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 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.

- 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

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

- 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, 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, 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, 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. ;)

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

- 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.

- 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

- 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 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 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 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.

- 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

- 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 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!

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

- 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

- 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!!

- 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.

- 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.

- 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

- 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.

- 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

- 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

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

- 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'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 ' you think this chicken is cooked?' 'I don't know..does it look like it?' 'Should we cut it and check?' 'Oh 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 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:

- 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

- 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.

- 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.

- 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.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Banana Chocolate Chips Cookies

Working from home today and just had to sneak into the kitchen halfway through work. Not gonna cook, because we are to meet couple friends for dinner. That leaves baking. Have a very scary looking banana on our fruit bowls. Banana bread? But I'll need more than 1 banana.

There is cooking science and baking science, yes? Let's just say if both are school subjects, I'd fail miserably in baking science. Give me any cooking ingredients and I will figure my way out - it won't be Iron Chef quality, but it'll be decent. Baking ingredients though, I just have no clue of where to start. Just can't comprehend the right ratio of things. Too many unknown entities for me. Low protein, high protein flour. Hard and soft wheat. When to use both baking powder and soda. Which make it so challenging and...can be fun.

That said, I don't know what I can do with beyond over ripe single banana. On top of that, a package of instant oatmeal that just happen to sit in our cereal bars container!! Also have little bit of brown sugar. Google can't even handle such odd search. :D Went through some of my cookies recipe archive. Diligently paying close attention to ratio of flour:sugar:butter:the adds on.

Therefore, the quest begins. Whoa..I saw a small ziploc bag of wheat flour. I bought some a while ago from those bulk stores - was going to use it for something, can't remember what but must be something healthy - whole wheat flour. Butter. Salted or unsalted? Unsalted should be better, maybe? Yet it costs me more per stick than salted, and without knowing how it'll turn out, I think I should save the unsalted ones for better use.

- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- pinch of salt
- a little bit less than 1/2 cup brown sugar (I only have that much, maybe about 3/8 cup)
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 egg
- 1 packet instant oatmeal (from Quaker, and happen to be cinnamon flavored one)
- 1 banana, mashed
- a dash of vanilla essence
- 1/4 cup chocolate chips
- Beat sugar and butter until creamy. Add eggs and essence. Beat until mix thoroughly.
- With spatula, mix in mashed bananas.
- Mix together flour, baking soda, instant oatmeal and salt. Pour into sugar mixture. Mix with spatula.
- Fold in chocolate chips. Mix until just combined.
- Drop a full tablespoon of dough to baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes in 350 oven, until bottom is golden brown.

Hmm..the was not bad!!! At first, I was about to toss it out when I see the bottom starts getting all nice and golden but with very spongy soft almost mushy top. Chewy cookies are fine, but soft mushy? No. Then I thought about how some cookies should be left to cool and will harden up on its own. Maybe this is one of those. One thing for sure though, our place was filled with such lovely smell. Took it out from oven and leave it to cool. I could not help but keep touching and poking it. Still soft!! Oh my goodness! it thoroughly baked?! I am absolutely not an expert baker, but I am pretty sure it's thoroughly done. Just to be sure, I inserted toothpick and it comes out super clean.

Ten minute later, the top harden up and I carefully break a piece. Still soft/cake- like inside, but look quite okay to eat. :) I took a bite and almost did a cha-cha slide. Nawh. Not to that extreme!! But really, it was pretty yummy. Instead of cookies, I may have to think of it more of miniature banana bread with crusty outer layers. Most importantly, I got to use up the overripe banana and that one packet of cinnamon oatmeal and that small amount of brown sugar leftover.

Oh, this will be perfect cookies for young children, no? Not too hard in texture, loaded with good stuff - oatmeal, banana and whole wheat flour!!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Bhajia - Potato, Onion and Cauliflower

So yeah theweathernetwork dot com did say it is going to be raining today. I have learned to pay little attention to weather channel (rarely accurate, dont they?) despite the fact that I do check it everyday. However, I don't need weather network to tell me it's going to rain today, it has been looking all gloomy and dark all morning. Took the umbrella with me for varous meetings. Yet I managed to leave it in the car while going into post office, dropping in few boxes - was quite shock to know 1 kg costs $15 and 5 kg = $22!! Anyway, I thought, heh, 5 minutes, how bad could it be?! It won't be pouring rain all of sudden, will it? It took me longer than 5 minutes. As I inched my way out the door, there were at least a dozen people standing under the awnings in the hope to protect themselves from nasty rain!! So, should I stand there too? Or should I just run?

Car was not too far and I was to pick up Vik from his meeting. So, I dashed!!! Hoping to put all my training to the test. Well, I never train under pouring rain so I skidded a little bit and by the time I got into the car, my jeans was soaked all the way to my knee. All in less than 1 minute time.

