pan-fried quail

quail201712

I see a lot of masterchef contestants make quail, because it’s quick to cook yet needs confidence because it’s not as commonly available or as easy to cook as chicken or duck. Plus, it’s chef-y.

I bought frozen quail from the japanese supermarket. Quite expensive, but definitely less expensive than eating out, as usual. I remember mm used to use it to make soup back when we were living in london.

The first batch a few weeks ago I roasted in the oven with a knob of butter inside. Took around 15mins, and it was really delicious. This time, I wanted to treat it in a more classic way. What’s more classic than to follow Jacques Pépin’s method for deboning? He made it look so easy. I was able to do it more or less the same way he did, although the end result didn’t look as neat. I used the bones to make sauce, supplementing it with a few more duck bones. Such a huge advantage to have bones in the freezer. Browned the bones for a good 20mins, then deglazed the pan with chicken stock. Ordinarily they teach us to deglaze with wine, but unless there’s a bottle already open, or I was about to start drinking a bottle, it’s not practical.

Pan fried the quail for around 10mins, until just cooked. I think I may have overcooked the breast, because it didn’t have the pinkness of medium rare meat and were a tad mushy. Overall, I found quail to be more forgiving than I expected because everything tasted great. When I was browning the duck and quail bones, there was a bit of fat rendered off so I used it to sauté leftover baked potato that I cubed.

I spent more time deboning and making the sauce than the actual cooking of the quail. Flavour-wise I prefer the last batch because: a) roasted on the bone and b) butter, butter, butter. Next time I’ll spatchcock then roast in butter, I think this will give the best tasting and best looking results.

creamy scallop spinach pasta

scallopspinachpasta

Mum was out all day, she went out to lunch after mass, came back with shopping and met with her friends for dinner. I spent the day reading, didn’t even go out when mm texted and wondered if we should go out to enjoy the sunny weather. It was almost 3pm and we decided we should both just chill at home and get rested.

Leftovers for lunch but actually made dinner. For some odd reason I had a small carton of cream in the fridge. I made mushroom cream sauce the other day and there’s still around 2/3 carton that needs to be used. Made a rich sauce with lots of garlic, a little butter and about 150ml cream. Should be able to keep in a tight container for a few days. I spooned a little over the scallop and spinach pasta I was making for dinner which made the dish much more decadent. This is the type of dish that takes absolutely no time to make.

random things I’ve been up to

Last of the catch-up posts, I think. What I’ve been up to during the past 3 weeks.

pumpkinsoup201711

I had a big bag of chestnuts that mm gave me. I wanted to roast them, peel then put in a braised chicken. But disaster happened! The chestnuts wouldn’t peel properly and stubbornly stuck to the shell. All I got was a big container of chestnut breadcrumbs.

Had to change plan, so made pumpkin and chestnut soup instead. The chestnut acted as perfect thickening agent, so the soup ended up quite thick. For liquid I made fresh turkey stock. Really, really nice. Served it with roti prata, which alas was store bought. Sprinkled on grated cheese.


sunset201711

We went for a drive one weekend, no real plans. Ended up at this oyster farm near the shenzhen border that has nice view of sunsets. Sunsets come early now, it starts getting dark at 5pm and full dark at 6pm. We brought picnic–mm brought an old bottle of macallan and some glasses which we sipped as we enjoyed the view. Only a small sip, since she’s driving.

We got chatting with a guy who had 2 tripods set up taking time lapse pictures. One was a Sony alpha 7 and the other was an iphone. He told us he just came back from Japan and he’s also been to a few other places to take timelapses of sunrises and sunsets. He collects the end results on his youtube channel. The timelapse here was at a place near where we were on that sunday.


frites01 frites02

A weekday evening out, met up for happy hour at frites. I started with trusty st bernadus abt 12, and then asked the assistant manager for a recommendation. He said to try the het kapittel watou prior, which is another trappist beer. Lighter that st bernadus, with chocolate tones. Nice alternative.

We weren’t that hungry, so we shared some miniburgers and a portion of frites.


musebar02

Met mm after her saturday appointment. Originally we were supposed to meet at the novotel but when I got there I discovered that happy hour had been pushed back to 6-8pm, and it was quite busy. I walked around the area wanting to find an alternative and came across this place called muse wine bar and art gallery. It was located in the basement of a boutique hotel and pretty quiet. They had a big wine list of bottles and a smaller list of by-the-glass wines. Not only the usual, but 3-4 pages of both red and white wines. The price was higher, but the tradeoff was quality and tranquility.

musebar04

On the walls were some ink art, I didn’t pay too much attention to the artist, but the artwork tied in with the quiet nature of the bar.

