Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas


A quick post from India to wish everyone a Happy Holiday and Merry Christmas. As we traveled from one city to another, our wireless internet connection sorta spotty. I will get back to check on blogs and comments once back to TO. Even as I am typing this, a message just shows up 'Could not contact ....' We shall see, then.

Part of 100s dozens cookies I baked before leaving for India. Hope you all have superb holidays and Merry Merry Christmas!!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge 2: Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting

Right away after I saw this month challenge - Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter frosting by Shuna Fish Lydon (http://eggbeater.typepad.com/) - I knew I'd make it for holiday brunch. Then as days passed, as I kept reading others DBs posts, I started to quiver. Mostly about the sweetness of this cake. Many DBs commented on how super extra ultra sweet this cake turns out to be - it's yummily delicious, but sorta very sweet too. And neither of us eat sweet things much. However, attempts of cutting back sugar seem to work very well to many DBs. So..I am all hope and eager to whip up this cake.

Everybody loved it!! 7 people, 12 triangles and I have no leftover. I totally fall in love with the frosting, and I am one of those people who usually scrape off frosting from cakes. But how could I not - when it's made with browned butter?!! This is the very first time I have made frosting with browned butter, actually first time of knowing there is such thing. Heehee..I am so going to use this frosting recipe on other cakes from now on.


Vik ate all the crumbs from the cake, kinda rare event on its own. As I sliced off the top and sides to make the cake all even, he picked on them and next thing I know all those bits were gone. It's quite of work, making the caramel syrup and then browned butter, but so well worth it!!

This cake's recipe can be found in Bay Area Bites (http://blogs.kqed.org/bayareabites/).

Thank you so much for Dolores of http://culinarycuriosity.blogspot.com/, the host this month's challenge and co-hosts Alex of Brownie of the Blondie and Brownie duo: http://blondieandbrownie.blogspot.com/ and Jenny of Foray into Food http://forayintofood.blogspot.com/

Friday, November 21, 2008

Mix and Match

Many of us have that one or two things that we'd just jump into it - no matter what. For example Vik, it can be snowing or scorching hot outside, but if you have soccer ball and enough guys to play a game. He'd be out within seconds. He is in that certain pool of people who would go golfing in 5 layers of clothing - to get the last game before the grass frost over. Or, my very best friend who loves to sing and she'd sign up to all sorta singing contest - just for the heck of it. The one that you really would hate to go to karaoke with, because it's all her songs!! Or it can be your song but she is the one who sings it.

Me, house renovating and cooking. Cooking. Not baking. Yet, two weeks ago when being asked if I am willing to 'help' out with holiday food drive, by baking some cookies. I said YES YES I WILL! No further questions asked - was not very smart, huh? I just have soft spot on that kinda thing. Never mind that I have my own baking plans for the holiday already. After quick tally up, in total, I will be baking about 150 dozens of cookies. Cookies baking is not big deal, so it's not like I am whining. Bread and cake is not my strongest suit. What I did not take into calculation is that .... lack of space!! Time, I can make time - though with 1.5 full time job and I do have life outside job, ya know - it gets crazy sometimes :) Still, I can do my work anywhere I want and cream-ing butter and sugar while reviewing specs - is entirely doable.

Space....we borrow friends' fridge. Yeah. And I don't do any fancy shaped cookies. My mom was horrified when I told her about sliced and dropped cookies. Eh, in her glorious days of running a bakery - sure she was a career woman and has another full time job as well, but there were always 5 girls working the ovens, shaping, molding, finishing, etc. My aunts and grandma on dough mixing. Mom came from her job and do super thorough checking. No crooked edges cookies. Checklist and what not.

Do you see any other pair of hands around here?! :) Truth is, she thinks I am crazy. In cute way. It's not that I don't want to ask some girl friends over for help. But the only way I can manage in winging these baking frenzy is that I do it in random times. I simply can't put away 4 solid hours.

Anyhoo, so I dig out this cheat sheet and thought to share it here. Up til now, I have about 50 dozens worth of cookies dough all packed up in freezer. I am a little bit nervous for the baking day (s) though. Gotta borrow some baking pans too. Maybe then I have to call up couple friends.


This spritz cookies is not even in 'the list.' My overachiever personality seems to take over last week and so I whipped up small batch of this. One of those breezy easy cookies yet just the right kind for dunking to tea and coffee.


What:
- 250 gr unsatled butter, room temperature
- 175 gr sugar
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 350 gr flour, sift with 1/4 tsp salt

How:
- Cream butter until fluffly and pale. Add sugar and continue beating to smoother texture.
- Beat in egg yolks and vanilla extract on low speed just until blended.
- Add flour-salt mixture to butter mixture, and stir with wooden spoon just until blended.
- Spritz using either cookie press or cone with star tips.
- Bake in the 375 oven for about 8-10 minutes.

Couple tips: Make sure baking sheets are cool - or dough tends to slip off when lifting cookie press/ cone on warm sheets. If dough starts to feel warm, put in the fridge for about 15 minutes. Oh and I only made half of the recipe, and comes up with about 2 dozens.

Thanksgiving Stuffed Turkey


This stuffed turkey has been a sitting duck (sitting turkey) in my draft for oh...1 month?! So before holiday season is over and next thing I know it's 2009, I thought to combine these posts together. It was fairly small Thanksgiving dinner - so I opted for stuffed turkey breast. Quick, easy and never had any leftover - while if it's whole turkey, I may have to make turkey sandwich, salad, chili, etc with the leftover.


The 'out from the oven' photo is not so great - it was 7.30 pm and I had to take it to the table quick. So it was literally point and shoot under my poor kitchen lighting.

What:
- 1 turkey boneless turkey breast, lightly pound to flatten it up.
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 3 sprigs of rosemary
- 1 tbsp olive oil
Stuffing is the combination of these (adjust ratio to own liking)
- red onion
- garlic
- wild mushrooms
- celery
- carrots
- sun dried tomatoes
- olives
- almonds
- rosemary, finely chopped

How:
- Marinate the turkey the night before in ziploc bag. Toss in olive oil, bay leaf, garlic and 2 sprigs of rosemary. Give it a good 'massage.'
- Cook the stuffing in olive oil.
- Assemble by placing the turkey breast, skin side down. Spread stuffing and leave about 1/2 - 1" border all around. Gently roll up - try to somewhat tighten up while rolling.
- The better way of doing it is using kitchen strings - which I completely truly absolutely sure I got in my kitchen drawer. But it's nowhere to be found. Since it's not exactly gigantic, toothpick works just fine. Secure the seam with toothpick.
- Place rolled up turkey breast on roasting pan. I use few skinny farmers market carrots as rack for it so that all the drippings would drip better. Also, it gives space underneath the rolls to brown up nicely, instead of creating icky mess. Tuck in sprig of rosemary under the skin. Brush top with some garlic infused melted butter. (Whacked garlic and let it sit in melted butter)
- Bake in preheated 375 oven for about 40 minutes - depending on thickness of breast. Using meat thermometer is of course recommended. But I just prick it with satay skewer and once the juice runs clear - it's done.
- I make simple gravy with the drippings and chopped up shallots.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Diwali Part 1: Moong Dhal, Palak Paneer, Chana Masala/ Chole

I have about 25 or so photos in my edit box, waiting for me to write up and post!! (Banging head) This is getting old, yeah? Listening to my excuses :) One day maybe I will post about all these goals I have in my to-do list and these past few weeks, I sorta have the opportunities to cross some of them out. But of course, having food blog has always been one of those goals too. So, pardon me and let's talk about better things.



Diwali Dinner Part 1, from our small 4 people Diwali Dinner on the 28th. Vik was not expecting an Indian dinner - thinking it'd be just some celebratory dinner with friends. Since we are having 'the' more authentic Diwali Dinner on Saturday with family friends, he thought I'd just wait to fix up Indian menu for that Saturday. But see..I believe in celebration, especially the fact that it was indeed a New Year. A small nice surprise is always a good thing, right? So I came home earlier and quickly whipped up some Indian dishes. Lit up few dozens of diyas around the house, some on balcony. He would have been fine if I didn't do it, ya know? But he was grinning when he got home and saw all these little candles everywhere. Now, let's hope sometimes before Christmas, I'd come home to a fully decorated Christmas tree in our living room, yeah?

