Sunday, September 12, 2010

Grilled Masala Prawns With Pineapple-Mint Raita

You love pineapples? I sure do... especially the sweet varieties and living in Tropical climate sure do have the best advantages to savour such juicy delicacies. It's one of my country’s oldest agro-based export-oriented industries and so popular that there is a Pineapple Muzeum to honor this humble fruit! You can view some footage of the Pineapple Muzeum (Muzium Nanas, loated in Pontian, Johor) and in Hawaii, a footage of how the pineapples are grown, harvest and processed :-)

For more information about pineapple, you can read them in my country's local Pineapple industry (look for the Pineapple Info/History on the right column) with with some recipes and the origin of Pineapple/Ananas.

Lately, I was craving for sweet pineapples and bought a large Josephine Pineapple from a local farmer's market. I used it up for cooking Pineapple Fish Curry and left with a quarter portion. As we all knew, pineapples not just great on its own but when pairing with seafood, meat, BBQ and even in curries, the tastes are heavenly! Besides adding sweetness to the food, it also adds tanginess and tenderized tough meat! Oh... beware if you try to use the juice as toner for face, it's very 'sharp' and may cause dryness and tightness on skin surface :-) I remembered once I was scolded by my mom because the pineapple juice dropped on the wooden flooring and left opaque blotches! :-P

So, here's a recipe of how I used up the last portion of Josephine Pineapple :-D Enjoy!

Grilled Masala Prawns With Pineapple-Mint Raita
Serves 2-4

20 Large Fresh Prawns
Red or Green Capsicums-seeded & cut to bite size wedges
Green Chillies to taste
3-4 Tbl Oil

For Mustard Masala:
1 Tbl Ground Mustard Seeds ( I used freshly grounded Black Mustard Seeds)
1 Tbl Pounded Ginger
1 Tbl Pounded Garlic2 tsp Honey
1 tsp Salt
¾ tsp Ground Cumin
¾ tsp Ground Tumeric

For Pineapple-Mint Raita:
200 g Plain Natural Yoghurt-unsweetened
100 g Finely diced ripe Pineapple
2-3 Tbl finely chopped fresh Mint leaves
¼ tsp Ground Black Pepper
Small pinch of salt

Extra Mint

1. Remove heads and shells from prawns but leave the tails on. Devein the prawns.
2. Mix all the Masala ingredients together n a large bowl. Add prawns, stir and rub to coat prawns with the mix..Cover and allow to marinade in the fridge for 30 minutes.
3. Make raita just before serving: combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
4. Thread the prawns onto the satay sticks, alternating them with capsicum wedges or Green chillies. Brush lightly with oil and grill until cooked through and lightly charred at the edges. Cook about 2-3 minutes each side, turning once.
5. Serve prawns hot, garnished with mint leaves and with raita on the side.

You can use ready grounded Mustard Seeds powder sold at Indian grocers or make your own by slow toasting mustard seeds until its fragrant and pops up. Let the grains cool down before grounding. Used according to the recipe and keep the rest in air tight container for next usage.

If you can't find black or yellow Mustard Seeds, you can use prepared bottled Wholegrain Mustard but adjust accordingly to your taste.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Chicken Tarragon And Eryngii Mushroom

It had been a hectic schedule lately for the family. My kid was sniffing and it's not looking good... no thanks to the crazy weather lately (I tried to boost up his immune system with vitamins and rest but in the end the cold bugs won!). So, the stove was not much of smoking even though I got lots of recipes to try out... :-(

Still, I managed to sneak into one (or two) of the local supermarkets on my way out to fetch my kid from kindergarten :-P. This time, I found new batches of Eryngii Mushrooms a.k.a King Oyster Mushroom (Pleurotus eryngii) at quite low price (less than 2 €/pkt of 250 g)! It had been quite sometime I didn't serve this mushroom and buying them in Europe is really expensive as it's considered 'exotic' food along with Oyster Mushrooms, Abalone Mushrooms, Enoki, etc. To read more about this Eryngii mushroom, you can read it here with recipe and an added flavour Ginseng Eryngii Mushroom (haven't find this one for more than 1 year!)

