Archive for March, 2008

NiceRecipes in Evernote!

As an avid Evernote user, imagine how surprised I was to find an image from my blog used in the Evernote website section on the application of this information management software for cooks and foodies! One of my photographs of grandma’s recipe notebook was used to illustrate how the advanced features in Evernote can recognise handwriting in images and thus help one to manage non-textual files too.

Since Evernote clipped a page from me, here’s a screenshot of their page featuring my page!

Evernote Nice Recipes

Read Full Post »

Here’s another ice cream recipe, and one that is quite different from the earlier recipe for Perfect Vanilla Ice Cream. This one has no cream or eggs but uses gelatine (read more about how it is produced from animal parts here) and custard powder (which I’ve commented on here).

It also calls for the use of an ice cream churner. I wonder how many Singaporean families in the 1950s had one of those? Unlike the modern electric ice cream makers, traditional ice cream churners would most likely have been like this one. As Wikipedia explains,

These machines usually comprise an outer bowl and a smaller inner bowl with a hand-cranked mechanism which turns a paddle, sometimes called a dasher, to stir the mixture. The outer bowl is filled with a freezing mixture of salt and ice: the addition of salt to the ice causes freezing-point depression; as the salt melts the ice, its heat of fusion allows it to absorb heat from the ice cream mixture, freezing the ice cream.

The churners available in Singapore were quite possibly very similar to the ones available in India. The Tribune from Chandigarh tells us that

In India, ice cream was initially made at home from pure buffalo milk. By the turn of the 18th Century, an ice cream machine was developed for home use. You can still buy the stuff. It’s a wooden bucket with a central aluminum jar and a churner. For preparing ice cream in the machine, you have to put milk, essence and sugar in the jar. This container is then placed in the bucket full of ice and a little salt. After churning for about 45 minutes, the ice cream is ready. Though not as smooth as the one available in the market, it is delicious.

Like the Indian news article, grandma’s recipe calls for the addition of ‘flavouring essence’. Indeed, a Google search of ‘flavouring essence’ throws up mostly manufacturers in India. The flavours could be lemon, strawberry, mango, almond etc. A visit to a specialist baking supplies store should provide you with these items.

Ice Cream

Read Full Post »


Doughnuts are a hard food to pin down. They come in fried or baked versions, and can be made by a huge variety of methods: some are like breads and use yeast as a leavening agent, while others rely on baking powder; they can be made by the muffin method or by the creaming technique. Grandmother’s recipe introduced me to yet another style of doughnuts.

The recipe here is for a choux pastry. Although grandma did not record the instructions for this, you then go on to fry the choux pastry, as the recipes here and here explain.

This style of doughnuts is closed connected with another kind of fried dough – crullers, which are fashioned into a long, twisted shape. Traditional French crullers are also made from choux pastry, while other kinds of crullers can be made from other kinds of leavened doughnut dough (either using yeast or baking powder). The term ‘Chinese crullers’ is sometimes used to refer to Chinese you tiao [Mandarin] / yao zhar kwai [Cantonese].

Speculation on the historical origins of the doughnut range from prehistoric Native Americans to ancient Rome to the medieval Middle East. However what most sources agree on is the better-documented story of how doughnuts became an American staple. Beginning in early modern Germany and Holland, oliekoecken (oil cakes or fried cakes) were brought to the New World by Dutch settlers, and had established themselves on the American dining table by the mid-19th century.

Well, if what makes a doughnut a doughnut is the hole in the middle, then what about the dough balls made from these holes? Aside from just seeing them as leftover ‘doughnut holes‘, one can simply shape the dough directly into balls and make more elegant-sounding beignet (recipe here).

Below are the two recipes grandmother copied into her notebook. The first is for choux pastry-style doughnuts, The second set of ingredients doesn’t include eggs and therefore can’t be for choux pastry. You’ll need to improvise your own cooking method there.
Doughnuts 2

Read Full Post »

Rose Syrup

These two pages are most interesting in terms of dating my grandmother’s notebook, and reveal that grandma was making notes in here well before December 1957 as I had earlier assumed.

On the first page, you’ll notice notations made at at least three or four different points in time: the original recipe in blue-black ball point pen, revisions and the date of this recipe in pencil (I’m not sure what the pencilled numbers represent), then in blue ball point pen ink, going over the pencilled date as well as a “P.T.O” note (referring to the second page on Rose Syrup), and finally a half-dried out pink felt pen used to underline the title. The same blue ball point pen has been used to write part of the second Rose Syrup recipe, and the same pink marker to highlight this recipe as well.

The first page gives the full recipe, and the second provides the recipe in two alternative quantities. You can tell which version my grandmother preferred from the pink markings :).

My memories of rose syrup go back to the visits I used to make to my great-grandmother (grandma Nice’s mother) before she passed away when I was six years old. Each time, I was inevitably given a drink of rose syrup in cold water, I don’t remember ever drinking anything else in her home :). I seem to recall the commercially-packaged bottle of rose syrup, so I doubt it was a homemade version as in this recipe.

These days rose syrup isn’t a common household drink anymore, with modern kitchens taken over by commercial ‘fresh’ fruit juices and soft drinks. However, rose syrup is still familiar to us in the form of Bandung, which is rose syrup in milk, and commonly sold at hawker centres.

Cochineal is a red food dye obtained from the cochineal insect. Although it is a natural colouring that has been used for centuries (spreading out from cochineal’s native South and Central America via colonial routes) and is still the main source of red colourings in today’s food industry, cochineal has been found to cause a range of allergic reactions in some people, from simple itching skin to life-threatening anaphylatic shock.
Rose Syrup A

Rose Syrup B

Read Full Post »