Monthly Archives: February 2013

Chinese Hot & Sour Soup With A Twist

a10 Chinese Hot & Sour Soup With A Twist

My beloved is a fan of  Chinese restaurant styled soups. Chicken and corn soup and hot and sour soup are on top of his list. I know it’s very “spendthrift” of me to say that I don’t believe in spending money in ordering soup in a Chinese Restaurant unless it is herbal soup. In my personal opinion,  it is only made of broth +  cornstarch + beaten eggs which can be made at home easily, at a fraction of the cost.

(Having said that,  in the name of love, we will order them from time to time, after all they are my beloved’s favourite.)

Last night, I’ve concocted an improvised version of hot and sour soup. Instead of vinegar, fresh tomatoes were my sour agent.  A little of chilli flakes for the hot factor and shiitake mushrooms, soy sauce and sesame oil as the flavourings. Adding kale maybe an unusual touch for hot and sour soup, but I’m surprise how hardy kale is in soup. I actually enjoyed the “braised” texture of kale. And this is  a confession from a kale lover to another.  :)

a4a Chinese Hot & Sour Soup With A Twist

Chinese Hot & Sour Soup With A Twist

What you’ll need to make approximately 4 bowls:-

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 25g (0.8 ounce/ about 6-7  mushrooms) shitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes *adjust to taste*
  • 3 fresh tomatoes, roughly diced
  • 2 cups of chopped kale ( I used the curly variety)
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 4 cup low sodium chicken broth (you can use vegetable broth also)
  • A dash of soy sauce * adjust to taste; you may need more if you make your own broth*
  • 1 tbsps sesame oil (you can add more if you prefer a stronger scent)
  • 2 dashes of white ground pepper
  • 3 tbsps cornflour
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Spring onions, chopped for garnish *optional*

a9a Chinese Hot & Sour Soup With A Twist


In a large pot (or a wok), heat up a tablespoon of cooking oil and then add mushrooms, garlic and chilli flakes. Saute over low heat until the garlic becomes aromatic. Add kale, tomatoes and sweet corn and stir to combine with the fragrant ingredients. Pour the broth into the vegetable mixture and let it simmer with a lid on over high heat until it starts to boil. Turn the flame over to the low and simmer for another 10 minutes after the broth reaches its boiling point. In the meantime, mix the cornstarch with cold water. Remove the lid. Over high heat and the soup is bubbling vigorously, add the cornstarch mixture and stir to combine with the soup. The soup will thicken as it boils. Keep it boiling until it reaches your desired consistency. Then gradually pour the beaten eggs into the soup in a circular motion (rather streaming the egg in one spot). Allow the eggs to be fully cooked before you start stirring the soup. This is to ensure the eggs do not cloud the soup and they should appear ribbon-like. Stir in the sesame oil, soy sauce and white pepper. Serve immediately.

 a11 Chinese Hot & Sour Soup With A Twist

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Lifestyle : Candle Holders Double As Vases

a2 Use a candle holder as a vase

After attending two wedding receptions in the past weeks, I was reminded of the liveliness of fresh flowers can bring to a space. I tend to decorate my space with artificial flowers for an obvious reason: convenience. Inspired by the wedding theme, I’m keen to introduce some fresh flowers to my space.

My past preference has always steered towards a tall and majestic flower arrangement. With that being said, it is an impractical choice for dining and coffee table centerpiece. As much as we all love flowers, we don’t want to peer through the flowers to see each other across the table and television shows right?

a1 Use a candle holder as a vase

I started to look around for a short vase. Surprisingly, it is not easy to find an affordable and decorative short vase! (And I don’t want the clear glass ones). Talk about not finding something when you are looking.

Then I came across these rounded candle holders at a discount store (The Reject Shop, to be exact).  I love the blush and neutral colour palettes and its reflective surface is a bonus too! Since the candles holders are made of glass, there is no reason that they can’t double as vases.

a4 Use a candle holder as a vase

 {my miniature dining table centerpiece on top of a silver round placemat}

a3 Use a candle holder as a vase

{living room centerpiece}


Lite Orange & Poppy Seed Cupcakes

a2 Lite Orange & Poppy Seed Cupcakes

Frosting is a like makeup for cupcakes. It adds colours to cupcakes. It hides the imperfection of the cake itself. Every time I walk pass a bakery,  I’d stop and admire how pretty the frosted cupcakes were. It is hard to resist the richness and lusciousness of frosting and maybe that’s why it makes cupcakes finger lickin’ good. ;)

On day-to-day, I like to go au naturel with my cupcakes, similar to how I like my face to be at home. There’s no hiding of imperfection and it’s purely for comfort and fuss free. These lite orange and poppy seed cupcakes I baked over the weekend were just that. They are cotton-like in texture and you don’t feel guilty after eating them.

a9 Lite Orange & Poppy Seed Cupcakes

Lite Orange & Poppy Seed Cupcakes

(makes about 10 small cupcakes)

