Saturday, January 30, 2010
There is little in this world that is more satisfying than a good, homemade pineapple tart. The perfect ratio of buttery pastry to gooey, tangy pineapple paste that disintegrates as soon as it touches your tongue. And it's not just the tart itself..the whole process is a whirlpool of sensations from start to finish: Scent..as the fresh, fruity fragrance of pureed pineapple gradually intensifies to something more golden and syrupy..until finally you're swathed in a heady perfume, an exotic mix of warm caramel with a hint of cinnamon; Sight...watching the bright purée thicken ever so slowly, marvelling at the subtle changes in shades, from sunshine yellow to a rich reddish gold; Touch..crumbly pastry..sticky rounds of jam..painstakingly stretching the flour and butter concoction..gently rolling it between your palms to get a perfect sphere; Taste..of warm little bundles of joy fresh from the oven...sweet, tart and singing with tropical goodness; Sound...the sigh of pleasure that escapes your lips as you savour them..trying to make each one last..
2 small pineapples or 2 cans of pineapple in juice please, not syrup. Drained and chopped
4-5 tbsp brown sugar
pinch of salt
pinch of cinnamon
2 egg yolks
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp icing sugar
1. For the jam, blitz the pineapple a blender or food processor. I have neither so i used my stick blender, worked like a dream.
2. Sieve to get rid of a bit of the liquid, transfer to
a large, heavy bottomed non-stick pan, and stir over medium heat
3. Be patient
4. Once the mixture has thickened quite a bit, ie if you scrape the bottom of the pan with your spoon, you should see a clear line, no fluid rushing in , add the sugar slowly, tasting as you go along.
5. Add the cinnamon and salt and continue stirring until the whole mixture comes together in a ball. Should take about 45 minutes to an hour, depending
6. Cool and either store, or shape into balls in preparation for wrapping.
7. For the pastry, cream the butter, shortening and sugar
8. Add the yolks and mix
9. Sift in the flour, salt and cornstarch and mix gently.
11. Preheat oven to 170 degrees.
10. Now wrap. It's a very fiddly dough, quite crumbly..so add a bit more shortening if you have to. Be gentle as it is prone to breaking apart.
11. Glaze with a beaten egg, and bake for 10-15 minutes
12. Cool and devour. I would happily get fat on these, no questions asked :)
Today, I become a real woman. Ma, don't panic. I bought my first whole chicken today. See, I'm not a meat lover on the best of days..and the rare times I do buy meat, I buy baby portions that will last me a day or 2, mostly off the bone and ready sliced. I can almost hear the sharp intake of breath from the connoisseurs: "How dare she!" Well today, I bought real poultry, to be basted with proper marinade, stuffed with spiced glutinous rice cooked from scratch, and finally, roasted..until it is the colour of burnished amber..beautifully crisp on the outside and heartbreakingly tender on the inside..
I'm thinking this would be a lovely addition to any Chinese New Year reunion dinner...a modern play on the more traditional fried duck stuffed with 8-treasure rice; a safer choice, even, considering most of the ducks I've had have always ended up disappointing with either soggy rice dripping with oil or extreme gaminess which just makes the whole dish rather unpalatable. And best of all, most of the prep work can be done beforehand; So all you have to do is pop the bird in the oven about an hour or so before your favourite uncles arrive with their annoying kids ;)
Glutinous rice chicken ( adapted from Pigpig's corner)
* Please don't be daunted but the seemingly endless ingredient list. It really takes no time at all to throw together
1 chicken ( mine was 1.5 kg, go larger if you're expecting a large group)
1 tbsp grated ginger
2 cloves grated garlic ( i say grated rather than minced because the last thing you want is bits of burnt garlic stuck to an otherwise scrumptious chicken)
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp kicap manis/ dark soy
Freshly cracked black pepper
Stuffing: ( double amount for larger chicken)
1 cup glutinous rice ( soaked overnight)
4 chinese mushrooms ( soaked overnight and sliced)
1 chinese sausage, thinly sliced
1 tbsp dried shrimp, soaked for abt 5 minutes and roughly chopped
Splash of chinese wine
3/4 cup water ( I used the water from soaking the mushrooms)
1/2 tbsp oyster sauce
1/2 tbsp kicap manis
1/2 tbsp each, dark and light soy
1. Clean the chicken and dry thoroughly, rub salt all over the chicken and inside the cavity, leave to stand for about half an hour
2. Meanwhile, get the marinade ready and once your chicken is nice and dry, rub the marinade all over and inside the chicken, cover and chill overnight ( or longer if you so wish)
