Saturday, December 12, 2009

STOP PRESS!!! The BloggerAid-Changing the Face of Famine Cookbook is finally here!

Finally, the much awaited and talked about 'The BloggerAid Cook Book' is here! In aid of World Food Programme, food bloggers around the world like you and me, teamed up to form BloggerAid. We realised that we can make a difference to make the world a better place for the needy by contributing something we all love and share the passion for... Food. Armed with that and the aid of Internet (who says Internet is bad?), over a hundred bloggers who never met each other had worked together through this medium as a team. Throughout the process, we not only achieved the vision that we believed in but also new friendships were cultivated.
The 100% proceeds from the cookbook will be channel towards children and education through the World Food Programme called School Meals. Besides providing vital nourishment, school meals act as a safety net for poor families and also help keep children in school especially girls who may not be given the opportunities to study.
The BloggerAid Cookbook
Recipes from bloggers around the world making a difference!
By BloggerAid-CFF, Rhonda Renee, Mark Haak, Peter Georgakopoulos, Deeba Rajpal
Food does not simply nourish the body; food also celebrates what makes the world diverse, as well as, what unites us. The BloggerAid Cook Book is a collection of international recipes illustrating that we can work together and unite for a greater cause. The authors of this cookbook are food bloggers from around the world who have endeavored to make a difference by raising funds for the World Food Programme and encompassing their passion for "all things foodie" at the same time. Through these recipes they share their traditions and insatiable curiosity about new flavours. They pay tribute to the home cooking of our grandmothers, while celebrating the exoticism and richness of a world brought closer together by their hopes to make a difference. With recipes such as Tomato-Cheese Ravioli with Eggplant Sauce, Spicy Serundeng Tuna and Peanuts, Serrano Ham Paella with Oyster Mushrooms, Raspberry Mascarpone Bites and Triple Layer Orange-Passion Fruit Tart we are doing our part to say that bloggers can change the face of famine.

We chose the United Nations' World Food Programme (WFP) to receive the funds generated by the cookbook because of the wonderful work this organization does. The WFP has touched the lives of our members, many of whom are from countries where poverty is often a way of life. More specifically, 100% of BloggerAid's proceeds from the cookbook will benefit the WFP's School Meals Programme, which benefits an average of 22 million hungry children each year. School meals are important on many levels. In countries where school attendance is low, the promise of at least one nutritious meal each day boosts enrollment and promotes regular attendance.

This book is a virtual way for all of us, wherever we may be and however rich or poor we may be, to pull up a chair at the same table and share what we have.
The BloggerAid-Changing the Face of Famine Cookbook is now available through the Create Space estore. The estore is a connection of Amazon. You won't find the book on the site - royalties for the School Meals Programme are much higher through the estore. The children need as much support as we can give them!!! 
Please spread the word, purchase a copy for yourself and more for your love ones and friends as gifts for this coming festive seasons in the aid of children of our future... Thank you for your help! Seasons Greetings & Happy New Year 2010 to all my fellow food bloggers and readers around the world.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Stilton en croûte aux Champignons et Épinard

The weather is getting colder these few weeks in the coast and for several days it rained continuously. Looks like Winter maybe earlier this year! My little boy caught the cold and coughs from his Dad. Felt like I'm started to have the symptoms too ... sigh... :-( Anyway, I don't want this to upset my day, grabbed few food mags and newsletters from couple of shops my family frequent to. Sometimes, you can get very good deals when the supermarkets and wholesalers on promotions. Few months ago, I got few promo packs of 2 + 1 Galbani Cow Mozzarella for € 2.99! I missed the one that gave 1 tub of Ricotta Finetta :-( Back in my hometown, that price is for 1 piece of the same item! Of course, at the same time, I bought Buffalo Mozzarella too. It's a must in my menu :-D Both items shared the same shelf anyway :-P.

So, this time I was keen to try out some recipes with Stilton cheese and I saw one version called Melty Mushroom Wellington in Good Food magazine, October issue. Now, 'Wellington' in the culinary world is informally used to describe other dishes in which meat or fish are baked in a puff pastry not boots! That reminded me fondly of Paddington Bear and his cute yellow wellington boots :-D Anyway, instead of the usual fare of having Stilton, I was torn between cooking a soup with Stilton or bake the savoury pastry. In the end, I chose the savoury pastry recipe as I want to use up an 'ancient' ready-to-roll pastry in the freezer. It would be great for l'heure de l'apéro before dinner and I'll have the Stilton (again!) to end the dinner with :-D. I want to try out the recipe because it's vegetarian and it looked quite easy. I'm not that good in baking and I want to improve it seriously. By the way, anyone follows BBC's Masterchef: The Professionals? It's really a great challenging cooking shows among chefs. I skipped others cooking challenges just to watch it.

