Saturday, September 24, 2011

En vacance

"So you are not interested in doing Safari?" asked H.
"Aiyah, we can ooh ahh the animals when we have kids lah. Why waste now?"
"You're weird."
"Nope, just a good planner."
"And you don't want to do hot air ballooning anymore?"
"I want. But I prefer this one right now. It's cheap! And Lonely Planet said it's the perfect time to visit!!"

And that, my friends, is the story of we're going for no-more-winter-yet-not-quite-summer Mauritius.

"See how I always give in to you?"
"Well, I happen to fancy a Hermes bag too.."

"You forgot I bought you Hermes? Many colours like how you like"
"Shagua!!! (silly). I want the real Hermes, not Pierre Herme!"

Be back in a jiffy. à bientôt!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Into thin air

Last night, H & I decided to throw a dinner party, hosted by us, but at someone else's house. Our tiny space is not big enough to accommodate anymore extra than 1 guest. Coincidentally, R is leaving this country while we will be enjoying the sun and sand somewhere else. So we thought, what more reason can one ask for? And that's how I cooked myself silly for 2 straight days.

There were only 7 of us, but one is vegetarian, one doesn't eat anything beyond red meat, one eats to accompany his vodka, and R happened to had a major accident the night before that left him with only 1 functioning arm. 6 men and 1 woman, moi. What a perfect storm. But since our gathering tends to be bbq style, hence tons of red meat and beers, I decided to fix a menu with some flair that only a female can conjuncture.

For appetizers, I had
(1) Pizza with caramelized onions, gorgonzola (yes I found it) and avocado
(2) Chorizo with white wine sauce
(3) Pataniscas de bacalhau.

As main,
(1) Beef moussaka
(2) Grilled chicken
(3) Roasted fall vegetables (beet roots, turnips, red + green capsicum, carrots, potatoes).
For the vegetarian, I made him falafel and leek fried rice.

As dessert,
(1) Pear, almond & cinnamon galette
(2) Chocolate panna cotta.

On hindsight, I should not try to be that ambitious. I never knead that many dough in my life and I think my fingers and arms cramped. The ball of my feet was so painful that I couldn't get a wink. My lower back screamed from standing too long (Just so we're clear: I am in my fittest level ever). I had no time to answer calls, nor do I have a proper meal until dinner. Heh.. so maybe the thought of entering this glorious food industry is not going to pan out after all.

But I tell myself that before I leave this place and wave goodbye to tai-tai-hood, there must be some sort of pinnacle to my sabbatical leave. There must be some kind of achievement that I would be proud to flaunt, like having a black belt. Only then I can fully justify the squandering of my 'youth', no?

I will have a good think about it while sipping my caipiblack.

Auf wiedersehen, R! Till next time.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Avocado Pizza with the ultimate pizza dough

Over the weekend, I tried a new recipe off Sweet Paul Magazine Fall 2011. Pizza with caramelized onion, gorgonzola & avocado.

I didn't manage to find gorgonzola, so I used Cheddar instead, same quantity.

I am disappointed that the pizza didn't live up to its wonderful promises, but I should have known this. Gorgonzola is probably the creamiest cheese, so substituting with cheddar is stupid. My bad. A bit on the dry side, needed a lot more salt, pepper & olive oil. The pizza was a bit too thick for a single serving - I would turn it into 1 large thin pizza and 1 medium thin pizza.

However, I have to say the pizza dough is the best. I have found the ultimate winning recipe. So please make way and do try this at home:

The Ultimate Pizza dough
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp dry yeast (I used boulangerie yeast)
- 2.5 cup flour (I used white bread flour)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp olive oil

How to:
* Mix water, honey and yeast. Leave it to rest (proof) it around 5 mins.

* Add the remaining ingredients, shift the flour. Knead well.

* Cover with cling wrap, put in warm spot (I usually put it in my oven, at 50 celcius). Let it rise for 1 hour.

* After it raise, flatten it and move it into your pizza tray/ oven tray to make it a large pizza. For me, it would make 1 large + 1 medium pizza.

And the rest.. is your story. Put some topping and pop it into the oven 200 celcius. Bake till brown or till you grow impatient, whichever comes first. Bon chance! 

Me? I'm going to make some flammekuchen this wednesday, I have never tried a cream-base pizza before. Wish me luck.

Day 15: Pork ribs & bean curd soup, Ginger-Garlic Fried Rice

At home, my mum often cooks bean curd soup with pork ribs, occasionally with kidney beans. I wouldn't say this dish falls in my favorite food but strangely, I never recall not finishing the whole pot of bean curd myself. So it was a very nice surprise to found the bean curd stick here.

Recipe is from here. I don't have red dates, so I added carrots instead.
Hmm.. not as 'sweet' as my mom's, something is missing.. maybe the kidney bean, but heh I polished that one off easily, while H ate the pork ribs with fork and knife (!!).

"I like this arrangement. I eat the ribs and you eat the beancurd.."

To accompany, I made ginger & garlic fried rice. I hardly ever crave for nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice), but I would crave for this. Recipe initially seen at NYtimes, but well, I made my own version. Recipe is below. And H's unwarranted hatred towards the smelly ginger is cured.

