Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

I shall give myself a huge pat on the back. I'm so very proud of myself. Another cookie and another success :) Tee hee.. baking ain't no difficult. No mountain ain't high enough perhaps. At least until I come face to face with croquembouche.

Anyway, I should give thanks to Smitten Kitchen for her great recipe.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

* 113 gr butter, soften/ semi-melted
* 2/3 cup light brown sugar
* 1 egg
* 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
* 3/4 C all purp. flour
* 1/2 tsp baking soda
* 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
* 1/4 tsp salt
* 1 1/2 C quick oats
* 3/4 C raisins
* 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped [I used a mixture of hazelnuts & walnuts]

How to:
* Preheat oven to 175 C

* In a large bowl, cream the butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla extract till smooth. In another bowl, sift in the flour, baking soda, cinnamon & salt.

* Slowly whisk in the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Add in the oats, raisins & nuts. Once well incorporated, keep in fridge for about 30 mins (it is said to make the cookie thicker, I know no chemistry).

* Bake about 10-12 mins until edges are brown. You can bake longer if you like them crispy.

Come thursday, I'm off for some sun salutations in the morning and hopping to an island off Luanda for the rest of the afternoon. Yahoo! And I'm going to bring these sweeties and mac & cheese in a cup! You see, sometimes life is "tough" ;)

Ciao ma bella..

Baked Chicken Spring Roll

I like my spring rolls baked, not fried. More waist-friendly. 
Extremely crunchy just with a smudge of oil on your fingers :)

Baked Chicken Spring Roll (10 rolls)

french beans, sliced slanted
grated carrots, some bean sprouts
2 cloves garlic, minced
(not shown) 3 dried shiitake mushroom, soaked for few hours till soft, then minced
(not shown) 1/2 scallion, sliced
(not shown) 1 chicken breast meat
1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp salt
10 spring roll wrapper

How to
(not shown) rub the chicken breast meat with OO, S+P and baked for 20 mins (10 mins each side).
When it's cool to handle, shred them and set aside. 

In a pan, heat up some oil and add in the garlic till fragrant, add in the mushroom.
After a minute or so, add in the rest of ingredients.
Season with 1 tsp salt + 1/2 tsp salt + some pepper
Add in some chicken seasoning if desired.
Once all vegetables have turned soft, turn off the fire and cool the ingredients.

Because I wanted to share this with my vegetarian neighbour, I set aside the vegetable before mixing the rest with the shredded chicken. 

Preheat oven to 180 C, while you start folding the spring roll. 

Spray with some oil and bake for 15 mins on each side
Or till brown. 

Serve with nuoc cham.
(3 tbsp lime juice + 2 tbsp sugar + 1/2 C water + 2.5 tbsp fish sauce)

A Simple Beef Stew

Once in awhile H & I would go out to have lunch at a restaurant along the beach. Most of the time, the meal is forgettable. Just few weeks ago, we paid $100 usd for a pizza, a burger, 1 margarita, 2 beers and 1 cappuccino. The margarita came un-chilled, at room temperature. I sent it back, asking for ice, it came back with some ice cubes floating inside. I cursed and took a big glug. At least, the taste is right.

So when I realized 1 kg of tenderloin is $46 usd, I know I should tread with caution. No fancy smanchy recipe because the stake is high. So after careful consideration, I decided to make a beef stew. A very simple beef stew.

I was very hesitant at the beginning to use beer. As I tried last time to cook Beer Can Chicken, I didn't fancy the taste that much. But recipe after recipe of Beef Stew, I can't escape from beer as one of the main ingredients. Suffice to say, I'm so glad I didn't run away from it. We had a hearty lunch accompanied by some spring roll and tarte aux chocolat ;)

Original recipe is from Wishful Chef here. I modify as per what I had in my pantry.

