Sunday, May 31, 2009

Prawns With Broccoli and Pine Nuts

For the last few months, I'd been eating quite a lot of seafood even when I travelled, I never missed tasting seafood specials of the regions. Of course, prices are hefty compared to my hometown - well, no fret I'll be back and ready to have seafood spree -actually the fishmongers are happy to see me, you know :-D They even remembered when was the last time I patronised their stalls :-P

I think there will be more meat and vegetables recipes coming (seafood is 'errhmmm' in Europe you know...) There's one scene I wanted to tell... any country I went, my first visit would be their fresh markets. I love the hustle and bustle of the local life, far away from tourists (except me of course :-D ) and sometimes, you may find odd food or specialty of the season amongst the vans, trucks and carts. The scene, I mentioned earlier was the first time I'm in Europe, I was shocked to see pre-cooked crabs and crevettes grises on display in baskets, trays and crates :-D I'm used to see 'live' crabs in tanks or ponds ready for selection and cook to your specifications. Well, except Flower Crabs and Blue Swimmers, other crabs are kept alive until further notice! What I can say is, today I'm a huge fan of Crevettes Grises! They are yummylicious and I always reserved the peeled shells and heads as stock for soups, stir-fries, steamed seafood, noodles... etc.

Looks like my next seafood tryout is going to be the cooked crabs but judging by the size and weight, it's going to pinch my purse soon :-D Anyway, I'm not doing fish... yet but here's a yummy recipe that may take sometime to cook but I love the results. It's like eating 2 flavours in one dish! Most important thing... mise en place... ingredients within reach, very hot wok or pan and fast stir-frying. Lots of handwork involved but all of us can do it! Serve this dish hot with steamed rice or made extra gravy, ladle on top yellow noodles. ramen or egg noodles as a delicious side dish to your main meal!

Prawns with Broccoli and Pine Nuts
Serves 2

25 g Pine Nuts
150 g Broccoli
150 g Prawns
1/2 pc Carrot
2 slices Ginger
1 Tbl Ginger wine
Some boiling water for scalding the vegetables

Marinade for Prawns:
1/8 tsp Salt
1 tsp Cornflour
1 tsp Oil

Seasoning for Broccoli:
1/4 tsp Salt
1/2 cup Chicken Stock
3 Tbl Water
3/4 tsp Cornflour

Sauce (Gravy) Mix:
3 Tbl Water
1/8 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Sugar
1/2 tsp Sesame Oil
1/2 tsp Cornflour

1. Rub the pine nuts with clean damp cloth. Let them dry and toast the nuts until fragrant and golden. Set aside. It's important to stir the pine nuts constantly to avoid burnt. You can also bake the nuts in oven at 120 ºC for 10 to 12 minutes until golden. I used fan to have even roasting.
2. Wash and cut the broccoli into small florets. Slice the carrot into rounds or any shapes you fancy (for this recipe, I shaped the carrots into flower and sliced them about 2mm thick, to maintain the shape of the design). Set aside.
3. In a small pot/pan, heat some water to a rolling boil. Scald the broccoli florets and carrot for about 1 minute. Drain immediately and set aside.
4. Shelled and devein the prawns. Rinse and pat dry. Marinate for about 5 minutes.
5. Heat some oil in a wok or deep pan. When it's really hot, add in the broccoli and stir-fry for while. Sizzle with ginger wine, the seasoning and mix well. Dish out in a serving plate. (Keep it warm with another plate on top if you prefer).
6. Wash your pan or wok with some water and heat it up again to high heat (to evaporate the water before adding oil to avoid splattering).
7. When the wok or pan is dry, add in some oil. When oil is hot and smoky, add in sliced ginger and stir-fry until fragrant. Add the marinated prawns and stir-fry quickly for few seconds. Add in the sliced carrots and the sauce/gravy mixture.
8. Mix well until the gravy thickens. Dish out on top of the cooked broccoli. Sprinkle some toasted pine nuts and serve.

