Sunday, October 30, 2011

Tomato and Basil Soup

It was with pleasure I found affordable cherry tomatoes. It was unheard of. Usually a bag can easily cost 18 usd, but just last week, I found one for just 3 usd. I grabbed 4 bags. All in the name of tomato soup, tomato tart, pasta and anything else I can experiment.

Damn you lighting, but trust me, the colour is not yellow. It's orange, though not deep tomato reddish orange. 

Tomato and Basil Soup (serve 1)

* 10 cherry tomatoes, halved
* 1/4 onion, chopped
* 1 tsp garlic confit
* 1/2 tomato, any type, roughly chopped (you can add more, but this is all I have. It is said using different types of tomatoes will give you an interesting flavor)
* water
* 1/2 cube chicken bouillon
* 2 sprig of basil leaves
* 2 tbsp OO
* Black pepper

How to:
* In a bowl, mix the cherry tomatoes with some OO & coarse sea salt until they are coated. Transfer to baking tray facing up and roast them for 1-1.5 hrs in the oven, 175 C. You want them to be a little wrinkled but not too dry. 

* In a pot, sautée the onion & garlic until the onion turns brown. Add in the chopped tomatoes, water just enough to submerge the tomatoes & the chicken bouillon. Let it boil.

* Add in the roasted tomatoes together with whatever juices you have on the roasting pan. Also add the basil leaves. 

* Using stand in blender, process till smooth. Season with black pepper. I didn't have to add salt. Taste is perfect as it is. 

Serve warm and lick your pot if necessary. 

Duck Salad

Last post on the duck week. 

A very simple salad
duck breast + lettuce + cherry tomatoes + walnuts
vinaigrette (1/4 cup OO + 2 tbsp red wine vinegar + 1 tbsp chopped shallots + lemon zest)
coarse black pepper

I didn't have any oranges. 
Otherwise, it would have been a blast. 
Oh well. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Cauliflower Relish

I was simply looking for an activity, any activity to make my weekend aimfull, instead of aimless. H has been away for 3 days and he's returning come Monday. So I was really ecstatic to see this recipe since I badly need to consume that cauliflower that has been sitting in my fridge for weeks!

I happen to have alll ingredients, and still I modify as I please :)

Cauliflower Relish (serve 2)

* 1 medium heat of cauliflower, cut into small floret
* 1 big red chilli, deseed
* 2 anchovies
* 1 garlic clove, minced
* 1 tsp thyme
* 1/4 large yellow bell pepper, diced
* 1.5 tsp diced red onion
* 2 bay leaves
* 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
* 3/4 tsp minced ginger
* 1-1.5 tsp lemon juice

How to:
* Blanched the cauliflower. Drained and set aside.

* In a pot, heat up the OO and add in garlic, chilli and anchovies till the anchovies melt.

* Add in the thyme, bell pepper, onion and bay leaf. Cover the pot till bell pepper turns soft. Add back the cauliflower and season with salt. Mix well and cover for 2-3 mins.

* Transfer mixture to a bowl. Add the vinegar into the pot used to cook the mixture. Cook till quantity has reduced to half. Once it does, add back the cauliflower mixture, ginger and lemon juice. Mix well till vinegar coat all cauliflower equally. Taste & adjust the seasoning.

I ate half of that immediately (it was so full of flavor!!) and keeping the other half on the fridge for tomorrow, as per recommended. I am curious how the taste will turn like ;)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Failure: Salted Duck Soup


I'm not very happy with the result of the original recipe. I felt it lacks the oomph from the sour plum, which I then I sub with tamarind. The closest sub I have.

But even so, cabbage is a poor substitute of swatow. 

The fact that I use shredded duck, instead of meat with the bone, is another culprit. But I remedied that with the duck broth (from the bone) I made the other day.

I added a light soy sauce (Maggi) to balance the flavour a little bit more.

Overall, I polished off the whole pot by myself. In one sitting :) It was still sourish & salty & peppery hot with duck meat, but so far off from the one I remembered slurping off a big bowl in Sin Ming, Singapore.

Anyhoo.. I'm sitting on the fence with regards to the recipe (hence I'm not posting it) but I will probably venture on it again one day.

Teochew Braised Duck, Lo Ak

I'm so very pleased with the result, with the exception that the breast meat is not as moist as those sold in hawker centre in Singapore. I also called my dad to let him know I'm cooking his favourite food :)

I would have felt guilty (just a tad!) if I cook this and H couldn't eat it at all. But since he left quite abruptly this morning, I felt no guilty whatsoever. I tuck them all into my tummy faster than you say, omg.

Original recipe is from Rasa Malaysia (my primary source for anything chinese related). I basically halved all measurement, and use only half breast meat. I'm keeping the other one for magret de canard.

Here's the original recipe and here's how I did mine.

* half duck breast, heavily sprinkled with coarse sea salt
* 1 4cm-long cinnamon stick
* 2 star anises
* 2 cloves
* 1/2 tsp sugar
* 1 tsp coarse sea salt
* 1/2 tsp crushed black peppercorn
* 1 lemongrass, crushed
* 1 2cm-thick galangal
* 1 cup water, plus more
* 1/4 cup dark soya sauce

How to:
* In a heavy bottomed pot, add in all ingredients (except the duck) and let it boiled.

* Turn to low heat, then slowly lower down the duck breast meat. Add in water if necessary, to make sure the duck is half covered. I didn't have to.

* Every 5-10 mins (when you can take your eyes off whatever you're doing) bask the meat with the sauce. Turn it if necessary.

* Cook for at least 1.5 hours till very, very, tender. Add more water if needed, so it won't dry out.

Enjoy with duck rice, duck egg, bean curd.. sigh.. if only we're in Asia. I didn't wait and tuck them in right after I hung up and took the photo :) Yummm..