A Simple Beef Stew (serve 2)
300 gr tenderloin, cubed
carrots, baby potatoes, celery sticks: diced.
half onion, minced
garlic confit (use fresh garlic if you want)
1 tsp paprika paste, cherry tomatoes, S+P
1.5 cube of beef bouillon & water
1/3 bottle of beer

First, brown the beef with OO in a heavy-bottom pan. If the meat sticked onto the pan, don't worry. Brown all sides, then set aside. 
Your pan will look like this. Do not wash/ rinse it. 
Next, brown the onion. Half way through, add in the garlic confit.
Add back the beef.
Pour in the beer, the bouillon & the water (about 1 glass, for the time being)
Add in some fresh black pepper & the paprika paste.
Cover and let it simmer for half an hour. 

If the stew has started become dry, add in more water.
Add in the rest of the ingredients. 
Repeat till you get the desired thickness of the stew. 
Over small fire, let it cook for another hour or so.
This is how my stew look like after 2 hrs. 

Because I didn't peel my baby potatoes, they retain their shapes. 
We polished the entire pot in one sitting. H had 2 servings :)

A taste of Lookal

Even after 14 months in Angola, I am still learning to cope with the various stereotypes slapped onto me.

* I look Chinese. Hence I must be from China.
* I must speak Portuguese, because I am presumably from China who is always eloquent in the local language. Having said that, Chinese is often mocked for their short tongue and funny accent.
* I should not worry so much about safety, because Angolans do not mess up with Chinese who is good in Kungfu, ninja and all things martial arts.
* Singapore is part of China. Worse, some OECD residents tried to fake recognition about where the hell Singapore is, when their eyes clearly show they had no clues.
* I am Asian, hence I need to be given geography lesson. On one occasion, one girl introduced herself and said I'm from Belgium, it is next to France, to which I replied in French, quel cote? a le nord ou le sud? Peut-etre l'ouest?
* I am married to a white boy, therefore I must be more open minded than same-origin/race/nationality/.. couple.

Mostly it is simply about educating them. For e.g. you rarely see Angolan in mixed marriage. There is, but not aplenty. In fact, when we double date with D & R, the men on the street would call her whore and other names, never to R (who is a french man), but always to D (who is an Angolan girl). Why are women always the victim? But that's another story.

The various stereotypes about Chinese and China, a lot of it are valid (though I cannot think of a more stupid lemma than security & safety in relation to my race). But the negative connotation also comes as a result of poor quality chinese products available here. I'm not only talking about lightbulbs or mobile phones. Most chinese companies here work in the construction industry. They are the ones building the hotels, offices, houses.. They hammer the nails 24x7, 7/7, they will finish the job faster than any other construction company, but they also often do not do a good job. E.g. You can't close the toilet door on a new, minted office building. Why? Because the locks aren't parallel hence do not latch each other. But when you find the same thing one cubicle after another, you surely get the gist? Another e.g. Our current guest house was said to be built by Chinese company not more than 6 yrs ago. And look, the roof is leaking everywhere.

Having stated the poor quality of Chinese constructions, I cannot not mention that it is the duty of the owner, building manager, etc to ensure the locks are working, the roofs are built as per specifications, timeline is met, budget is managed. Regardless of nationality or background, it is his/her responsibility. So if the house owner doesn't do his job, don't come home crying and bitch the construction company instead. In fact, I'd call him silly for paying that amount of money for that kind of quality.

I guess all in all, Angola is still very much an immature country. You can tell from the billboards. You can sense it when you're discussing a hypothetical situation. Even H's new office building has disco lights on the outside that are switched on every evening. It doesn't even exude business and professionalism but hey, let the freedom of expression run free. This country has not been free for a long time.

[Addendum: the road works happening along our guest house has been on going as long as I can remember. The goal is to widen the road, create more roundabouts and demolish all buildings by the seaside. A good 4 months ago, the first part of the roadwork was completed. A long stretch of smooth road accompanied by a wide berth of promenade, complete with exercise area (chin up, sit up, etc).  The second part is now happening. It involves of widening the roads (from 2 lanes into what looks like going to be 6 lanes) and creating roundabouts. Just last weekend, I noticed they had started demolishing the tail end of the newly-built-promenade, because the 2 new lanes will be running directly on top of it.]