I ended up making some bhajias, rotlis, Moong Dhal, Chole and Palak Paneer. Since I simply did not have the time to fix up dessert/sweets - which is extremely essential in Diwali festival. The other couple brought in tiramisu and eclairs. Mmhh...

Anyway, so maybe the most Gujarati dish in this dinner is the Moong Dhal. I have never been a huge fan of this dhal - in my head, mung beans are eaten as sweet dishes. While he thinks it should be savory. Well, it's New Year, so savory it is then. Chole/ Chana masala is a dish of chickpeas cooked in spicy slightly dry gravy. Which I prefer to eat with chips or thinly sliced baguette - and I did exactly that with some leftover the next day for lunch. Weird, huh?

Palak Paneer has sometype of sentimental value in it. ;) It was our first cooking together dish. Many moon ago on one Sunday he decided that we'd have some friends over for simple Indian meal. At the time, I did not have very well stock Indian pantry, ya know? Tons of spices, as Indonesian cuisine shares quite similarity to Indian's, but that's basically it. Just spices.

So it got to be something simple and did not involve too much running around to get the ingredients. We both love Palak Paneer and it is fairly easy dish, so we just went to grab some spinach and paneer. However, it did involve an episode of some of this green stuff jumping out from blender when my then-boyfriend did not put the lid secure enough onto the blender! Can't let him in kitchen, see?

Moong Dhal recipe is similar to this Dhal recipe. Simply swap the lentils/ beans. Pressure cooker is better way to go in cooking this dish - much faster process, but I just use regular soup pot. That said, it requires parboiling these moong beans for a while until it softens up before dumping in the spices.

Chole/ Chana Masala
What:
- 1 canned chick peas, drained and set aside in a bowl
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1" ginger, grated
- 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 small ripe tomato, chopped
- 4-5 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tbsp coriander powder
- 1 tbsp cumin powder
- 1 1/2 tbsp garam masala
- 2 green chilies
- pinch of turmeric
- few sprigs of cilantro, chopped
- 2 tbsp tamarind juice (mix warm water to 1 tsp tamarind paste)

How:
- Heat oil and fry onions, garlic, ginger and chillies until onions is soft. Add this mixture to drained chickpeas and set aside for now.
- In same pot, heat a little bit oil and toast coriander seeds for few seconds. Then add in all other spices. Fry.
- Toss in tomatoes and cook until soft, add tomato paste. Stir.
- Add in the chickpeas onion mixture to the pot. Stir and mix well. Add in tamarind juice. Cover for couple minutes.
- Add just enough water to moisten it up and form slightly dry thick gravy coating the chickpeas. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Toss in cilantro right before serving.
Palak Paneer
What:
- 1/2 block of store bought paneer, cubed and pan-fried for few minute and set aside. (home-made paneer of course tastes much better and I could have had put some efforts to make it on my own, but really...)
- 1 bunch of spinach, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 small onions, chopped
- 1 small tomatoes, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1" ginger, grated
- 1 tsp of each turmeric and groud coriander
- 2 tsp cumin
- pinch of garam masala
- 2 jalapenos (optional), chopped
- 4 tbsp of cream/ half and half (sour cream works well too)

How:
- Heat little oil and toss in onion, garlic, ginger and jalapenos. Fry for couple minutes until onion is translucent.
- Add in spices. Fry. Toss in tomatoes. Stir well.
- Toss in spinach and cook until it is slightly wilted. Add in about 1 tbsp of cream, just so that it has some liquidy consitency, for easy blending.
- Using hand blender, blend the mixture. We don't like it too smooth, so just blend until the consistency you prefer.
- Add in some more cream. Stir. Toss in cubed and fried paneer. Let simmer for few minutes.
- Just right before turning off the heat, add in chopped up cilantro and stir well.

Diwali Part 2 is coming up soon!!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

October Daring Bakers: Pizza

My first challenge as Daring Bakers. Am I out of my mind?!! I have said million times that I just don't bake (much). Cause I am scared. Too many unknown factors. However, I love challenges. What's better way of challenging my baking skills (or lack off) by joining Daring Bakers? And of all things I fear most to bake, yeap...bread type of baking and surely, my first challenge just has to be pizza!

That said, I do make pizza dough quite often; my aunt's recipe and I have been sticking with that very one recipe for years. So I was both excited and nervous when I see this month's Daring Bakers task. For this challenge, we are using a recipe by Peter Reinhart, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread.

The first step of kneading went great. Did not use mixer - cause I don't think my hand held mixer can take the abuse. I was bit worried when my dough did not seem to be sticky (supposedly, the dough in this recipe would be somewhat sticky) but it seems completely fine, based on my minimal knowledge of 'bread' dough. Next day though, woohoo..it smells heavenly, a tad of yeast smell. The dough looks delicate and just right (whatever 'right' is)

Problem arises when I was hoping that Vik would take picture of me tossing the pizza - it was somewhat of a rule in this challenge: toss the pizza and take a photo of flying pizza. He called from office and said he'd be running late. And he has a soccer match to catch within 1.5 hour. Factor in: getting ready, eat, catch up for a bit - I just couldn't wait for him. I tempted using the recording button - but yeah..it might end up recording just the ceiling or my feet or something.

Anyway, so move on to the last few steps. Now the dough becomes kinda super soft, softer than what I accustomed to. Did some knuckle stretching, rotating, flip about 1/8" to the air. Actually I did send it to the air and guess what, somewhere in midair, it decided to fold itself together. Take a deeeeeppp breath. Okay, so..that's the reason I took out 3 parts of dough from the fridge, knowing that some trial and errors may occurred. It turned out okay though, I 'repaired' it - by stretching and patting it back together.


Hence, I had 2 pretty good round shape pizza and one splattered looking oval. Did not use any rolling pin!! Usually I used rolling pin for pizza. I have decided on topping early on. First one is inspired by our favorite pizza from Terroni (it's one of our favorite places) - Polentona. Tomatoes, speck (smoked prosciutto), fontina, mozzarella and pine nuts. I used smoked mozzarella and holysmokeee..it was so smokey, so sweet. The sauce is just a simple tomato paste with chopped up garlic and basil, the whole idea of this pizza is to showcase the rich smokey salty flavor of prosciutto.


Second one, I have always loved mushrooms in my pizza. So I went ahead and do vegetarian pizza of creminis, capers, artichokes, olives with goat cheese and basil pesto as sauce. Then I did the last one, half and half for Vik's lunch the next day.

I have another 2 doughs in freezer and so tempted to whip up sweet one this weekend, after seeing so many great inspiration on other DB posts.

The verdict: This pizza sure worth the effort!! The process is slightly more complex than the other recipe I got, but the result is super rewarding. Vik ate 3/4 of the prosciutto pizza and about 1/4 of mushrooms one. When he got back from soccer, he did second round dinner.

Thank you Rosa for hosting this month Daring Bakers!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Pumpkin Choco Chips Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Cinnamon Frosting

Work was normal last week and I was planning to blog more often. Obviously, it simply did not go as planned. Practically, I have been sorting through my work 'zone' - if I may say, I am quite organized person (on the verge of obsessive) however there are days that my desk is covered from one corner to another. As well as floor space...and sometimes, wall. So I had to do some shuffling. Then closet swap - winter/fall clothing out from the box, summer goes in. With tiny closet, there is no other way of doing it.

All that and enjoying fall colors - I run better during fall and winter. I know it's different for everybody, but I have always thought there is something magical about fall and winter, hence I have upped my miles and at that, sore factor. Meeting up with girl friends for catching up. Enough excuses. A week late, but this is what I whipped up as dessert for our Thanksgiving dinner. I did not get to take photos of everything, trying not to make it into habit for asking our friends to sit on the table and wait around until I am done taking photos.