One more thing, if you have those Stilton cheese that came in ceramic jars, you need to spoon it out thinly to layer the fillings for this recipe. It's easier if you can find sliced Stilton (or any sliced Blue Cheeses). I was lucky this time to taste Stilton from Paxton & Whitfield (last Stilton-in-a-Jar I had was from Harrod's) brought back by my father-in-law during his trip to London recently. Here's my adaptation of the original recipe. I'm not sure if I followed it correctly in the pastry steps but the Verdict? It's delicious and will definitely make it again!

Stilton with Mushroom and Spinach Puffs
(Stilton en croûte aux Champignons et Épinard)
Serves 4

4 Medium-size White/Brown Mushrooms
300 g Spinach leaves
1 Tbl Thyme leaves ~ hand picked
1 clove Garlic ~ chopped finely
1 Shallot ~ chopped finlely
4 Tbl Olive Oil
1 Egg ~ plus a good pinch of salt, beaten for brushing and taste :-)
100 g Stilton Cheese (or any Bleu Cheese you fancy)
1 x 32 cmRoll Ready Made Butter Puff Pastry (or x 500g block)
Flour for dusting
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Heat the oven to 200 ºC/180 ºC Fan.
2. Remove stalks from mushrooms. In a pan enough to cook the mushrooms all at once, heat half of the olive oil and sizzle the mushrooms for 3-4 minutes on each sides until golden and cooked through (depends on the size of the mushrooms, you may need longer time to cook them). Lift the mushrooms out onto kitchen paper for a moment. Set aside.
3. In the same frying pan, heat the rest of the oil. Fry garlic for few seconds and add in the chopped shallot. Fry until the shallots turn transparent, then add in the spinach. Cook for 2-3 minutes over high heat until completely wilted. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the cooked spinach into a sieve to drain the liquid thoroughly.
4. On a cleaned, lightly floured working surface, scatter the picked thyme leaves and roll out the puff pastry on top of the herb. Light press the pastry surface evenly to make sure the thyme leaves stick to it nicely. Using a cutter, cut out 4 size pastry rounds 2 cm wider than the mushrooms for the base and 4 pieces of 4 cm wider rounds for the tops (that is 4 cm wider than the measured base).
*After several attempts to maximise the yield of the ready-made rolled puff pastry, it gave me about 4 pcs x 8 cm base and 4 pcs x 10 cm top. I was lucky to find smaller mushrooms than the base size.
5. To Esemble:
Divide the cooked spinach into 4 portions and stilton cheese into 8 portions. Place the smaller circles on a lined baking sheet. Top with 1/4 of the spinach and making sure that the amount isn't wider than the size of the mushroom. Top with 1/8 of the stilton cheese and then a mushroom, top side up and another 1/8 portion of stilton cheese. Brush the edges with beaten egg. Top it with one larger puff pastry round and gently stretch the pastry over the mushroom ~ trying not to trap any air, then press the edges together with a fork. Trim the edges if needed and brush the top generously with beaten egg. Complete the rest of the cut out puff pastries with mushrooms, spinach and cheese.
6. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until golden brown. Leave them to cool for few minutes before serving. (Depends on the types of oven, you may need to adjust the temperature or the pastries may burn. Please read the manufacturer's manual).

Tip: This recipe can be made several days before as it freezes well and it's great for tea time as well.