Banana Chocolate Muffin

I have tried many, MANY, muffin recipes, including eggless muffins.

But this is the one I swear by.

This is the one that others ask me to make more often. This is the one that B kept for breakfast, only to swallow it whole just before sleeping. At 23h30.

This is the one that H can eat 5 within a day. Hang on, maybe it's me. Or maybe both of us.

K gave me the ideas to make muffin with streusel. Strange that I have never heard of it till then. Ha! But my muffins sure do look prettier. I shall never look back. Icing sugar, move aside.

I wrote the muffin recipe down in my little green recipe book, but didn't write the source. For streusel topping, I copied from Mama-knows-best Paula Dean.

Banana Chocolate Muffin with Streusel (makes 18)

- 1 3/4 cup all purp flour
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup mashed banana (about 2 ripe medium-sized banana)
- 3/4 cup dark chocolate, diced, leave some big chunky pieces :)

Streusel topping:
- 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup quick cooking oats
- 1/4 cup butter, softened

How to:
* Preheat oven to 175 C.

* [Making the streusel] mix all ingredients in a bowl and set aside. If your streusel is too crumbly, not holding together into biggish lumps, add in more butter. Start with 1 tbsp. Squeezing them in your hands so they are firmly pack will work too. Just break it off later when you're about to sprinkle.

* [Making the muffin] In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt.
In a smaller bowl, mix the egg, oil, yogurt & vanilla.

* Dump the smaller bowl into the larger bowl. Mix. Add in the banana & chocolate, mix well.

* Into your muffin cups, pour till 2/3 filled. Topped the rest with streusel.

* Bake for 20-25 mins till tooth pick inserted come clean. Except the chocolate, that's supposed to still be gooey for days to come ;)

Oh so (not) Ratatouille!

I made another one pot wonder few nights ago, when time was of the essence!

Note bien: This is not how my mom in law cooks ratatouille. And most french would be insulted if I serve them this :)
But hey, I always make ratatouille when 
(1) it's time to clean the fridge; 
(2) cold weather; 
(3) I can't be bothered to stand by the stove. 

...Not as if anyone needs to have a reason.. 
Maybe I should call mine a Progressive Ratatouille. 
Radical Ratatouille. 

Ingredients: everything you have in your fridge, that you don't know how to use it.
* Make sure you have at least 2 big ripe tomatoes. You can use canned tomatoes, but it won't taste the same. 
* Some ideas: eggplant, courgette, bell pepper (colour!), okra, jicama, chorizo, pork sausage .. be creative. 

For the spices & herbs: 
* 1/2 onion, medium size - diced. Use more if you have loads of vegetable to clear.
* I also add fennel seeds, cumin seeds, peppercorn, thyme - all pounded, basil, parsley finely chopped. Do not use too many herbs. Use 2-3 at any time. 

How to:

* Chopped all ingredients into bite size, taking into consideration, things like aubergine, courgette, tomatoes will shrunk and turn soft. It's okay to have them in larger size.

* First, brown the onion. Then add the ingredients that take longer time to cook, like jicama. Otherwise, dump all ingredients all at once.

* Pour some stock/ water until it submerge the ingredients by half. Cover and go do your thing. Check and stir every 15 mins.

* Once all ingredients are cooked, add in the leafy herbs, if using. Before serving, season & adjust to taste.

* Keep the leftovers for the next day. It taste even better! Can be eaten cold or warm.

Btw, I finally did what Nigel Slater suggested, I put a cheese rind inside. I used the leftover from manchego. Boy, I was panic for a moment or two and call Nigel a big (not) fat liar when I couldn't find the rind. Forget that he suggested parmesan hence a much harder cheese.

I found it eventually, while scooping onto the bowls. I like the additional cheese burst it oozed, but H said this is so NOT ratatouille. hehehe :P

Tomato, Basil and Duck Pasta

This is a very easy dish that you can do when you have cherry tomatoes. Only cherry tomatoes. Even organic roma tomatoes can't help you. I saw Giada de Laurentils made this very simple dish some time back, so super easy that you can give it a twist or two yourself.

These are the key ingredients. With 1 clove garlic, minced. Salt + Pepper.

Step 1: Cook your pasta. 
Giada used spaghetti, but we love Cassarecce (it means home made in Italian, but it's a type of pasta by the Italian brand Bastillo). 

Step 2: Cook the sauce
Brown the garlic with olive oil till fragrant before adding the tomatoes

Step 3: once tomatoes are softer, use the back of your fork and flatten it
Don't forget to season with salt, it will draw the tomato juice out even more!

Step 4: While waiting for your tomatoes, chopped the basil leaves. 
Giada used mozarella, but how am I going to manage my budget if 1 small bag of mozarella is 8 usd? 
If you are using mozarella, chopped them into small cubes and place them in the serving bowl you're going to use later. 

Step 5: Putting all together.
Drain the cooked pasta, add them into the pan. Turn off the heat.
I added cooked shredded duck at this stage.
Sprinkle some basil, coarse black pepper & some more salt.
Mix well. 

Step 6: Plate them into a serving bowl (over the mozarella, if using) and mix them. 
Sprinkle some more basil, coarse black pepper & I grated some pecorino.

Buon Appetito.

"Baby, it was very good. Great lunch, simple but tasty like Jamie :* Thank you. Kisses. I love you."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cassoulet, Canard et Carcassonne

Carcassonne is a beautiful medieval small town 30 mins driving off Toulouse. It's a nice idyllic place with a small castle and towers surrounding the town. H took me to this place two Christmases ago to taste cassoulet at its birth place (??). Looking back, I don't remember anything particularly special about the cassoulet there. But I do remember farting all the way to meet my in-laws to be. Not exactly the best first impression. Blame it on the nerves, blame it on the beans, but it's all H's fault, really. 