Monday, November 28, 2011

Tarte aux Chocolat a la David Lebovitz

Thanksgiving certainly flew by me without even stopping for a second. It was a glorious day, great weather. Not too warm but still sunny. Any attempt to curb your appetite and watch out your figure should be abandoned from that moment onwards because festive season has officially started.

I, for one, can not imagine festivity without chocolate. A very decadent chocolate at that. I am eternally indebted to David Lebovitz's for his great chocolate tart recipe. Armed with beginner's luck, I managed to get everything right on the first attempt. I also happened to have the foresight to buy chantilly some weeks back, which pleasured the boys silly. I don't like cream on my cakes, and let's not even start on fondant. I don't know why though, but I always love Strawberry Shortcake but always from afar.

I am sure the measurement in his recipe is correct, but I used tart silicon mold and the yield is completely different from David's. Anyway, here's the great Chocolate Tart a la David Lebovitz.

The Tart shell (yield 6 tarts + 3 small-ish shells)
(the one you should go to, if you want a crumbly tart, not one you want to make for your quiche however. Note the ratio of flour : butter is 2 : 3 instead of 1: 2 for normal quiche)

* 90 gr butter, diced
* 3 tbsp water
* 1 tsp vegetable oil (I used soy bean oil)
* 1/8 tsp salt
* 1 tbsp sugar
* 150 gr flour

How to: 
*Preheat oven to 210 C. Mix all ingredients in a pyrex bowl except the flour. Let it sit for about 15 mins or less, till butter has completely melted and you clearly hear the water boiling & bursting. 

* Take the bowl out from the oven, add in the flour little by little while you whisk at the same time. The texture of the dough will be crumbly. 

* Once it's cool enough to handle, press down into your mold. Not too thin, but not too thick. Poke with fork, lay some beans on top and bake for another 15 mins till the shells start to brown.

* Let cool while you start on the filling. 

Chocolate Filling (enough for 12 tarts + 3 small-ish pies)

250 gr (1 1/4 cup) sugar
* 6 tablespoons warm coffee
* 115gr butter, cubed, at room temperature
* pinch of sea salt
* 115 gr semisweet chocolate, chopped
* 55 gr bitter chocolate, chopped
* 2 large eggs
* 35 gr (1/4 cup) all purp. flour
* 1 tablespoon dark rum or 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
(I used 1 tbsp white rum and 1 tsp vanilla extract ;))

How to:
* Preheat oven to 180 C. 

* In a cast iron/ heavy bottomed pan (it's a must! use a large one) spread over evenly the sugar. Over medium fire, let it caramelized. Once you start seeing them liquify at the edges, pull towards the center so that the caramelization will happen evenly. 

* Once everything has liquify, turn off the heat and stir in the coffee. Watch out, they might splatter out. 

* Add in the butter and salt. Whisk till well incorporated, then add in all the chocolates till melted & smooth. If your caramel started to solidify, just put the pan on the smallest fire and they will liquify again. 

* Let the caramel cool down a little before adding the whisked eggs. David didn't have to, but I waited for about 3 minutes and the eggs still curdled up. Don't be disheartened, nobody complained or noticed. 

* Lastly, stir in the flour, rum and/or vanilla extract. Pour into the prebaked tart shells and bake for 15 mins or so, until the chocolate threatened to crack and yet still jiggly at the middle. 

Note: I happened to use dark chocolate (instead of semisweet one). If you do, serve with chantilly. Bring out your canister and let the child in you come out and play. Let the guests draw silly faces on the tart. It's nice to see how "artistic" some people can be :)

Chocolate Tart #2
Happy thanksgiving! Even if you didn't celebrate, take some moments and give thanks to the one above, for His grace is always sufficient. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Breakfast Casserole

Ah.. what a wonderful breakfast, though I should warn you that this is best eaten as brunch. Once we remember to put out spoon down and drink our juices and coffee and what have we, the stomach has been growing all sides.

Anyway, I took the recipe from Everyday Home Cook which is rapidly becoming my bible to cook anything simple and delicious. Here's the original recipe, and here's how I did mine. Sans exact measurement.