3. Drain rice and mushrooms, squeezing out any extra moisture
4. Heat up some sesame oil, fry the sausages until all that flavoured oil is rendered from them.
5. Throw in the ginger and garlic and sauteed till crisp, then add the dry shrimps
6. Add the mushrooms and the rice and stir till the grains are coated in lush goodness.
7. Add the water, wine and seasonings, stirring as you go along, bring it to a boil and then lower the heat to a gentle simmer
8. Cover and cook for about 10-15 minutes. Keep stirring! while slightly charred bits=good, burnt rice=bad.
9. Let cool and either store in a container until you're ready to use it or stuff your bird with it.
10. Preheat oven to 220 degrees, pack the stuffing into the chicken, and roast for about half an hour. If it's starting to char because of the honey, pop a piece of foil over it
11. Lower the heat to 200 degrees, baste with all that precious dripping, and roast for another say half an hour. Check for doneness..and roast for a bit longer if need be.
12. Let the chicken rest for about 10 minutes, scrape out the stuffing that by now has absorbed the essence of the chicken and is just bursting with flavour.
13. Carve the chicken, cutting through glistening skin, and buttery, juicy meat..
14. Serve to your nearest and dearest with a smile and lots of love :)
Friday, January 29, 2010
It is 2 weeks to my favourite holiday of all time..and here I am, far away from fire crackers, noisy reunions and psychedelic layer cakes. I know come new year's day, I will be up at 2 in the morning in my flowery robe, dutifully sitting in front of my laptop, webcam on, waiting for the first gaggle of relatives to arrive and crowd around the home PC. There, I will listen, as cousins regale me with descriptions of food I obviously can't have; watch, as the littler nieces and nephews show off their new clothes; and nod, as uncles tell me to study hard...everyone holding a different cookie or cake in their hand, of course. Call me sensitive, but after 5 years of this, I am convinced it's deliberate.
So I am on a quest..to bring a little bit of Chinese New Year cheer to grey, dreary Southampton. Garish red lanterns (that my mum is unfortunately so partial to) and the word 'spring' stuck upside down aside, it's just not 'xin nian' without a dazzling display of cookies and cakes :)
100g all purpose flour
100g lightly salted butter
70g castor sugar
50g dessicated coconut
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg yolk
1/2 tsp pandan paste/ extract
few drops green colouring (optional)
some chopped up red maraschino cherries and extra coconut for decoration
1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees
2. Cream butter and sugar
3. Add egg yolk, salt, colouring and pandan
4. Fold in flour and coconut gently until just combined-- you'll get a very soft dough
5. Pop mixture in the fridge while you wash up. No. 1 chef rule--keep your station clean
6. Take teaspoonfuls of dough, shape into nice little circles, the littler the better: a) because you get more cookies, b) because little cookies are so much cuter
7. Press a cherry bit on top or scatter some coconut over the cookies
8. Bake for 10-12 minutes..keep an eye on them, they do brown quite quickly. I say the minute they start to colour, stick a piece of foil over them and let them finish baking.
9. Now take a cookie..savour the comforting aroma of toasted coconut...and feel the feather-like confection melt on your tongue...Careful though..it is rather difficult to stop at one ;)
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Chicken congee--[ adapted from Kuidaore]
65g thai jasmine rice
35g glutinous rice
250 ml chicken stock
( Or you could use only stock, 250 was all I had)
1 chicken leg quarter
small piece ginger
rock salt to taste
1. Wash rice till water runs clear
2. Fry ginger in sesame oil until ginger turns golden brown and crispy.
3. Drain and use the now flavoured oil to
marinate the rice, preferably overnight. Save the ginger bits for garnishing.
4. Bring stock and water to boil, add chicken,
ginger and rice.