What you’ll need:-

  • 30g (1 ounce) flavourless cooking oil
  • 20g (0.7 ounce) cornflour
  • 35g (1.2 ounce) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp poppy seeds
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp grated orange peel
  • 40g (1.4 ounces) caster sugar, divided equally i.e. 20g in egg yolks & 20g in egg whites
  • 3 eggs, yolks & white separated

Other: grater, handheld mixer etc.

a14 Lite Orange & Poppy Seed Cupcakes


Preheat oven to 180C/356F. In a bowl, mix cornflour, all-purpose flour, salt and poppy seeds. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, add 20g caster sugar and grated orange peel. Then separate the egg yolk and white i.e. place the yolks with the sugar-and-orange-peel mixture and place the egg whites in a separate mixing bowl. Use a handheld mixer, whisk the egg white while adding the remaining 20g of caster sugar gradually at high speed. Whisk the egg whites until soft peak is achieved. Set aside.  With the same handheld mixer (no need to wash the whisks attached), whisk yolks-sugar-and-orange-peel mixture until it becomes pale and fluffy.  Then add oil and whisk again until well mixed. Add the flour mixture into the yolk mixture and whisk until just combined. Add 1/3 of white egg into the yolk mixture and use a spatula to stir until well combine. Then gently fold in the remaining egg whites until just combine. Spoon the mixture into your baking tin (please add baking paper cases due to the low fat content of thesecupcakes) or use cupcake cups. Bake the cupcakes for 15- 20 minutes until the cake tester comes out clean.

a1 Lite Orange & Poppy Seed Cupcakes


Chickpea, Couscous, Apricot, Feta & Mint Salad

a3 Chickpea, Couscous, Apricot, Feta & Mint Salad

What I love about summer is the longer daylight hours.  Well, it doesn’t hurt that the weather is conducive to light and flowy dresses too ha!  Since I have been trying to commit to more outdoor activities this year (i.e. more evening walks and picnics),  I have been spending more time out and about after work and less time in the kitchen cooking.  Hearty salads with lots of grains, legumes  and in this instance, couscous have been my favourite of late. All I need to do to make them fancy is to pair them with a store-bought roast chicken and toasted wholemeal wraps (so that they are crunchy) and voila, a hearty meal is ready in no time. Having said that, these salads are equally satisfying and filling on their own.

Making use of the abundance of apricots at the moment, I switched my usual salad ingredients i.e. avocado and cucumber with these beautiful stone fruits. They add sweetness and tanginess to the salad, not to mention their orange-yellow hues make the salad looked appetising. To finish off the salad, I added mint-garlic-lemon dressing to tie all the flavours together.  It turned out to be a light and refreshing meal.

a5 Chickpea, Couscous, Apricot, Feta & Mint Salad

 {wholemeal couscous courtesy of San Remo}

Chickpea, CousCous, Apricot, Feta & Mint Salad

(For 2 -3 people as a main)

What you’ll need:-

For the mint dress:

  • 10g (0.4 ounces) mint leaves
  • 1 small clove of garlic
  • 1/2 cup  + 2 tsps olive oil
  • Juice of half of a large lemon (yielding about 2-3 tbsps of lemon juice)
  • A pinch of salt
  • A small food processor


  • 100g (4 ounces) San Remo Wholemeal CousCous
  • 150ml (5 fl ounces) boiling hot water from a kettle
  • 400g (14 ounces) canned chickpeas, drained and rinse with boiling hot water
  • Hot water from a kettle to rinse the chickpeas
  • 2 fresh apricots, deseeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 fairly large sized eshallot (alternatively, 1/4 red onion), peeled & thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsps dried cranberries
  • 100g (4 ounces) feta, crumbled

a12 Chickpea, Couscous, Apricot, Feta & Mint Salad


Cook couscous according to the packet instructions. For San Remo Wholemeal CousCous, I added 150ml (5 fl ounces) of boiling hot water to the couscous in a small pot and let it steep for 15-20 minutes, covered with a lid. Set aside. Meanwhile, add all the dressing ingredients (excepts for 2 tsps olive oil) in a small processor and process until fairly smooth. Pour the dressing out of the processor into a bowl and top with 2 tsps of olive oil. Set aside.  Then move on to preparing the salad i.e. rinsing the chickpeas with boiling hot water and slicing the apricots and onions. In a large salad bowl, combine the couscous, chickpeas, sliced apricots and onions, dried cranberries and toss all these ingredients together with 2 tbsps of mint dressing.  To serve, crumble some feta and drizzle with more mint dressing. Enjoy with toasted wrap or pita bread with shredded roast chicken!

a2 Chickpea, Couscous, Apricot, Feta & Mint Salad

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If you are a food enthusiast who love surprises and discovering new European treats, why not head over to Europe in A Box to learn more about its subscription service.

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