Anyway, today I decided to grease my way up to H's heart (so he'll loosen the wallet a little bit) with cassoulet and confit du canard. You can eat cassoulet on its own, you can eat confit du canard on its own, but the french knows the best way to eat them is to have both on the same plate. The way it's done by ma belle mere, the way it's done in Bourdain's Les Halles, the way it's done in Carcassonne. 

recipe coming up.. ! 

Duck week: The Game Plan

shredded duck meat and its broth

The game plan for this week:

* Cassoulet served with duck leg confit *
* Lo Ak (Braised duck, Teochew style) *
* Salted Duck Soup *
* Stir fry duck noodle *
* ??? * 

Let's see how long I can make this bird last.

Pickling Cabbage

When I was still working as a junior executive of some sort with crappy working hours, my then-colleagues and I often abused lunch hour to go for food excursions. We would travel all over the little petite island, up north, down south, far west and east just to find the best gems. Always in two taxis, or one big car over a heavy downpour. Nothing stopped us back then. We had crappy jobs of being the person always got stuck in middle anyway. It wasn't bad by most standards, but we always had something to complain. And to gossip ;)

So one of the most memorable excursion is to eat Salted Duck Soup (咸菜鸭肉汤, xiancai ya rou tang) somewhere up north (I can barely remember the name of the place now! shucks, am I that senile??). Anyway, last July I heard they have closed down the place and no one knows where it is now or whether it had shut down for good, since the husband and wife duo are old.

Now that I have probably a corn-eating duck originated from France, I can't stop salivating about this soup. Heck care if H won't eat it at all, I can lick the pot dry. Provided my pickled swatow (mustard green vegetable) turns okay.

Let me rephrase it, provided my pickled white cabbage is giving the taste it should. It has the right smell, but cabbage can't be compared with mustard green in terms of texture and thickness. But I'm desperate. That desperate. My parents will laugh till the cows come home if they heard about this.

Original recipe is from Taste Hong Kong, here, I use the exact measurement, except that my cabbage is 150gr.

We'll see how it goes in this thursday. Time to pray for magical things in this kitchen. Yahoo!

n.b. If you are craving for a nice salted duck soup, and if you happen to be in Singapore, go down to Hong Lim hawker centre, 2nd floor. By the middle lane, 3rd vendor from right, there's one hawker selling roasted duck meat and make one mean salted duck soup. Next to vendor selling chinese pancakes, curry puffs & chinese fried desserts. When you turn your head to right and see the longest queue for bakchor mee, you are at the right spot. I believe they are the only one selling salted duck soup. Even my dad agreed with the flavors. And that's rare.

n.b.2. I know it's not a direction worthy of michelin. But hey, that's how I remember things.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Mignon le porc a l'ail

I swear I spent a good few days to search for a recipe that won't alter the good pork shoulder I have. I do not want to waste this prime cut I have and mask the flavor with sauces. So I turn to Les Halles' classic, Mignon le pork a l'ail, which is basically roast pork with garlic. I served it over sauteed & roasted vegetables.

Original recipe is courtesy of Anthony Bourdain. It looks complicated, but trust me, it's easy and it'll be worth it!! Here's how I did mine over the weekend.

(note: the original cut of meat is tenderloins, but use what you have).

Mignon le porc a l'ail (serves 2)

* 1 head garlic confit
* 300 gr pork shoulder
* 2 slices of bacon
* 1 tbsp OO
* 2 tbsp butter
* 2 shallots, thinly sliced
* 1/4 C white wine
* 1/2 C chicken stock
* 1 sprig parsley

How to:

* [Preparing the pork, a day before] Cut the pork the long way (horizontally) into half. Spread the mashed garlic confit on the lower half, top with bacon, another spread of garlic confit and place the other half-pork on top. Tie with kitchen string, equally throughout the tube. Refrigerate over night.

me and my "thin" bacon. You can do better.

* [Cooking the pork] Preheat oven to 180C. Remove the pork from fridge. In the saute pan, heat OO over high heat, add 1 tbsp of butter. Once the butter stops foaming, season the pork with S+P and add into the pan. Brown all sides. Place the meat onto roasting pan and finish cooking in oven for about 15 mins. Once done, set aside and keep the drippings.

* [Making the sauce] On a pan, add 1 tbsp butter over medium heat. Add shallots and cook till soft. Turn to high heat and add the wine, until it turns thick to a glaze consistency. Your home will smell heavenly by this time. Then stir in the chicken stock & any drippings from your roasted pork. Cook till it's reduced till half. Add the remaining butter, any left over garlic confit & parsley and whisk.

* [Plating] After you cut the kitchen thread, pour over the sauce on the pork before serving. It will keep the meat moist & flavourful. If you're serving it over a bed of roasted vegetables like I did, pour spoonfuls of sauce onto the pork, avoiding drenching the vegetables too much.

Note: you will have some left over sauces. Keep it for next time you roast your beef, pork, chicken.

Bon appetit, cherie. 

Duck week coming up!

Nectar of 1 whole duck :)
Duck is such a tight-a** animal. Have you ever tried butchering one? No? Neither have I but this morning I tried to truss it the way you truss chicken. Into 8 pieces. Only to realize how tight-a** the animal is. Literally. If there's ever a war between the chickens and the ducks, the ducks will win hands down. Just by the sheer density of its bone and strength. In short, this person, moi, didn't manage to chop it with a recently-sharpened chef knife into 8 pieces (You need chinese cleaver to do that). I managed to get 6 instead (2 wings, 2 legs, 1 breast, 1 whatever remnants you want to call it) and looooooads of duck skin and fats. You can tell I'm happy right? Keep all the excess skin from the neck and those sweet spot near the a**, any classic french recipes will tell you to sauté your potatoes and confit with this sweet nectar.