5. Bring it back to the boil, then lower the heat to a bare simmer.
6. Let it simmer for about 2 hours, stirring every so often so it doesn't stick
7. Remove the chicken, and let the porridge simmer for another hour or until thick and velvety.
8. Once the chicken has cooled enough, shred and set aside to use as garnish.
9. Season the porridge to taste, ladle up, top with shredded chicken, chopped spring onions and fried ginger.
10. Serve with preserved radish omelette.
I've always thought of scones as something quintessentially British...big fat scones, hot from the oven, slathered with butter and clotted cream, and finished with a large dollop of sweet, sticky strawberry jam. I remember having them at fancy hotels, feeling so important. My mum would tell me to add milk to my tea because it's the proper English way...and even though I found the taste of milky tea absolutely revolting, I would do it anyway, so intent was I to be all grown up, just like the ladies in the period films I so loved. I like milky tea now, and the idea of freshly baked scones with a nice cup of tea is enough to make me get out of bed at 7 o'clock on a Saturday morning ;)
500g self raising flour
100g very very cold butter, cubed
pinch of salt
big pinch of baking powder
about 2 teaspoons sugar
very very cold milk
[ there are no precise measurements as I've done this so many times it's more by feel now]
1. Preheat oven to 220
2. Sift flour and baking powder
3. Add butter and rub gently, using just the tips of your fingers, 'Lifting' the flour as you rub and letting it float back down. The idea of a light touch is so you get lots of air in there and so the fat doesn't melt. I've got really cold hands, great for pastry, not so great for my patients.
4. Once you get a loose mixture that resembles breadcrumbs, stir in the salt and sugar
5. Now add the milk slowly, bringing the dough together, not so much kneading as lightly patting everything together. Start with say..100 ml of milk and then add as you go along until you get a smooth dough.
6. Press it onto a well greased baking tray, so you get a large square that's about an inch thick, cut into smaller squares.. I do about 9-12....but that depends how large you want your scones to be.
7. Brush the top with milk and bake for 12-15 minutes.
8. Don't bother letting it cool, don't bother with a knife, just break it open, cut a fat wedge of butter and watch it melt into the steaming scone........I think I'm going to go have another one now..
As much as I love this country, and I have to say this because I think my dad reads this blog..so yes, love the weather, love the food, love that shops shut at 5; what irks me is the scarcity of good quality noodles. Tell me if I'm simply looking in all the wrong places but where are the piles of fresh egg noodles and glistening kuay teow? Perhaps I should place an ad in the Daily Mirror next to the attractive 60 year old who seeks younger woman for meaningful conversation and walks by the beach. Only mine will read: desperate Chinese girl seeks freshly made noodles or better yet, noodle maker to cheer her up on lonely nights.
What prompted this little tirade was a recipe I'd recently come across that called for shanghai noodles. To be fair I didn't really bother looking for them considering it's bloody difficult to get egg noodles as it is nevermind which part of China they come from. I used spaghetti instead, which although yielded beautiful results, just wasn't the same. It's like making maggi goreng with wanton noodles..it's plain wrong. But anyway...
Shanghai-nised Spaghetti, which, my whinging aside, was utterly delicious-- [adapted from Kitchen Unplugged]
2 cloves garlic, minced
bacon ( completely optional, i think keeping it vegetarian would've been lovely too. but I bought half a kilo of cooking bacon a few weeks back, dont ask me why, so I'm trying to use it all up. )
Half a carrot, julienned
Black wood ear fungus or mushrooms, julienned
Half a bell pepper, julienned
1/2 tsp dark soy sauce ( I used kicap manis and
omitted the sugar, but either way, that little bit of sweetness is what makes this noodle dish)
1/2 tsp light soy sauce
1/8-1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp chinese wine
1/4 tsp sesame oil
1. Boil the pasta in salted water, drain and set aside
2. Heat up some oil and fry the chopped up bacon till crispy
3. Add the sesame oil and fry garlic till fragrant
4. Add vegetables and stirfry for about 2 minutes, only because I like my veg crunchy, but if you prefer softer veg, add a bit of water and let it simmer
5. Toss in the spaghetti, add the sauces and fry over high heat until the noodles are well coated, tasting as you go along.