If you can't find ready made Ginger Wine in your local Asian shops, you can try to make your own.

15 g old ginger - bruised or sliced into pieces
60 ml Rice Wine or Sake (please choose quality rice wine)

Add them together in a air tight jar and leave it to soak overnight before using. Strain the liquid as needed. This quantity will keep for several weeks, depends on how frequent you use in your cooking :-)

♪ ♥ Enjoy ♥♬

Friday, May 15, 2009

Spicy Chilli-Garlic Prawns

It's been more than 5 months, I had a part-time assistant or helper to do some chores at home. What amazed me was she managed to get very good (and cheaper too) some of my favourites from the local fresh market. I bet she's very good at haggling the prices! Frankly, I used to spend a lot buying food from supermarkets, which has little or no choice at all except imported produces which doubled the price (sometimes ridiculously) and such items had short shelf-life by the time they reached their destinations. Since I employed her, my expenditure for food reduced :-) but I still spend some hefty sums for quality wine or cheeses :-(

Few days ago she bought for me some fresh medium Tiger Prawns for only 3.10 € which made me grinned and thinking of ways how to eat these prawns. Btw, that price is for 1 kg and varies from day to day. Sometimes, when it's heavy rain, seafood are slightly more expensive. When the price is good, she would buy some for me to freeze, so that I could cook on other days when she's not working for me. No wonder, some of my neighbors seek her help to buy vegetables and particularly seafood! :-D

For this dish, it's important to know that a very high heat is used to avoid over cooking of seafood yet maintain its succulent and firm shape. Some foodies called it as springy, bouncy or 'QQ' texture that when you bite into these prawns, you can taste the bursting sweetness of fresh prawns and the marinades. You need to practice 'mise en place' if you're going to cook this stir-fry method which worth the effort. Now, let's wok away with this recipe...

Spicy Chilli-Garlic Prawns
Serves 2-3

500 g Large Prawns (like King Prawn or Tiger Prawn)

For the Sauce/Gravy:
50 ml Soy Sauce
30 ml Rice Vinegar
2 tsp Sesame Oil
30 g Tomato Ketchup
2 tsp Raw Sugar
1 tsp Cornflour
Some Water

2 Tbl Cooking Oil (like Corn, Peanut, Palm or Canola)
2 cloves Garlic - minced
1 Tbl Fresh Ginger - minced
1 nos Fresh Red Chilli seeded and minced (you can also use Jalapeño or Bird's Eye Chilli)
1 stalk Spring Onion - sliced thinly

1. For the Sauce: Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl and stir until sugar and cornflour dissolve.
2. Heat a pan or wok over high heat until you see some smoke coming out. Add 1 Tbl of the cooking oil. Add in the prawns and sear until browned on both sides (about 1 minute or so on both sides). Remove the prawns from the pan. Set aside.
3. With the same pan, turn up the heat on high and add in the rest of the cooking oil. Add in the garlic, ginger, chilli and half of the sliced spring onion. Stir for awhile until fragrant.
4. Add in the sauce mixture and give a quick stir until it starts to bubble.
5. Add the seared prawns and continue to stir-fry until cooked and the sauce thickens slightly. Dish out into a platter and garnish with the remaining sliced spring onion. Serve with hot steamed rice!
Tip: Before start cooking, prepare the other stir-fry ingredients mise en place because you will cook in very high heat and fast. The ingredients for stir-fry have to be within your reach so that the dish not only cooks fast but not over done. This method ensures your seafood stays firm and succulent. If using vegetables, stays crunchy and maintain its color and taste.


Spicy Chilli-Garlic Prawns on Foodista

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Grilled Vietnamese-Style Chicken With Cucumber & Carrot Vinaigrette

I'd been thinking buying a grill pan for sometime now but the problem I'm facing was there's no Round Grill Pan available at the frequent shops and malls I went to. Most of shapes available were Square and Oval... but my cooking hobs are round! It's quite frustrated for me when I saw the 3 shapes in their brochures and they said straight to my face,"If there's none at the display counter, it means we don't have in this outlet. It's the HQ who dispatched the items to us. We don't keep stock such items." Come on... if you don't have THE item I wanted, please indicated in your brochure which outlets the products were available!