I have a lot of new respects for this bird now. Not only did it make my life hell, my kitchen messy and oily, I can now prepare several big classics. Hah! Who says living in Africa has to be depraved. It didn't come cheap, this 2.1 kg bird.. (slightly over 20 usd for a frozen one), but I can now make cassoulet for H and Lo Ak (braised duck, teochew style) pour moi :)  canard a l'orange can wait till next time.

But for now, I'm turning the "carcasses" into a nice dark duck broth, first by roasting it. Man.. I can't wait to start!

Roasting the bones, in 180 C till brown
5 mins into roasting, can you see the nectar yet??

Oh this week is so going to be a wonderful week!! I can feel it.

n.b. I think my duck is male. I had a short biology lesson while trussing.

n.b.2. If you worry about your ever growing girth like me, Frenchies believe cooking with duck fat is "healthy" or at least, healthier than cooking with pork fats. I will enlighten us on this soon. Hang in there, and keep the fat!! 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Chai Latte Chez Moi

Alors, les bleus sont été battu par la Nouvelle-Zealande All Blacks. Hein, c'est dommage! J'ai prepare mon panier sur online shopping. Car s'ils avaient gagné, H serait m'acheté quelque robes. Mais le réalité est différent. Boh. Qu'est-que je peux faire? Rien. 

Donc, je me fais un petit truc :) comme Chai Latte..

I had never tried this drink before, well until we were in Pretoria. Because H had been sick and weak and things were taking toll on me, I decided to splurge on a Chai Latte, basically a spiced Chai (Hindi & Urdu for tea) with a shot of espresso. Other people wouldn't have called it splurging. But at that time, I couldn't be bothered with anything else. I just wanted a little treat.

And today I decided to replicate it at home. It really is so very simple. Original recipe is from here, but I did mine with a "twist". You know I never follow recipes ;)

Chai Latte Chez Moi (serves 2 tall glasses)

[Chai Base]
* 2 cups of water
* 2 bags of black tea, any black tea will do.
* 2 cardamom pods, pounded/ grinded
* 1 full clove
* 1 cinnamon stick, 3cm long
* 1/4 tsp ginger powder

* 1 shot of espresso for each serving
* 1.5 - 2 tbsp condense milk for each serving
* Milk foam, optional
* Sprinkle of nutmeg, optional

How to:
* [Preparing the Chai base] Mix everything and boil for at least 5 mins.

* [Layering the flavors] Pour the chai base onto your mug and fill 3/4 cup. Add in the condense milk, stir, taste & adjust if needed. Lay over the milk foam on top, and sprinkle with some nutmeg.

* If you're having the espresso, leave the espresso on the espresso cup and serve it separately. Let your guest pour it himself :)

If you're making it only for yourself, don't bother to make it repeatedly every time you crave for one. Just make the base and refrigerate it. Reheat them for next time and add the necessary flavors.

I know I'm having Chai Latte tomorrow for breakfast ;)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Garlic Confit

Today didn't start very well. Driver was late by 1.5 hr for our weekly groceries, refused to pick up phone calls not to mention he switched off his mobile, the produce in supermarket were limited and of poor quality and many roads were closed due to demonstration (the 3rd one this week). So I thought it's only befitting to do something that pleases me. Something like Anthony Bourdain-esque :)

I have been following Bourdain's tv series but it wasn't until I saw the Boeuf Bourguignon recipe in now-defunct Almost Bourdain that I fell head over heels with him and his recipes. Ellie (the woman behind Almost Bourdain blog) often offered snippets of his recipe which was written with kick-ass attitude. Very much like the persona on TV, which often draw chuckles outta me. And he makes everything sounds oh so simple! So I was very happy to found a copy early this year in Cape Town, of all place.

Anyway, as I re-acquainted myself with him and his classic french recipes, I found myself making plans for tomorrow, starting with mignons de porc a l'ail, which is basically a roasted pork tenderloin basked in garlic confit.

Garlic confit is Bourdain's ass-kicking name for roasted mashed steam-garlic. The one that you wrap in foil, with some olive oil & salt, dump into oven until it's soft. I'm sure you know this, no? No?!?

Well, that's easy to solve.

This is what you need to do:

* 2 cloves of garlic, broken into pieces, but not peeled. Place over aluminum foil, pour 2 tbsp of olive oil, add a sprig of fresh thyme and pinch of sea salt.

* Wrap the foil into a bundle and shake. Bake for about 30 mins in 180 C or till soft. In the middle of baking, shake some more to ensure all cloves are baked equally. When it's done, mash with your fork or use pestle and mortar into a paste.

Voila. You now have what's called Garlic Confit.

Instead of making garlic bread with raw fresh garlic, I often use this. Spread it over my baguette and toast it with some very strong goat cheese. You should try this once, and let your uninvited-guests-who-came-before-you-are-even-fully-awake go oohh.. ahhh..

Anyway, I shall end this post with some words from the man itself..