For this hearty 'One Pot' European style recipe, I used deboned chicken thighs and breast meats with smoked bacon. It's easy to make and you can add on other side dishes to it like rice, potatoes, bread, salad, etc. I cooked some left over carrots and zucchini with a knob butter, pinch of salt and few twist of black pepper. Give a quick toss and serve with steamed rice. Oh... one more thing... instead of the usual White Wine used in such recipes, I broke the rule by using Brandy a.k.a Cognac :-P That's what I can find on the shelf at that moment. This French Brandy can be found mostly in Chinese households. You can say that if you want to win the hearts of your potential in-laws of your lady love, this got to be IT when you pay them your first visit and also for birthdays and Chinese New Year (Martell is the best choice so far I'd seen ;-D).

I can say the dish turned out gorgeously creamy, juicy with a hint of brandy and the tender chicken thigh meat was a great substitution that I preferred more from the usual whole chicken! Enjoy cooking it for your next fuss-free meal! :-)

Chicken Tarragon With Eryngii Mushroom
Serves 4

4 pcs Chicken Breasts Fillets/Thighs (about 450 g)
4 rashers Smoked Bacon - cut into strips
150 g Eryngii Mushrooms - thinly sliced
50 ml Olive Oil
80 ml Brandy (or generous amount if you like it more!)
80 ml Fresh Cream
1 Tbl Tomato Paste (15 ml)
1 Tbl Fresh Tarragon - picked, firmly packed (about 4 sprigs)
2-3 stalks Spring Onion - finely chopped
Salt and Freshly grounded Black Pepper to taste

1. Wash chicken pieces thoroughly and trim off excess fat. Remove the skin and debone, if using chicken thighs or you can leave the bones in.
2. Preheat oven to 180 ºC.
3. In a large heavy pan, heat the oil to medium high. Add in the chicken pieces and cook about 2 minutes on each side, turning once. Remove from pan and drain excess oil.
4. In the same oil and pan, add in the sliced smoked bacon. Stir for 2 minutes and add in the sliced Eryngii Mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes or until the mushrooms slightly wilted.
5. Add in the brandy, tomato paste and tarragon leaves. Stir until mixture boils. Reduce heat and add in fresh cream. Simmer for 2 minutes and remove from heat.
6. Stir in chopped Spring onions and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
7. Arrange chicken pieces in a shallow ovenproof dish. Pour the sauce over the chicken. Covered and baked in the oven for 30 minutes or until chicken is tender.

You can use Button Mushroom or any seasonal mushrooms of your choice for this recipe. Besides using Brandy, you can also use Dry White Wine or Dry Sherry. If you want a healthier version, replace the fresh cream with plain natural yoghurt :-)

Bon Appétit!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Torta Di Banana (Banana Cake) ... or is it Banana Bread?

Mentioned 'Banana', most people would love this fruit, especially children (give them to my kid, he will eat almost ½ kg!). Banana comes with variety of colors, sizes and tastes. Basically, bananas are classified into 2 types or groups as 'Dessert Banana' (yellow, soft and sweet when fully ripe) and 'Cooking Banana' (mostly used as green bananas in curry, stew and snacks). Banana is famous among athletes as energy booster besides keeping any hunger pangs at bay :-D In fact, the whole Banana Tree has many uses besides as food (I had a recipe using the Banana Flower in this blog), fertilizer, religious ceremonies and also a new science discovery! If you want to know names of Banana varieties in Southeast Asia, here's a page in Malay language if you're interested but excluding Pisang Ambon which is a Dutch made green-banana flavoured liqueur :-P

By the way, any foodies received emails or read about Japanese researchers found that fully ripe bananas with dark spots or patches has higher immunity enhancements quality? Whether it's true or not, I love bananas and so did everyone else! On the other hand, if it's true, am sure Pharmaceutical companies are not happy with the news :-) You can read some of the reports about benefits of banana and other superfoods that help to boost our immune systems here and here. I hope any Japanese foodies out there who had came across such informations to post comments and links in my blog.