Have a good week ahead! Corinne Bailey Rae is on tv right now :)

Ginger Garlic Fried Rice a la moi (2 pax)
- Cooked rice. I always use brown rice and cook it on the same day.
- 1 tbsp mince garlic
- 1 tbsp mince ginger
- a small bowl of leek
- 1 egg
- 2 red chillies, seeds removed and sliced
- S + P
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- vegetable/ soya oil to fry

How to:
* In your wok, fry the mince ginger first. Wait 30 seconds before adding the mince garlic. Fry till brown, drain them on paper towel and set aside.

* Add leeks & chillies into the wok. Cover and let the leeks soften. Season with salt & pepper. About 2-3 mins, depending quantity.

* Lower the heat. Add the cook rice, mix.

* Add the egg. Do not mix immediately, but instead let the egg fry a little before you stir everything together.

* Add back the fried ginger & garlic. Toss & mix well. Turn the heat off. Taste & add salt & pepper as desired.

* Add sesame oil, mix well and serve immediately.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The perfect cup

Every visitor to Paris (or France) during winter should at least try chocolat chaud.

The most enjoyable way is of course to visit any marche noel and order what every kids are ordering, hot chocolate.  Even my dad shyly admitted that it was good.

Original recipe is from here, though I presume the David Lebovitz's one will be more "original".

I shall add rum next time H isn't watching me. But we'll keep this recipe for special occasions, not for our sunday morning treat.

"So who won?"
"France dong! Confiture is better than maple syrup."
"Our kids will grow up eating confiture. It will make them stronger."
"Yeah ok. Come help me knead this dough. I'm trying a new pizza recipe."
"But you are so pretty when you're cooking."
"Yeah and I know crap when I hear one."
"And you tell me I'm not romantic?"

Day 14: Prata with Chicken Vindaloo

H has been chanting Butter Chicken since that lunch. But I don't feel like remaking that dish right now. I was in the experimenting mood. So one friday night, I decided to marinate some chicken and prepare the prata dough.

Recipe for prata is here.
Recipe for chicken vindaloo is here

Most Indians that I've met originated from southern part of the country, so it's not surprising that I'm more familiar with the southern dishes (having been invited to their dinner tables), at least in terms of names. For the love of food, I can't tell the difference between north vs. south. All I know that my southern indians friends are more open to eating seafood (given their geography) as compared to say, Pakistan or certain northern Indian friends(!!!). And contrary to popular belief, Chicken Tikka Masala is not their national dish. It is Britain's national dish, however, as I'm told. 

The prata dough, though requires a pair of strong arms and patience, was good. It's not difficult, just tough. H massaged my shoulders as I massaged the dough. But true to its promise, the dough can make a decent 8 pratas, or in our case, 8 murtabak. I stuffed them with cheese, egg, onion and (ahem) chorizo. 

The chicken vindaloo was much more thinner than I'd like it to be. Maybe I didn't do it correctly, but I eventually added about 2-4 tbsp of cream to make it thicker (I was in a race to use my President cream before the bacteria takes over, but you can use milk). I added a lot more salt & some sugar. It's just our tastebud. But it was good! I felt I'm transported back home :)

H still chants for Butter chicken, but at least this will keep him quiet for some time. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Living la Vida Loca

Home entertaining is, by all means, no small feat. Obviously the most important thing is the menu. You gotta think about what to serve, about quantity, about dietary restrictions and about variety. Next you gotta think about table arrangements: how to decorate your table, what your center piece is going to be, what colour, which napkin fold. Next you think about ambience, about lighting, some music and of course fragrance. Sometimes you think of sitting arrangement.

But really, all you want is it to be perfect. Home entertaining is our attempt to have a normal life. It's done occasionally, with careful planning, selective guests and always full of love.

And still, life can screw you up.

In this place, you go to multiple supermarkets to buy what you usually can find in a single supermarket elsewhere.
In this place, you learn to hoard things because you don't know when the next shipment will come.
In this place, you learn to buy seasonal products. Simply because there's no other alternative.

Imagine now that today, one of the warmest day in a long time, the day that South Africa beat Fiji in a good match, you found that only one supermarket is open in the entire downtown, because it's the birthday of the first President.
You found that the population is either on the street or in the supermarket with you.
And on this particular day, you're supposed to make the big shopping for your up coming dinner party. And found that you gotta scratch off half of your menu (that's already based on products available last week) and think of alternatives on the spot.
You queued for a long time with your full trolley since no cashier was ever in a rush. And still five different people asked if they can come up before you. "I only have 2/3/4.."

Imagine entering the supermarket at 9.30am and left at noon. Imagine that it took another hour until you reached home.

And even after all that, you thank God, that at least you still have a full trolley of food.

And more importantly, thank God that it's only a week more till holiday.

my private lapdancer

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Red wine Chocolate Cake

Not so long ago, somebody told me to stop baking. "We need to watch out our food, if we want to look good for our holiday", advised a certain somebody. He even gave me specific instruction to only eat 3x a day. No snacks and light dinner please.

This very same person also happens to ask "What are we having for dessert, mon coeur?" every. single. lunch. AND. dinner.

