Monthly Archives: July 2015

It’s Mooncake Time – Let’s make Lotus Paste!

Today I did something I never thought I would do. I made Lotus Paste from scratch because I have a private class coming up and my student wants to learn it from scratch as the country she comes from, well, they don’t sell it like they do here.

So I trotted off to the market and bought all of Ah Leng’s  300 gm Lotus Seeds, while she looked at me suspiciously like I didn’t know what I was getting into or what I was buying.

“This is for mooncake cake,” she exclaimed. I nodded my head, because I was looking at the newly opened box of Russet Potatoes.

“You better ask your mummy,” she went on.  I gave her the look and her staff laughed.  Then she went on to tell them how I bought the wrong things once long ago and was asked to return it and she didn’t want to take it back and my mum came and told her off.  She took back the stuff after that.  I was 8.

This is what I hate about going to the market over here because they all know me since I was a kid and the still think I am a kid.

Ah Leng still thinks the 25 salted eggs bought last year was for my mums Mooncakes. Now what rot is that?  Mum can’t even make a Mooncake!

Anyhow, back to Lotus Paste Preparation.  Now be warned, this is hard work.  I have the aching right arm now to prove it.  So here is my simple recipe for basic Lotus Paste.

Recipe:

300 gm                        Lotus Seed – Skinless

120 to 150 ml              Peanut Oil

200 gm                        Sugar – More if you prefer it or to preserve the paste longer

1 tbsp                          Maltose

Salt a pinch (Optional)

Water

I bought skinless Lotus Seeds because I could not be bothered having to crack them opened but I am told the ones with the skin is tastier.

So here goes my method in Photos.

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Boil the lotus seeds for about 10 to 15 minutes. Please do not look down on my pot. This pot has been around since I was single digits and it was a second hand pot as well bought from some expat.  Serves me well and is the best compared to my Royal Doulton and all.  Once it is time.

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Notice the seeds are still whole. This is where the fun begins.  Cool the seeds down under running water and leave to drain properly.  Next job requires nimble fingers.

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Thank God for Yus nimble fingers. You have to remove this little green shoots because it is rather bitter.  I know.. I tried it just to see if this was true.  Very Bitter!

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Quite pretty in the orange basket.  So once this is done.  We boil the seeds again for about 45 minutes to an hour.

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Do check for softness. Some of my seeds were softer then the other so you need to check this properly.  Often a time I would pick up something really soft and next minute Yus would pick up something hard.  So do check as food processing it might be a problem.  Drain and leave to cool for about 1/2 hour.

Food Process the seeds little by little.  I used my Vitamix and it made such strange sounds and even had a burning rubber smell so I stopped.  Next time Food Processor.  Make sure it is fine or not you will have to run it through a sieve and that will be messy plus a pain in the you know where.

So here is the food processed Lotus Seeds.

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Yus had to use her hands to remove the rest as the Vitamix is rather narrow.  Real messy job I have to say.

Now we start to cook the paste.

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Heat the oil on low flame.  I only used a single flame Use only a bit of the oil.  Add in 1/3 cup or so of the sugar once the oil is slightly hot.

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Start stirring rather quickly and ensure it does not burn too quickly.  Fire has to be really small if you are a first timer.

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Now even this might be a tad bit dark for some but I decided to go ahead and add in the paste as it was not burning nor emitting any burnt smell.

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Add in the sugar as well and make sure you stir it through properly.  Hold the pan at all times when you are stirring as the wok or pot will move as well.  This is the hard part of preparing the paste.

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Use a spatula to scrape the sides from time to time.  Stir non stop till it thickens.  Then add in the oil little by little in perhaps four to five batches.

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Please notice there is a bit of oil at the bottom of the pan.  Pour in this amount  four or five times once the paste becomes like this.  Stir till the oil is well mixed and becomes a lump again.

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Once the oil is well mixed, add in the Maltose.  Stir this till it is well mixed.  Make sure there are no bits of maltose within the paste.  Carry on stirring till the paste becomes a dough and doesn’t stick very much.  Don’t forget to use a scrapper from time to time to clean the sides.