When I was in Belgium recently, I discovered a pure Banana Purée/Juice by Delhaize with no added sugar, additives, coloring or from concentrate. It became an instant hit especially with my boy who loves to drink it besides milk. When we're back in Southeast Asia, everyday he would asked for it... sigh... Anyway, I encouraged him to taste the many varieties of fresh banana available locally. He still asked for it occasionally and I would made him Banana Lassi or whole banana ice cream (just freeze any ripe bananas and whizzed it). This leads to the recipe I wanted to share. It's currently one of my son's favourite item when I have surplus of bananas. The recipe is simple and contains no artificial flavorings or colorings. I like to serve it straight from the oven, hot with butter and freshly brewed coffee or tea. You can freeze any left overs and warm them up later. If you like (which I'm sure you would and love it!) pay a visit to David Lebovitz's Banana Bread, or Banana Cake explaining of the confusion which I had as well when I baked this banana cake or is it banana bread? :-D it a Cake or a Bread???

... sliced it thick and serve with butter or any of your favourite spread!

Torta Di Banana (Banana Cake)
Serves 1 Loaf

4 Bananas (about 300 g, peeled)
250 g Flour-sifted
½ tsp Baking Powder - sifted
½ tsp Bicarbonate of Soda - sifted
240 g Raw Caster Sugar/White Caster Sugar*
220 g Butter
4 Large Eggs (I used about 65 g-70 g egg)
125 ml Plain Yogurt (optional)

1. Pre-heat your oven to 180º C/160ºC fan force.
2. Peel and mash the bananas but not until watery. (I like to taste little chunks of banana in the cake). If you're using yogurt, add it in when mashing the banana.
3. Cream the butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs and continue to whisk until fluffy.
4. Add in the flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder. Stir well and add in the mashed banana. Continue to stir until ingredients mix well but not over mix.
5. Rub a cake mould/loaf tin with some butter and dust with with some flour. Knock off any access of flour. Pour the batter into the mould (you can also use 2 small loaf tins for this recipe but reduce the cooking time).
6. Bake in preheated oven for about 40 minutes or until cooked when a tester comes out clean.

Sometimes, I add about 125 ml of plain yogurt to the mashed bananas in the recipe to give it a nice fluffy texture and also the sourness of yogurt helps the bananas from turning brown.
* If you use Raw Caster Sugar, you will have a darker banana cake like in my photos. :-)
The verdict of this recipe... :-)


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Ebiko Noodles With Haricot Verts, Prawns and Shiitake Mushrooms

Today, I'm going to blog about wheat noodles because someone in the family asked me why Asians ate so much rice! Breakfast was Nasi Lemak (Coconut Rice with Eggs/Anchovies Sambal, etc), Fried Rice, Porridge/Congee. Lunch was rice... Claypot Rice, Fried Rice (again!), Char Koay Teow (that flat white noodles is made from rice too!). Dinner is Hainanese Chicken Rice, Claypot Rice, Banana Leaf Rice (no, no, no... we don't eat the banana leaves but Indian food serve on the leaves like plates-no need to clean up later on!), Crab Porridge, Duck Koay Chiap... ok, the lots! Now, come to think of it... indeed I ate lots of rice (gasp! horror!) Fine... just want to point out that Rice is so versatile that it can be made into many eatable items. I'm not going to forgo my Paella, Nasi Lemak, Hainanese Chicken Rice, Briyani Rice, Sushi, Risotto, Mochi or Kheer, ok! :-P Click the link if you want to know more info about Rice. Now, back to the topic...