So when I saw David Lebovitz's posting about Smitten Kitchen's red wine cake, I know the perfect way to bequest peace on our household. For 2 weeks, I've had half a bottle of red wine sitting idly, you see. Ever since I started my Asian Kitchen tour.

Recipe is from here.
No modifications, with the exception, I did not do the cream topping.

"Ooohhh.. so soft and moist!! Ooh.. Very good, huh? Huh? Huh??", I asked.
"Hmm.. not my type, mon coeur."
"What do you mean not your type?"
"Too much wine. Need to use only 1/5 of it."
"You don't like olives, not a wine person. And I wonder how come you're not the one born in the far east."
"You should not call it chocolate cake. I couldn't taste the chocolate. You should call it red wine cake."
"I felt cheated."

Sorry Deb.

And I'm back to square one.

Back to good ole Martha Stewart chocolate cake.

The Quiche Post (Part II): The Filling

etes-vous pret? Allez-y! Mettez la musique.

Cream mixture: 
- 2 eggs & 1 egg yolk
- 200 ml cream 
Note: if you're stingy like me or simply worry about cholesterol, I use 2 eggs + 1 egg white (the one whose yolk is used for the dough). But be warned it wouldn't turn as yellow.

How to:
* Preheat oven to 200 degree and remove Pâte brisée from fridge. Wait for 5-10 minutes until dough becomes more malleable (else, you'll have to use brute force). 
* Lay the ball over your pyrex, using your palm, fingers and what have you to flatten them. Make sure it's equally thin everywhere. Use fork and poke through all surfaces, as to release air when it's baked in the oven. 
* Bake inside oven for a good 20 mins, or until semi-brown. Use your nose. When you smell butter, stand by and frequently check. Do not bake till done.

* While waiting, start preparing the filling. For this one, I use half a leek, red bell pepper, chicken leftover and cheddar. In the past, I have used bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes, onion, corn, goat cheese, soft cheese, pecorino.. whatever I take on fancy & available inside my fridge. I stopped short of adding jicama (labusium). I almost did not. 
* After laying all your filling, mix the cream mixture in a bowl, then pour over. Sprinkle with salt & pepper, don't be shy. 
* Put back into oven, third rack, and bake for 30-40 mins. Again, use your nose. When you start smelling cheese, stand by. I tend to bake longer to create that golden cheese burnt. 

Et voila! Bon appetit, cherie. 
this is what happens when you skimp on the yolk, the cream is still white.
Don't forget to squeeze out a massage promise before serving this. I'm going to ask for salary increment. 

The Quiche Post (Part I) : Pâte brisée

One day not so long ago, when H & I were still getting to know each other, many of our activities together were spent in the kitchen. On saturday mornings, I would be working my ass off in gym while H sipped his cuppa coffee at Coffee Beans or Starbucks, waiting for me. We would then do groceries and rent movies before walking back to his fancy smanchy place to cook our lunch. It was H who taught me how to mince my onions, how to hold my knife when peeling carrot, how to make a decent vinaigrette, how to make simple 3-course meal.

Oh I've cooked before, but my first fancy meal cooking together with him was ricotta-stuffed roast tomatoes. I didn't mince the garlic fine enough that you can taste it when biting through the ricotta. I singled out the garlic and did not eat it, but finished it, H did. I knew it then and there, this boy is a keeper. We weren't holding hands yet even then.

So when I finally took over our kitchen, one of the first recipe he passed down to me was quiche. Tarte poireaux to be exact, Leek Quiche. He googled it from internet and showed me exactly how to do it. And today, I'm going to release it back into the big blue sea, the world wide web.

Don't be scared, making quiche is easy. There's plenty of room to cover your own mistakes and I love making quiche on the days I'm cleaning my own fridge. I dump things on it the way Papa Ron makes his meat lovers.

Pâte brisée, the dough
- 250 gr farine T55 (250 gr all purp. flour)
- 125 gr de beurre (125 gr butter) 
- 1 jaune d'oeuf (1 egg yolk)
- 6 cl d'eau froid (60 ml cold water)
- 1 grosse pincée de sel (1 big pinch of salt)

How to:
After you mix everything by your good hand, shape into a ball, put it back into the bowl you use, cover the bowl with cling wrap and put it into fridge for at least 30 mins. Voila! Step 1 is finished.

A personal note:
The well-known secret to a good pâte brisée is butter. You make sure the ratio of flour : butter is 2 : 1. For every 200 gr of flour, please dump 100 gr of butter. I try every so often to be stingy (I don't want H to have heart attack). But trust me, everybody can tell when you're stingy.

To this day, my mom is still shocked (perhaps with a tinge of sadness?) by my familiarity with the kitchen. Because unlike other little girls, I didn't learn cooking from my mother.

I learn it from my future husband.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Day 13: Sweet and Sour Pork Ribs

I'm dry and my fridge is empty. So with a heavy heart I unloaded my precious ribs from my freezer. 

Original recipe is from here.
I opted for the all dark soy sauce recipe, instead of mixing some with light soy sauce. I didn't have any rock sugar, so I switched it with brown sugar, same quantity.

Verdict: "I was so shock to see the colour. Yesterday we ate your hair (squid ink pasta) and today we ate burnt meat? But it was really, really good. Our pork needs more meat & more fats, but no doubt it was very very good, mon amour."