If using large mushrooms like Field mushrooms or Portobellos, it's best to use a 500 g block Ready-made Puff pastry. Scatter the thyme leaves (or suitable fresh herbs available) on floured surface, roll out the block to the thickness of 3 mm. Cut out 4 pieces pastry rounds 5 cm wider than the mushrooms and 4 pieces of 10 cm wider rounds for the tops, re-rolling the trimmings if needed. If you're short of time (like me), you can use 2 ready-to-roll puff pastries; 1 for the base and 1 for the top (like making Ravioli) and follow Step 5 to finish.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Salmon Tartare Asian Style With Chicon

This is my third time making raw fish tartare as apéro. Usually, my preferred raw fish for raw fish tartare is Tuna but it's very expensive compared to salmon! The species of Tuna available in the supermarket here is Nageoire Jaune or Albacore. The usual common seafood over here are flat fish, crevette grises, or mussels (my 2 darlings saw juicy ones clinging on the dike this afternoon :-P). Then... flashbacks of poor tunas that were caught before maturing age I saw in National Geographic channel not long ago made my hand grab that pack of salmon! Anyway, the results for this recipe turned out well and my guests were fine and loved it. One of my close Belgian friends, Aldina in Hamburg requested this recipe to be on my blog when she visited me in Penang but I postponed it for quite sometime (until she had to PM me for the recipe! Sorry, for giving the recipe late :-P and I hope your guests loved it as much as we did).

I served this tartare back then with large size papadums and boiled edamame beans. Now, I'm back in Belgium, I have the pleasure of eating kilos of Belgium 'White Gold' ~ the Chicon! The thought of serving this salmon tartare using the chicon leaves was because of the fresh and crunchy tasty leaves. I stil wonder why Chicons are considered bitter... I don't taste it that much actually. I had tasted worst than that with other vegetables like bitter gourd and some terrible Traditional Chinese Medicine when I was sick. The other reason(s) was I short of small plates and don't have those tiny individual serving bowls :-D Banana leaf did come across my mind but you can't eat it, right? :-D I stored minimum 2 kilos of chicon at a time in the fridge and why not using them?

Most importantly to remember when handling raw seafood and meat, clean your hands, utensils and working surfaces before and after thoroughly. Put raw ingredients in the fridge if you're not serving it before time. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much I did.

Salmon Tartare Asian Style With Chicon
Serves 6-8 persons

300 g Salmon fillet (w/o skin) ~ Sushi-grade quality
Several ears of Chicon (Belgian Endives) ~ I used about 1 kg!

60 ml Light Soya Sauce/Tamari
30 ml Fresh Lime Juice
1 tsp Lime zest ~ grated finely
½ tsp Garlic ~ grated from 1 large/2 small cloves
1 tsp Ginger ~ grated from a thumb-size ginger root
1 Shallots ~ sliced and chopped finely

1 tsp White Sesame seeds ~ toasted and lightly crushed
1 pc Red Chilli ~ deseeded and chopped finely
1 stalk Spring Onion ~ sliced diagonally into thin slices
Salt & Pepper to taste (optional)

1. Clean the raw salmon fillet under running water. Pat dry with kitchen paper and set aside.
2. Wash the Chicons properly and pat them dry. Trim off the browned ends, few outer leaves and any bruises. Leave it whole until needed as chicons turned brown and wilted quickly (I usually put them back in the fridge or covered it up in a drainer).
3. In a clean bottle or container with a lid, mix all the Marinade ingredients and give it a good shake until the ingredients well incorporated. Set aside until needed.
4. Cut the salmon steak into long strips and dice into cubes ~ roughly about 1 cm x 1 cm thickness or just the way you would prepare Salmon/Tuna Tartare. Be careful not to dice the fish too small or it would be mushy and break apart when you mix in the marinade.
5. In a bowl, add in the diced salmon and ¾ of the marinade mixture.With a spoon, slowly fold them together.Wrap up with cling film and refrigerate until time to serve.
6. When it's time to serve, make sure the salmon tartare changed color or turned opaque and the meat is 'springy' cooked by the Lime juice.Taste it again to make sure the tartare is well seasoned. Add more of the left over marinade if needed.
7. Add in the sliced spring onions, chopped chilli & lightly crushed toasted sesame seeds. Mix it well and serve in small individual serving bowls with separated chicon leaves or spoon the salmon tartare ready in the chicon leaves.
I put few whole chicons on the side so that the guests can have extras. If you like more pungent, try it with small amount of wasabi to give it a Japanese taste, bird's eye chillies or Scotch Bonnet to give extra kick for the adventurous guests :-) I suggest that you put separately the wasabi or chillies and let the daring guests help themselves.
You can use skin-on salmon steak which is a bit cheaper than skin-off salmon steaks. Just don't forget to remove the skin when you dice it! :-P This recipe is also wonderful and delicious with Tuna. You can use Lemon or Yuzu as well :-)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

G Is For... Gazpacho

It was hot and sunny few weeks ago that I decided to try my hands and knives for the first time to make Gazpacho ~ that famous cold soup slurped world wide! Every where I went, it's in the Summer Menu. It's so famous that food companies even produced it in tetra-paks, cans and bottles! It's one of Spain's famous export besides Paella, La Tomatina, Bull Fighting, Flamenco and... Real Madrid :-D Ok, I admit am not a football fan but I do knew few names here and there.