Vik quickly pointed out that he was hungry - at 4.30 pm!! Asked me what's for dinner and I told him that I have some chicken marinated overnight for Tandoori Chicken. He was just thrilled. Not because it is my 'special' dish or anything, but he has been disappointed on Tandoori Chicken from our favorite Indian Restaurant. It has always been very good until the past couple months, it becomes a hit and miss dish. Then Vik says 'Can you make some bhajia too? Piping hot bhajia sounds good in this rainy weather'

In normal circumstances, I'd have shove him out off the door. What?!!! I was half soaked, had to deal with a grumpy client not too long ago, and I already have a perfect dinner planned: Tandoori Chicken, Aloo Gobi curry, rice and naan. Have all these steps in my head - put chicken in oven, roast the vegetables, make the sauce, take quick hot shower. Then I am all done. But see, this is not at all..not at all...a normal request from Vik. Flashnews: Vik does not like fried food. He'd never ever order pakoras or bhajias in restaurants. There are some exceptions, but never pakoras, bhajias, samosas, etc. So in conclusion, he must be in serious cravings for it. I just could not say no. Also..I love fried food. :)

Oil issue aside. We both don't like heavily battered fritters - and most restaurants tend to have a thick coat of batter. So I went to work on fritters after popping in chicken to oven as well as cauliflower and potatoes.
I mix and match the ingredients. Just cauliflower. Potatoes, onions and jalapenos. Cauliflower, zucchini and jalapenos. The 'just cauliflower' ones is really for me. I like it that way. But at the end, I only ate about 3..

- chickpea/ gram flour
- water (my ratio of flour: water is something like 1/2 cup flour to 1 1/2 cup water - very thin batter, basically it's just a thin coating for fritters)
- garam masala
- hot chillies powder
- salt and pepper
- cumin powder
- assorted vegetables:
- potatoes, slice thinly
- cauliflower, cut to bite size florets
- onions, slice
- jalapenos, slice
- zucchini, julienne

- Heat oil in pot.
- Mix flour, water, garam masala, salt, pepper, hot chillies powder, cumin. Whisk.
- For cauliflowers, dip it to batter, give it a quick shake (to let excessive batter drips) and drop it carefully to hot oil.
- For the mix: Mix the vegetables in separate bowl. It can be done two ways: Either mix in the batter to vegetables. Spoon a spoonful of it and drop to hot oil. Or, I use slotted spoon, scoop dry vegetable mix, dip to batter, lift and let excess batter drips off through spoon. Then gently drop fritter to hot oil. Fry until golden.

We eat it with trio sauce of coriander chutney, sweet and hot sauce, and sambal ABC.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Moroccan Chicken with Apricots

I read this Moroccan Chicken recipe in Cooking Light quite a while ago and at the time, I think I was more drawn to the picture of it than the recipe itself. It just has that look of very hearty flavorful dish. I wrote the recipe down in my notebook, thinking I'd come to it one day. That one day happens to be today!! But as I read through the recipe, it just did not give me the 'it' factor I was hoping for. It sure sounds like a great dish, and examining the recipe, it quite obvious that the apricots is the key ingredient for the dish. Still missing something though. One, spicy heat. Two, something at the end to add some freshness twist to it. Thus, I added red chillies powder and couple cloves to intense the earthy flavor and handful of coriander leaves and few squeeze of lemon juice at the end of cooking.

Like most Moroccan dish, the dish is paired with couscous - which will be super perfect! However, what's the odd, usually there is a box or two in the pantry, but just when I need it, I seem not to have any. Thus, I opted for basmati rice, cooked with pinch of turmeric to give it beautiful color and just a hint of earthy peppery aroma. Toss in some raisins and almonds.

- 1/2 tsp olive oil
- 1 lbs skinless, boneless chicken (I use thighs and drumsticks)
- 1 cup thinly sliced onion
- 1/2 tbsp ginger, minced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 cup fat free, less-sodium chicken broth
- 1/2 can (15 1/2 oz) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1/2 cup dried apricots, halved
- 1 small yellow bell peppers, thinly sliced (optional)
- 1 tsp chillies powder (optional)
- handful cilantro, chopped (optional)
- lemon juice (optional)
- 2 cloves (optional)

- Heat olive oil in heavy pot. Add chicken to pan, browning all sides. Remove chicken and set aside.
- Add onion to pan, saute until tender. Add ginger, garlic, cumin, salt, coriander, cinnamon, pepper, yellow bell peppers, chillies powder, cloves. Fry until fragrant.
- Stir in broth, scraping pan to loosen browned bits.
- Return chicken to pan, bring to simmer. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 1 hour.
- Remove chicken from pan, let cool slightly. Coarsely shred chicken to bite sized. Return chicken to pot with chickepas and apricots. Cover and simmer for another 15 min.
- Toss in cilantro leaves. Stir. Remove from heat. Squeeze in some lemon juice right before serving.
The rice is super easy and simple to make. Toss in 1 tbsp of unsalted butter to pot, add in about 1 cup of rice, stir and let it toast for a bit to get nutty flavor. Pour in just a little bit over 1 cup of broth. Cover and let cook for about 15 minutes. Turn the heat off, lift lids, toss in raisins and almonds, stir and fluff rice. Put the lids back on and just let it sits for few more minutes.