"Having determined that you need be neither prodigy, nor genius, nor to the manor born, and that you do not have to live near a Dean & Deluca or be pals with Alice Waters to cook French food.... what do you need?
You need the will. You need the desire. You need the determination to go on - even after you've scorched the first batch of stew, burned the sauce, mutilated the fish fillet and lopped off a hunk of fingertip. You need persistence, the ability to understand that with every mistake comes valuable information. I'll tell you what I tell every rookie cook in my kitchen, after he ruins a perfectly good consomme: "Throw it out. Start over. Do you understand what you did wrong? Good. Now don't do it again." Know that you can read about breaking a butter sauce all you like; until you've actually broken it - just when you needed it- you won't understand it on an instinctive, cellular level. ....
Eventually, your hands, your palate, even your ears will learn, they will know when things are going right, and will sense in advance when things are in danger of going wrong.
You need love. Hopefully it's love for the people you're cooking for, because the greatest and most memorable meals are as much about who you ate with as they are about what you ate. ... You must like cooking for other people, even if you neither know nor like them. You must enjoy the fact that you are nourishing them, pleasing them, giving the best you've got. 
You must ultimately respect your ingredients, however lowly they might be. Just as you must respect your guests, however witless and unappreciative they might be.
Ultimately, you are cooking for yourself."
 (Anthony Bourdain, New York City, 2004) 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Moroccan Chickpea Soup

This is amongst many of my one pot wonder, which I shall be remaking any day now. I have been arriving home late, too hungry to fix anything up. H loves anything related to pois chiche (chick peas), except hummus. He's not such a big fan of it.

But this dish? He wanted me to teach ma belle mere this dish. Enough said, no? Original recipe is somewhere in the internet, but I make this often enough to not remember what was inside the original recipe.

Moroccan Chickpea Soup (serves 2 as main dish)

* Cooked/ boiled chickpeas enough for 2
* 1/2 medium onion, chopped
* 2 sticks of celery, chopped
* 1 small carrot, diced
* 1 large tomatoes, chopped
* 1.5 cup chicken stock
* 1 cup water or more if you want it very soupy
* 3 tsp OO
* 1 tsp salt (add into the pot in batches)
* 1 tsp spring onion (mixed of white & green parts)
* half of a small lime

How to:
Note: If you are using dry chickpeas like I always do, make sure you soak them in water 8 hours, and boil using pressure cooker till soft.

* Heat up medium-sized pot with oil, and brown the onions till soft. Add in the celery and carrots, sprinkle some salt & cover the pot.

* Add in the chickpeas, tomatoes, chicken stock and water. Let it boil and tomatoes soft, before you add the spring onions and the salt & lime. Taste and adjust to your liking. Enjoy!

Note to self: I want to experiment with adding the rind of parmigianno. Nigel Slater said that it can smoothen (and add) some flavours in whatever soup you decide to do.

Day 19: Chicken Curry Puff

Now that my classes have resumed and I'm on the road for most afternoons with back-to-back appointments, I need a snack to keep me calm and less neurotic during commuting. H says I'm at my worst behavior when I'm hungry. And isn't curry puff the perfect company? :)

H doesn't know what Old Chang Kee is, nor what curry puff is. But he could ate them as snack, main and dessert. Heh :)
I followed the recipe from Bee Yinn Low's Rasa Malaysia to the T. Well, not exactly, because I added egg in mine. Nyeh nyeh nyeh.. just to feel closer to my good ole Chang Kee. As usual, I didn't have all the required ingredients, but when does that ever stop me?

Chicken Curry Puff (make 34 curry puffs)

[a] Filling
* 2 large boiled potatoes, diced
* 1 medium red onion, diced
* 2 tsp curry powder, 2 tsp chicken masala, 1 tsp turmeric powder, 1 tsp chilli powder. Mixed.
* 1/2 cup diced chicken (breast) meat
* 1 tsp sugar
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 1/2 tsp black pepper
* 3-4 tbsp OO
* 2 boiled eggs, mashed/chopped roughly

[b] The Pastry
* 450 gr all purpose flour (I used T55)
* 140 gr butter
* 3/4 cup water
* 1/2 tsp salt

How to:
* [Making the filling] Heat up the pan & the oil, and brown the onion till soft & fragrant.

* Add in the curry powder mixes, stir well. Add in the chicken & the remaining seasoning. Half way done, add in the egg and stir. Cook until the chicken is done, but not too dry. Taste & adjust. Set aside to cool.

* [Making the pastry] Half melt the butter in the microwave. In a large bowl, sift the flour & salt, mix before adding the butter. Add the water in batches. You may or may not use all of the water. Knead with your hand (or if you have a stand in food processor, lucky you. Use the paddle) until it is well incorporated. Set aside, go take shower and come back in 30 mins.

[Putting all together] Once well incorporated, start shaping them into a ball of 2-3 cm diameter. Using the rolling pin, flatten them to about 3mm thick, and lay them over your mold. Fill in (not too full) and clasp them back into shape. (Or if you don't have one of those mold, good luck in pleating till dawn)

* Fry till golden.

Note to self: I would like to try adding 1 egg yolk and reduce the quantity of the water next time. To see if it can improve the colour a little bit.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Day 18: Fish head curry with Okra (minus the fish head and the curry)

What does that leave my dish? An okra stew of some sort :)

I l.o.v.e. okra. Slimey and crunchy. Weird combination but I love it. Another food that I grow to love as my palate develops. My 2nd time cooking Okra at home. In the past, I have chosen the largest okra I can find. But I learn they are not digestible, not to mention too hard and stringy like an old celery.

But this time? I will happily renounce my meat just to eat a big bowl of my Okra stew. *burp* Ooops!!

Original recipe is courtesy of Mongolian Kitchen here, and here's how I did mine.

Okra Stew (serves 2 as side dish)

* 10 medium sized okra, cut away the ends & chop in half. If you have the smallish finger-long size, it's better. Adjust the quantity
* 1/2 small onion, diced
* 1 clove garlic, minced
* 1 large + 1 medium tomatoes, peeled and pureed
* 1 medium size red chilli, deseed and chopped
* 1 tsp paprika paste
* 1 tbsp lemon juice
* S+P to taste

How to:
* Using your pressure cooker, heat up some OO and brown the onion. Half way through, add in the garlic and brown some more. Till fragrant.