Gazpacho is a kind of seasonal raw soup with refreshing quality ingredients that's a sure hit and instantly remembered of European Summers besides it's suitable for vegetarians too. You won't go wrong if you serve it at dinner in those hot summer days! By the way, another similar cold soup to Gazpacho is the Vichyssoise (scroll down to the bottom page of how Vichyssoise influenced Anthony Bourdain and in entertainment). Traditionally, it's blended with hard bread (or stale bread) rather than serve separately as toasts with or without onions. Some people don't like hard bread incorporated into the soup :-) Of course, you can add hard boiled eggs, ham, croutons, almonds if you want to make other variation of non-vegetarian cold raw soups like Salmorejo and Ajo Blanco or Gazpacho Manchego which is a meat stew (mainly rabbit and chicken meat) from La Mancha, Spain.

So, here's my first try of traditional homemade Gazpacho or Gazpacho Andaluz with seasonal ingredients! I don't use mortar and pestle for the pounding of vegetables even though is sometimes favoured to give the soup textures and to avoid foaming created by food processors. I imagined with horror, a large barrel-size mortar, long pestle pounding away with loads of vegetable chunks strewing everywhere on the kitchen floor... and a chirpy 3 ½ year old, happily picking up the scraps? Oooofff... :-|

Gazpacho Andaluz
Serves 4-6 portions

To be blended in food processor:
½ Cucumber ~ skinned, deseeded & chopped roughly
5 nos Red Tomatoes ~ deseeded & diced (choose medium size sun ripened tomatoes)
1 no Yellow Onion/White Onion ~ medium size, roughly diced
½ Red Capsicum ~deseeded & diced
2 cloves Garlic
3 slices of hard breads (or stale bread) ~ wholemeal or white, no problem
1 Liter Water
2 Tbl Red Wine Vinegar/Xérès Vinegar
3 Tbl Olive Oil
2 Tbl Tomato Concentrate
Sea Salt & freshly grounded Black Pepper to taste

½ Yellow Onion/White Onion - finely diced
½ Cucumber ~ deseeded & diced
½ Green Capsicum ~ deseeded & diced
Extra Virgin Olive Oil ~ for drizzling, generously

1. In a food processor, add in the vegetables and stale bread. Blend them into a mixture. Add in the salt and pepper to taste. Then the vinegar and blend the mixture again until it's smooth and creamy.
2. While the food processor still turning, add in the olive oil and tomato concentrate.
3. Pour into a soup tureen or pot and chill it minimum 2 hours in the refrigerator. Just before serving, check the taste again and adjust if necessary.
4. Ladle the gazpacho into individual bowls or soup plates and sprinkle the reserved garnishes over the soup.

Note: I like to use Yellow Onion for this soup because I like it's stronger and complex flavour that complements the Capsicums and vinegar. You can use milder and sweeter white onions or omit it if preferred as sometimes it's not included in the Andalusian region . To chill the soup faster, I poured it into a stainless steel pot ( I would love to have it in a Soup Tureen but I don't want to break it accidently) or if you use a tall blender, you can just put the whole jug in the fridge. If you think it's too liquid, you can start with 800 ml of water and slowly add extra water to achieve the consistency you like... or lessen the liquid to make Arranque Roteño, gazpacho cream :-)


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Lettuce With Orange, Kalamata Olives & Viande De Grisons Salad

