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!



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