* Add in the puree tomatoes, red chilli, paprika paste, lemon juice, salt & pepper. Taste and adjust to your liking.

* Add in the okra, stir and make sure they are coated by the sauce. Cover and cook for about 20 mins or so, till soft. If needed, adjust the taste before serving.

I also made some baked crab cakes, but nothing like those I had in Atlanta. Not even close. So I won't be posting any recipe for that.

Day 17: Thit Heo Nuong Xa

Exactly. It's actually grilled lemongrass pork. But I did mine pan fry and it tasted heavenly.

Now that H has somewhat recovered from all his fatigue and travel, though his body temperature hasn't stabilized yet, his appetite has returned. And I happily resume our asian tour. Starting with thinly sliced pork, marinated overnight (or longer) and pan fried. Boy, we couldn't have eaten faster.

Original recipe is courtesy of Viet World Kitchen here. And here's how I did mine

Lemongrass Pork (serves 2)

* 300gr thinly sliced pork shoulder, cut into 4x4cm size. Ou comme tu veux.
(For the marinade)
* 1 tsp light brown sugar
* 1 large clove garlic
* 1 large shallot
* 1 stalk lemongrass
* 1 tsp dark soy sauce
* 1 tsp fish sauce
* 1 tsp OO

How to:
* In your food processor, add lemongrass, garlic & shallot. Grind into a paste as smooth as your processor allows you. Add with the remaining ingredients (except the pork) and mix well. Transfer to a bowl.

* Coat the pork with the marinate. Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate it over night. Before cooking, remove the bowl from the fridge and let it sit in room temperature for about 30 mins.

* Heat up some oil in your non-stick pan over medium-low heat, and start browning the meat.

Serve over warm rice or like we did, over some nice baguette and make our own banh mi.

Note to self: I would make extra sauces so that it won't dry out. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Day 16: Pumpkin Fried Rice & Ice Cream Topping

One thing I miss the most from Singapore is my Yam rice with sliced-fish soup. I easily ate this twice a week for a late dinner post yoga. I couldn't find yam here, but this pumpkin rice is a good substitute :)

Pumpkin Fried Rice (2 pax)

* 1/2 C pumpkin, diced 1x1 cm size.
* 1 shallot, thinly sliced
* 1 garlic, thinly sliced
* 1 tsp oyster sauce
* 1/2 tsp light brown sugar. You can use any sugar you have.
* 2 ebi (dried shrimp), soaked & chopped
* 2 dried mushroom, soaked & sliced
* 1.5 C of cooked rice (I use brown rice)
* chopped green onions & parsley for garnish

How to:
* Heat up some oil and fry the shallot & garlic till brown. Set aside.

* Using the same pan, pan-fry the diced pumpkin. Sprinkle some sugar (to caramelize it) and cook till soft.

* Once the pumpkin is soft, add in the cooked rice, mushroom, ebi and stir. Add in the oyster sauce and mix well. Taste and season with salt & pepper. Turn the fire off.

* Add the green onions, fried shallots & garlic and mix well, then plate up. Garnish with parsley right before serving.

I serve it with pan fry Cod fish and end our very satisfying lunch with vanilla ice cream with home made topping. Thanks Jamie for the great idea!!

2 tbsp coffee beans + 1 tbsp chocolate + 2 tbsp hazelnut grind in food processor

"Aren't you glad to be back at home?"
"Yes!!!!! I miss my wife's cooking... and now I'm going to nap"

H & his wonderbra.
"I'm Tom Cruise in Top Gun"

Chicken Pot Pie with Puff Pastry

Pendant l'absence de H, j'ai vu beaucoup de télé, particulièrement Jamie Oliver's 30 minute de repas. J'etais excite par son fritata, voudrait faire une avec l'impatience. Donc ce soir, j'ai fait un chicken pot pie a la Fritata de Jamie. Avec pâte feuilletée. 

During H's absence, I watched a lot of tv, particularly JO's 30 minutes meal. I was so excited about his fritata, can't wait to do one. With puff pastry!

Although we both were very pleased with the result, it ain't pretty looking. Not something that I can bring to a dinner party. I found my chicken cream is tad too liquid, but H seemed to adore the fact he can dip and soak his bread with it. I purposely didn't do a thick creamy version. It's dinner after all, nothing too heavy for us.

I certainly will do it again and again and again until I can fold the puff pastry perfectly.

Chicken Pot Pie with Puff Pastry (2 pax)

* 4 puff pastry sheets
* 1 medium carrot, diced
* 1 small onion, diced
* 2 celery sticks, diced
* 5 button mushroom, sliced thinly
* 1/2 C shredded chicken breast. More if you prefer
* 2 tbsp flour
* 1 tbsp butter, 1 tbsp Olive oil
* 1/2 C to 1 C of chicken broth (I used the broth from my green chilly shredded chicken)
* 1/2 C shredded cheddar

How to:
* Preheat your oven to 175 C.

* (Preparing the cream chicken) In a pot, heat up the butter & OO, add in the carrots, onions & celery. Cook till soft about 5-10 mins.

* Ladle in some chicken broth if it's too dry. Otherwise, add in the flour & whisk till incorporated. Then ladle some more broth to your desired consistency. Add in the mushroom & chicken (you can add corn here if you like. H doesn't eat corn). Taste and add seasoning (salt, pepper, etc).

* (Preparing the puff pastry) Prepare a parchment paper with a size larger than your pie plate. I used a 9" plate and hence tear about 11x11" parchment paper. Scrunch it up into a ball, and put it under running water till it soaks up & soften. Using your palm, flatten it on a flat surface.