Well, it is absolutely a nice dinner. Still on the mild side to our taste, even after the extra hot chilies powder addition. However, I think it can be a good meal to please a crowd. Not too overly spicy, not bland either. Just right smack in the middle. The slight tartness from apricots give a nice contrast to smoky earthy flavor of the dish.

Vik thinks basmati rice is a better pairing than original coucous. His reasoning is that couscous may get mushy, with its tiny grain and gravy-ish chicken. He loves to give random 0.02 cents. To say the least, fragrant basmati rice with sweet plump raisins and almond slivers absolutely do its job complementing this Moroccan Chicken with Apricot dish.

Cheddar Chives Scones

There is this one TV commercial about iced cappuccino. Two people happen to bump into each other, one of them has a cappuccino on his hand and the other person was just so mesmerized by it. Something along that line happened to me earlier today. As I got out from a building, an older lady almost bumped into me, some 'sorry/pardon/excuse me' being exchanged but all I care at that time was this huge scone in her hand. Hmm!! I am not sure whether the familiar baked goods smell from the bakery nearby or the visual image of the scone that just made me think of scones all the way coming home!!

I knew I'd making a small batch of it as soon as I got home. First I was thinking about sweet kind of scones. A quick look to the pantry - hm..nothing exciting for sweet scones in there. I ended up doing what I usually do, looking at the back of fridge, the drawers, whether any small bits I can use. Few strands of chives. Some cheddar. Very basic cheddar and chives scones then!

I prefer my scones almost biscuit like. Hard crust outside but still has some flakiness inside. From all things I bake, scones rank pretty high up in easy and fast category. It's really quick and effortless. Perfect for quick breakfast. Or, in our case today, afternoon snack. I have always loved herbs flavored scones, it works beautifully with cheeses. Even plain herb scones works wonder with a smear of butter on it.

- 1 cup of flour
- 1/2 tbsp baking powder
- 5 tbsp of unsalted butter, cold, cubed
- 1/2 cup shredded old cheddar
- 1 tsp chives, finely chopped
- 1/3 tsp minced garlic (optional)
- 1/3 cup light cream
- pinch of salt and pepper

- Mix flour, baking powder, salt and pepper in a bowl. Add butter and using pastry blender to make a coarse butter-flour crumbs. Using fingers to rub butter into flour just work as good.
- Add cheese, chives, and garlic to mixture. Toss gently just until combine.
- Pour cream on top and stir slowly to make a loose dough.
- Dump dough onto floured surface and gently knead for a minute just until it does not crumble. Gather into a ball. Pat to 1" thick disc. Cut to wedges or cut to rounds using cookie cutters. I just cut mine to 4 big wedges. Easy work. :D
- Bake in preheated 400°F oven for about 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

Eat it as is, warm from oven. Or with some spread. Or for sandwich. Or with soup! The options are endless. What I like about this type of scones (hard crust outside and still has some flakiness inside) is that it keeps better than the harder version.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Simple Easy Fried Noodles

I can eat noodles just as often as rice. That's what we grow up accustomed to in Indonesia. All kind of noodles, fried, soup, gravy-ish. Fancy with all the trimmings or very plain: noodles, with garlic, beansprouts and eggs, soy sauce of course. For the latter, if it's being whipped up with very well-made noodles - tastes just heavenly!!!

That said, my usual is full to the brim trimmings. Shrimp, fishball, veggies, eggs, chicken, et cetera!! Mhhmhh. At first, Vik just did not get this deep love I have for noodles. Even after gentle (and later, grumpy) explanation of that's just what 'we' eat!! He always thought noodle is either those ramen type or Pad Thai!! Just imagine my exasperation. I knew he'd changed his perception as we traveled through S.E.Asia. He was in awe to see noodles in various thickness, form, taste and the 1001 ways of it being cooked. I said I told you so in every chance I got. ;)

Anyhoo, weather has been gloomy - I sort of love gloomy rainy weather. It's just perfect for sitting on balcony, reading and falling asleep weather, ya know? Vik, on the other hand, detests this weather. He prefers either hot days, or just cold snowy days. Nothing in between. What perfect food to cure his moody day? A plate of fried noodles!!! Hot out from wok, sitting on the balcony. With a cup of jasmine tea.