I hate to travel 369 kms to IKEA just to get what I want :'-( When are you coming to my area? Sigh... I had to settle for the oven grill... the ole faithful. Well, I knew few tricks to achieve what I want for this recipe but I'm too lazy... actually too tired from the coughings and sore throat problems I had on and off lately. I had to force myself to swallow the %$@# anti-biotics because I don't want to spread it to my family :-(

Luckily, that didn't deterred me from having a hearty meal :-P Actually, I'm trying to clear my refrigerator as much as possible to give her a thorough clean up and rearrange the compartments. I found an edible Double cream which later on I used for Vanilla Ice cream. There were 1/2 box of Low-fat Coconut Milk, 4 chicken thighs, some Kyuri (Japanese Cucumber) and topped it up with other ingredients, I decided to cook the chicken thighs for lunch.

Grilled Vietnamese-Style Chicken with Cucumber and Carrot Vinaigrette
Serves 2

350g - 500 g Chicken thighs/Chicken breasts - skin-on and deboned

For Marinate (to be blended into smooth paste):
2 cloves Garlic-roughly chopped
2 nos Small Red Onion (Asian Shallots*)
½ Tbl Fresh Ginger
60 ml Fresh Coconut Milk or Low-Fat Coconut Milk
2 Tbl Rice Vinegar/Glutinous Rice Vinegar
2 Tbl Fish Sauce
1 Tbl Soy Sauce
1 Tbl Brown Sugar

Cucumber & Carrot Vinaigrette Mix:
2 nos Japanese Cucumbers (Kyuri)
1 nos Carrrot (medium size)
1 ½ Tbl Rice Vinegar/Glutinous Rice vinegar
2 Tbl Peanut Oil or any oil that's light in flavour
1 Tbl Brown Sugar
1 tsp Salt

1. Wash and pat dry the chicken thoroughly. Place chicken in a ceramic bowl or any non-reactive containers, large enough for the chicken to marinate. Add in the marinade paste, stir to coat evenly and cover (since I used chicken thighs, I made some incisions to let the marinate permeates deeper). Let it sit for at least 15 - 20 minutes at room temperature or at least 3-5 hours for the best flavors in the refrigerator. I left it overnight until needed to have deeper and rich flavor.
2. For the vegetable vinaigrette; Peel the cucumbers and carrot into thin, long strips. In a bowl, whisk the rice vinegar, sugar, salt and oil. Add the peeled vegetables, toss to mix and refrigerate until serving. (I prefer to make salad closer to the end of cooking time to avoid the vegetables become watery and limp).
3. Set the grill in the oven to 220ºC (with 2 upper heaters on or the equivalent in the model you have but you can use grill pan, gas grill, charcoal grill or non-stick electric grill). Lightly oil the rack. Remove chicken from the marinate, shake of the excess. Place the chicken, skin side up (or down if you're using a pan grill) and grill until browned, about 7-8 minutes. Turn and grill the other side until browned for 5-7 minutes. Move the chicken away from the direct heat (turn off the upper heaters but maintain the temperature and place it in the middle rack in the oven). Continue to cook the chicken thoroughly for about 7-10 minutes or until the meat turned opaque.
4. Serve the grilled chicken with the cucumber vinagrette and rice.

Note: The above cooking times were based on the size of chicken cuts I bought. Depends on the size of chicken cuts, cooking time may varied. Please adjust accordingly to your grill also. If you're using pan grill, the browning is faster because of the direct contact with the pan. Make sure it's on medium heat and cook the chicken cuts until done. I'm thinking of getting one of this pan grill for a change-thanks Jamie :-)

*Small Red Onions (aka Asian Shallots): Small reddish purple onions, commonly used in Asian cookery.
These grow in bulbs, like garlic, and are sold in segments that look like large cloves of garlic. They have a concentrated flavour and are easy to slice and grind. You can substitute with your local shallots if you can't find it.