* Once the parchment paper is flat, lay over the first pastry sheet. Dab some OO all over it. Repeat for the 2nd one. Lay over the 3rd one 2 inches slightly upward & to the left than the first one. The idea is to create some excess with which you're going to fold on top of the pie, and serve as "cover". Lay over the 4th one slightly downward and to the right. Once you're happy with your enlarged puff pastry, lift everything incl. the parchment paper and lay it over your pie plate right in the middle. Push them in and follow the shape of your pie plate.

* Scatter half of your cheddar on your pie before pouring in the cream chicken. Top with the remaining of the cheddar.

* Carefully fold or pleat the pastry sheet and "close" the pie. Brush the top with some oil or butter. Bake for 15 mins or till golden brown. I also tear the excess parchment paper at this stage.

Like I said, I'm not perfectly happy with the pleating and folding of my pot pie, but for home cooking, it works :) H happily did the dishes afterwards. Yay!!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Baked Tuna Wonton

Inspired by Tuna Rangoon here, I sacrificed my wonton wrappers and made some party starters.

Tuna Wonton (yield 12 wontons)

* 2 tin of tuna, drained
* 2 wedges of cream cheese (I use President)
* 1.5 tsp mayonaise
* 2 green onions/ chives
* 1 small red onion
* 1 clove garlic
* 12 wonton wrappers.  I used spring roll wrapper that I cut into 4 sheets each.

How to: 
* Preheat oven to 175 C.

* Add the green onions/ chives, red onion & garlic in a food processor, and spin for 5-10 sec till they are roughly minced.

* Add the rest of ingredients and spin for another few second. Try not to make the paste too smooth. Some texture is better.

* On your wrapper, dump 1.5 tsp of tuna paste right in the middle. Wet the edges and fold into triangle. Repeat for the rest of wrappers.

* Bake for 10 mins or less, till brown. Leave in wire rack till cool. You do not want to burn your tongue.

Serve with cold beer :)

Personal note: I think I will add some water chestnut, or pistachio or diced prosciutto to give it even more texture as you bite through. Even some mushroom will be good. But H loves it as it is. The skin is very crispy and the tuna is very smooth :) 

They are gone within 5 mins. Watch out, they are quite filling.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Beet Root Chocolate Cake

What do you do when your guinea pig is away for a week and you are excited about a new recipe such as Beet Root Chocolate Cake?

You invite a few friends over. Yeap, that's what you should do.

Beet root is not something that I love on a first sight. But I embrace it because it's something that my in-laws serve on the dinner table. The rest of people on the aforesaid dinner table never touch it, but I need to buy their love, you see. So I do what I do best. I open my mouth and eat. And pull a purple teethy smile for everyone to see.

Ever since that day, I've been wanting to cook beet root in my own kitchen. But when I do, nobody touches the vile purple thing except me. How disappointing. So when I spotted Beet Root Chocolate Cake, I knew the perfect way to squeeze beetroot into H's life.

I did all the needful. The store bought beetroot came in smallish size, so I used 5-6 of them. I peeled the skin, chopped the ends, quartered them, covered them in water and boiled them. But half way through, I started to taste a little bitterness from my beetroot. Like a sap taste. Wot??? How come?? I googled and it brought me to Australian agriculture forum (reason: unhealthy soil, blablabla). How to remedy? If I dial SOS to my mom, it would wake the entire clan up. So I emailed Sala instead to seek her advice. And I pressed on.

I was so relieved to note that on the final batter, I can hardly taste the bitterness and yet there is this amazing sweet undertone from the beetroot. Something that you can't achieve with sugar. Wow. I was blown away. I used a 9x10 inch baking pan that I normally use to roast vegetables. Hell, it is a BIG cake.

30 mins and still not baked in the middle. I lowered down the oven to 150 C and set my timer to 4 minute frequency. I took me at least another 5x of checking, prodding and poking before I'm satisfied with the cake. Ma belle-mere always tells me not to bake a chocolate cake till done. She said that some part should remains gooey. And that's what I did today.

But as I left the cake to cool down, the middle part continued to sink down. Never mind, nothing that ganache can't hide :) And I'm happy to report that the cake was a smash hit. So hop over to Sala's site here or here's my version of the cake. Not that I change any of it, but you know how I like to short cut things :)

Beet Root Chocolate Cake (10 pax)


[A] Chocolate cake
* 300 gr boiled mashed beet root. See my note above. I did this the day before.
* 85 gr dark chocolate, melted using microwave
* 3 medium eggs
* 300 gr white sugar
* 240 ml vegetable oil
* 1 tsp vanilla extract. I skipped this part for having used all just earlier this week.
* 30 gr cocoa powder
* 200 gr cake flour
* 1.5 tsp baking soda
* 1/2 tsp salt

[B] Chocolate Ganache
* 250gr dark chocolate, chopped in small cubes. The smaller it is, the faster it melts.
* 250ml heavy cream

How to:
* (Preparing The Cake) Preheat your oven to 175 C.

* In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar and oil until well incorporated.

* Add in the melted chocolate & vanilla extract, whisk whisk. Put on your apron and slowly added the mashed beet root and continue whisking till it mixes well.

* Sift in the cocoa powder, flour, baking soda and salt. Fold in. Do not overmix or overwork.

* Grease your baking/cake pan with oil or butter and flour it. Tap out excess flour before finally pouring in your cake batter. I used a 10x9 inch baking pan.

* Bake for 30 mins or more, till toothpick inserted comes clean. For mine, it took me about 20 mins more, with heat lowered to 150 C the moment I saw the cake top cracking.

* (Preparing The Ganache) Heat up the cream in a heavy bottom pot over low heat. Do not overboiled them. Half way through, dump the chocolate inside and lift up the pot, to avoid direct heat contact. Using a wire whisk, stir till all chocolate melts.

* Once it's ready, pour over your chocolate beet root cake. Cool over room temperature before putting into fridge for at least 2 hrs before serving.