I was at the local Asian Supermarket one day to discover hidden among the variety of dried noodles displayed on the shelves, there was a stack of dark red colored plastic packages printed in bold black letters 'Prawn Egg Noodle' on it. We bought and ate noodles either fresh or dried, made with rice (yes, rice again) and the usual cereals or grains like wheat, durum wheat semolina, buckwheat, eggs, puréed vegetables or seafood like handcrafted specialties using Prawns, Nero di Seppia (Squid Ink), Carrot, Spinach and even chocolate! My mind made up that this pack was just like any other dried Prawn Egg Noodles in market... but there's something about that package that caught my eyes (or is it instinct?). So, what is so special with this noodle? Look at the photos below and tell me what you see...

See those little reddish bits? It's Prawn Eggs or Ebiko! I wonder how this company made that... but I DID tasted the ebiko bits after the noodle was cooked :-) What I could think of was the ebiko was dried first (or the Ebiko would burst during mixing!) and added later to the dough. Made into thin strands of noodle, bundled/moulded and dried again before packaging.
I did tried to find more information about this dried noodle but I'm lost in translation with what's the ingredients printed on the back of package in solid red and black! I tried to look for more info about this noodle but found nothing close to the description... so, I called it Ebiko Noodle for this dish instead of Prawn Eggs Noodle to avoid confusion :-D

A helpful foodie Food-4Tots, pointed out that the Ebiko is known as Shrimp Roe which I finally found some info about this Shrimp Egg Noodle-not much but some explanation of its origin.

Ebiko Noodle With Haricot Verts, Prawns and Shiitake Mushrooms
Serves 4

4 bundles/pcs of Dried Ebiko Noodles

300 g Prawns ~ heads removed and deveined (reserved the heads/shells for making stock later on*)
150 g Haricot Vert (French bean) ~ washed and tough vein removed
150 g Shiitake Mushrooms (fresh) ~ cleaned and sliced
3 cloves Garlic - minced
Generous amount of Shaoxing Wine
Some Spring Onion (scallion) for garnish

1 litre Prawn Stock*

2 Tbl Premium Oyster Sauce
1 Tbl Soy Sauce
½ tsp Sugar
Salt & Pepper to taste

2 Tbl Cornflour
80 ml Water

1. Slice the Haricot Vert (French Bean) into bite size. You can use other seasonal vegetables available locally. Sliced the cleaned Shiitake mushrooms.
If using Dried Shiitake Mushrooms, soak them with warm water to soften before using. Set aside.
Prepare a large pot of water, enough to boil the dried noodles. Bring it to boil (or at least half boil) before you start the stir-frying as this dish is fast cooking!
2. In a hot deep pan or wok, add in some cooking oil. Add in the garlic and give it a quick stir to avoid burning.
3. Add in Haricot Vert (French Beans), Shiitake Mushrooms follow by the Prawns.
4. Next, in the Seasoning and give them an even quick stir. Add generous amount of Shaoxing Wine!
5. Pour the Prawn Stock into the pan and let it simmer for few minutes.
6. While the gravy is simmering, boil the dried noodles until cooks. Strain the water off and put them into serving bowls or deep plates.
7. Before serving, heat up the gravy and pour in the Thickening ingredients (stir the cornflour mixture before adding in). Stir the gravy until it thickens.
8. Pour the thickened gravy on the boiled noodles. Garnish with spring onions and serve hot.

You can do this recipe with 2 ways. First method as in this recipe if you want to serve fast to hungry mouths or unexpected guests. The other method will be cooking the stock with the thickener separately from the seafood and vegetables.
Boil the dried noodles or pasta first. Arrange the seafood and vegetables on noodle and pour the hot thickened gravy on it.This way, you can prepare in advance if you have more than 4 diners :-D

~ Extra ~ Extra ~ Extra ~

Making Prawn Stock*
Making prawn stock is a good way to use ingredients that would otherwise discard. If you are using prawns in other dishes such as noodles, the heads and shells are normally removed and thrown away. However, they could be used again to make prawn stock which is an excellent sauce to use in various dishes. Once made, prawn stock can be stored in the fridge for about 2-3 days and in the freezer for up to 3 weeks.