Phew. The recipe is so simple and requires very little ingredients, besides my precious ribs and now almost finish Chinese shiaoxing wine.

For vegetable, I just stir fry some remnants of aubergine, courgette and red pepper. I told you I have nothing.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Day 12: Salt & Pepper Squid

This is our lunch today. 

I cooked Salt & Pepper Squid, the way a decent (Chinese) seafood restaurant would do. I prepared Squid Ink Pasta to accompany (me and my sense of humour).  For dessert I made (American) Coconut Macaroon. Again, mixing cuisines. But they work. H didn't complain, they lived up to their promises. But I don't want to talk about what I cook today. I want to talk about biology.

To be exact, I want to talk about the food chain. About unfortunate turn of events. About death. 

It appears that the lula were enjoying their lunch when being caught alive by the Angolan fishermen, 
barely alive when put into freezer by my friend E, 
in the brink of death when transported from E's house to my house, 
frozen to eternity for few more days inside my freezer
before at last (!!) going into their final resting place. 

Shock turns into nervous laughter into logic. My left brain kicked in. Even squids can have a freak accident.

For a long time I wonder if I should keep the fish. They inspired me to cook Sambal Goreng Teri (Spicy fried anchovies). 
I realize that there will be many outside my front gate who will appreciate this unexpected gift, were they in my shoes
But sorry.. I couldn't eat you. 
Not without thinking of where you've been.. 
Or what about to become of you.

Yucks! It's a good thing I have my gloves on. Gloves are very important, people!!! I couldn't emphasize more.

P/s: Recipe for salt & pepper squid is from here. Recipe of the chocolate coconut macaron is from here. Unlike their french sister, this one is easy to make. 

A cup of coffee

This time last year, I was packing and boxing 11 years of my life. I was eating, drinking and hugging people like there's no tomorrow. I was reminiscing my fears and finally my joys of a place I call home, a place that shaped and liberated me.

This time last year, I was very much afraid of what to come, how my life would turn, yet very much excited about finally joining H, of going to places that most people read about.

This time last year, my biggest fear was to be completely dependent on H.

Black-bottomed macaroon
This time this year, I say my grace. Of what I have become, of what is laid over my feet.

I say my grace. And get busy in the kitchen.

p/s: Btw Miss Angola won the current Miss Universe title!!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Day 11: Yakisoba & Yakitori

What I hate the most about cooking is not the cleaning part. I still can bear washing tons of pots and pans, gutting fish or even the occasional plucking feathers. But what I can't bear is those days when you're forced to make new friends who happens to fancy the same vegetable as you.

Worst is when your new friend (or an army of them) is still alive. Et gross, fat. Like a bad omen.

The turkey has been sitting on my fridge like a white elephant. And I decided to get rid of it today. For good.

Yakitori recipe is from here.
Yakisoba recips is from here.

Verdict on the Yakitori: It actually tastes good, surprisingly good. I would like to use chicken thigh next time, hence not as dry as Turkey. Breast. Meat. But otherwise, taste is very close to the original, even without Mirin & Sake. Chinese shiaoxing wine is a good substitute. I wonder what will happen if I reduce the flour.

Yakisoba is another matter. I notice that sauce ingredients are exact replica of Yakitori sauce, but with a different composition ratio. Yet I still blindly follow.. tsk. And I should have thought better before adding ketchup and Tabasco into Japanese cuisine. Bleh!  (Hang on, in my defense, I was thinking of Spam musubi). Luckily there's some extra Yakitori sauces that I can use to tone down the heat & the ketchup.

I don't know why but noodles are never my forte. I hate you dan dan mian.

Day 10: Ma po duo fu

Let's just say I'm extremely pleased with my Mapo tofu, while H ate no more than 1 cube. Said a long prayer before and quickly washed down with coke afterwards. Just short of gargling with mouthwash.

Recipe is from here.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Super Rugby Sunday Bash: Chicken Finger

H is a fan of rugby. So big that he'll wake up at 6.30am to watch a 7am game over the weekend. As a start, he rarely wakes up before noon if I let him be.

And as a doting wife (that I am), I prepare a snack the way Guy's Big Bite prepares for SuperBowl Final. With gusto and even bigger bite.

So while H was glued to the tv supporting South Africa, I prepared my uber reliable chicken finger. I made it often enough that I can contest French, American, Brit, Slovenian's sole complaint is not enough. Sorry lah!

Original recipe is from the now famous Pioneer Woman. You can find it here.  And here are my modifications:
* I made my own buttermilk, by using 1 cup milk - 1 tbsp milk + 1 tbsp white vinegar. Let it sit for 15 mins before mixing with the chicken.

* I usually pound my chicken, to tenderize the meat & better absorb the milk marinade. Usually.

* My secret is thyme. I add heaps of thyme into the final flour batter. It tastes great, looks great & smells great. Trust me on this.

* I put them in oven. My best friend.

As for the sauce, this is how H likes it:
1 tbsp mayonaise + 1 tsp Maille dijon moutard + 1 tsp Heinz ketchup + 1/2 tsp minced onion + a dash of red wine vinegar + salt + pepper.

et.. voila! Crispy crispy chicken finger.