- 250 gr noodles
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tbsp chillies in oil
- 3 handful of beansprouts (we love beansprouts)
- 1 cup of green leaf vegetables, chopped coarsely (I use romaine lettuce)
- 6 beef meatballs, cut thick
- 1/4 cup boneless chicken (or shrimp)
- 3-4 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp sweet soy sauce
- 1 egg
- cilantro, chopped (optional)

- Heat oil in pan. Toss in garlic. Stir fry.
- Toss in chilies. Toss in chicken. Fry.
- Add meatballs. Stir. Add in eggs. Let it set for a while before scrambling it.
- Toss in lettuce. Stir well with everything.
- Turn the heat up to high. Toss in noodles. Pour both salty and sweet soy sauce. Stir quickly but try to do it lightly. Overworking the noodles can break them apart. Wok tossing-flicking skill is very useful in dishes like this.
- Toss in beansprouts. Stir and mix thoroughly, just for a minute or so. Turn off the heat.
- Stir in fresh cilantro.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Seafood & Sausage Gumbo

Gumbo is absolutely a type of food that fall into category of 'labor of love.' Not only it is such a comfort food, very earthy flavor and hit you on right spot type of dish. It also puts your patience to the test. I am talking about making the roux. Oh my. The first time I made this about 5 years ago and with all these horror stories about burnt roux, it took me 1.5 hour to get it to amber color. I was so worried for having to redo the entire thing so I started it with low-medium heat and stir until my arm was so sore!

It has to be at least medium brown and all the way to dark reddish brown. Nowadays, I stir while reading a magazine or a book. Just perk a magazine on the counter and keep stirring. It is one of those dishes that takes pretty much equal labor, whether cooking for 2 or for 50.

Gumbo is such a dish that everybody can add their own little signature to it. Lots of people love file powder on it. Thicker stew. Or some prefer it stew-soupy like. Eaten with both rice and bread. I just like mine with crusty french baguette. Creole and Cajun version share some similarities as well as differences. Cajun's is the darker version of the two, a personal favorite but instead of magazine, I may have to grab encyclopedia to read while stirring.

My first true gumbo recipe came from client. The husband grew up in Louisiana, and with his wife, they'd throw a mean Cajun/Creole party over Labor Day weekend. I have had gumbo prior to that but never attempted making it on my own. I still remember when I visited their home to do some final check two days before Labor day weekend kick off. They were both in the kitchen and chopping away peppers, onions, celery, sausages, etc. Pounds and pounds of crawfish. For about 150 people feast. The rest of menu was handled by caterer, EXCEPT for the gumbo. So I knew I got to stay and watch (and take notes).

- Combination of any of these; andouille sausages (or any spicy sausages will be good), seafood (crawfish, shrimp, crabmeat/claws, clams), chicken, ham.
My usual is 2 link of andouille sausage, 1 cup of crabmeat (picked through and make sure it's nice firm lump crab meat, not tiny shred of flakes ), 1 cup of shrimp. I'd add some clams, if I have any.
- 1 1/2 cup of celery
- 1 1/2 cup bell peppers (I like to use red, but any combination is fine)
- 1 1/2 cup onions
The holy trinity of Creole cooking, celery, peppers, and onions. I like to chop 1/2 amount of it very finely. 1 cup of celery = 1/2 cup coarsely chopped and 1/2 cup finely chopped. I love the colorful small specks they create in the gumbo. The combo also adds some extra weight/thickness to this stew.
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil (I like to use 1/4 oil and 1/4 butter combination. However, with its low smoking point, butter burns easily, that said, it really depends on personal comfort zone whether to mix the two or not. Burnt butter or roux automatically means a start over)
- 1 cup flour
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp paprika powder
- 2 tsp hot chili powder (optional)
- 1/2 cup okra, pan-fry until crispy to remove all that slimy stuff it has. Set aside.
- 5-6 cups seafood broth (or vegetable/chicken broth)
- 1 sprig of tyhme
- handful of parsley, chopped coarsely
- few dash of tabasco (optional)

- Heat a little bit of oil in a pan. Toss in sausages and just let it brown up. Take out from pan and put aside.
- Toss in garlic and onion to the same pan. Fry for a little bit. Add in peppers and celery, scrape all the brown bits from the pan. Just quickly stir them for couple minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
- Come the roux! Make sure you are all relaxed and have good thoughts. :)
- Add oil/butter to heavy pot. Gradually sprinkle in flour. Stir stir stir. Read magazine, sing, meditate, but you got to keep stirring. If there is a burning smell or any brown specks, got to toss it and start all over. Keep stirring!!
- Once it's nice and brown. Toss in finely chopped onion, pepper and celery. Stir, mix thoroughly. It will look very thick, but it's okay.
- Toss in the rest of chopped onion, pepper, celery and parsley.
- Add in bayleaf, paprika powder, chili powder, thyme. Stir.
- Pour broth to pot. Keep stirring to mix the roux and vegetables to broth thoroughly. Let it come to quick boil and turn heat medium-low, let it simmer for about another 40 minutes.
- Add sausages. Cook for about 10 minutes.
- Add cooked okra to the pot, crab meat and shrimps. Garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve over a bowl of rice or just with a piece (or entire loaf) of crusty french baguette.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