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This took roughly about an hour and a bit.  Note too I have a steady flame to work with.  Stirring all the time is a pain, thank God Yus was around to help me with the photo bits.

Do not rush to do this and never do it over a big flame.  I left it to cool and wrapped it up with cling wrap.

Let’s see if I am in the mood to try Pandan Lotus Paste next.

Happy Cooking and don’t say I didn’t warn you!

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Biskut Arab or Ghee Cookies

20150718_214135The first time I ate Biskut Arab or Ghee Cookies was when I was invited for Hari Raya to my friend Abdul Rahman’s house.  I remember that day like it was only a few years ago.  Abdul Rahman lived quite faraway from where I lived but I remember he would pray at the mosque in my area which meant he had to leave  his part of town quite early in the morning to reach here in time (didn’t occur to me back then of course).  Thinking now, it was a big sacrifice for him.

So after prayers he would come to my house or I would wait somewhere and we would get on a bus.  I never took buses back then, so it was kind of an adventure for me.  It was so exciting I have to say.

I cannot even remember where he lived, because the bus ride was so exciting and we talked and talked so I really and truly cannot tell you where he lived but I am pretty sure it was like a long house.  Rows and rows of half wooden houses and we would get off the bus and I would plod along with him, through these rows and rows of houses and there his mother Mak Cik, would be there to happily greet me.

And then the cookie trays would come out and of course I have no shame at all, because I love home made cookies.

Long time ago, the Malays always made their cookies differently, it would as my mum would say a Malay Village smell, and Mak Cik’s cookies along with my Aunty Shina’s cookies.  You never get that scent or smell in Malay cookies anymore unless it comes from a village far away.  Only one other person came close and that was my other friend Muhammad Aidil.  His mother and sisters gave me cookies reminisce to the good old days only because he was from a village in Johore. The smell, the scent of each cookie was just indescribable.

I was told a few years ago, this smell was created because all the flour and sugar and anything dried that needed to go into the making of cookies were dried in the sun before the baking took place.   People do not do this nowadays.

So this year my friend Hafiq gives me a recipe book.  He made wonderful Rendang Tok and Peanut Sauce from this book.  And I, made this cookie.  I had to change a few things because somehow it would not come out right if I followed the recipe to a T, so here goes.  The end result was the closest I have ever tasted to Abdul Rahman’s mums Biskut Arab.  Still hers tasted better, probably because no one really bothered about sugar back then.

  • Plain Flour                                           2 cups + ½ cup
  • Ghee                                                    ½ cup
  • Castor Sugar                                       ½ cup
  • Icing Sugar                                          1/3 cup

Method:

1. Dry fry the flour for a few minutes in a non stick pan till it is a light light creamy brown.  Make sure it is on low flame. Leave to cool and Sieve it before use.

2.  Preheat Oven to 170 to 180 C.  Grease two cookie sheets.

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3.  In a bowl, mix in Ghee  with both sugars.  Gradually add in flour 1/2 cup by 1/2 cup till you are able to combine the dough and it is still soft but till in one piece. You may use up all the flour or a little more of less depending on the temperature of the day.

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4.  Make round balls, place on a greased tray and bake for about 20 minutes.  I always start at the lowest rung and work my way up every 5 minutes or so.

5.  Remove when it is done. Cookies might not be very brown of perhaps it is just me not liking brown cookies. Leave to cool and gently remove from tray. Cookies should melt in your mouth.

6. I place some in the fridge just so it will harden.

Cookies were just divine. sweet though, so you can cut some sugar but do be careful as cutting down too much sugar might affect the texture.

You may modernize these cookies with a bit of Maddons Salt Flakes to kill the sweetness.

All in all I loved it.  It made me think of Mak Cik and Abdul Rahman… and the late Aunty Shina.  By the way Mak Cik also made unforgettable Beriani.

You see food always brings us all together regardless of belief and creed.

Selamat Hari Raya everyone.