Vik came up with the idea of cupcakes. No extra dessert plates to wash, see? Though I thought, cupcakes for Thanksgiving dessert?? It does not fit the bill - Thanksgiving! Not bake-sale. Then of course, as I give it some thoughts. I know I wanted to do something with pumpkin. Know I don't want to roll out pie dough, so pumpkin pie is out. Something I can make ahead. When I saw a block of cream cheese in my fridge. Cupcakes with cream cheese frosting sounds just about right.

Do I have a recipe on my own though for pumpkin cupcakes? Of course not. I google-d around and found few different ones. However this one was actually from my pilates instructor. Well..she got it from Canadian Living magazine and changed some of the ingredients. How do I get a recipe from an instructor, long story short - I took her session for a while then switched to another instructor, we bumped to one another, she asked and I explained. Two months ago she started new class and as promised, I went in to check it out and I have been diligently going to her class since then. And couple weeks ago, we established another working relationship, she becomes my client. Gotta make back all the money I paid for membership!! The cream cheese frosting is finger licking good! It's what my host family used to whip up for their carrot cake and red velvet cake.

Cupcakes:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (I don't have any, so I just mix in nutmeg, ground cloves and cinnamon)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup milk (original recipe: buttermilk)
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (original recipe: vegetable oil)
few tbsp of chocolate chips (I added this simply because I have some in my pantry)

Frosting:
6 oz cream cheese
2/3 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt

How:
- For cupcakes: Mix all dry ingredients together with fork. In another bowl, whisk all wet ingredients together. Pour wet ingredients to dry and mix just until moistened. Fill muffin cups to the top. (Surprise surprise, I don't have muffin baking cups/pan, but I do have assorted brioche molds I got from Indonesia, so I used that instead)
- Bake in 375° oven for about 20-30 minutes until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- For frosting: Cream together butter, cream cheese, salt and confectioners sugar until smooth. Add in cinnamon and vanilla.
- In my dream, I'd have pipe the frosting to make it all nice. But in reality, I just spread it with spatula. It yields 11 cupcakes and all of them have different frosting design. Not because I have excessive talent in cupcake decorating, but simply couldn't decide which one could win 'the laziest effort of frosting' event. ;) So there was swirly kind, spikey, zagged, et cetera.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Bowl of Quick Chicken Noodle Soup at 2 AM


Alright, I think work life is somewhat back to normal phase and hopefully now I can post more regularly and able to check out everybody else' blogs as often like I used to. ;)

I don't think most of us inspects photos very closely, do we? I mean...other people's photos. Unless it happens to be a passion - photography or such. That said, what do I know?! Photography is not exactly a passion of mine. I may even consider it less interesting than gardening - and everybody knows how I feel about gardening! It hates me. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy beautiful photography, but not with me fiddling on the lens and buttons.

However, out of habit, I pay lots of attention on images (photos, drawings, art, etc). I am that annoying friend you have who will point to your wall arrangement and says 'That one frame there..I think it's 1/4" crooked" Keyword: FRIEND. I will never be that rude with new people - I may just pretend looking and admiring and when you are not looking, I'd nudge it a bit just for the sake of leveling it. ;) Kind of a person who installs toilet by looking at the diagrams, and not at written instructions.

Visual and all, this photo of noodle bowl. I took it at 2 am this past Thursday in my kitchen. It does not look very bad, I guess. And really, if you make some food at 2 am, you ought to be pretty desperate for food and photo taking shouldn't even an option, no? But the camera just sits there on the shelf so..might as well. Also, I am intrigued to see how it'd turns out - since natural light is not going to stay much longer anymore. Hmm...the result, I dunno. Maybe this is the time for me to start finding better spot somewhere else!! Can't count on natural light all the time, right?

Now the food..this is kinda food if I were to live in Indonesia, I can get it from roadside vendors at 2 am or 4 am. But since that is not the case, my kitchen it is then. It's comforting dish, homey and quick to whip up. Not as quick as PBJ, but I need to be away from my desk for a while and at 2 am..where am I gonna go to take a break? I guess, the right question is, where in the city that I can go in pajamas?

What:
- rice noodles, cook as instructed in the package, drained and toss in dash of oil
- 1 cup cooked chicken, shredded to chunks (I usually have some cooked chicken in fridge; for exactly this type of quick dish)
- 1 shallots, finely chopped
- 1 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1/2" ginger, finely chopped
- 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1/2 tbsp sweet soy sauce
- pepper
- handful of bean sprouts, rinsed
- few sprigs of cilantro
- 2 cup of chicken broth (Into soup pot, I dropped in half a tray of ice cubes frozen broth I made not too long ago, add some water, dash of salt and pepper - let it comes to boil)

How:
- Toss in chicken, garlic, shallots and ginger to pan. Fry for few minutes.
- Add in both soy sauce (salty and sweet). Dash of pepper.
- This is the 'street fare' version of assembling such bowl:
- Add small dash of sweet, salty soy sauce and sesame oil to the bottom of serving bowl.
- On top of that, put noodles (either let it that way for now, or toss noodles to soy sauce, I like to leave it alone just as is)
- Top with shredded chicken mixture and tons of bean sprouts.
- Laddle boiling hot soup on top. Garnish with cilantro or green onions or...ohhh...fried shallots!
- Add some hot sauce just before eating.

Happy Thanksgiving to fellow Canadian bloggers! Can't wait to catch up with blogs to see what's on the table.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Tofu Meatballs (You read it right, TOFU)


Been few days since I blogged last. I don't know how most of food bloggers can post everyday..hats off to you guys! :) Work has been up to my neck lately, I love my job very very much (thus, I will never complain about work load) and love food and cooking. However, these past few nights, by the time I hit home and done cooking, eating and cleaning up - and sometimes work for couple more hours. I just want to crawl under blanket in my pjs and not to move a single finger. I want to blame the weather. Yet, I secretly love cold weather. Odd, huh? Anyhow, I am truly impressed with fellow bloggers who manage to blog everyday.

Well, so I was doing some fridge purging over the weekend. With Thanksgiving coming, I got to empty up my fridge so that I have space you know..to put Thanksgiving related food. Been thinking about whipping up Derby Pie. Though it is way up there on 'too sweet, too sugary' stuff for my taste buds, Derby Pie has such a special place in my heart. Growing up, we made apple pie and some savory pie but that's basically it. It never occurred to me that there were gazillions different pie out there. Long story short, the family I stayed with during my early years in the States always make one or two home-made pie a week. Derby pie was 'our' first pie together. That was my first time even seeing pecans!!! Derby pie just brings back good memories.

Anyway, not sure why I am rambling about Derby Pie!! Maybe because I want a slice at this very moment...

So after major wiping, disinfecting, et cetera - there were not too many random things actually, but enough to make couple meals. I have half block of tofu and some 1/4 cup of ground chicken in freezer, yeap..1/4 cup, it was a leftover from some dumplings I made last week. Almost sad looking chives. Few packets of plum sauce - from those Chinese take out joints. 2 wrinkly looking long red chillies. Hmm...Vik is not a huge fan of tofu. I LOVE tofu, it's one of very few things I can eat in daily basis. However, I long learned that if I mix up the tofu with something spicy and almost like hiding it - he would not mind as much. Tofu meatballs then!! My gradma used to make a version of this with shrimps and we'd dunk these meatballs to sweet sour sauce. It was so good that we would keep counts on how many the other person has eaten, just to make sure it's all fair and square!! Hey, we were kids!!