'Poor Girl' Crab Cakes with Tahini Red Pepper Rémoulade

After all work and no play Labor day weekend, I decided to take it bit easy today. Went for my long run of the week. Lazily dragged my feet to yoga class. Instructor is undergoing some minor surgery and her substitute is hmm...she is okay. The drawback of yoga classes in a gym is that after a while, it's same ol' same ol' and gets very predictable. But real deal yoga studio is way $$$$$!! And I refuse to pay both gym and yoga studio membership! So, to lighten up my mood after yoga, or, for all its worth, after such relaxing session, it leaves me with all sort of energy! yupee!! ;) I thought about chili crab! much I would love to dig into one!! But ya know how inconvinence that is to fry a crab in tiny kitchen with not so great ventilation? I don't even want to think about it.

But I want spicy crab dish!! Vik suggested to do a take-out from this one Chinese place, but that's not exactly what I wanted. I want something with thick sauce/gravy. Hm...gumbo sounds soo good!! Bought few beautiful red peppers from farmer's market over the weekend. Couple stalk of celery in fridge. Fresh thyme. Far from original whole crab idea, but oohh..nice firm lumpy crab meat (and without the frying and all) just sound as great!

Got home and nooo..we forgot to grab some crusty French Bread!!!! Looking at time, it's a little bit too late anyway to fix a pot of gumbo, the time to make the roux. Thus, we come to the decision of crab cakes. :D But we got to use it sparingly - still want chunks of crab in my gumbo tomorrow. That said, we'll just call it 'poor girl' crabcakes, since I added tons of other stuff to it. Little crab, tons of other stuff to make up for it. Heee..And, I have a small jar of red-pepper jelly!!! Perfect for nice rémoulade.

- 1/3 cup lump crab meat (picked through, make sure no shells)
- 1/4 cup red peppers, chopped
- 4 shallots, coarsely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup celery, chopped
- 1/4 cup mushroom, chopped
- 2 tbsp fat free sour cream
- 1/2 tsp of dijon mustard
- 1 slice of whole wheat bread (tear to small pieces)
- 1 small red skin potatoes, boiled and mashed with skin intact
- few dash of tabasco sauce
- 1 1/2 tbsp tahini
- 5 tbsp yogurt
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 2 full overflowing tbsp red pepper jelly
- handful of chopped coriander

- Heat a little bit olive oil in pan. Fry shallots and garlic.
- Add in celery, red pepper, mushroom. Sweat them for few minutes. Remove from heat, let cool.
- In a bowl, toss mashed potatoes, stir in dijon mustard, sour cream and torn pieces of bread.
- Toss in celery mixture. Mix thoroughly.
- Gently fold in crab meat.
- Make few patties.
- Pan fry with little oil in the pan. For not having much binding agent (eggs, breadcrumbs), these babies are softer in texture (but not at all mushy!!). So, once put in pan, just let it be for few minutes to get a nice crisp sturdier bottom, no poking or move it around. Gently flip and brown the other side.
- Whip all the dipping sauce ingredients together.

The tahini-red pepper combo whipped with fresh coriander leaves makes the dish feel less 'poor'!! With some olive oil, it can be made into fine salad dressing! Or, simply sandwich spread.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Chicken & Beef Sate & Lontong with Peanut Sauce/ Bumbu Kacang

It takes me a while to post this entry, it has been many weeks since I made them. Just too long of entry/recipe, ya know? Thinking about breaking it down to 3 posts, sate, sauce and lontong/rice rolls. But if I were to do that, I'd never get around to it. The dish itself is not extremely hard, but a complete time consuming. Especially lontong. I was explaining to our friends what lontong is. They thought it was just a version of lemper (without the chicken), but it's not. It's just basically regular rice (not sticky rice), half cooked, packed into cylinder shape pouch/ package made from banana leaves (traditionally) and submerge into pot of water for 2nd stage cooking - where the rice grain expand and become compressed. However, foil and heat-proof plastic are widely used or last I heard, there is special mold made for this very purpose.

Absolutely not rocket science but it does take some practice or experience to get it right. My 'perfect' lontong has always been ones made by my grandma. My mom couldn't even quite master it yet (shhh) It has to have some bite to it without being too hard. But foremost, not gummy nor mushy soft. Ergh. And when being cut, there should be no cooked rice grain crumbling out from it. Though it easily falls into rice category, it's not quite a substitute for plain rice as daily staple. We eat/use it with sate and some other gravy/saucey items. Breakfast, lunch, dinner.