Like a cattle being fed before slaughter, I'm prepping him with his fave before the big challenge tonight: Tofu.

"Look! Look! He winked at me."
"What? Who?"
"The Springbok's captain."
"How do you know?
"I looked at him, he looked at me. And he winked."

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Butternut Squash Risotto

While I fail big time in making my Indonesian dishes, He granted me some success in risotto. Ever since watching Giada eating butternut squash risotto in Chicago, I know I need to try at least once.

But my sweet, sweet H, teased me openly in front of his colleague.
"B, tu as besoin de vin pour faire risotto?"
"Boh, ma femme m'a demande d'en acheter." 
And both men laugh at the fact I wanted needed white wine for my risotto.
Ha! Just you wait and see. What do I know about european cuisine. Right?

Recipe is from here. Modifications is made in substitution Parmigianno with local soft cheese, hence not as salty.

Verdict: Let's just say I prepared a portion enough for four people, to share with B too. But we polished them off in one sitting ourselves. B can wait for the next round, said H.

* I question the quantity of the onion initially, but I am converted now. Onion seared with butter is a match made in heaven.

* I feel the sage doesn't enhance the dish at all. In fact, I think parsley would do it more justice.

* Roasted pine nuts are absolute necessary, it adds nutty flavour and some texture to the sweet and creamy risotto.

* I want to experiment with Parmigianno next time, or at least Pecorino. The current flamengo cheese works, but just to know where the difference is.

* I think peas will make a nice addition in terms of colour and some fiber.

That plate was meant to be my single portion. I helped myself to two more servings. Heaven.

Ramadhan Menu

Yesterday I spent a good 10 hour in the kitchen, preparing a dish and a dessert for about 60 people. I have never cooked for that many people before and it was very unnerving.

My original intention was to cook rendang, but finding a halal beef here is more difficult than I thought. Not only you have to order days (or a week) in advance, you gotta buy by the bulk. Suffice to say, we decided to change the beef into chicken gizzard & liver, rendang style. 3 kg each. As a start, I didn't have big pots or pans to fit in all 6 kg. I had to split into 3 different pots, each brimming with a mixture of liver, gizzard, spices and coconut milk. And my stove's fire was still too big that the coconut milk broke almost immediately and the liver kept on oozing blood. And nothing is worse than coagulated blood, they turn into gunk. The pots didn't look like rendang at all, in fact they looked fugly. Worse, they tasted only liver. Yucks!

By the afternoon, I was so desperate and called H crying because the liver was so overwhelming that I can barely taste anything else. No amount of beef stock, salt, instant spices, additional onions and chilli, or even coconut milk can help.

"So you think it's very bad? You don't want to bring it for tomorrow?"
"Well, I can bring. But I will not eat it myself."

Another call to a friend who convinced me to still bring it. Afterall it is a liver and gizzard rendang!!

Looking back, I should have reduced the gizzard : liver ratio, to 2: 1. Probably it'd better to half-boil the liver first so that the blood & juices will ooze out before I mix with everything and not spoiling the taste. Sigh. And I also learn that unlike beef, who will eventually ooze out some fats, gizzard and liver do not have any fats. This rendang did not self fry like how beef rendang does. So when you boil it until very dry, it looks fuglier than fugly. Imagine that!

Anyway, for dessert I made bola ubi (sweet potato balls). Recipe is from here and here. I modify by adding brown sugar (instead of white sugar) & cinnamon. Generally, it tastes good, but I'm disappointed that they are only crispy while hot. Aiyah!!

Ah well, you can't have glory everyday. Disappointments like these teach me that I still have a lot to learn.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Day 9: Butter Turkey with Naan and Cinnamon-poached Pears

Without further ado, I shall just yahooooo..

Recipe for butter chicken is from here and for naan is from here. I only substituted the tandoori masala with Chicken masala, fenugreek leaves with fenugreek seed. And of course, turkey instead of chicken.

Verdict: Wow.. I have never seen him eating that fast, and that should say a lot. Taste was just perfect, though I could go several notch spicier, but H wouldn't be able to appreciate it. There is a balance of sweetness from honey with the sourness of the tomatoes and the yogurt. I should really grind the tomatoes finer next time and cook slightly longer so it will dry up properly.

As for dessert, I made cinnamon-poached pears. Original recipe is from here. But I made quite a number of modifications.
a) Instead of using cinnamon stick, I opt for powder so that my pear will have that powdery look. I reduced the sugar amount, esp. since the pear is already ripe & sweet, just to balance the saltiness from the wine.
b) I ignored step 4 onwards as I have no idea what cinnamon sugar butter spread is.
c) Instead, once the sauce thicken, I added back the lemon juice from the pear marinade and whisk everything together before pouring it on top of the pears.

What came out is a great blend of sweetness (cinnamon, sugar, pear), sour (lemon) mixed heavenly white wine fragrant. Taste better when it's cold. Yowzah.

I'm so ready for weekend!

"You and me, it's written... My stomach is happy. Thank you, mon amour. You can have a nap today."

Tacchino al Rhum

I wasn't in the mood to eat Asian for lunch yesterday, frankly speaking. After rendang, we crave for something light. We weren't in the mood for any carbs either, given we've been eating rice almost every day. And I have a big chunk of turkey sitting in my fridge. Hmm.