What:
Tofu meatballs
- 1/4 cup ground chicken
- 1 cup of tofu, mashed
- 5 sprigs of chives, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1/4 tsp five spice powder
- 1 small egg, lightly beaten
- salt and pepper

Spicy Sour Sauce:
- 1/2 small onions, chopped
- 1 tomatoes, quarters
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 red chillies, slit to half
- 1/2 " ginger, julienne
- 4 packets of plum sauce
- 1 tbsp hot sauce/ sambal ABC
- 1/2 cup of pineapple nectar
- dash of sugar
- salt and pepper
- 1 green onions, chopped (for garnish)

How:
- Make meatballs by mixing all the ingedients together, shape into small balls. Either deep fry it, or panfry with little oil. It will be okay to bake them, but for not having no fat in this meatballs mixture (tofu and ground chicken), baking may dry them up pretty badly.
- While frying up the meatballs. Pour 1/2 tbsp oil in another pan. Toss in garlic, chillies, tomatoes, and onions. Stir until they get all soft and nice.
- Add in plum sauce, hot sauce, sugar, salt and pepper. Stir and let it gets to quick bubble. Pour in pineapple nectar.
- Toss in tofu meatballs. Stir and when it starts to boil, turn off heat. Garnish with chopped up green onions.

We opted to sit outside on our balcony for dinner - regardless it was about 11 celcius. Told ya I love cold weather. It wasn't too bad with such spicy hot dish and steaming bowl of jasmine rice. Oh, and I made quick broth (tips: when making home-made broth, always always freeze them in ice cubes tray, they work wonder!) with some random chopped up veggies. Soup slurping, spicy tofu meatballs. 11 celcius...was alright. Though few minutes after we done eating and all the heat from chillies were all gone, we literally pushing each other trying to get back inside. Hee..

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Fenugreek Crisps / Methi Methia

My previous entry talks about 100th posts anniversary and so on, and I did not think much about it, except replying to all the nice comments, of course. However, Vik checked it out later this afternoon, called me up and says 'What did you mean by 100th posts? The blog archive only shows 89' - Oh so much for my passionate entry about our courtship!! ;) Shouldn't he be oohhing?! EEEEeck. But of course to my own horror, OMG!! So why did I think it was 100th posts? I ran to my desk and ..huh..the 'Dashboard' section does show 100! Oh silly me, it counts those entries that has not yet being posted, isnt it?! There are times that I just load the photos and put a title, so I can work on my posts during breaks.

Thus in case any of you DO check on my sidebar, I was not making up about 100 posts in trying to lure and trick you guys in reading a little bit of my story!! :D

Anywaayyy, this was going to be my submission for Think Spice Think Fenugreek food event at Kittie's blog, I knew instantly that I'd love to participate. Just to quickly note though, I did not get to submit it - I was way behind the deadline and just couldn't type the entry soon enough.

At the time, I was thinking of making Oondhiyu, very hearty vegetables stew with morsels of methi dough. But did not get a chance to hit up Indian grocery store to get all the ingredients. However, methi methia in this dish is perfect as snacks as it is part of Oondhiyu. Seriously, it's like a thick crisps/chips bursting with exotic flavors. Serve with masala chai or just plain hot jasmine tea, yumm..for afternoon snack outside the balcony in this rainy weather.

For Oondhiyu, the making of methi methia is super easy, just mixing of fenugreek leaves with besan/ chickpeas flour and several other spices. As snacks, I have always added some extra this and that to jazz it up, whatever looks good at the time in my pantry. Still fairy easy thing to do.

What:
- 1 cup of gram flour/besan flour
- 2 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves
- 1 jalapenos, coarsely chopped
- 3-4 red chillies, coarsely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, grated
- 1" ginger, grated
- pinch of turmeric
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp coriander
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- few tbsp of water

How:
- Mix everything thoroughly with fork (except oil and water).
- Add in oil. Mix. Add water by tablespoon, just until it forms into soft dough.
- Knead for couple minutes. Shape into thin rounds or logs. Dust hand with some flour (any kind of flour is fine) while shaping if dough is a little bit sticky.
- Arrange on baking pan lined with parchment paper. Bake at 400°F oven for about 20 minutes until it's golden brown.

Mixing it with some chopped up cilantro and ajwain seeds give this snacks another dimension of flavor. Or even some coarsely chopped almonds. But I thought since the fenugreek should be the main spice, I try not to mix too many other strong flavor herbs/spices to it.

Like mentioned, I did not get to send this entry for the event. One, procrastinating in making this until last minute. Two, with my cold last week, there were only couple entries I managed to post. Next time. In mean while, chomp chomp chomp.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

100th Posts and Award!! And some more..

Perhaps this will be the most personal entry in this food blog. I was going to post either dessert I made last night or chicken rice I made last week, or only about the Award. However, I just realized that this is my 100th posts!!! And it is our 3rd wedding anniversary. October 1st, 2005. Oh, and it's Eid Mubarak and half of my family celebrating this Festive Day, which by default it means everybody chime in to celebrate and...eat all the yummy goodies. Selamat Hari Raya! Minal Aidin Wal Faidzin.

One hundred posts - this food blogging has been nothing but fun. I enjoy being able to 'meet' so many talented, creative and food-passionate people. Many different styles: recipes, food, ingredients, dislikes and likes, baking, cooking, but the bottom line is that we all love FOOD!

So yes, the E Award! I got my first one from Elra and few days later got another one from Alexa of Artsy-Foodie. Good things do come in multiples huh? :) I was not sure about being awarded back to back that I had to read Alexa's blog twice, just to make sure it was 'Cecil - FoodCraze' and that I was not imagining things.

I came across Artsy-Foodie blog not too long ago, but seeing her profile illustration, oohh..I know I am hooked! I think anybody who has the humor to draw up herself just awesome!! My line of work requires a lot of doodling, thus I am always drawn to drawings and hers are just fun to look at. Then as I follow her blogs and recipes, I found such innovative dishes and always so beautifully presented. Thank you, Alexa!

Now, it's time to pass along that Award. I am newbie (will use this as an excuse until ....perhaps the 200th posts or something) so I may read too much into the ideas of passing awards. Like, I seriously give some thoughts to it! That's why it took me a while before posting this! Sorry! Anyway, so I would like to pass this award, in no particular order, to:

Mochachocolata Rita, such a great sense of humor with her food posts. Simple dishes injected with tons of spicy stories and oh, how could I not love her illustration sketches? Yeah yeah, I love any kind of drawings and completely enjoy her illustrations very much. Love her funny tales, from putting buckets and pots to catch leaking water to whacking up coconut and adorable loving comments about her Sous Chef. Her blog makes cooking sounds fun, a comical Manga style!!

The Mediocre Cook, fairly new blogger but I have been tuning in his blog since Day One and love his writing. He is cooking 'The New Best Recipe.' When he posts about his adventure in cutting up a whole chicken, far cry from ahem, not so long ago green peas cooking episode resembling more of green peas popcorn! I just have to give him this award! Surprise me more when he whipped up Pad Thai, with his trip to find tamarind and oh the perfumey unique smell of dried shrimps. His often honest remarks of not having a clue what he is doing makes me laugh and remind me that learning new things can be such a good thing.

Erica of Itzy's Kitchen, let's just say I don't know how she can lift a finger to cook or bake after all her work - as analyst and group fitness instructor. The keyword is 'Fitness Instructor' and all that classes she is taking! See, before I go for my run or dance studio, I will make sure the food is ready and waiting. Otherwise, I'll just grab......I don't even want to go there. But she manages to make all these healthy food after work. And still sounds so bubbly!

Prudy of Prudy Pennywise, Prudy's blog was one of very first blogs I religiously visit. I love her cooking, straight forward and such a 'real life, real people' food. Adore her budget saving tips and the first time I saw the phrase 'Prudence Pennywise' as her alter ego, I knew instantly I will continue reading her blog. And oh, her background music, it makes my day.

By the way, this award comes with rules, here they are:
Please find at least 10 more blogs of any kind which you deem to be excellent; but hey if you only come up with 3 or 5, I don’t mind.
Post about the blogs you picked, linking back to me and to them.
Once you’ve posted, return here to let me know your post is up, and of course let your 10 award winners know too.

Thanks again Alexa!