One thing I love about lontong is its character (now I make it sound as if it's a person or somethin). From street push carts or nicer dining place. Bare to the bone fixing, simple vegetable gravy poured on top of it, or as complement for sate, to fancier complete lontong dinner of lodeh, rendang, and all other fixings. 50 cents/plate or $10/plate. Either way, it is 'just' a basic delicious compressed rice dish (I would even eat it with sweet soy and crispy shallots!!). Doesn't matter how gourmet the end result of a dish, lontong is lontong, homey and nothing pretentious. It's almost impossible to believe how a simple dish like this can be so addicting!

Lontong/ Ricerolls
- 2 cups rice, rinse very well
- 4 cups water
- dash of salt
- pandan leaves, make into a knot (optional)
- 5 (12x12") foil/ banana leaves (if using banana leaves, make sure to wipe leaves with damp cloth and there is no tear anywhere)

- Cook rice and water in a pot. Toss in pandan leaves. Let water come to a boil.
- Turn the heat down to medium low, cover with lid and cook until water is absorbed, about 15 minutes.
- Remove pot from heat and just let stand for another 15 minutes, still covered.
- Take a piece of foil, put about 1 1/2 cup of rice onto center of foil. Roll it up tight like a cylinder. Twist both ends securely. Repeat with the rest of rice.
- Put rolled up bundles into a big pot. Fill with water. Water has to cover all rolls. Let cook in medium heat for 2 hours. Hm..yeah. Check once in a while to make sure the water level is still above rolls. Add hot water if need be.
- Test the readiness of it by poking with blunt end tools (I use the handle of wooden spoon) and it should feel solid.
- Lift with tongs, as it will be super ultra hot. Once lifted, let rolls stand upright on a big bowl/basin to drain any water that may have seep through bundles.

Traditional style of using banana leaves will leave a faint green color on the exterior of lontong and it lends a wonderful smell of banana leaves. I was torn between using it for this or for plating. Obviously, I opted it for plating!! If using banana leaves, make the mold ahead of time - by rolling it to a tube shape and secure one end with toothpick. Hence, it's ready to filled with rice and just secure the other end before putting it into pot.

- chicken (cut to 3/4 x 3/4" - I like to mix white and dark meat)
- beef (cut to 3/4 x 3/4")
grind to paste:
- 2 stalk lemongrass (white part only)
- 6 shallots
- 4 cloves of garlic
- piece of galangal
- 1 inch of ginger
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 4 tbsp coriander
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 1 tsp palm sugar
- pinch of cinammon
- salt and pepper

- Fry paste in a little bit of oil for few minutes. Let cool.
- Slather paste to meat and marinate for at least 6 hours. Preferably overnight but not longer than 24 hours.
- Skewer meat to sticks and grill away! :D Squeeze some lime juice on top just before serving. And drizzle some sweet soy!! Yum!!

Peanut Sauce
- 500 gr peanuts (ground - I use mortar and pestle so I can control the texture. It should be still somewhat coarse, \yet fine enough to give a nice texture to sauce)
- 250 gr chilies (ground to smooth paste, or I guess some bottled sambal oelek is fine)
- 5 shallots
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1 stalk lemon grass, whacked
- 1 piece of galangal (optional)
- 5 candlenuts, panseared very quickly to release the oil
- 200 gr palm sugar (to taste)
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 cups coconut milk (I diluted the canned coconut milk, 1 1/2 cup milk with 1 1/2 cup water)
- 2 tbsp coconut oil (optional, any oil is fine)

- Grind shallots, garlic, galangal, candlenuts to coarse paste.
- Heat coconut oil in pot. Toss in spice paste, lemon grass, bay leaf. Fry for few minutes.
- Add in chili paste. Stir. Toss in ground nuts and sugar. Mix throughly.
- Pour in coconut milk. Keep stirring until it thickens. About 20-30 minutes.
- If I have basil leaves on hand (one of the herbs I am trying to grow right now. Yihaa!), I like to add it to the sauce to give it some zing.

There. Sate, lontong & bumbu kacang. Pfuih! Pardon the poor lighting of the picture. It was taken very quickly - so the platter could get into dining table for our hungry guests. Earlier in the afternoon on that day, Vik gently let in his concern.Me, I don't mind waiting while you take all these food photos, and my stomach is growling (well..what would he eats if he doesn't wait, huh?) But let's don't do this to our friends, yeah?

Mini Cheese Puff

After some thoughts, I think I should rephrase myself when I say 'I don't bake as much as I cook.' Because I sort of bake quite often. I just don't enjoy baking the way I enjoy cooking. There. That sounds just about right.

That said, I have enough baking molds/cups/tins to open a tiny bakery. When I travel, I usually would bring back about 1/2 a suitcase of baking stuff. Yeah. If any suitcase rattles going through conveyor belt, most likely that's mine. Not in excessive manner though. Not yet, at least. I am pretty realistic person. Kitchen with only very few cabinets, there is only so much I can store. I got them not necessarily because I know how to use all of them, but I LOVE LOVE their quirky design. Okay so, yeah I do sometimes buy them, believing that I will eventually use them one day. But mostly because I know they'll be great for something else too. For example, steam cake mold thing I got, I use it as candle holders on our balcony. So on.