One mentioned Swiss, images of Gruyère, Raclette, Swiss Army Knives (remember MacGyver's faithful companion?), Swatch, Sigg, Lindt, Quark or Caran d'Ache flashes in your mind. There's one Swiss produce that doesn't really take off in certain countries and a put off to some people. Can you guess what it is? :-P
Two weeks ago, my family was visited by our Swiss friend and his family whom we didn't meet for some years except through emails and online. Guess what? They brought me 6 x 1.5 Lt bottles of Red Rivella! That's the only carbonated drink I would gobbled down anytime! I was totally fallen flat with this lactoserum or sérum de lait based drink since 1988! For Lactose Intolerance and Vegetarian foodies, don't fret, there's Rivella Yellow made from Soy Beans serum (shocking indeed for me)! I haven't taste it but am not sure it's as good as original version and I prefer my Soy Bean milk as it is!
Anyway, that aside and for future blogging. Today's a bit hot for my family but the beach is crowded with sun worshippers! No kite flying today as we can't find any spot to take off. I don't want to step over anyone, of course but actually, I would love to! :-D
For such a hot day (I bet in one or two days, it would rain -my nose is itchy now), I decided to make salad with some Bio Navel oranges I bought few days ago. Add to that, some left over slices of my favourite air-dried beef, gorgeous beetroot shoots and delicious dressing! With a tall glass of chilled Rivella, I drink to that ;-)

Lettuce With Orange, Kalamata Olives & Viande de Grisons Salad
Serves 4

1 nos Lettuce
4 nos Oranges
1 pkt Viande De Grison (available in ± 20 pcs/pkt)
Kalamata Olives (or any Black Olives)
Germes de Betteraves Rouge (Young Beetroot Shoots) ~ optional

For the Vinaigrette:
5 Tbl Red Wine Vinegar or juice of 2 Limes/Lemons
4 Tbl Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
1. Separate the leaves of lettuce individually. Wash and dry the leaves thoroughly.
2. Wash and remove the outer skin and white pith of the oranges. Slice into rounds. Keep aside and reserve the juice in a small bowl.
3. In the same small bowl with the orange juice, add in red wine vinegar, olive oil, ground pepper and salt to taste. Whisk until well mix.
4. Prepare a Salad bowl, put in the lettuce leaves. Pour in the vinaigrette and gently toss the lettuce leaves until well coated. Use hands if you must :-P.
5. Arrange the lettuce leaves in large Salad Plates and lay on top slices of oranges in each plate.
6. Granish with kalamata olives, Germes de Betteraves Rouge, few pieces of Viande de Grison for each serving.
You can also serve the vinaigrette separately and drizzle it on the sliced oranges instead of mixing it into the lettuce leaves. If you want mix the vinaigrette with the lettuce, do it when you about to serve to avoid wilted salad leaves.
Viande de Grisons or Grisons beef (Swiss Bündnerfleisch ~ thin slices of air-dried beef) originated from canton des Grisons, Switzerland. If you can't find this type of Swiss air- dried meat, you can replace with other similar air-dried meat or omit it. I also added some pinches of Sumac, one of my favourite Turkish spice on the Viande de Grisons and the salad of salad :-) If you don't have Sumac, you can use the usual way of eating Viande de Grisons with grounded black pepper.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Chicken Thighs With Spiced Sour Red Cabbage

I love vegetables since I was a child and my mom never complaint about it unlike some mothers on their children, except that I was quite skinny although I ate meat. Meat in our younger days tasted much better than what we have now. One of my favourite was Pork Belly in Soy Sauce with Eggs (I stopped eating pork since 1993, when my former employer had their factory and office next door to a pig slaughter house! I started to consume pork again slowly about 8 years ago but not as much as I used to). When comes to vegetables, what I had seen in my days were mostly green, except when comes to chillies, we have white, yellow, red, orange and with aubergines, there are purple, light green and white. Nowadays, we can see colorful cauliflowers, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes... the lots! What a vast choices to put on our tables and feed our families.

With so much varieties and colors of our food, we faced the problems of how to maintain their colors after cooking. Of course, we can eat them raw as salads but certain vegetables need to be cook or at least blanch them for few minutes to make them palatable, especially for children. Besides cooking colorful vegetables, it has to be presentable and taste delicious to encourage children (also adults!) to incorporate vegetables in their diets.

That in mind, I tried the first time to cook Chou Rouge or Red Cabbage/ Purple Cabbage to some countries. Most of the time, I added this beautiful cabbage in salads because the fear of seeing it losing its color (turned into dull blue when cook for long period of time to soften it) put me off from cooking it. Sure, I can always reach out for those bottled or canned Red Cabbage but I prefer to give it a shot before calling it quits! Btw, do you know canned beets are used in most quantity foodservice operations? I do envied those food magazines managed to capture the intense color of this Red Cabbage but when you knew about the tricks of how a dish was photographed to obtain such vibrant colors and shapes, it made me wonder if I should produced photographs of the 'real' results or follow the tricks to make the dish pleasing for the eyes (or acceptable for online food galleries).