As I mentioned earlier, this is our 3rd anniversary. And yet, it's 9 pm and I just walked in to my studio a while ago to finish up more work. Vik too is working. Oh so what am I doing blogging away then?! :) Well, one is that I am waiting for the other person to tie up loose end and..it's my 100th post, award post...and just thought let's celebrate with people who love food!! :)

I am not a good writer so I don't know how to tell it in any better way. It was a special day - wedding gown and chania cholis. A month later, come another special shocking day where I had to put into hospital gown, was diagnosed with Leukemia and honeymoon was a hospital suite. The bright side was that I got the biggest private suite there is. Not only honeymoon, we spent Thanksgiving - which was a complete haze, I was so drugged to combat all the nasty side effects of chemo, and Christmas with tiny tree and Christmas songs. I said we because Vik stayed the entire 34 nights sleeping on the hospital chair. I had a small duffel bag. He reeled in a suitcase for his stuff. And that was that.

First anniversary was a little bit surreal, my hair grown back some and we made a point to revisit our photographer and had our picture taken professionally. I was still in oral chemotherapy and looked just a shade darker than bright white printing paper.

Last year, we asked a stranger on the street to take our picture after dinner. It was a fresh start and we made many toasts literally for everything, moved to Toronto and finally able to start our own company. I had to wear my flats though, not so sexy huh? Had bone marrow biopsy couple days prior and it always left my hips with funny feeling for few days. Either try to look cute in high heels and walk wobbly like a 90 years old or pretend I don't care that flats make me..short (-er than already am)!! Truth is, I did not wear wigs when I was bald, so..looking short is not that big of concern in my fashion list. ;)

Now it's 2008, we are not going anywhere tonight to celebrate. Work load just won't allow us, it sounds sad, but when deadline is slapping from right and left, there is not much we can do. Vik has been doing his 6 am - 2 am. Mine is not so rough but enough that four hours dinner is not an option.

I am not sure how many of us remember friends' anniversary. Best friends, parents', siblings', favorite aunt's, maybe. Even that, not many of us manage to...what, I have to remember birthdays, and now anniversaries too!? Come on! :) I remember because my parents' is 5 days after mine, best friend's - 10 days. Aunt's, a week after my birthday. Easy to remember.

Yet this morning, Vik and I got quite a bit of Happy Anniversary emails and messages. From former co-workers, friends we have not seen for a while, etcetera. It's a little bit weird (in comforting way) - be that they remember because of the 'dramatic' row of events or it was indeed a memorable wedding. Either way, I am thankful. Because they think of us and take the time to wish us best wishes. I know quite a few of them are silent lurker here and I just want to say...please don't count on us to remember yer anniversary dates as return!! ;)

Which come to this point, I am sharing this here because we all take the time to post something we each so passionate about, it requires time, labor and love. On top of that, we take the time to read (sometimes, learn and study) and comment on others' blog. Thank You! I so appreciate that.

Now, I need to get back working so we can have some real deal anniversary date this weekend!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Lupis/ Packed Sweet Glutinous Rice with Palm Sugar Syrup

This sweet sticky rice could well be one of my favorite breakfast items growing up. I don't have much of sweet tooth, less so for breakfast food, I rarely eat pancake or sugary cereal for breakfast. Lupis is an exception. It's no fuss no pretend sort of food. Very peasant dish, if I may. Basically it consists of sticky rice, palm sugar syrup and grated coconut.

99.99% of time, it comes in triangular shapes. Sometimes you will see cylinder/ log shaped lupis, but ....that's just not right!! :) It also has to have a tint of green on it, which primarily from the banana leaves wrappers. I guess it won't have any green tint if it's wrapped in foil or plastic. However, my favorite lupis stall actually tint hers with pandan extract. She sells the regular kind too (no pandan extract ones) but boy, the pandan kind is my favorite! I love love the smell of pandan leaves. Somebody should make it into potpourri!

I prefer lupis being packed in banana leaves, not only for the earthy smell of it, but also the beautiful faint green color it lends to this sticky rice. Unfortunately, my last batch of banana leaves went to Pepes Ikan and I haven't been to Asian grocery store since then. So, foil it is then, which actually make the process much easier. I added pandan extract..mmhh..to recreate the ones I used to eat for breakfast. Also, to get the green color on it. I am a firm believer that we feast through our eyes first.

The combination of coconut and pandan alone can make my day. Add to that, palm sugar syrup. Mmmhhmmhh!! Growing up, whenever I saw my mom/grandma was about to make something with palm sugar, I'd just stand there with eyes fixating to chopping block and pick on cubes or shavings of this sweet block. It's heavenly.

What:
- 1 cup glutinous rice, rinse well and soak in water for about 45 minutes, drained.
- pinch of salt
- 1 tbsp slaked lime water
- 1 pandan leaf, make into a knot (optional)
- 1 drop of pandan extract (optional)
- 5-6 6" foil square, make into triangular pouch/ cone shape

Syrup:
- 1/2 cup gula Jawa/ palm sugar
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 pandan leaf, make into knot
- 1/2 cup unsweetened grated coconut

How:
- After draining rice, toss in pinch of salt, add slaked lime water to rice. Stir. Add 1 drop of pandan extract. Mix well.
- Take 1 piece of cone foil, fill with 1/3 - 1/2 cup rice. Fold the sides and crimp. Pack it in such way that it resembles equilateral triangle, all equal length three sides.
- Put triangles in pot and cover with hot water. Boil for 2 hours. Check every so often and add hot water if necessary. Drain and let it cool.
- To make syrup, just toss in sugar, water and pandan leaf into saucepan. Stir and let it comes to thick syrup. I like my syrup pretty thick, add more water for thinner syrup.
- Once the triangle bundles cool down, dredge on grated coconut.
- Pour syrup on top of it. Actually, dump the syrup on it!! :) Both posted photos show only some drizzle, simply because I don't think glob of dark syrup would look very appetizing. In real life though, with fork in hand, syrup pouring, folks!

I wanted to say slaked lime water is optional, but at the same time, it is sort of alkali that makes the unique texture of lupis and other similar sweet dishes. I am scratching my head here trying to describe it better. Slaked lime water is sometimes used for fried food/crackers to maintain its crunchiness. In lupis though, it gives identical character of 'crisping' up the stickiness of rice so that it is more solid rather than too chewy and soft. It has certain 'give' when cutting and biting to it, think...al dante in pasta. However, if it comes to it, sudden cravings and all, then I would careless about whether there is slaked lime water or not. :D

That said, I am so submitting this to this month Waiter There's Something In My... Stew is listed in WaiterTheresSomething- Waiter, there's something in my..Indonesian, hosted by Wine.Scribbler.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Roti Jala & Kari Kambing / Laced Crepe with Goat Curry

I couldn't even begin to describe the love I have for Roti Jala and Kari Kambing. I could eat them til I get sick. Ew, I know. But it's just so deliciousss!! Vik got the first taste of this in Penang, Malaysia. My aunt got some of this one night, meant to be shared by the FIVE OF US along with other goodies she bought. But once Vik digged to this dish, he literally pushed all other dishes away and 'inhale' it all by himself. Then of course, my mom had to make a batch of this for him when we visited my parents.

That was the point when I sort of thought I needed to get me this cup thing to make the crepe. The two kinds my mom have are pretty old..OLD as in ANCIENT from my greatgrandma! I almost had to take one of those with me, which I would hate, because it only has 3 prongs and takes many moons to get a plate done with 3 prongs. We forgot to buy it and were scheduled to be in airport by 7 am next morning. But the nature of Asian living ya know, we love sharing things with neighbors. Parents' neighbor also happen to be a great cook and has the best collection of herbs in their yard (I hope my dad never reads this blog - for he thinks his garden is the best in the entire county!!). So anyway, Mrs.Neighbor ran to her kitchen and came out with the 'newer and 5 prongs' one and just gave it to me.

My grandma made this quite often when we grew up. I'd carefully peel open the nicely folded up crepe and pour the curry on it. :D She was not very happy about it, but..eh..I just loved to inspect her handwork. That's a degree of appreciation, right? This crepe business, it will take some practice to get it right. Almost like crepe. Just twice trickier, with having to move very flowingly and steady, but also to make the netting pattern too. But oh so fun. Just think of it as very tiny and thin funnel cake.

