Monday, 14 February 2011


I made these today.

Yes, they're red velvet cupcakes. In heart-shaped cases.

Red. Hearts. Get it?

I know. I'm that predictable.

They made a nice dessert, though, to the beef stroganoff we had for dinner. We did have to eat some fruit afterwards to compensate for all that heavy sweetness.

I hope your heart had been treated to something nice and beautiful today, whether you're into Valentine's Day or not. :)

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Chinese new year and the great tikoy (nian gao) experiment

Kung Hei Fat Choi, everyone! It's the Year of the Rabbit, and the girls—Milly and Molly, aka the Watford Wabbits—have been predictably lording it over my illustration projects these days.

Here's a little picture I made of them last night.

Which reminds me, they are due for their jabs so we'll be trotting off to the vets next week.

Anyway, as the Chinese New Year approached, I started craving tikoy or nian gao, sticky rice cakes that are an important part of the Chinese feast to welcome the new year. I don't have a single drop of Chinese blood in me, but I come from a country that has strong historical and cultural ties to China. (We also happen to have a powerful Chinese community, some members of which are among the richest people in the Philippines.)

My father worked for a Chinese businessman. They had a like-hate relationship. On special occasions, however, they'd put aside their differences and my father's boss would send him home with presents that included beautiful fabrics for my mother and cakes and chocolates for the kids. We could tell when the Chinese New Year was coming up as my father would start bringing home a box of tikoy from his boss and his Chinese customers every few days. Sometimes we'd end up with several boxes of tikoy, far too many for us to eat. I don't know what happened to them; I guess my parents gave them away, as I'm sure we never used more than two boxes at a time.

I loved smelling uncooked tikoy but cooked tikoy smelled even better. When the New Year arrived, my father would cut the cakes into thin slices and dip the slices in batter. He would then fry the slices and serve them steaming hot. They were delicious. Unfortunately, they were also greasy and heavy and I'm pretty sure a slice of tikoy would head straight down into your belly and stay there for the rest of your life.

I haven't found any tikoy here in the UK, so I thought I'd make some myself. Thanks to the Internets, I found a few recipes and opted for two. The first one came from this article and the other one came from this site. I thought I'd enjoy the first recipe more, but as it turns out, fried tikoy is a bit tricky to make. I was supposed to cook the batter for at least an hour, but twenty minutes in and the bottom of the cake had already turned brown. The resulting tikoy was tough. I had better results with the steamed version, as all I had to do was leave the batter in the steamer for about 45 minutes. The result had the same consistency and sticky texture that the tikoy of my childhood had.

However, once I fried the two versions of tikoy in batter, the differences just disappeared. They now have the same level of greasiness and stickiness. Hmm, I'm not selling these cakes well, am I?

Anyway, here they are in their fried glory. I think I'll be giving a few away to friends who have been missing tikoy too.

May the Year of the Rabbit bring peace and tranquility to you and your family!