I don't have right apparatus or appropriate tablewares to snap gorgeous professional photos and it's not easy when you have an excited toddler tagging with you who just couldn't wait to dip his fingers into the cooked food! Anyway, I decided to post here as it was. It would be great if any foodie friends out there have wonderful tips to share on how to cook Red Cabbage or any colorful vegetables! Experienced foodie photographers are encouraged to share tips and tricks on how to shoot challenging Red Cabbage dishes :-)

Chicken Thighs With Spiced Sour Red Cabbage
Serves 4

½ nos Red Cabbage (Chou Rouge)
200 g White Turnips (Navet)
4 pcs Chicken Thighs
2 Tbls Cooking Oil
½ nos Orange ~ for juice only
4 Tbls Apple Cider Vinegar (or more to taste)
1 tsp Ground Paprika
1 tsp Gound Coriander
Salt and Black Pepper to taste

1. Wash and slice thinly the red cabbage. Peel and grate coarsely the white turnips.
2. Wash the chicken thighs thoroughly and pat dry with kitchen papers. Marinade with some salt and black pepper to taste. Set aside for few minutes.
3. In a large deep pan, heat the cooking oil until it's hot (you will see the oil smokey). Shallow fry the chicken thighs on both sides until golden brown. Dish up and keep them warm in 2 separate plates.
4. In the same pan, add in the sliced red cabbage and white turnip. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
5. Add in the rest of the vinegar, orange juice and grounded spices. If you want, add in some salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and cook for 30 minutes on medium heat.
6. Arrange the chicken thighs on top of the vegetables and cook covered for another 15 minutes in medium heat. Serve hot as it is or with grilled polenta.


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Fried Salted Fish in Tamarind Sauce (Ikan Masin Masak Branda)

When my mom was around, she used to cook this salted fish dish which I loved very much. Sometimes, when she can't find the firm and meatier salted fish, she would used other types of firm meat salted fish. I don't fancy soft meat salted fish like gelama that much for this dish :-) In the Penang island, this style of cooking is known as Masak Branda or sometimes, it's written as Masak Belanda but in Malacca it's known as Goreng Asam. I suspected the name of the dish may be influenced by Indonesian Peranakans from Medan in North Sumatera which is very close to Penang island. During the heyday of Spice Trail and colonisations, Indonesia was influenced by Dutch (in my country, the locals still call Netherlands as Holland) or Belanda in Malay language (derived from Portuguese ~ 'Holanda').

I also discovered this versatile sauce or gravy for this dish easily adapted for fried eggs, meat, seafood and vegetables as well. My favourite vegetable for this tamarind gravy is aubergine (eggplant or brinjal), which I will post the soonest.

If you read or knew Peranakan culture in Southeast Asia, a Nyonya was trained not just the cooking skills but also able to adapt their recipes accordingly to seasonal ingredients. I hope Peranakan culture and cuisine stays in years to come as younger generations of this minority group found the tradition is no longer practical in today's world. As the older generations faded away, it's easy to dine Nyonya cuisine in restaurants but I can assured you, the best Nyonya cuisine comes from the home and from the heart. It's truly an authentic amalgam of Malaysian cultures. If you ever invited to a Peranakan Nyonya home for meal, DON'T decline it! No second thoughts! ;-)

Fried Salted Fish in Tamarind Sauce (Ikan Masin Masak Branda)
Serves 4-6

150 g Dried Salted Fish Meat (preferably firm and white fish meat like Red Snapper, Threadfin or Cod)
2 nos Fresh Red Chillies ~ sliced diagonally
6 nos Red Shallots (Asian Red Shallots) ~ sliced thinly
5 cloves Garlic ~ sliced thinly
20 g Ginger ~ cleaned, removed outer skin & julliened
300 ml Tamarind Juice ( or 35 g Tamarind Puree + 250 ml water)
20 g Raw Cane Sugar or to taste (or Granulated Sugar)
1 g - 2 g Grounded White Pepper or to taste (about 1/2 tsp full)
Cooking Oil

Garnish (optional):
Some chopped Fresh Coriander, Spring Onions, Crispy fried shallots or Ginger