I made Pollo al Rhum or in this case, Tacchino al Rhum.

Recipe is from here. No modification made beside substituting the chicken thigh with turkey breast.

Verdict: This is one recipe that only a thigh can do justice. At home, we don't eat much of other poultry parts beside breast meat. Even if we do, I always de-skin and trim all fats. But for this, I shall make grand exceptions! It was that special.

I like the fact that I'm not deep frying the meat, but slowly pan-roasting it first over butter, then with chicken stock and rum. I'll sub some of the butter with OO next time.
I like the fact that I get to use Suzie the Sage, ma petite herbe.
I like the fact that I get to use Rum for real cooking and not only for dessert. I am happy to learn that Rum doesn't turn food as salty as wine always does.
And most of all, I am extremely pleased by the sheer simplicity of this recipe.

It is a keeper!
Ma petite herbe and my chilli who refuse to turn red!!

Day 8: Minced Pork Dumplings

It is rare to find minced pork so I always make my dumplings with minced beef. But something about the taste is not quite right. Using beef, it's a little bit too dense and meaty. Maybe it's just up in my head. So when I found minced pork last weekend, without any va va voom, I took the entire 1kg of it.

Armed with Andrea Nguyen's tutorial in creating pleated crescent, I got busy. I dreamt of making extra to share with others. Show off.

Here's the tutorial.

 And here's my pleated crescent.

And here's another shape when I gave up trying and googled Asian American Potstickers.

Verdict: The end product looks insulting. My dream was dashed, no proud smiles of 'look what I did today', no showing off to the neighbours. H was like uh huh, chomp chomp, uh huh, wait, where's my dragon chopstick? chomp chomp, is it all for me? chomp chomp.

Bof, either the pork was too fatty or the pork was too fatty, it's too greasy for my taste. Aiyah, back to beef. Or mayhaps, mix of beef and pork next time.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Beef Rendang Challenge: Result

The blind taste test was a failure, simply because "buat gue mah, masuk mulut aja, gue makan aja loh!" (both are the same, I just eat). However, eventually, it was unanimously agreed that the contender B (the one I made from scratch) has more distinct flavor. "Lebih kerasa bumbunya..".

H gives me the score card, like a true engineer. He said contender B "looks like and has the texture of a real rendang. It taste a little bit spicier on the tongue, but for the Indonesian people it would be perfect. It tastes better than the instant one." Heh. So my effort is not wasted that I received a massage that night.

Personally, the Indofood instant Beef Rendang taste a tad sweeter on the tongue. I would think this is the rendang jawa style. The spices are grinded so finely that only a factory grinder can do. It tastes good actually. I have not yet tested Bamboe's instant rendang, so can't comment on which is better.

However, I personally prefer the home made version. In terms of taste, it's slightly salty and sour (thanks to the tamarind). I have a greater control on the spice ratio and the chilli. And because my food processor is not as heavy duty, the paste is rather coarse. You can still see the chilli and feel the texture of ginger and galangal. I like the idea of having the cinnamon stick, lemongrass, star anises on the serving plate - very homely.

On the same note, Y made kuping gajah to accompany coffee. She's known to be the queen of street food snacks. I honestly didn't know about this snack well until I was in Singapore. Even then, I never quite seen it in two colour such as this. She gave me the dough and I fried it at home myself.

Verdict: I was well on my fifth, or eighth (does it matter?) when H opened the fridge and asked where the ice cream is. He ate a total of one kuping gajah. In fact, he used it to scoop the ice cream into his mouth. Well done my love.

Day 7: Steam Fish for dinner. Or not.

One thing that I am proud to have inherited from my Ah Gong is the excellence to do fish proper justice. Since young, I seem to know instinctively the nook and crook of where the meat is. After all, it is said only a real chinese know how to eat fish. 

And perhaps it is exactly because of that, the fish god decides to make my life hell. In my current life, if I want to eat fish, I gotta clean & gut it myself. H is one of those "macho" man who goes eek over slimy stuff. His love unfortunately is not enough to clean the fish. 

the supposedly snapper, more like hobbit snapper I say

So last night I decided to do steam fish, take 2. Recipe is from here

Steam fish take 1 was "Too sweet!! Don't give me the sauce. I don't want the sauce... I told you I don't want the sauce!!!". So on this take 2, I decided to forgo the brown sugar all together. I've just thrown away my spring onions too, so this time it's a little bit on the "dry" side. 

Big, big, BIG mistake. 

Without the sugar, it tastes awful. Salty and sour. I tried to salvage it by adding a tiny spoonful of sugar to balance the taste, but nope. Didn't work. It never quite tastes like those steam pomfret in chinese dinner banquets.

H even refused to finish his portion and made himself two cheese and ham sandwich. Very good. So much for eating light dinner. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I kid you not!

A bonus, while I have internet connection.

(voice on tv) .. scandal over documents found showing that China has been supplying arms to Gadhafi, more on that later. But first I'm Rosemary Church and this is CNN.
"Good morning Rose. ... baby, what happen to the eggs?" said H, looking at the egg-white omelet.
"Oh, these are the egg whites left over from the Kue Sus."
"I don't eat egg whites."
"Just because it is not sunny and runny in the middle?"