6. Dish up, garnish with pickled chili, kick off your shoes and sit down to an absolutely fantastic meal :)
Sunday, January 17, 2010
I love love love garlic. I like it raw, minced and soaked in light soy sauce, ready to be piled on to bits of anything; I adore it roasted and added to soups or simply squeezed onto a thick hunk of crusty french bread; I think bak kut teh isn't worth eating without the beautifully soft heads of garlic braised whole in herby broth; and if I could eat one thing for the rest of my life, it would be blanched greens, drizzled with oyster sauce, topped with heaps of deep fried garlic chips. I probably won't have a lot of friends left at the end of it but sometimes, sacrifices have to be made in the name of true love ;)
Spaghetti aglio olio
3 cloves garlic minced
bacon ( optional- use prawns if you prefer, I just happened to have some bacon lying around)
parsley fine chopped ( from my window box!!! funny story ~ remember the plants on my window sill? well the one thing I forgot to factor in when I so enthusiastically bought them was the fact that I'm actually away most of the time...we did a trial where i watered them to death on the weekends hoping it would then hydrate them enough for the week....that fell a little flat..so now my plants live..and I use the term 'live' loosely..in the kitchen..like little green beggars who are at the mercy of my housemates. I just had a sudden vision of how I would be like as a mother....how very disturbing..the end.)
cheese ( parmesan if you have it, I used cheddar as that was the only kind they had in the hospital shop)
1. Bring a pot of well salted water to boil, and cook
your pasta for about 9-10 minutes or till al-dente.
2. In the meantime, heat up some olive oil, and fry the chopped bacon till crispy.
3. Remove the bacon, add a generous drizzle of olive oil to the pan, I would say about 2-3 tablespoons in total, add some salt and chuck in the garlic, careful not to let the garlic brown. What you want is a low heat so the garlic flavours the oil. And the reason I add the salt to the oil is just for a more even distribution.
4. Add the chopped parsley and chili flakes, give it a quick stir.
5. Add the drained pasta to the pan, toss with the garlic mix, season a bit more to taste and plate.
6.Sprinkle the crispy bacon bits on the pasta and top with lots and lots of grated cheese.
7. Do a graceful twirl with your fork, making sure you get a bit of everything..all that savoury, garlicky goodness...it's always the simple things in life that make you the happiest, isn't it ;)
Sunday, January 10, 2010
One of the very first meals I had when I first arrived in Southampton was a sausage roll, a pack of crisps and a flapjack, courtesy of halls of residence. The crisps and flapjack were uninspiring to say the least..but the sausage roll, that log of mystery meat encased in crisp buttery puff pastry..that, I bloody loved. Call it sentiment, juicy sausages have been a firm favourite since I was a little girl.. A bit misguided really, seeing as my favourite meat product probably doesn't contain much real meat at all..My dad worked in a sausage factory as a student and to this day refuses to even go near a sausage...I, however, have yet to meet a sausage roll I didn't thoroughly enjoy.
Mini sausage rolls
6 sausages, stripped of their skin. [vic, don't start]
Half an apple, peeled and chopped
Generous dash of freshly cracked black pepper
Pinch of dried thyme
1 tube ready rolled puff pastry, room temperature
1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees
2. Mix the sausage meat with the apples and seasoning
3. Unroll your tube of puff pastry, I would keep the pastry on the plastic sheet that comes with it. Makes for easier manouvering.
4. Sausage mix goes onto the middle of the pastry, and using damp hands, so it doesn't stick to the meat, shape the mix into a log
5. Lift one end of the plastic lining and fold pastry over the log.
6. Trim off any excess and press down with a fork to seal the edges. And get a pretty pattern
7. Wet your knifeblade and divide the roll into about 6-7 portions, using a gentle sawing motion. This way you keep the shape and again, no sticky bits.
8. Arrange of a lightly greased baking tray, score each roll twice and bake for about 25 minutes.
9. Let cool, try not to think where the sausage came from..and enjoy;P
I imagine you could just as easily substitute the pork with lamb mince bound with breadcrumbs, an egg and some dried mint, but for now, my duvet beckons and I shall leave the experimenting to you.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
My mum loves anything made of glutinous rice flour. I, on the other hand, used to hate the thought of having to eat something that bore a disturbing resemblance to Flubber. So what I would do when my mum wasn't looking was stand over a bin, tear open the glutinous rice flour casing, suck out the filling and try my best to cover the now bland pastry with fruit peel.
