoon Kueh – 麵粉粿

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In Hakka, it is called Mien Geow.

I know what “mien” is, but never the “geow” part. The only other “geow” I know actually means the dog.

It is hard to find a simpler meal than the humble Pan Mien, or “board noodle”: flour-and-water dough, ikan bilis stock, salt, and choysum. That’s it. Forget about the poached eggs and sambal.

In my family, this poor man’s noodle is a love affair.

When my grandma was around, we have a 30 kg cast-iron wok measuring 3 feet across the top, and it sat permanently on a wood fire stove; and it was in this wok that my grandma would cook pan min, in wholesale quantity.

When eaten freshly cooked, pan min is light and springy; and the fragrance of the ikan bilis stock sticks to your memory like a jealous girlfriend of your youth.

The leftover from lunch would then sit in the wok till dinner time when it takes on a hearty, stout, and full-bodied personality.

Pan Min is pure magic: one dish, with time, two personalities.

          

My mom cooks like my grandma did, in the sense that she doesn’t “prep” her stuff, or in professional kitchen parlance, mise en place.

She is not a chef; she doesn’t know the 68 ways to cut a carrot. Nor does she keep recipe cards.

It’s always a joy to watch her in the kitchen, this natural cook in my family.

But that’s a story for another time.

This afternoon we have a bunch of kids over for a swim-in, and with all the adults around, my mom needs to cook for about 10 people, in 30 minutes or less.

         

And guess what she cooked?

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Mee Hoon Kueh Recipe

INGREDIENTS

For Pasta Dough:-

  • 1 kg of plain flour
  • water
  • salt

For Cooking:-

  • prawn/chicken/meat, sliced and marinate quickly with soya sauce , tapioca flour and a dash of pepper
  • choy sum or any greens you can grab
  • mushrooms (optional)

For Stock:-

  • ikan bilis, washed and drained
  • some oil
  • salt
  • water
  • tung choy or preserved vegetables (optional)

For Garnishing:-

  • fried shallot
  • cilantro and spring onions
  • fried ikan bilis
  • chili padi with soya sauce
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 METHOD

  1. Knead flour, salt and water (add water bit by bit) into a dough. Knead bit by bit till the entire dough is smooth and not sticking to your hands. Takes more than 10 mins of kneading. Rest the dough while you start preparing others.
  2. Prepare meat, either prawns, chicken or pork. Cut them into reasonable bite size and marinate.
  3. Wash and pick vegetables. Set aside for later use.
  4. In a big wok fry all ikan bilis, scoop out what is needed as garnishing. Leave desired quantity, pour in sufficient water and brew into stock. You can choose to sieve out the bland ikan bilis while I know many who don’t mind it in.
  5. Hand peel dough into small pieces of pastas and throw into stock.
  6. When completed, start putting in meat and vegetable last.
  7. Salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Let individuals decide on the garnishing they like.

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A delightful meal for most kids.

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Novia lazing around after a hearty meal.

Article contributed by Stevie Chan.

a simple picnic

The Hakka Chan family in Kuala Lumpur is led by Agnes Chan. She plays mom and head of family among us siblings. Occasionally she will suggest a meet; either through a dim sum breakfast or a family cook together house party that can be hosted in any of our homes.

Growing up in a farm, this  Hakka Chan misses the space, the green and clean crisp air.

The nearest substitute location, convenient to all is the little green patch a.k.a. a playground 200 years away from Coco Chan’s abode. It was a perfect escape for a simple dinner and we had such great fun.

Agnes and Margaux having a swing time.

Chris’s wife seen here, intense. Probably negotiating about a new house or car.

Chris and Margaux, overzealous with the monkey bar.

A simple picnic in the family means home prepared. With everyone busy with their workweek lives, Agnes Chan decided on a very no fuss menu for all. Although it was supposed to be a potluck thingy, the family all crowded into Coco’s tiny kitchen dishing out their favourite dishes.

Local coffee, be it Sin Seng or Aik Cheong, makes the family picnic menu complete.

A Simple Picnic Menu

  • Tofu and Cucumber Salad
  • Long Beans Skinny Pancakes
  • Bakes Bacon on Potatoes and Tomatoes

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Yam Rice (Taro Rice) 芋头饭

The Chan’s is a typical Chinese household and pork is central to our cuisines so it’s only natural that many of our recipes involve pork.

To our Muslim friends who follow this blog, I would encourage you to try out our recipes by substituting pork with other meats (chicken, duck, or lamb), or even firm tofu/taokua, and voila ….. a whole new world of taste and flavor awaits you!

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Last Sunday, my hubby was craving for his favorite  porky soup and so we headed to a coffee shop in Sungai Way that’s popular for mixed pork & offal soup served with yam (taro root) rice.

I shared a bowl of yam rice with Agnes but found it a letdown. It wasn’t aromatic and I dug and dug, but found no chunky pieces of yam.