These crepes, is best (to my opinion) paired with goat curry. Oooohhh!!! But chicken curry works just fine too. Or, it can be made just with potatoes for vegetarian curry.

In the nutshell, it's everyday meal - curry is not a fancy dish by any means. However when served with roti jala, mmhh..it turns into such a special treat! Roti can be folded to triangles or rolled up like rolls. We often did it in triangles, our neighbors' did hers in rolls. I can't decide which one I like better so I just pretend it's origami on hot pan. ;)

Crepe
What:
- 200 gr flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 600 cc thin coconut milk
- 1 tsp melted butter

How:
- Whisk together all ingredients.
- Heat pan, scoop batter with cup and start the flowing drizzling process to make the lace, by moving hands sideways, circular and back and forth.
- It will only take a minute or two to get it cooked through, it should has slight nice golden brown color. Gently fold crepe to triangular, by folding to half and another half. Or roll it, by bringing side to the center, edges touching and roll up.

Curry
What:
- 500 gr goat meat, cut to chunks (boned in version will be much much better! :)
- 2 cardamom
- 2" cinnamon stick
- 1" galangal
- 1 stalk lemongrass
- 2 bayleaf
- 2 star anises
- 1 pandan leave, make into a knot
- 7-8 curry leaves
- 3 tbsp shredded coconut, pan fry until golden brown and grind to medium coarse texture
- 350 cc coconut milk (150 cc thick + 200 cc thin)
- 1 medium size potato, cut to chunks

Grind to paste:
- 5 red chillies
- 5 shallots
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 3 candlenuts
- 1/2 tbsp grated ginger
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1 tbsp coriander
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- pepper and salt

How:
- Heat a little oil in pot. Drop meats to pan, searing just to brown the oustide of meats. Once browned, remove from pot and set aside.
- Toss in spice paste to pot. Fry for couple minutes, scraping all the browned bits. Add in the rest of ingredients (except coconut milk, meat and potatoes). Fry for another minute.
- Pour in the thick coconut milk, stir and mix with spices.
- Put back meat to the pot. Mix thoroughly with gravy.
- Pour the rest of coconut milk to pot. Lower the heat to medium low. Simmer for about 45 min. to 1 hour. Stir occasionaly.
- Toss in potatoes and let cook for another 15 minutes. Meat should be fork tender.


With the amount of coconut being used, it's only right that I submit this recipe to Weekend Wokking, a world-wide food blogging event created by Wandering Chopsticks. The host this month - with secret ingredient 'Coconut' is Ivy of Precious Pea.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Hot Spicy Eggplants - Szechuan Style

I am not the type who get sick or feeling under weather easily. That said, I did have my own crazy drama few years ago. However, in general, it's rare to find me saying 'I don't feel too great today.' If you've seen those commercial of Energizer Bunny - well...I could be the twins of it. Rap rap rap, drumming the big drums.

Anyhoo, these past two days though...holycow..runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing sneezing sneezing - that's all I have been doing for the past 2 days. Just super bleh! Hate that feeling when you feel like you are about to sneeze but it's not happening...one second..two secs...three...four..come on...staring to the ceiling....wall. Not happening. Again and again. More teary eyes. Ugh!

There I was leaving my studio, hoping to hit home earlier today, juggling few bags and with my not so clear headed mind, somehow I walked pass my subway station. I don't even know how it happened. When I realized, I thought ..hm..either go to the next one or just walk back. Next one. Passed by this Chinese restaurant and runny nose aside, I can smell the familiar aroma of Chinese cooking. I was tempted to go in and order a take-out, which would involve waiting for 15-20 minutes and I don't want to be sneezing up (gross!!) while people are eating. And I don't want to be caught...squinting my eyes..staring at wall..waiting for the sneeze to come. More teary eyes.

So I hurried home!!! Chicken rice with its broth as soup sounds right for the night. I had to make a stop at grocers to pick up some ginger. Saw some Chinese eggplants...woohoo...hot spicy eggplants dish sounds like a winner. Sure it'll worsen up runny nose and teary eyes, but I convince myself that it is exactly what I needed - to clear up my nose and head.

What:
- 2 Chinese eggplants, cut lengthwise and then cut to 3" pieces.
- 4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- 1" ginger, finely chopped
- 5 dried chillies, soaked
- 3 thai bird eyes chillies, chopped
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1/4 cup chicken broth (water)
- 2 green onions, cut to 3" pieces
- 1 tsp sesame oil

How:
- Heat oil in pan and fry eggplant until it has nice golden brown color on it. Set aside. Pour out leftover frying oil to container, leaving just 1/2 tbsp in pan.
- Toss in garlic, ginger, green onions, dried and fresh chillies. Fry for few minutes.
- Add in all sauces (soy, hoisin, oyster). Stir and let it come to bubble. Pour in chicken broth. Gravy should thicken up a little bit. Cornstarch can be added if you like thicker gravy.
- Toss in eggplants. Quickly stir and mix with gravy. Cook for couple minutes. Turn heat off and then add sesame oil. Stir.

It's absolutely a hot and spicy dish and garlicky but oh..it was yum!! The mild flavor from chicken rice helped toning down the heat quite a bit.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Chicken Vegetable Pot Pie


So I just watched Bobby Flay Throwdown on Lasagna. The opponent uses crumbled up meatballs as the filling. Half of my mind couldn't stop but wonder, isn't it pretty much the same just fixing up batch of ground meats and mix it with all these spices and cheeses the guy put in these meatballs mixture. But my entire heart and the other half of my mind just screaming 'OHHH...that just sounds sooo right!! Crumbled up meatballs' and my mouth is watering! Mmmh..*make note to self*!! Bobby Flay's gourmet lasagna won, but I am pretty sure I will take the 'Sauce Boy' lasagna anytime. Ya know, the real deal kind.

All that just my ramblings...I am not making any lasagna, just sharing my thoughts out loud. While I am in my rambling mode - has anybody know or plan the menu for Thanksgiving? Traditional menu? Or non-traditional? I am still getting used to the idea of October Thanksgiving instead of November. It may actually work out better, I think. At least, there is a slight chance to have 'warmer' Thanksgiving, which means I can still peruse our balcony. Ya know, it takes some adjusting when we moved here and got to live in tiny apartment. Every square foot (inches) counts. On good notes, it forces me to be super organized and there is NIL space to store junk away. So, we don't have junk, you guys! :D Oh and cleaning is a breeze! Wipe, wipe, vacuum, all in 10 minutes.

On bad notes, it's such a tight space that last year when it was below 0 Celcius, we had to open a window to let the air in so that our friends wouldn't pass out.

Anyhoo..Vik is gone to the States for few days for work. Practically, I should just let my stove and oven chill out for few days or just make something like..oh..salad. I admit that I am not very great in cooking for one type of person. That said, I also refuse to eat salad or stir fry for the entire week. Scenario like this, you call up friends and entice them with food. :)

So that's what I did this afternoon. I was thinking about chicken and dumpling soup - Southern style. With some biscuit! Mmmh! Then the friend weighed in her opinion for potpie instead, she wanted to learn to make simple pie crust, to prepare for Thanksgiving pie. So why not..biscuit vs crust. Same thing! I mean, butter rich wise. ;) The recipe is for double crust pie for a typical 9-10" pie pan, but we used two small casserole dish instead - deep chicken pot pie!! And we scraped it to the last bits. Since I am not much a fan of double crust pot-pie, we split the dough to 3 disks, instead of 4. Hence she got quite thick of bottom crust (as pictured above) - which she loves! I am happy with my single top crust pot pie.

Pot pie is also a great dish to clean up freezer. And we did exactly that, frozen peas, frozen carrots, frozen lima beans!