1. Removed any dried scales and hard fish bones hidden within the salted fish meat. Sliced the dried salted fish meat of your choice about 0.5 cm thick pieces. Soak them in water for few minutes. Remove and pat the pieces dry with kitchen paper. Set aside.
2. Heat some cooking oil in a pan enough to fry the salted fish meat ( I used about 125 ml cooking oil for the amount of salted fish I used). When the oil is hot, fry the salted fish pieces until crispy but be careful not to burn them. Remove them quickly into some kitchen paper to absorb the access oil. Arrange the salted fish into a serving plate.
3. Remove some of the oil and leave about 50 ml in the pan. Stir-fry the sliced chillies, red shallots, garlic and ginger until fragrant.
4. Add in the Tamarind juice and let the gravy boils for few minutes.
5. Add in sugar and grounded white pepper to taste and continue to let the gravy boils until it thickens to your preference.
6. Pour the thickened gravy over the fried salted fish pieces in the serving plate. Serve with hot steamed rice or rice congee with other condiments.

If you can't find Tamarind Purée (with seeds and impurities remove), use the usual Tamarind pulp with seeds. You may need more amount than the Tamarind Purée. I usually average it 1 teaspoon full of Tamarind Purée to 1 Tablespoon full of Tamarind Pulp. In Malaysia's Peranakan or Nyonya cuisine, each household has their own taste preferences. It's difficult to give exact measurement as most recipes literally handed down through the female generations. For this recipe, I like it more sour with lots of ginger and garlic. For chilli fans, you can replace fresh chillies with dried chillies instead :-)
If you can't find firm whole salted fish meat fillets like Spanish Mackerel, Red Snapper, Threadfin, you can use those small salted fish that had been sliced and dried in halves in Thai supermarkets or major Asian shops.


Monday, August 3, 2009

Watermelon & Feta Salad (Karpouzi Me Feta)

Like a magnet, I directed my steps towards one of the narrow streets leading into the city centre. It was a hot day by my standard but not for the sun lovers of this beach city ~ the largest in the Belgian Coast. I'm not a sun worshipper since childhood days. I disliked putting sun lotion/sun block repeatedly on my face and body to be bake like lobster :-P Besides, few days ago a documentary in TV5 Monde showed that certain chemicals in sun block caused coral bleaching, increased skin cancer and a research done in Zurich discovered certain chemicals in sunblock brands caused genital deformation in rats (sorry, animal lovers... I think in this case, it's unavoidable) which I definitely not going to apply it on my son or on any kids! I'm going to get an organic sun block for the family in my next shopping trip :-) If you need to go out to the beach or errands, wear proper sun protector ~ proper clothing, hat, umbrella, sunglass, synthetic-free chemical sunblock and stay in the shade as much as possible. Be safe and still enjoy the warmth of the sunshine!

Now, back to this little street I mentioned earlier... Under the influence of the hot sun, there's only one thing focused in my mind ~ watermelon! Standing at its usual spot was the shop I usually tagged along for fast (also emergency) and convenient food supply. What surprised me was, right in front of me was a large crate of... Greek Watermelons! Yep... all the way from Hellas! My hubby jokingly said the fruits must had been following us back! :-D

During my recent trip to Athens, Greece I had the opportunity to taste some fabulous local fruits from the organic farmers' market. One of such fruits is the large oblong shaped, sweet, juicy and red watermelon! I was treated with watermelon and feta cheese salad in my Greek friend's home. I read somewhere long time ago about this weird combination but to taste it right in front of me, is a heaven sent! :-D As I searched further into this salad, some people added red onions, fresh mint, olives, red wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar and some don't. Can any Greek foodies furnish me with more info about this salad?

For my easy version, I used half of the watermelon (the other half reserved only for me!) and a packet of Dodoni Feta Cheese AOP/PDO (200g) which I found creamier and milder than the traditional sheep's milk Greek feta. There are certain ingredients that I didn't added in as I don't have them in the pantry at that moment but the combination of tastes were great even with simplest basic ingredients. This recipe is for my Greek friend, who's also my son's 'nounos', Axilleas S. in mind with no raw onions added. It's 'yucks' for him! Thank you for the fabulous meli (from the beekeeper-seller at the back of your house) and the several litres of best quality extra virgin olive oil which had me worried about the transporting condition throughout the airports :-P

Watermelon & Feta Salad (Karpouzi Me Feta)
Serves 4-6
½ Watermelon ~ preferably seedless and sweet variety
150 g Greek Feta (preferably authentic Greek Feta)