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Unsatisfied, I decided to cook some for dinner that very night. There was half a yam left sitting in the fridge since Momsie’s visit. I thought to myself that no matter how badly my yam rice may turn out that night, it wouldn’t be as bad as the one I had that morning.

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At the Chan household, I have learned not to waste food and be creative in dishing out a meal by improvising on what’s available. I checked in the refrigerator and the pantry and discovered I had sufficient ingredients to make a pared-down casserole yam rice.

I chose to use basmathi, when sufficiently soaked it produces very long, fluffy and fragrant rice when cooked. It is not starchy and very suitable for people with bloated stomach problems like Agnes and myself.

Many may choose to add wax sausages, roasted char siew or even dried shrimps, but I decided otherwise.

My yam rice here has very few ingredients, to ensure the clarity of flavour. Only the rice,  yam, and the pork should take centre stage.

Yam rice is often served with porky soup, and sometimes, a sambal.

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Recipe For Yam Rice

INGREDIENTS:-
(serves 3-4)

  • 1 cup (200 gm) uncooked basmati rice wash, rinse and soak for 20 mins
  • 1 cup of water to cook rice
  • 200 gm yam (taro), remove skin and cube
  • dried shiitake mushrooms soaked in water for 15 minutes, drain the water for use later and slice or cube fungi
  • 100 gm pork belly cut to small pieces, marinate with a little oil, soya sauce and dash of pepper
  • salt to taste
  • dash of ground white pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil or vegetable oil

Seasonings

  •  3/4 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
Garnishing
  • spring onions
  • fried shallots

METHOD:-

  1. Heat a wok or in my cast a cast iron pot and pour 2 tablespoon oil to fry shallots till golden brown. Scoop up for garnishing.
  2. Remaining oil use to stir fry yam cubes on high heat for roughly 5 minutes till just about cooked. Set aside.
  3. Using the remaining oil in the wok, stir meat and mushrooms on medium low heat till fragrant (about 2-3 minutes).
  4. Return the cooked yam to the wok. Add rice and fry for 1-2 minutes till all the ingredients are well mixed.
  5. Add water to cook rice followed by seasonings. Stir to make sure that the seasonings are well mixed.
  6. Boil the rice mixture for roughly 20 minutes, or till the water has evaporated and the rice is fully cooked and puffy.
  7. Garnish with fried shallots and spring onions.

Guest Chef:- Bread Pudding by Alzari Joey Mahshar

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Isn’t it true this phrase, ” Facebook is for reconnecting with old friends and Twitter is for making new ones”?

Stevie and I made many fabulous new friends in Twitter. Joey is one of my many favourites. He is such a sweet and caring guy. I don’t love him because he bought me half a dozen of “real” condensed milk from Singapore. I am not easily bought.

Anyway last Saturday, Agnes and I were struggling to upload apps into our iPads. Although we sat across each other, our minds were converging at the same thought. Who can help us computer idiots in distress?

Of course, Joey the IT savvy guy from Twitter Jaya. We decided to hijack him from Shah Alam since he is back in Malaysia to spend some time with his two sons, Danish and Danial.

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Joey obliged our invitation to our regular weekend hi-tea get-together for family friends and their children. Joey came with his youngest prince, Daniel.

Elaine was also present with her children Novia, Aaron and Erywna. They came for brunch and the children were all lazing around the living room after their morning swim and Chinese Pasta lunch.

While Joey, Agnes, Coco and I were spending the afternoon discussing parenthood and other stuffs, Danial and Erywna decided to get acquainted.

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Obviously, Daniel and Erywna did not click from the very start.

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Small in size, Erywna in reality is a BIG BULLY.

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Children being children, through fight and tussle they finally found comfort as they spent time together.

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Bread Butter Pudding

I was happy that Joey’s pudding came without a trace of cinnamon. I am not a big fan of  this spice.

The pudding was prettily arranged with the sesame laced crust at the top. Golden and generously tossed with raisins, the pudding looked so delicious. There was thought of a vanilla custard to go with it but lazy Mrs. Chan took a short cut. Instead, we finished the tray of pudding with freshly whipped cream. Heavenly.

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INGREDIENTS:-

  • 1 French loaf
  • 3 cans of full cream evaporated milk
  • 500 ml fresh milk
  • 2 eggs
  • Raisins
  • Vanilla essence
  • Fine & brown sugar

METHOD:-

  1. Beat eggs with sugar
  2. Mix evaporated sugar with fresh milk together with egg mix
  3. Add vanilla essence
  4. Slice loaf as desired size n butter the slices
  5. Soak slices and arrange in baking dish together with raisins
  6. Make sure baking dish is well buttered as well
  7. Bake in oven at 160*C for 45 mins
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Pandan Kaya

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Unhappy with how the quality of the ready pressed coconut milk had affected the taste and texture of our previous batch of kaya, I decided to give it another try while Momsie is still in town.

Kaya is the best spread to have readily available in the house. It is a favourite of Coco, Margaux and yours truly. We have these tiny crackers Coco found in Malacca. Very often we will pack them back and dung them in a good kopi-o. These crackers are just right with a dip of Momsie’s rich pandan kaya for an afternoon tea snack.