Verdict? If you're familiar with beetroot, you'll recognize the taint beet flavour. But if you aren't familiar, and not a fan of beetroot, you're in for a pleasant surprise. It's so so moist. Let's just say each of my very nice guinea pigs are bringing 1/4 of cake home for their husbands. Yahoooo! :)

That picture you see above is all I can save for H. It's my welcome home present for him. And some saucisson from France! Thanks Mrs T, you have just made me the most wonderful wife ever.

La betterave et moi, nous t'attendons. Come home quick! 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Green Chilli Shredded Chicken

Sometimes all you need is a chicken and some green chillies :)

Recipe is courtesy of Nugraha Family here and here's how I did mine.

Green Chilli Shredded Chicken (3-4 pax as a side dish)

[A] Chicken marinate
* 2 chicken thighs, 2 drumsticks, 2 chicken wings
* 3 cloves of garlic, smashed/ pounded
* 1 tsp coriander powder
* 2 tsp sugar (I used light brown sugar)
* 2 tsp salt

[B] Chilli sauce
* 7 large green chilli, roughly chopped
* 5 green chilli padi
* 5 cloves garlic, roughly cut/chopped
* 10 red onion, roughly cut/chopped
* 1 large green tomato (I didn't have green tomato, but used normal red tomatoes but with skin removed)
* 2 tsp salt
* 1 tsp sugar (I used light brown sugar)
* 1 tsp terasi (dried shrimp paste)
* 1 lime
* 5 kaffir lime leaves

How to:
* (Chicken) Put all ingredients in [A] into a pot and fill with water until it covers the chicken. Boiled till done and set aside. Do not throw away the wonderful broth, you can re-use it.

* When the chicken is cool enough to handle, use your hand and shredded the meat. Throw away the skin and any other gunk. Set aside.

* (Chilli sauce) Heat up 3 tbs of oil and cook the large green chilli, chilli padi, garlic, onion and tomato till soft. Then using food processor, mashed them to your desired consistency. It's better when it's a little bit coarse.

* Heat up a little bit more oil before you put the mashed ingredients back into the pan. Add the salt, sugar, terasi and lime. Bunch/fold/tear the kaffir lime leaves before adding into the pan. Cook till you can smell the leaves.

* Add the shredded chicken and mix well. Taste and adjust to your liking :)

Enjoy it over warm rice. But just so you know, I overfed myself. This is soooo addictive.

n.b. You can just do the chilli sauce and use it as sauce on the side. Selamat makan!

Monkey Bread Muffin with Dill

As you grow older, live a little and play a lot, there aren't many "first" anymore. They become very precious and scarce. At times, the need for "my first' becomes very complex and sophisticated. No longer one says one's first job, one's first travel abroad. These days one says one's first skydiving, one's first helicopter ride. I myself fall to the victim of trying to cross things in my bucket list. But this morning, I figured, I'm going to leap from the clouds I've been perching myself to some resemblance of earth. This morning, I'm making my first Dill bread. Or my first Dill. Period.

Since I have no stand-in mixer, no paddle whatsoever, I knead everything by hand. Maybe that's why after 30 mins, I feel my bread is still a puny. The recipe said it would yield anywhere from 40-56 balls of 1-inch size. My 30-min dough will yield 20. So I put it back into the oven. I live in a tiny studio-sized apartment. So when I need a warm place, I turn on my oven to 50-60 degrees and put the covered bowl inside.

My 1 hour dough eventually yield 64 balls. I must have made them in varying sizes and tad smaller than 1 inch. I started by greasing my muffin pan, and fill each cup with 5 balls. But soon after dunking the ball in dill butter, there was a pool of liquid butter in each cups. Hence some of the cups are left ungreased.

You'll see that the balls don't have a nice round shape. That's because my hands were over greased with those dunking and shaping the following balls became almost impossible. Never mind. It's for home consumption anyway.

I baked them in 150 C (instead of 190 C) and bake them longer. They didn't rase as much as Ashley's one, but boy, they are so delicious! I couldn't stop at one and ate three muffins, right before I head out to gym. Oh, well done, S!

Anyway, recipe is from Ashley Brower here and here's how I did mine:

The dough:
* 2 tbsp warm water + 1.5 tsp boulangerie yeast + 1 tsp white sugar, proofed about 10 mins, till bubbly.
* 2 1/4 cup bread flour + 1/2 tsp salt, mix well
* 1/2 cup  milk
* 1 egg
* 1 tbsp melted butter
* 2 tbsp dill (i use 2 strands fresh dill and cut them using scissors)

Dill butter:
* 3 tbsp melted butter mix with 2 strands of chopped/scissor-cut dill.

How to:
* Preheat the oven to 50-60 celcius.  Grease a bowl with butter and set aside.

* Sift the bread flour & salt. Add with the yeast and mix well. Gently knead with your hand.

* Add milk, egg and melted butter. Mix well before you add each subsequent ingredient. Lastly add in the dill. Knead about 5-10 mins until the dough doesn't stick to the edges or your hands anymore.

* Put the dough into the greased bowl. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and a wet terry cloth. Put back into the oven for about 1 hour. While waiting, make the dill butter.

* Once the dough has raised (it won't double in size), punch and knead a little. Then start shaping them into 2 cm sized balls. Mine gave me about 60ish.

* Dunk the balls into dill butter mixture, before assembling them into muffin cups. 5-6 balls per cup.

* Put it back into the oven for another 10 mins or so till they rise a little. Afterward, take them out and turn the oven knob to 150 celcius.

* Give the balls another brush of dill butter, sprinkle with some sea salt (I used coarse sea salt) and put it back into the oven for 20 mins or till done.

And the rest is your story. Make sure you wash your hands before. Enjoy!