1 Portion of reserved Prawn heads/shells (from 500 g medium-sized prawns)
1 Tbl Cooking Oil
2 slices Ginger
1 clove Garlic ~ minced
1 stalk Spring onion ~ cut into 4 portions
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Sugar

1. Heat a pot or wok. When it's hot, add in the cooking oil.
2. Add the minced Garlic and Ginger. Stir until it's fragrant.
3. Add in prawn heads/shells and give a good stir. After few minutes, add in Spring onion, water, sugar and salt.
4. Bring the mixture to a boil for about few minutes. Then turn the heat down to a simmer for another 20 min-30 min.
5. Let the stock cools down. Strain the mixture ~ separate solids from the juice. Use as needed.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Red Radish Leaves with Greek Feta Frittata

Ggakdugi Kimchi, Takuan, Daikon & Dried Squid Soup ... fresh or pickled, I love Daikon but I'm seldom into Red Radish until I was introduced to this Summer Radish called French Breakfast. They looked weirdly elongated root vegetables with lovely, brilliant deep pink jackets and white pants but with a long skinny tail! Come to think of it looked like a toy rat (really reminded me of Remy!) for a cat to play with. My son was just as curious as me when we saw bunches of them on the kitchen table. Seems that this specie of plant is related to the mustard found mostly in France than in Belgium but I saw once in a local supermarket and pricier than in France.

[Red Radish-French Breakfast variety]

[Close up of the Red Radish Roots]

This time, the bunches of red radish bought by our neighbour was far better than the previous batches! The freshness of this beautiful plant with her lushes green tops beckoning me to eat them! Yes, eat them whole especially the green leaves :-D Why not? The leaves smelled like Garland Chrysanthemum (known as Tung Ho, Tang Oh or Shingiku leaves) that I love so much. I like to add Garland Chrysanthemum in oyster omelettes or just stir-fry with chopped garlic. I learnt from a friend, that if you eat the whole plant, roots and leaves, it supposed to help kidney problems but he was refering to the White Radish or Daikon (Mooli) found locally in Asian markets. Anyway, my main target was the leaves...yummy! I know the leaves are edible but my Belgian side was a bit skeptical about eating them in their next meal :-D So, I decided to cook 2 versions on the same day! For lunch, I made the below recipe but for dinner, I stir-fried the leaves in a very hot pan with just oil, garlic, a bit oyster sauce and some julienned carrot for color contrast. What I can tell you is... my family loved both dishes! My father-in-law even told the story to the 'Red Radish' neighbor about it. They were surprised as most of time they just threw them away as garbage. I mean it's a common practice as the leaves are fodder for the animals or ended as compost. Really weird isn't it?

After that, I went to look for more infos and recipes using radish leaves and it's amazing what we can do with the leaves of this humble plant. I'm not talking of being frugal but for my foodie friends who haven't try it, please grab few bunches in your next trip to your favorite local farmers' market! Maybe you can try with Winter Radish varieties like Daikon or Gros Noir D'Hiver (Black Radish). Gosh... all this made me craving for Pickled Daikon in Nukazuke... :'-(

[Look at those delicious chunky Greek Feta sandwiched between the mushrooms, bacon, radish and leaves!]

Red Radish Leaves with Greek Feta Frittata
Serves 4

Leaves of 4 bunches of Red Radish (any variety)
150 g Red Radish (here I used French Breakfast red radish)
8 Nos Eggs (12 nos Eggs if you want a thicker frittata)
200 g Greek Feta (I used Dodoni)
250 g Champignons de Paris (White Button Mushrooms)
3 cloves Garlic ~ chopped
1 Medium size Yellow Onion ~ chopped
150 g Smoked Bacon ~ cut into small chunks (optional)
Some Cooking Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 pkt Mesclun Salad or any salad mix to serve