Prep done on the night before: On your casserole dish, cubed some left over bread just enough to fill in the bottom. Layer with bacon, some mushroom, and grated cheddar. 

In a medium bowl, whisk some eggs (I used 3 eggs), 1 tsp dijon moutard, salt and pepper, and lastly, milk. 
Pour the egg-milk mixture into your casserole dish (or in my case, my casserole cover) and left it soak over night inside the fridge. 

On the actual day, bake for about 30 mins over 200 C. 
I actually went back to sleep till the smell of bacon & egg woke me up.
Do not follow my footstep. H gave me a long speech over this.

Enjoy & have a great rest of the week!

(Thanks Alicia for the great idea!)

Broccoli Soup

H has many strengths, but choosing a broccoli is not one of them. He can spot a good bargain (1 floret for just under 4 usd, as opposed normal price of 10 usd) but seems to always fail choosing the good ones. Or maybe there isn't anything good, hence it's so darn cheap. Hmm..

Anyway, I don't have many ideas of eating broccoli besides broccoli salad, steamed broccoli or stir-fry with garlic. So I welcome the idea of broccoli soup :) Especially when I can use the entire floret while it's still in good condition.

Heat up butter and OO, add in the chopped onion. Stir fry till translucent. Add in a heaping tbsp of flour, mix/ whisk well.

Add in water, little by little while continue whisking. Don't worry about quantity of water, you can always adjust later on. But make sure you have enough to cover 3/4 of your chopped broccoli.
You can always opt for vegetable/ chicken broth, instead of water. You can substitute some water with cream or even milk. But if you use milk, make sure you turn to the lowest heat (you don't want your milk to start breaking). I also added in some mushroom at this stage.
Cover and let the broccoli cook till soft.

Once it's boiled, I start seasoning by adding 1 cube of chicken bouillon, grated cheddar, black pepper, a dash of clove and 2 drops of tabasco. 
Cover and let the cheddar & chicken bouillon mix with the rest of ingredients.
Taste & adjust, add more salt or pepper or more tabasco if needed.

Voila. You have a hearty broccoli soup.
H and I, we had 2 servings each, in another words: we finished the entire pot.
Followed by ginger cookie dessert. Hmm.. life's not too bad ;)

n.b. You can tell that I am not bothered with exact measurement. I am not. I can be anal when I want to (read: most of the time) but I let myself free when I cook. And so should you. 
Trust your taste bud, don't be bogged down with the details or precise measurement.
If you don't have all the ingredients, use what you have.
If we can eat well in Angola, with the wallet in tact, so can you!
Good luck

n.b. 2: You do know that when you bake, you need to follow the recipe to the T, to the exact gram, don't you? Just sayin'..

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Ginger Cookies

One thing that always stumped new comers to Angola (or Africa for that matter) is the consistency of products. The problem is not about finding things. You can find Rogan Josh's Chutneys here if you know where to shop. Fresh norwegian salmon, no problem.

But what pissed most of us, or yours truly at least, is how you can find things one day and not for the rest of the year. There are plenty of live chickens, but I haven't been able to find chicken breast meat in any supermarkets the past 2 weeks. You have to take frozen chicken and cut into pieces when all you want is breast meat, for example. Now imagine when you need 6 chicken breast meat.

Eggs are another example. The eggs that we buy in a pack of 12 comes in varying sizes. Some puny, some tall (note: tall. Not large). They certainly aren't the best eggs for baking, especially when you need them for bronzing/ colour. Worse, I couldn't find egg in several supermarkets last week that when I saw they are sold free-style (no brand whatsoever), I bought 40 of them.

That's why going to supermarket becomes an adventure. You don't know what you will find. There is no consistency of brands (even to the most basic item such as shampoo, detergents, butter) nor there is consistency of quality. And if you're not careful, you'd be paying double for the same item sold in another supermarket. Yeap, there's no consistency of price at all. Sometimes you can even find french butter such as President or Elle & Vire cheaper than local angolan butter such as Angolana. Within the same aisle. Side by side. Won't you feel like you've just hit a jackpot? I certainly do.