And people asks whether I want to have children.

Day 7: The Beef Rendang Challenge

People doesn't believe me when I say cooking rendang is easy. No technique is needed. It's fool-proof and fail-proof. All you need is the ingredients. Mix everything on the wok over low heat, stir occassionally over a good 2 hour, at least. Mea culpa, but beouf bourgignon is far more complicate. Even Kue Sus is more difficult!

On the left, contender A, is rendang cooked with instant spices. Cooks much faster, after 1.5 hrs it turned brown as picture, ready for serving. Requires lesser coconut milk too.
On the right, contender B, is rendang cooked with spices from scratch. Recipe is a mix of my mum's and online recipe here. After one hour, you can tell I still have a long wayy to go. It actually took another 1.5 hours more to the point where I am happy to turn off the stove.

Today I will conduct a taste test among the Indonesian women. I shall update on the comments later.

Day 6: Beef Teriyaki with Roasted Bro-Cauli Indian Style

Opening your freezer to found yourself with a really good entrecôte you forgot you have is like opening a wardrobe & found  a never-worn-before dress you bought last season. Yeap, it's that good. Never mind that the beef is more than a few weeks old. H will call me names of course, but he doesn't know. So it won't hurt. Armed with some colourful bell peppers, I decided to make Beef Teriyaki a la Hoka Hoka Bento (a Japanese food chain in Jakarta). The recipe was passed down to me from my friend K, but as often the problem with me, I incorporate some, ignore the rest and call it my own. I like to think I trust my tastebud more than any recipe. Silly, especially when you're this new to cooking. 

For the veggie, I decided to roast a mixture of brocolli and cauliflower sprinkled with cumin seed, garlic, curry powder mixture, olive oil and salt. In this tiny household, I often cook Indian dishes. I like it for the richness of flavour. The fact they use yogurt instead of coconut milk helps my waist. H likes it because the spiciness doesn't numb his tongue and lips. 

One thing about H is that he eats Asian food like an Angmoh new to the Far East. Fresh. Off. The. Boat. Instead of mixing various dishes on his plate, he approaches the dishes in succession, in systematic order. Meaning, he'll first eat the vegetable alone like how one eats salad, then meat and rice. Never quite mixing the dishes, not even in his mouth. He'll push his food around so that they won't touch and "contaminate" each other. No amount of nagging can educate him, worst he'll say "Sssshhhhh, you're controlling me." Initially I thought his odd habit was cute. Maybe he secretly has autism? I have a superhero syndrome, if you can't tell. But now??? *roll eyes* 

Anyway, this allows me to mix cuisines, hence the odd combo of Chinese/Japanese and Indian.

Here's a look of his lunch today. 

Verdict: the teriyaki is very good, (the prime cut helps a lot) and roasting broccoli is not very smart, no matter how many recipes out there telling you to roast and roast and roast (sans washing even!). Roasted broccoli smells awful and tastes afwul. And dessert? Despite the disastrous kue sus, nothing that nutella can't cure.  

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Failure: Kue Sus Merdeka

Kue Sus or choux pastry or cream puffs. It's Indonesian, yet English and yet, it's French by origine.

Recipe is from here.

Verdict: I failed. Big time. They never raised. I've compared my recipes to others and the recipe is correct. But I don't know what cause mine to remain horizontal. 5 eggs gone wasted. Arrggghhhhhh!! Merde.

I, however, think the taste is just about right. It's tad too salty for me, maybe because I use rock seasalt. A mistake in pastry-hood. Anyway, I'm sorry but this is it.

"I don't like."
"What do you mean you don't like?"
" Well, aren't you the one who said I should reduce eggs?"
" Yeah okay, but it tastes good, wot?"
" Well, I don't like."
" It's profiteroles without the vanilla ice cream!!"
" Which vanilla ice cream? You bought vanilla ice cream?"

Day 5: Hua Juan or Steam Bun with scallions

Sunday is usually my most productive day. I will wake up early and bang the kitchen as often as my mood strikes. Since I woke up especially early today, I decided to make Hua Juan for breakfast. It is basically, a fancier version of bao or mantou.

It's been awhile since I last ate steam bun. The tastiest I've ever tried was in Shanghai few years ago when I was scouring the local neighbourhood. Nothing fancy but to pair steam bun with a red cold nose and frozen hands is quite out of this world.

Recipe is from here.
No modifications are made, recipe was followed to the exact measurement (trust me, this is an anomaly).

"Not enough salt"
"What do you mean not enough salt?? It's not a salty bread. It's meant to be slightly sweet!!" 
"Well, I don't like.."
" Fine. I will put chorizo inside."
" Ok, do one now. I test your concept.. "

And that's how I have a chorizo steamed bun.
" Hmm.."
" What now?"
" How much chorizo did you put?"
" Well, I diced them and put them inside.."
"Well, not enough. Too much bread for me"
" Hmm.. I like."

Day 4: Lo Mai Kai

Lo Mai Kai or sticky rice wrapped on a lotus leaf is a classic Cantonese dish, our third leg whenever we go dimsum. When one craves for dimsum, one only has to dangle Lo Mai Kai and bijiu (preferably Tiger) in front of H. He loves it on a first try. We've tried many all over Asia, including in its birth place. But nothing ever come close. Well, you can never get over your first love, can you?