What:
Pie Dough:
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 1/4 (or less) cup cold water
- pinch of salt

Filling:
- 2 cups of any veggies (we used peas, carrots, mushrooms, lima beans, snap peas, red bell peppers, celery)
- almost 1 cup chicken, chopped
- 1/2 small onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tbsp flour
- 1/2 tsp thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 cup milk (half and half or cream is absolutely fine too)
- 1/4 cup chicken broth (from poaching chicken breast and thighs)
- salt and pepper

How:
- Mix flour, baking powder and salt.
- Add in cold butter to flour mixture, cut with 2 knives, pastry blender or use finger tips to rub in butter until it resembles coarse meal.
- Add in cold water by tablespoonful, just enough to moisten up the mixture to hold together.
- Form dough to 3 disks. Put in fridge for about 15-20 minutes.
- Make the filling by sauteing onion and garlic until onion is translucent.
- Add in chicken and vegetables. Toss in thyme and bayleaf. Stir.
- Sprinkle flour. Stir and cook for few minutes.
- Pour chicken broth. Stir. Add in milk. Stir until thickens. If too thick, add more broth.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Take out dough from fridge, roll it out to fit dish. Place it into pie/casserole dish, build the side and bring it to the rim.
- Fill with chicken vegetable mixture. Place the top crust dough on top, crimp, tuck to the the rim.
- Brush top with milk (optional). Bake in 350° oven until crust is golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Yeehaa!! E Award!!

What can I say? I am just truly humble and of course, giddily joyful when I received a message from Elra of Elra Cooking & Baking (oh and boy..she has gorgeous garden!!), that she is passing me this award! I still consider myself a newbie in food blogging, so this is important day for me, ya'll!!! :) Okay, so I still say "ya'll' sometimes when I get excited. And..Yeehaa!

That said, I also would like to share and pass along this award with:

Clumbsy Cookie, though I just recently found her blog, she got me at 'Inside-Out Smores' and I have been reading through her entries, all sort of innovative recipes!

Hot Garlic, well..I LOVE garlic! :) I insantly drawn to her blog layout, so chic, with such creative recipes. Love how she always put that extra punch in her food presentation.

Dee of ChoosandChews , just adore her blog!! Entertaining, witty and always with great recipes!

And I have to say that I love all the photos from these three bloggers. Something I am very much struggling with. :D

Thank you again Elra!! Terima Kasih! I am so tempted to bake/make/knead more breads after seeing all your beautiful breads!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Pepes Ikan/ Grilled-Baked Fish in Banana Leaves


This past week has been one of those weeks where days just fly by..besides work and all other things in life, I have also been playing hide and seek, cat and mice (me being the cat!) with prospective client and a travel agent. Being at different time zone, 13 hours apart just make it tad harder. That said, I haven't put the time to take food photos. My lame excuse is that by the time I am done cooking, it's dark outside and all my 'better' pictures that I have taken - I have been banking it all on natural daylight. Which come to this conclusion; when days go shorter, I'll need to find new spot for the right lighting. Hmm!!

Anyhoo, so after all that craziness in this week, I decided that I should reward myself (and Vik) with food 'present.' This dish is absolutely presented like a 'gift' - with its banana leaves packaging. While it's cooking, the kitchen filled with such familiar earthy banana leaves aroma with hint of spices seeping out from the leaves. When opened...mhh..there would be a moment of silence and a huge grin on our face. It's literally like opening a gift.

Best if made with whole fish and then grilled as the end process, but I just don't buy whole fish that often and, I don't have a grill. So, fish fillet it is. And, pan seared!!

What:
- 500 gr fish fillet
- 1 lime
- 2 candlenuts, crushed
- 5 shallots, minced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tomato, quartered
- 10 long red chillies (not bird eyes chillies - it'll be wayyy too fiercy hot. However I guess, if thai bird eyes chillies are more accessible, then mix 2 chillies with 1 red bell pepper)
- 2 thai basil leaves, chopped
- 1/2 tbsp shrimp paste (pan fry for few minutes, optional)
- pinch of turmeric
- salt and pepper
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 2-3 (12"x12") banana leaves, wipe with damp cloth.

How:
- Rub fish with lime juice, let stand for about 10 minutes.
- Grind all spices (except banana leaves, of course) to paste.
- Arrange banana leaves by putting one piece on top of another, with the ribs going the opposite side of each other. One goes horizontal, the other goes vertical - just for security purpose. :) To prevent domino effect of one ripped leaves lead to another. Smear little bit of vegetable oil on the side that is facing up - where we'll put the fish on.
- Place fish fillet on top of oil-smear. Spread spice paste all over fillet.
- Wrap parcel by folding top and bottom side of leaves overlapping each other, like making an envelope. Secure rignt and left ends with toothpicks.
- Place bundle in pan, medium heat. Pour about 1/4 cup of water to the pan, not over the fish. Cover and let it steam. Or of course, if there is a steamer with its rack and all, that's the preferred method. But I don't have such steamer :D - and my dimsum steamer is not quite big to fit this fish package.
- Cooking time varied depending on thickness of fish. But I do about 10 minutes of steaming and by then, there should be no water left in pan and leaves should show some changes in color.
- Turn heat medium-hot, and now let the outer leaves charred (grilling, see). Once one side is charred, flip carefully to get the same effect on the other side.

I serve this with steamy jasmine rice and Sayur Asam. I have always liked the combination of spicy fiery hot of this grilled fish with something tangy fresh - to offset the heat.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Taro and Shrimp Spring Rolls

To accompany the savory rolls, I quickly whipped up these easy spring rolls. Lately, I have been craving taro and been using it few times for this same recipe, mixing it with different ingredients. Mushrooms and taro, shrimp and taro, or taro with any ground meat. Some water chestnuts to add crunch is yummy too. Super easy to make and the frying part is not too bad with its tiny size - I just use small frying pan and just rotate it to get even browning. Or, of course a huge pan and do it all at once. But then I got to use more oil and I am not particularly fond on having some leftover frying oil. Feel bad to toss it after one time use, as bad as having it sit there in a container. Ick.

What:
- 15 spring rolls wrappers
- 1 taro, peeled and either cut to small cubes or shred.
- 1 cup shrimps, deveined, shelled and chopped coarsely
- 3 dried chinese mushrooms, soaked and choped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 small onion, minced
- 1/2 tbsp five spice powder
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1/2 tbsp sesame oil
- 2-3 spring onions, chopped
- pepper
- dash of sugar

How:
- Heat a little bit oil in pan. Pan fry taro. Once tender, set aside on a platter.
- Toss in onion and garlic to pan. Saute until onion is soft.
- Add mushrooms, five spice powder, soy sauce, green onions, pepper and sugar. Stir and mix thoroughly.
- Add taro back to the pan and toss in shrimps. Cook just until shrimp turn color. Turn heat off and stir in sesame oil.
- Take a wrapper. Put about 1 1/2 tbsp of filling to the edge and roll it like a cigar. Seal with mixture of corn starch and water.
- Fry until golden brown.

For dipping sauce, version of Vietnamese style sauce is perfect, nuoc nam with lime juice, sprinkle with warm water and thinly sliced bird eyes chillies with garlic. Or, just bottled hot sauce. Hoisin sauce whisk together with lime juice and few teaspoon of hot chili sauce is a pretty good pairing also.

Savory Asian Rolls

Having a work-session at our place this weekend. Depressing enough that we needed to work on weekend, on top of that, the weather was not the best - gloomy, humid, semi-raining, semi-sunshine! So everybody decided to bring some snacks to keep going and motivated (to keep eating). I decided to make some rolls - bread rolls and spring rolls!

I have been thinking a lot about baking rolls/bread, especially after religiously checking out Elra's blog! Something about bread baking has always been somewhat intimidating. Which is rather silly due to the fact that I grew up watching a lot of dough kneading and some involved slapping dough to air and counter top - still not quite sure whether it was some anger management session taking place or that type of high level slapping was truly needed?!! Ooh, we don't do any fancy breads, just simple basic savory/sweet filled buns and rolls - I loveee coconut buns!!! And occasionally, some Chinese steamed buns. In short, I should feel okay with the bread ordeal, yeah? But I am just not.