Hence why I've been suspending baking. I couldn't found my usual brand for dark chocolate, and what's available is the Lindt dark chocolate of a reduced price of 6 USD per block (200gr). I have been coveting David Lebovitz's chocolate tart, but I have to put the idea aside for the time being.

Instead I make ginger biscuits. They are oh so very easy and taste extremely good. I'm so going to make a big bunch to share, a Christmas cookie of some sort.

Original recipe is from here. I'm re-writing below in metrics.

Ginger Cookies (16 biscuits)

* 170gr self raising flour
* 114 gr light brown sugar
* 1 tsp baking soda
* 57 gr melted butter
* 1 heaping tsp ginger powder
* 1.5 tsp honey (or any golden syrup)
* 1 egg, whisked

How to:
* Preheat oven to 180 C.

* Whisked the egg, melt the butter, then add all ingredients into a medium bowl. Mix well.

* Using your hand, roll in your hand the size of a small pingpong ball. Flatten. Ensure some space between each flatten cookies. The baking soda will make sure they grow in size.

* Bake for 15 mins or so. You can bake it longer, but when it cools down, it will be very crispy. We like our cookies chewy :)

Enjoy. I had 2 4 while typing this. Oh my gosh, this cookie is so so good. When they are semi-warm, it's chewy in the inside while crisp on the outside. I'm going to ruin my appetite before lunch.
And when I can found dark chocolate, maybe I'll make Ginger Chocolate Chip Cookies ;)

Alors, bon journée!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Shifting Paradigm

I used to think home cook food should be made from scratch. The dough, the puff pastry, the filling, the bechamel sauce. Everything has to be made fresh, with the freshest ingredients possible. It is only then I am allowed to feel that I have achieved something, even when the result tastes far from great.

But you know what, even the french bistros use shortcuts every day. You'd be surprise. The escargots you ate directly from their shells didn't come from a farm. It's most likely come from a can, shipped out from Taiwan and put into the shell right before they are sent to your table. The bechamel sauce came in a powder that you stir in with water/milk. And many, many more shortcuts. And there you sit in one cafe too many thinking your enjoying the best of french cuisine. Well, my friend, unless you go to a michelin star restaurant, do not over-assume. I know how? I watched the envoye special (a french documentary) recently.

And because of that, I decided not to feel embarrassed by my chicken coat. I swear it's better than KFC. It's certainly better than Angolized KFC which is called KFF here, Kentucky Fried Frango, frango being portuguese word for chicken.

So my dear fellow chefs, don't worry about shortcuts you make. Worry about washing the vegetables well, worry about not recycling your oil (if you do recycle), worry about using every single edible morsel, worry about not chopping your fingers off, worry about a balance diet for your loved ones. Whether you use short cut or not, it's a small element in the big equation.

My Kentucky Baked Chicken ;)

Chicken Chilaquiles

H and I love Mexican food. Whenever we travel out of Angola, we'll purposely hunt down restaurants by their cuisines. It's not as if you can't find taco shells or tortillas in Angola, but you must be willing to pay a high price for it as well. And in our grand scheme, no matter how much we love food, paying an Angolan price is never one of them.

But one reckless day, I decided to splurge a little bit and bought some corn tortillas and make chicken chilaquiles for lunch :)

Chicken Chilaquiles (serves 2)

First, make the shredded chicken. 
Set oven to 200 C. In a baking pan, coat a chicken breast meat with salt, chili powder  & olive oil.
Bake for 20 mins. Turning the meat halfway if it's a thick one.
Once it's cool enough to handle, shred the meat.

Secondly, the salsa. 
Dump 2 tomatoes, 1/4 onion, 1 green chili (deseed, if needed), bunch of cilantro, salt & lemon juice into your food processor. Process till desired texture. Set aside.

Putting it all together..

Brown the tortillas on both sides
Spread the mayonaise
Put a big leaf of lettuce
Add the shredded chicken
Add shredded cheese
Add salsa
et pour moi, some dollop of chili :)
Carefully fold into half moon, use a knife to aid you if necessary.