One thing that's often missing from all other Lo Mai Kai is an egg yolk. Whenever eating Lo Mai Kai, H would carefully unfold the lotus leaf, and systematically dig for this golden nugget and cry foul if he doesn't find one. For H, if it doesn't come with the yolk, "it's not a real Lo Mai Kai" he said. So on this maiden attempt, I wanted to catch his dream Lo Mai Kai.

Recipe is from here and here.
I married the two, because they are essentially one and the same with slight variations. I added ebi (dried shrimp), left out lap cheong (chinese sausage), sans chinese 5-spice (I really need to find this!). Of course, an egg (half per portion).

Now, anyone who has ever attempted to make deviled eggs will understand my sweat & tears. I've tried many ways of peeling egg: cover it with cold water, peeling under tap water, tap and roll method (I even watched Andrea Nguyen's tutorial), but I never, ever, succeeded in peeling a perfect egg that's as smooth as baby's bottom. It's my itch that refuses to go. How now? What if Lenotre's pre-requisite is a baby's bottom egg??

Anyway, here we go..

Verdict: "Shhhhh, be quiet and let me eat", said H. For me, it was really good. It was a very decent Lo Mai Kai. The sweetness and saltiness are there, the chewiness from the hioko, the pungentness of the ebi, everything is present. Hooo rahh.

However, the chicken has to be cubed smaller, a tinge more dark soya sauce (colour has to be two shades darker), and of course, egg has to be basked with chicken marinade (mine is still white despite the good rubbing of soya sauce)!!

Can I now whisk out my wooden trolley? "Lo Mai Kai, Char Siew Bao, Har Gao, Xiu Mai,.. Shui yao mai?"

Friday, September 2, 2011

today is the day I take a break

... and cook something surprisingly good like this one. Really simple and I have to say the 4 hour of roasting is really worth it.

No photo. Too hungry :D

To justify my hiatus, I am happy to report I'm soaking, preparing, and cutting for ... *drum roll* ... lo mai kai for tomorrow!!! Together with chicken feet, this is something that I'd eat on my last meal.

Bon weekend a tous. Gros bisous. 

Day 3: Grilled Fish in Banana Leaves

I love fish. H loves (only) fish. Give him fish any day and he'll be one talkative bumblebee. Give him red meat, he'll feel he's a man, YEAHHH.. while secretly wishing for fish. Fish grilled in Banana Leaves should be a good compromise, no?

Recipe is from here.
Modification made on lime (being substituted by lemon) and the disappearance of curry leaves. I think the fact I didn't use Roma tomatoes made a lot of difference too.

Verdict: I would have liked it to be spicier, but generally it was surprisingly good! I used to eat the Indonesian version of this, but the addition of Garam Masala actually works. It would definitely taste (or smell) better on grill. I shall give it another go next time I get my hands on some good filet. I forgot H doesn't eat with his hands. Only with fork and knife. Sigh!!!

Afterthought: maybe next time I'll do with my pestle & mortar toy to pound on the tomatoes, shallots & garlic. Some red chilli are needed. End it with a lime, and definitely longer time on the pan. Or grill.

Day 2: Lemongrass Chicken

After rain, my second favourite smell on earth is possibly lemongrass on oil. I miss eating Thai food a lot ever since I married H. Possibly my favourite cuisine after Chinese. Heck, who am I trying to kid here??? I love vietnamese, korean and Indonesian food too.. I just love eating. Period.

Recipe is from here.
Slight modifications made on lemon substitute (instead of lime), the number of chilli I used, and the lack of red gorgeous chilli. Sigh, the things we gotta live without.

Verdict: Hip hip hoorayy!! This is a recipe that I'll shamelessly claim as my own. Haha.. Kidding aside, every thai lover should try making this every other day. H loves it so much that he pro-actively sms me to let me know!

He even told me to use the lemon, because without it, it doesn't taste as good. What a surprise, coming from someone who doesn't really like lemon, beyond uber sweet lemonade!

Afterthought: I shall brown the chicken a lot more, more enticing and inviting that way.

Day 1: Ayam Goreng Laos

Aka Galangal Fried Chicken. I think Galangal is actually Laos, instead of Lengkuas. Whaddaya think?
Recipe is from here. No modification at all (I'm no michelin chef)

Verdict: successful (very successful if I may say, since H hardly asks for more unless it's good).
To create un repas complet, I paired it with green beans & brown rice. You'll soon see, H & I are health-freaks.

p/s: H always, I repeat ALWAYS, demands dessert. Below is another look of his lunch. Him being a good boy, ate only 2 out of the 3 carrot muffins.

30 days of asian cuisine

H is a fussy eater, I didn't know how fussy he is until I married him. Well, unfortunately the factory doesn't allow goods to be returned, despite some defects.


So earlier this week, I declared a month-long of Asian cuisine to educate him on the food that I enjoy eating and I miss the most. When you can't buy it, you just have to roll up your sleeves and make some. Perhaps beyond cooking for H, I need to prove to myself that I am not a banana. That he's damn lucky to marry me! Heh.

So. Please indulge me as I go about my challenge and occasionally, pardon my french.