For the salad dressing:
Generous amount quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I used 60 ml)
Freshly Grounded Black Pepper to taste
Rice Vinegar to taste (optional ~ I used about about 10-20 ml)
Fleur De Sel to taste
Some Fresh Basil ~ chiffonade

1. In a small bowl, mix together the extra virgin oil, grounded black pepper, fleur de sel and rice vinegar until combined. Set aside.
2. Remove the rind of watermelon and cut into bite sizes. You can cubed or use a melon baller if you like them in rounds. Pour in the dressing and mix gently with the watermelon chunks. Chill them in a salad bowl until needed.
3. Before serving, crumble the feta cheese around the watermelon chunks.
4. Sprinkle with the 'chiffonade' fresh basil leaves and serve.

Note: You can omit the vinegar if you like. I tried with and without vinegar before and it's only slight difference in tastes. For me, the vinegar is to prevent browning of fruits and to cut down the olive oil. This salad is great with Souvlaki, BBQ meat and sausages... it's refreshing and yummylicious! Another way I like is serving the watermelon with Heart of Palm. It's amazing taste too!


Monday, July 20, 2009

Wanton Wrappers With Quail Eggs, Lotus Seeds and Gingkos Sweet Soup

"Waste not, want not" ~ It's a very helpful idiom. I was left with large bundle of wanton wrappers from last cooking session. I let them dried up on a baking sheet on the kitchen top while deciding what to do with it later. Usually, when I made wantons or dim sums for my family, I will buy extra wanton wrappers. You never know if there are torn wrappers or odd shape wrappers between the layers!

Besides that, left over wanton wrappers not only made delicious dessert or sweet soup but savoury dishes like noodles and pasta as well. Believe me, it's really tasty! So, next time if you have torn wrappers (please, not the ones already been wrapped with raw ingredients) or left over wanton wrappers, don't chuck them inside your freezer or throw them away! Just let them dry on a tray, dehydrator, under the sun or in the oven (low temperature). You'll be amazed how versatile these humble wanton wrappers are!

This time, I decided to cook a Chinese sweet soup or dessert. I'm a huge fan of 'Tong Sui' or Chinese sweet soup. Some of this sweet soups may took hours to cook that unless you have large family or group of friends visiting you, it's no point to make it yourself. Back home in my town, I would go to my favorite sellers to buy them. Of course, when you're traveling or living far away from your home, cravings for them over rides the tedious hours of making them :-D This sweet soup I made is very easy and the 'tiny additions' to it made it even more tastier and healthy too that is, if you don't mind the cholesterol or what the scientists said! I, certainly don't for sure, no way when comes to sweet soup desserts! :-D

Wanton Wrappers With Quail Eggs, Lotus Seeds & Gingkos Sweet Soup
Serves 2

12 nos Quail Eggs
30 g Dried Wanton wrappers
60 g Rock Sugar or to taste
50 g Gingko nuts ~ canned or preshelled (optional)
50 g Lotus Seeds ~ canned or freshly packed (optional)
2 cups water
Some extra water

1. Boil the quail eggs until cooked. Leave it to cool and remove the shells.
2. Wash the rock sugar quickly. Set aside.
3. Cooking the wanton wrappers (this is a bit tricky part): We need a small pot and a bowl of cold water or ice cubes. In a small pot, add in some water (about 2 - 3 cups) and bring it to a boil. Put in the dried wanton wrappers and cook them until softens and almost transparent. Remove them from the boiling water and quickly plunge them into the bowl of cold water. Set aside until needed.

NOTE: The reason I did this because I don't want a cloudy sweet soup. Wanton wrappers are coated with extra flour to avoid pieces stick together. When you pre-cook the wrappers, the extra flour dissolved into water (thus water turns cloudy and yellow due to lye water (read comment #22 at the bottom of page) used as coloring in commercial productions such as noodles or desserts in small quantity). The cold water 'shocking' method also made the wrappers a bit springy and not easily torn apart.

4. In a deep pan or pot, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add the rinsed rock sugar and cook until it's fully dissolved.
5. Add in the quail eggs, lotus seeds, gingko nuts and cooked wanton wrappers (don't forget to remove the ice cubes if you used them :-P). Bring it to a boil for 1 - 2 minutes. Serve hot or cold (add in some crushed ice or ice cubes).



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