 Voila. H loved it so much that we're going to buy more tortillas :)
Next time we'll do a mince beef version

Have a great weekend!

Friday, November 18, 2011

I-I-I-I wished for you

.. my wish came true..

I love how goofy we can be.
I love how you let me wear your clothes as my lounging wear.
I especially love the little 'tradition' you set for us.

[Christmast 2010 at Nazare, Portugal]

"There are some good movies like Tintin, Tower Heist with Ben Stiller, and The Concert. Except the Ben Stiller movie, dunno if the rest are in english. Do you prefer going to a restaurant?" I texted him.
"I think restaurant is better, but wot do u prefer? :* " came the reply. 
"Agree. Restaurant it is! :)"
"Happy I am, my dark S..."
"Why dark?? Because I haven't showered?"
"No, my baby talks like in Star Wars. So u r my dark vader, very powerful. But I'm still the jedi of our couple ;)"
"And you, my husband, is a mega geek."

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Acar Kuning & Stuffed Snap Peas

I actually wanted to post something Indonesian-ey, something like Ikan Acar Kuning (Fried fish in yellow vinaigrette sauce). I sauteed the fish, I prepared the sauce.. short of adding the fish into the vinaigrette sauce when H asked, what is that smell.
"It's the sauce for the fish. Vinegar + sugar + few other things like onion, garlic etc.."
"No. I don't want the sauce. Eugh.. I don't like, mon coeur."
(sigh).. "Ok, so just the fried fish?"
"Yes. Just the fish.. Healthy food, yummy."

So my grand plan of Ikan Acar Kuning failed miserably. Fine.

Scrap the post, scrap Day 23 challenge. Hah, it's proving more difficult than I thought.

Anyway, last weekend I bought some snap peas to change from our usual diets of cauliflower, broccoli, etc. I usually sauteed it Chinese style with some mushroom, carrots & baby corn. In fact, I did just that to accompany H's fish.

But I thought I wanted to play a little bit with this mange tout (which literally means eat everything). What an apt description of moi :) I opened the fridge.. and grabbed some stuff.

First, half tin of left over tuna & one slice of charred red bell pepper
I added 1 tsp mayonaise, lemon juice & lemon zest as well.

I boiled the mange-tout for about 1 min with salt
And slice one side open to create pockets

I stuffed the stuffing inside and sprinkle with some pepper.

It tastes okay, but they aren't the best pairing. Hmm.. crap!!

H spread the extra stuffing over a toasted bread.

Yeah, double crap. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Day 22: Vegetable Fritters

Something to eat on the road.. la di dah! 

Original recipe is courtesy of Indochinekitchen here..
and here's how I did mine.
Dont worry about measurement. Have no fear.
Everything will turn out well...

.. eventually..
.. usually..

Start by chopping your vegetables. 
I used 3/4 can of corn, drained
6 long beans, chopped
 1 large red chili, deseed & chopped

In your pestle & mortar, 1 medium garlic, 2 candlenuts, several shallots. 
Pounded till turn into a paste.
Add in 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 white pepper, 1/2 tsp sugar,1/2 tsp coriander powder


And while rummaging my things, I found a can of beansprouts. 
Off they go to the bowl :)
Add 1 egg
5 heaping tbsp of flour (I actually used self raising flour, to make them fat :))
1 tbsp of chicken coating (I didn't have rice flour)
A little water.. don't worry about the exact measurement.
You'll soon see what I mean.

Mix them till they start gluing together and not too wet.
If still too wet, add in the flour. 

Scoop 1 tbsp into hot oil & deep fry till brown on all sides.
If you see them breaking (i.e. as in my case, several corns decided to fly solo), add in more flour
to form a thicker batter.
Don't worry. Drink a glass of wine.
Who cares it's 9am. Your kitchen. Your rules.
Don't forget to taste & adjust seasoning. 
Add salt, pepper or any seasoning if you wish.

Then fry one more.
Taste and adjust till you're happy.

I know my driver and I were very happy. 

"muito boa, madam"