1. Clean the mushrooms, cut off the stems (you can leave it on or reserve the stems for other uses like stuffings or soups) and sliced.
2. Wash the radish leaves thoroughly from grits and remove wilted/damaged leaves. Drain the leaves dry. If you want to shred or chop it up into smaller pieces for easy cooking, you have to do it just before you cook as it spoils easily once cut up. I had the problem with previous batch when I thought I could save some time :-(
3. Sliced the red radishes into thin slices. Set aside.
4. Cut up the Greek Feta cheese into smaller chunks or you can crumble it just before adding to the cooking.
5. In a bowl, beat the eggs well and add in some salt and pepper to taste.
6. In a 10-in, heated ovenproof nonstick skillet or deep frying pan, add in the smoked bacon chunks (if using). Fry them until crispy or until the oil/fat released. Remove fried smoked bacon and set aside. Remove some of the oil/fat or for health reasons, replace it with your usual cooking oil or mix both to give some smoky flavour to the dish.
7. While pan still hot, add in chopped garlic and onions, fry until the onions almost transparent. Add in the sliced button mushrooms and continue cooking until the mushrooms half way cooked.
8. Pour in the beaten egg mixture; add in the fried smoked bacon (if using) and chopped radish leaves. Stir the egg and vegetable mixture evenly.
9. Add in the crumbled Greek feta cheese and then the sliced Red Radishes.
10. Reduce heat to low so the base of the frittata doesn't burn. Cook until the frittata is set around the edge but still runny in the centre.

11.Adjust the level of your rack, so that your pan is about 4-6 inches from the grill/heater. Preheat your oven to 220ºC/ grill on high (please refer to the manufacturer's guide).

12. Put the pan or skillet under the heater (broiler) for about 2-4 minutes or cook the frittata under grill until golden brown and just set. Set aside for 5 minutes to rest. Cut into wedges and serve with your choice of salad mix.

Note: You can use the Italian traditional way of cooking frittata instead of browning it in the oven or cook it straight all the way in the pan ~ that's me when I'm too busy (or lazy!). I used those multi-purpose flat pans (the ones I got at home were old AMC collections which amazingly still user-friendly today!) to brown the frittata on both sides :-D


PS. Do you think the name of the dish a bit like Tongue Twister? :-D

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Beautiful and Surprised ending to 2009!

There goes another year and another new year to begin with. So many memories and events that happened during 2009. Funny, I still haven't accomplished what I wanted to do from last year. Maybe I should brought forward the balance? :-) I did participated in BloggerAid Cookbook as I announced earlier in my latest blog entry BUT I think the most unexpected surprise for me was one of my recipe was selected by Saveur.Com ~ Best Of The Web: Sites We Love!
This really meant a lot to me and came unexpectedly before year ending. I found out accidently when I glanced at my site's Live Feed and saw some links or viewers were from! It really jump-started my senses ... :-D I clicked one of those links and voila! The page unfurl in front of my eyes. For an unknown food blogger like me, to have a small part in such well known magazine online and offline in the Culinary World, it encouraged me to improve myself further but also made me felt my efforts are not a waste of time! Thank you so much to Saveur.Com!

It took me some time to mention about it as I felt who am I compared to other established Food Bloggers that are famous and even produced their own cookery books nowadays. Then, inside me was a voice saying,"Hey, if this can happened to you, why not to others?" So, I decided to do this entry (actually, early this morning after I sent my son off to school) after months of silence. I want my Foodie Friends not to feel let down by all the rejections from online food galleries or if your dishes didn't turned right after you followed them to the T...:-D Yes, I do envied those gorgeous Photos in the food blogs :-P 90% of the time, I don't have the right location or using improper set ups, blah, blah, blah... but hey, someone out there did notice the effort!

I wanted to wish all my wonderful foodie friends and not forgetting 'Viewers' and particularly 'Anonymous' posters who left encouraging (and also discouraging) comments in my blog ~ Thank you so much and Happy New Year and best wishes to you and family ~ Let's start cooking for year 2010!


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