I have since gotten over my fear of all things chewy and I must say, I quite like it now..mochi and all the rest of it..and as I sit here typing this, I'm beginning to see yet another pattern emerging....and shall resolve to break it, because while I am happy with my newfound relationships with previously shunned food, there was this boy back in school who I really really didn't like.....
1 cup glutinous rice flour
Pandan essence and a few drops of green colouring [ you could always steam some sweet potatoes and mash it up for a gloriously orange version of this dessert]
Gula melaka/ palm sugar, chopped or pounded till very fine [ just so it's easier to get the beautiful molten centre that defines this dessert]
Shredded coconut or dessicated coconut
1. Put a large pot of water on the hob and bring to
2. Add the pandan essence and colouring to the flour and then add water. I do it this way because if you add the water first and the flavourings later, bearing in mind the flavouring and colouring are essentially extra liquid, you might end up with too wet a dough.
3. Add the water slowly, kneading as you go along until you get a dough the consistency of play dough. Pliable, but not sticky.
4. Pinch off a small ball, flatten it, and fill with the sandy sugar, making sure you get a good seal so nothing leaks.
5. Drop the balls into the pot of boiling water, remove with a slotted spoon once they float up to the surface, and roll in coconut.
6. Let cool slightly, and then the most important bit: pick up one of the soft little gems, pop it in your mouth whole, bite down, feel the satisfying squirt of sweet, molten caramel..and have another one ;)
I never used to like rice, growing up. The prospect of having cheesy omelettes, a nice creamy chicken casserole or my favourite- char bee hoon was just a lot more exciting. My first stop the second I got home from school was always the kitchen, where I would take a tentative peek and a hopeful sniff at whatever my mum was making...praying it wouldn't be rice..and then being sorely disappointed when it was. In hindsight it was rice about 95% of the time..17 years and still absolutely oblivious to a pattern that was only too obvious. I call it optimism and sheer obstinance on my part..although some would argue there is a fine line between optimism and stupidity:P
Since leaving home though, I have actually grown to love rice...perhaps it's my way of pretending I'm still at home, to have a routine that is similar to what I'm used to. Or perhaps my palate is now refined enough to appreciate the floral fragrance from a good pack of thai jasmine rice...either way, I now eat rice on a daily basis. By choice;) and when I'm lazy to chew...because I'm allowed to be shamelessly lazy once in a while, there's always silky smooth congee to give me the heartiness of rice with the added comfort of hot broth.
Scallop congee [ courtesy of 2 very cool adults, thanks to whom I'm now a congee convert ;) ]
1/4 cup short grain rice
1-2tbsp spring onion oil
[ I've done a post on onion oil before I think, but if that's just my imagination talking, simply fry some spring onions, sliced onions, and some garlic and ginger if you so wish in about half a cup of oil. Fry on low heat till onions turn golden and crispy, drain and reserve the oil for precisely this purpose]
300ml chicken stock [ if you wish to take a chicken apart and boil it for hours be my guest, my stock came out of a can]
Small handful of dried scallops
Small handful goji berries because they look so pretty
1. Wash rice until water runs clear..or nearly
clear..no one's going to check. Drain, and marinate with spring onion oil overnight. This way the rice grains soak up all the gorgeous flavours of the oil and they soften up as well, which means they break up easier.
2. Heat up the water and stock, chuck in the scallops, goji berries and marinated rice, and bring to the boil.
3. Now lower the heat so the brothy mixture comes down to a gentle simmer, and stir. For 45 minutes. wahaha, no, I'm dead serious. It helps break up the grains so you end up with a really smooth congee. You could use a slow cooker, or a pressure cooker and leave it overnight, but I quite enjoy stirring.
4. Once your congee starts to take on a very creamy appearance, season to taste, ladle into a large bowl and enjoy:) I honestly think it doesn't need much seasoning as the scallops and stock are quite robust in flavour, but I'll let you be the judge of that. And as any chinese person will tell you, congee isn't congee without a nice big helping of crunchy preserved choi sum ;)