Out my sets of pie molds/cups. Oval, round, and something resembling a boat. I wanted to use the mini ones but ya know how it is so often that anything mini requires too much of work and take only a second to eat! So, it has to be something quick and simple.

I thought about this one cheese puff recipe I read not long ago in Cooking Light, using mini muffin cup. Have couple different cheeses in fridge that I need to use. Perfect! Quickly checked out the recipe, only to find out that I don't even have half of the ingredients. But..once I put my mind to it, I will prevail! So, here goes pulling things out from fridge.

- 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/4 cup old cheddar, finely grated
- 1/4 cup mozarella, finely grated
- 1/4 cup asiago, finely grated
- 4 tbsp parmesan, finely grated
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
- 1 tbsp parsley, chopped
- pinch of baking powder
- 1 tsp flour for dusting the tin

- Whip everything with a whisk.
- Grease molds/cups, dust tin with flour.
- Fill cups all the way to the rim. It will rise and deflated.
- Bake in preheated 350 oven until golden brown, about 20 minutes.
- It yields just about 18 minis. Gone in oh..20 minutes. No, we did not eat them all!! :D It was four of us.Considering the time it takes to make this - about 8 minutes (from taking things out from fridge to grating cheese, whisking it), it turns out to be seriously good!! Not too cheesy (though I will not complain if it is), a little crisp outside with soft pillowy melt to your mouth inside.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Kastangel/ Kue Keju/ Cheese Cookies

I made these two weekend ago for a friend, gave her most of whatever comes out from it, and keep a small jar for us. My hope was to redo the 'photo session' - I have this pretty image in my head of how it should look like, see? But who am I kidding?!! It's all gone by the third day.

I don't make these sort of cookies much. See that little suckers?!! Take forever! Besides, I had enough share of making/helping to make these growing up. Aunt and mom owned a bakery many years ago. Talking about illegal child labor! In busy seasons, Christmas, Chinese New Year, Idul Fitri/Eid - they were always short of help. And I swear, every person (neighbor included) coming through the kitchen, would be handed a brush for egg wash or metal spatula to transfer cookies to cool.

Batches and batches of these. Most dreadful one was helping to shape pineapple filling for pineapple tarts. It was a complete torture. Sticky and so not rewarding, since it'd be INSIDE the tarts anyway. Still dislike the task, and will only make a batch after serious bribing. Though I secretly enjoyed the end part of it when all tins, boxes being tied up with pretty ribbons. Labeling them (I am a queen of labels - I label every single thing!) and crossing down a list of customers.

Anyhow, the most two common shape of this cookie (at least, that's what we made in those days) is somewhat resembling pinky finger. Cylinder with slightly flat top, topped with finely shredded cheese. Or, rolled dough cut with spikey edges rectangular cookie cutter. But I have seen petal shaped ones, round with criss cross hatch ones. Anything goes. Of course, if there is any cookie press around, it'll be much easier. Used to have one, that is until we moved up here and somehow I packed all the small disks, except the press tube. Won't do me no good, will it?

Commonly used cheese for this recipe is a Kraft 'Cheddar' block wrapped in tin foil, in a blue box. Have not seen it around here - both US and Canada. Not that I have tried extra hard in finding it - I tend to be very lenient when it comes to certain recipes that I feel its ingredient is versatile and can be substitute, if it comes to it. The closest match so far is Edam cheese. Second is old cheddar. Use either just one type, or mix of both.

- 600 gr butter (I like to use at least 300 gr of it as unsalted butter.)
- 250 gr old cheddar/ edam, finely grated (reserve few tablespoon for sprinkle, which I forgot to do)
- 750 gr flour
- 3 egg yolk (2 for dough and 1 for egg wash)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp sugar

- Beat butter until pale in color. Add in flour. Mix until incorporated.
- Fold in cheese, sugar and salt with spatula, mix.
- Add in eggs and mix thoroughly with spatula.
- Gently gather dough, pack with hands to form a ball.
- Take a handful of dough, roll to very slender log of 1/2" diameter.
- Cut 1 1/2" length of dough with knife.
- Cover the rest of dough with damp towel to prevent drying.
- If using cookie cutter, just roll dough out with rollingpin and cut with cookie cutter.
- Brush with eggwash and sprinkle some grated cheese on top.
- Bake in 350 preheated oven until golden yellow about 20 min. Rotate pan halfway baking.