However, enough whining, so I leafed through family's recipe and realized that there is another reason why I feel reluctant!! High protein vs low protein flour?!! Most of these recipes combine both. And I suddenly remember that in Indonesia - they kinda use the brand name to identify it, isn't it? Or that's just my silly judgment? Cakra as high protein (typically used for bread making) and Segitiga as......low protein? Or is it just all purpose flour? It's for everything kind of flour, yes? Can I just use bread flour then? King Arthur? One day I will figure this out and my oven will be spitting out toasty delicious rolls and buns like no tomorrow! :)

Then I came across another stash of recipes that I kept from random sources and this one sounds good. The picture in magazine looks like what I have in my head, savory filled buns. Big plus it only calls for all purpose flour. Bigger plus, it does not seem too demanding - effort and time.

Savory Asian Rolls
adapted from Korean Spiced Beef and Cabbage Rolls, Cooking Light, January 2008.

Filling:
- 1/2 cup chopped green onions
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp chinese cooking wine
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp fresh ginger
- 1/4 tsp minced garlic
- 1/8 tsp ground red pepper
- 1/2 lbs ground chicken

Dough:
- 4 cups all purpose flour
- 2 tbsp baking pwder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 1/3 cups water
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 tbsp canola oil

Eggwash:
- 1 tbsp water
- 1 large egg white, lightly beaten

How:
- Heat a little oil in pan. Toss all filling ingredients together. Cook until chicken is done. Remove from heat and cool completely.
- Combine dry mixture in one bowl: flour, baking powder, and salt, stir with a whisk. Combine 1 1/3 cup water, honey and canola oil, whisk. Add water mixture to flour mixture, stir until a soft dough forms.
- Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic about 5 minutes. Cover and let stand for another 5 minutes. (This is where I jumped into making this recipe, 10 minutes in a making just sounds extremely doable, isnt it?!)
- The recipe calls for rolling the dough into a 16 x 12 rectangle, 1/4" thick, on lightly floured surface. Cut dough to 12 squares. But with limited counter space, I just eyeball and portion out 15 dough-balls. Rolling each ball to a 1/4" disk.
- Cover dough with damp cloth. Work with 1 square/disk at the time, spoon about 1/4 cup filling into the center of dough. Moisten edges with water and bring corners to center. Pinch to seal.
- Place rolls, seam side down on baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Mix lightly beaten egg with water. Brush top of dough. The recipe suggests sprinkling sesame seeds on top of dough. But..I don't have any, so plain top it is.
- Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until rolls are lightly browned.

Well, the outcome is not too bad. Not exactly great either. The dough part is somewhat bland and has crusty/crispy top as opposed to pillow soft like. Not quite what I wished it would turn out to. But maybe if I want these rolls to be the type that I want them to, I should have used the recipe that is meant for it, right?! :) To say the least, for such little time it took to make these mini rolls, I feel quite happy with the result. Plus, there was no leftover, so I really can't complain much.

Now that I am blogging this, it just occurred to me that I did not take any photos of the fillings!!! It was the best part of these small buns. Geez!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Tandoori Chicken

This is to round up our Indian dinner we had the other night. As mentioned in the bhajia entry, our favorite Indian restaurant used to make very delicious moist tender Tandoori Chicken, but it has been hit and miss lately. We were told that there is a new chef joining the team, yet we sorta find it as very odd that all other dishes' quality remain the same, except the Tandoori Chicken! Oh well..it's not like we can't live without it ya know?

My quick history with Tandoori Chicken - well..would never thought of making it until I met Vik. That said, he is not at all an expert of Tandoori either. He just happen to have cravings for it once a while. One fine day when we were still dating, he decided that he'd make me Tandoori Chicken. Of all things he could have made, he had to pick not at all a 'beginner' recipe. I was somewhat terrified. Cooking is just not his forte. I still remember the second week after we just met, he and his best friend decided to cook and invited some friends over. At the time, I assumed they are pretty comfortable with cooking. It was until I got there and heard all these whispers in kitchen 'Hm...do you think this chicken is cooked?' 'I don't know..does it look like it?' 'Should we cut it and check?' 'Oh ewh..it is absolutely not done' OH MY GOODNESS!! Therefore, my panic when he said he'd made me Tandoori Chicken.

To give him some credit, he was smart enough to buy those instant mix. Yet as first timer, he just randomly picked one brand...how do I say this ... it was quite memorable, to say the least. We ate at the stoop of my apartment. His effort and thought made up for weird 'did not even look like tandoori chicken' Tandoori Chicken. It was hilarious - we got such a good laugh over it.

To prevent history repeats itself, here we go:

What:
- about 6 of any skinless cuts of chicken (we both prefer thighs, but I often just mix them up - whatever there is in fridge.) I use 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs and 1 half breast, cut to 2 piece, rub quickly with lime juice.
- 1/2 cup of yogurt
- 1 small onions, quartered
- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 inches ginger, minced
- 1 tbsp garam masala
- 1/4 tbsp turmeric
- 2 tbsp sweet paprika
- 1 tsp hot chili powder
- 1 tbsp coriander powder
- 1/2 tbsp cumin powder
- 2 pods cardamom

How:
- Whisk all the spices in yogurt together, including onions, garlic and ginger.
- Put chicken pieces in ziploc bag, pour the marinade on it. Zip up and 'knead' the bag to mix up chicken and yogurt mixture thoroughly.
- Place ziploc bag in fridge for overnight. Try to at least marinate it for 6 hours.
- Bake chicken covered with foil in 375 oven, for about 20 - 30 minutes.
- Uncovered and put it under broil to get the nice char on chicken. It's not like we can just buy a Tandoor from Williams-Sonoma, right? :)
- Squeeze more lemon juice on top of chicken before serving.
To get the familiar red of Tandoori Chicken, besides red food coloring, there are few other options: saffron thread or annatto seeds; which extract is used for cheese and butter coloring, I believe. Or, in my case, I just sprinkle some more paprika on top of chicken right before baking.

Aloo Gobi Curry (Potato Cauliflower)

I guess there is a basic recipe for Aloo Gobi or shall I say, a base recipe for this dish. Then there are many different take on it. I think I have had at least half dozen of its variation. Most of them on the drier side - without too much gravy. Then there are some with gravy/ curry in it. I am not very picky about it though. However, of course, the person who does not cook (aka my husband) just happen to have a version that he likes. It can not be oily, that's for one. The vegetables can't be too soft. Bit crunch with softer texture inside. Sure, I am a miracle worker. :)

I learned my basic from my mom in law and have been adapting it a little bit here and there. Sometimes I make the dry version, sometimes bit gravy version, depending on the other dish. Since I am pairing it with Tandoori Chicken, I thought some gravy will be a nice touch.

What:
- 1 cup cauliflower, cut to florets
- 1 cup potatoes, cut to chunks
- 1 jalapenos, minced
- 1/2 small onions, chopped
- 1 tsp ginger, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp of chilies powder
- 1 tsp garam masala
- pinch of turmeric
- 1/2 small container of yogurt (sour cream or cream can be use interchangably)
- salt and pepper
- handful of coriander leaves, chopped.

How:
- Put cauliflowers and potatoes on baking sheet. Toss lightly with olive oil and paprika. Slide into 400° preheated oven - to somewhat roast it. Just for about 15 minutes or so. Take out from oven and put aside.
- Heat a little oil in pan. Toss in mustard seeds and cumin seeds until sizzles.
- Add in onion, garlic, ginger and jalapenos. Saute until soft.
- Add in coriander powder, chilies powder, garam masala, turmeric, salt and pepper. Stir.
- Toss in vegetables. Stir. Add in yogurt and turn the heat up - keep stiring to prevent burning. The (personal) idea is to 'force' all the ingredients to mingle together quickly without making the vegetables too soft and mushy.
- Turn the heat off. Toss in handful of coriander leaves, stir. Squeeze some lime juice just before serving.