Saturday, May 2, 2009

Thai Pumpkin And Chicken Curry

I was curious about this Virgin Coconut Oil and all the fuss for some time now. There were shows and information spreading around about this 'healthy coconut oil' which is derived from Fresh Coconut instead of it's dried form, Copra which is a RBD Coconut Oil (RBD stands for refined, bleached and deodorized). I finally found some brands available at an organic counter. I chose a smaller bottle to start with as I don't know how it will taste or how good it's heat tolerance in cooking as claimed by many. Also, it's said that Virgin Coconut Oil has medicinal and beauty values ranging for human usage to your faithful pets!

Guessed what? I'm hooked! :-P I was surprised by the quality of this Virgin Coconut Oil... After I cooked with the oil, the sweet coconut aroma was still there and less smoky too when it's subjected to very high heat. I'm thinking of replacing recipes using butter with Virgin Coconut Oil (like coconut in cookies) instead as suggested by Toni Fiore of Totally Vegetarian fame. Then I got this idea of replacing recipe using coconut milk with evaporated milk and Virgin Coconut Oil. The evaporated milk to give a creamy look and Virgin Coconut Oil for the coconut aroma... LOL. I'm not sure about other foodies opinions about this replacement as not all recipes are suitable and I still feel that nothing beats the original taste of fresh coconut milk... well, once awhile it's no harm. Everything should be taken in moderation, right?

If you are interested to make your own Virgin Coconut Oil, you can look into Milyn and Peter Christopher's blog, Homemadestyle and Virgin Coconut Oil.Com.

Back to the recipe, here's a recipe I used my left overs from recent cooking. I also added extra Bird's Eye Chillies at the end of the cooking to give that extra kick of wake-me-up and for my chilli-crazy brother who visited me so early in the morning on Friday :-|
Serve with steamed rice and chillies!

Thai Pumpkin and Chicken Curry
Serves 2-4

1 small Pumpkin (any suitable pumpkin, about 500 g - 700g)
500 g Boneless Chicken Thighs - cut into bite-sized pieces
½ cup Thai Basil - firmly packed & chiffonade

To be blended into paste:
2 nos Shallots - chopped coarsely
3 cloves garlic - chopped coarsely
3 Tbl Thai Red Curry Paste
2 Tbl Water

300 ml Fresh Coconut Milk (canned or packed can be use)
2 Tbl Fish Sauce (Nam pla)
1 nos Lime (½ Lemon) - extract the juice only
2 tsp Palm sugar or Light Brown Sugar

3 Tbl Virgin Coconut Oil or Cooking Oil of your choice

1. Prepare the pumpkin; halved, seeded, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks. Washed and drain well.
2. For the curry base: In a blender, add in the garlic, shallots, Thai Curry Paste and water. Process until smooth.
3. In another small bowl, combine the coconut milk, fish sauce, lime juice and sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves.
4. Heat up a pot or deep pan over medium heat. Add in 2 Tbl of cooking oil. Shallow fry the chicken meat until light brown (half cooked). Remove and transfer the chicken pieces into a bowl or plate. Set aside.
5. Return the pot/pan to the heat and add the remaining oil. Add the curry paste and stir until fragrant (be careful the paste will caused the oil to splatter).
6. Add in the chicken meat and pumpkin. Mix well with the paste mixture.
7. Stir in the coconut milk mixture and bring to boil.
8. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the pumpkin is tender and chicken meat is cooked throughout.
9. Ladle into a bowl and garnish with Thai Basil. Serve with steamed Jasmine Rice or your favourite rice.

If you're health conscious, you can use evaporated milk instead of coconut milk. What I did before was to use Virgin Coconut Oil to cook the curry paste. Then I add in evaporated milk. This gives you the fragrant coconut flavour and creamy gravy. You can adjust the hotness of Curry Paste to your liking if you prefer.



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