In general, this is a ultra easy cookie to make. Just a little bit pain if there is no cookie press or some cutter. The only complaint I usually hear is how they can get very brittle crumbly or very dry. The only idea I can come up is that once it has some tint of beautiful golden yellow, take it out from oven. Because these cookies bake very quickly and any extra minute of overbaking will dry it out. Unless of course, some people may enjoy it crispy and brittle. :)

Monday, September 01, 2008

Fresh Corn Chicken Soup

From the 8 corns I bought, used up just 1 for the tamarind based soup. Vik eagerly put 2 in microwave for his late night snack the other night. And with a festive dinner we had last night at friend's birthday, I thought I should make something lighter but yet fulfilling. With five corn I have, creamed corn soup just sounds to fit the bill.

It's pretty close to Chinese Creamed Corn soup, sans the creaminess. It still has some thickness on it, but just not as creamy. I did not add neither thickening agent nor the beaten egg to create that beautiful eggs swirls. No thickening agent, because it's just personal thing - I sort of like my soup that way. No beaten egg though is another story. I LOVE those swirls, however, the last 3 eggs I have, all went to the pound cake. Could have dragged myself to get some eggs, but just too lazy.

- 5 sweet corn (grate 2 to get the pulp, and run through knife on the other 3 to get kernels)
- 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 inch ginger, minced
- 1/2 tbsp chinese cooking wine
- 3 chicken thighs
- handful of green beans, chopped
- 2 - 3 cups of broth
- salt and pepper
- green onions
- sesame oil
- black vinegar (optional)
- hot sauce (optional)

- Heat pot with 1 tsp of oil. Toss in garlic and ginger. Fry for few seconds. Toss in chicken pieces.
- Sear chicken pieces for few minutes. Add kernels. Stir.
- Add corn pulp, beans, cooking wine and broth. Season with salt and pepper.
- Cover with lid and let simmer. Once chicken is done, lift and cut to cubes. Put back to soup.
- Just right before turning off the heat, toss in 1 tsp of sesame oil. Serve with green onions, dash of black vinegar and hot sauce.

Blueberry Lemon Pound Cake with Blueberry Butter

I have 3 pint of blueberries that I was hoping to make into smoothies and a batch of muffin. So as I grabbed yogurt out from fridge, I saw sour cream tub next to it. Did not even remember I have it, so I checked to make sure it's indeed sour cream inside. I re-use these tubs for random things. Lo behold, almost 1 cup of sour cream in it, with expiration date of Sept 3rd! Gotta use it!!

The only thing that come to my mind is this Ol' Pound Cake Recipe. Just a plain pound cake with sour cream, but thought it'd be mighty good with blueberries and lemon zest! However, it's not going to need 3 pints of blueberries, so..thinking thinking thinking..and fruit butter sounds just right, huh? Blueberries butter/ jelly/ preserve - I still can't exactly figure out the difference. Jelly is smoother and jell like, made with pectin? Preserve is more chunkier? Butter is basically a whipped jelly/ preserve? I should know, because the family I lived with in high school LOVED to make all sort of preserve and jelly. However, I was quickly defeated and no longer paid any attention came the tedious work of canning.

Anyway..blueberry butter slather on top of slice of pound cake - that sounds good, doesnt it?!

Blueberry butter:
- 2 pint of blueberries
- 3 tbsp of sugar (more if you like it sweeter, but neither of us have sweet tooth)
- 2 cloves
- 1 lemon peel
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 cup of water

- Dump everything in a pot. Let it simmer until it thicken up - about 1 hour. Stir occasionally.
- I use hand-blender and blend/ whip it until all smooth and nice.

The only similar thing to this that I ever made was pineapple filling for cookies. Therefore, I was not sure whether it'd turn out as expected. But, to my own amazement, it's super easy and yummmmeyy!! I have always liked tart jam so I ate about two spoonful just like that, with the excuse of 'trying to see if it tastes right.' It only yields about 1 cup, that said, it'll be gone in couple days.

Blueberry Lemon Pound Cake:
- 1 1/2 cup of all purpose flour
- 1/2 tbsp of baking soda
- 1 1/4 cup of sugar
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 3 eggs
- zest from 1 lemon
- juice from 1 lemon
- 1/2 cup blueberries

- Sift flour and baking soda together and put aside.
- Beat sugar and butter until they mix thoroughly. Add in sour cream, beat until creamy.
- Add flour mixture in stages. Taking turn with eggs. Flour - egg - flour - egg - flour - egg. Beat until all are incorporated.
- Fold in zest and juice of lemon and blueberries.
- Pour into a 4x8 loaf pan and bake in preheated 325° oven for about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Insert toothpick in the center to check on done-ness.

Is not overly sweet, moist with nice crust on top and just perfect with the butter! Sort of wish I put an effort in taking down bigger loaf pan instead of using a medium size pan I happen to store 'within reach.' Kitchen this size, some rarely use stuff just have to be stored somewhere - in this case, the corner top shelf of wall cabinet. The batter overflowed a little over the rim. But oh well...Vik wolfed down two thick slices with huge dollop of butter. Came my running partner, took 2 slices home. Packed few slices for Vik's cousin along with some butter. The overflow part is nowhere to be seen anymore!