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2 days back, I bought a packet of sugar, 10 omega eggs and 2 freshly grated coconut on my way home and cooked a pot of thick and delicious kaya.

Moreover, there are a dozen of miniature alkaline rice dumplings sitting in the refrigerator. It would be good to eat them after you dip these cold dumplings generously into a rich, thick kaya.

Besides improving the coconut milk, I tried using omega eggs and was thrilled. The omega eggs had beautiful, golden egg yolks. Momsie and I were debating on the sugar, to keep it as equal amount to sugar or reduce them. While it is good to produce and eat sweet kaya, I think reducing 10% of it will not reduce the overall taste of a good kaya.

Cooking kaya takes at least an hour of constant stirring of the mixture over a hot bath. It makes sense to do a larger quantity as the time needed is the same, you save gas and time. 10 eggs gave us 4 small jars. I will consider doing a 30 eggs batch and get a worthy return of 12 small jars of kaya roughly for the same amount of effort and time.

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Momsie’s Rich Pandan Kaya

INGREDIENTS:-

  • 10 eggs – 11 actually since the eggs were not large and i added a cracked classic egg that has been sitting in the fridge
  • equivalent sugar to eggs – you can reduce it but not more than 20%, what’s kaya without sweetness
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar to make caramel to add colour – unnecessary with omega eggs
  • freshly squeezed milk from 2 old coconut – most messy task
  • a bunch of screw pine leaves knotted together
  • juice from 2 limes or a small lemon

METHOD :-

  1. Always use free range chicken eggs or duck eggs. They are better in colour and aroma. We used normal standard chicken eggs because we needed to deplete stock. Crack 10 of those in a deep stainless steel bowl.
  2. Pour in the sugar and stir till sugar is fully melted. Momsie warned me not to beat but to stir in one direction.
  3. Pour in the coconut milk. Here we had used ready packed ones from the wet market. It did not help us to get a better consistency because there is too much water added into it. Therefore, it is better if we could just buy grated coconuts and squeeze them ourselves. Drop the bunch of screw pine leaves inside.
  4. Bath the stainless steel bowl over a wok of water over medium low heat. Stirring it clockwise.
  5. 20 minutes later, sieve the liquid. Momsie said this will take out unwanted white that coagulated too early.
  6. Pour in the lime or lemon juice and you will notice the kaya changes colour.
  7. Continue to bath the mixture for another 40 minutes.
  8. Leave to cool and transfer into jars.
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GUEST CHEF:- French Crepe by Monsieur Florentin

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The Chan Clan celebrated Agnes’s birthday on the eve, at Bubu KL. It was a rare occasion for Agnes because Momsie and dad are here in KL. Besides our family, many friends were present to celebrate. When the festivities heightened with great food, drinks and company, you hate to see a party end.

We cannot even remember who initiated or proposed for another potluck birthday party at Agnes’s residence the following night. A potluck dinner, meant to be no fuss for everyone.

Everyone came with a dish or two. We took the shortcut by buying some dim sums and baked a few Delifrance part baked baguette to go with Wendy’s curry chicken.There were plentiful of food and of course alcohol to down them.

Monsieur Florentin came to the party with a Giant Grocery bag. I thought he was baking a pie or cake as dessert. Turned out, he was making us french crepes with individualised fillings. We get to choose whether we want those crepes sweet or savoury.

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Agnes kitchen is not fully equipped yet. Most stuff are still packed in boxes and locating them from various location can be a task. We searched high and low for a wide flat pan. Tried knocking our neighbour’s door to borrow but in the end settled to do these crepes on a normal stainless steel pan. A non-stick Tefal would have been ideal.

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Basic French Crepe Batter for 15 crepes

INGREDIENTS:-

  • 2 cups Flour
  • 2 1/2 cups Whole Milk
  • 4 Eggs
  • 2 tbsp. Butter (melted)
  • Pinch of Salt
  • Vegetable Oil (for pan)
METHOD:-
  1. Sift flour and mix with salt.
  2. Make a well and pour in eggs. Stir well.
  3. Slowly pour in milk while stirring. Keep stirring batter until small bubbles form on the surface.
  4. Stir in Butter.
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I requested for 2 versions, a savoury to start and a sweet to end as dessert.

We have to be creative with our concoction. I scoured the kitchen and decided I wanted a Cheese with Sausage. This savoury crepe, has generous amounts of grated Parmeson cheese with sliced smoked sausage. Every bite was so full of flavour and bite. Hearty and filling.

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I am a big fan of banana pancakes and the thought of a banana chocolate crepe, reminded me of the most delicious one I had eaten in Paris. Anyway, Monsieur Florentin’s  french crepe batter is so simple to make and versatile to use. We couldn’t finish all the batter that night and I used some of those to fry my banana pancakes the day after.

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Agnes, the birthday girl.

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Florentin, Gwen, Wendy and Ken feasting away.

          

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