Next time we go there, I’ll order a bottle. Three glasses of wine came to around the same price as their cheapest bottle.


drago1

I stopped playing pokemon go. No incentive anymore, even with the last migration of legendary raids. I saw some people gathered around a gym while getting ready to get off the bus and didn’t bother running back like I would have before. The unfairness of raids, the stupid EX-raid invitations, the lack of pokemons other than commons, and I’m still bitter about no tauros, all contribute to my lethargy towards the game.

Some people have made the move to draconius go, which has all the features of pogo with fewer problems. Select a character and walk around to capture monsters. With names like Potty, these mythical creatures are cute as button, there are a total of 125 of them and they show up on a tracker at the bottom right of the screen. There are pillars of abundance (ie stops) where spinning grants random items that are useful in the game. Occasionally the adventuer gets attacked while walking, and has to battle the beast. Fighting can also be done in arenas (ie gyms). There are also many other features, refer to this useful beginner’s guide is on r/draconiusgo.

drago2

For some players, the playing experience is so much better, with more stops and creatures. For me, though, I stopped playing after a few tries. The two screenshots were taken from the same spot just down the road from where I live. The triangular area is the small local park. On the left, pogo with a gym and a bunch of stops. On the right, drago with…nothing. It’s the same picture everywhere else. The other disadvantage is my mobile provider isn’t counting data usage for pogo, they made a big deal when the game first came out and never took it away. So few people play now that it’s not worth them bothering with it. But with drago, I can’t imagine going out for hours and hours and eating into my mobile data allowance.

So, not playing either game. Not playing much else, just reading.

meatball pasta attempt

pastameatballs201710

Today’s attempt at cooking was meatball pasta. Around 60:40 pork and beef mince, and I used the guardian’s method of substituting eggs with breadcrumbs soaked in milk as the binding agent. Supposed to keep meatballs lighter. Problem was, they were so light that some fell apart when I was browning them.

The sauce was canned tomato, tomato paste, fresh cherry tomato and sun-dried tomato. Enough tomato or what. Added chicken stock and lots and lots of herbs–basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme. I think it was too tomato-y, it tasted primarily of tomato paste and I had to add sugar. Simmered for around 1hr.

I let the meatballs and bits of mince that were broken meatballs simmer in the sauce for about 20mins. Ended up with a pasta dish that was part ragu and part meatballs. I guess it’s all the same.

learn one recipe

On an episode of Jamie and Jimmy’s Food Fight Club they asked their guest of the week, Selma Hayek, what dish she’d like to learn from any professional chef. She mentioned a Lebanese chef and a Lebanese dish, I didn’t catch the name. But it got me thinking, if I can learn one dish from a professional chef and then forever be able to make it perfectly, what will it be?

For this purpose I will exclude the fiendish 90-step nightmare that are Masterchef pressure test challenges. Most of them are simply impractical to make at home. What if I did learn how to make Christy Tania’s Mystique? I won’t have the opportunity to make it.

There are well-known difficult dishes to master and these are contenders: baked alaska, soufflé, beef wellington. I saw paella and consommé on the list and upon reflection, they are difficult to do well. Classic French cooking is challenging with the emphasis on technique and sauces. Baking too–croissant, sacher torte, gâteau st honoré. Asian dishes such as curries, tamagoyaki, xiao long bao are also not easy to master. I don’t know much about Latin American dishes either. There’s an old mefi thread that has a lot of interesting suggestions in addition to traditional difficult dishes: follow the recipes in cookbooks such as Alinea, El Bulli, Fat Duck; trying to accurately replicate a twinkie or big mac, make your own cheese.

croquembouche03

The most difficult recipes I’ve tried to make are all baking and desserts: croquembouche, chocolate fondant and handmade salted caramel truffles turned out really well; tart tartin and chocolate soufflé less so. The apple tart had a soggy bottom and the soufflé was more like chocolate cake. I don’t know why I’ve always classified desserts as tricky. Rack of lamb is difficult for some people, but I make as often as I make roast chicken.

In my mind, the dishes to be learned can be grouped into categories:

  • time consuming — cassoulet, boeuf bourguignon, haggis, head cheese
  • showstopping — baked alaska, beef wellington
  • deceptively simple — sole veronique, perfect roast chicken, scrambled eggs (remember how Gordon Ramsay said it’s how they test new chefs)
  • baking & desserts — bread, croissant, pastry, meringue, macaron, tempering chocolate
  • needs years of practice — sushi, soba noodles, mole
  • sauces — béarnaise, hollandaise, mayonnaise

It’s difficult to pick just one recipe. I’m going to cheat and pick one savoury and one sweet. For savoury the contenders are beef wellington and cassoulet. My choice of cassoulet is based on what I would like to eat again and again and again. I have better access to duck leg than filet of beef and, well, I’d pick duck over beef most days.

gateausthonore

For the sweet recipe, I’ll go with one of the Cordon Bleu’s three most difficult recipes to make: gâteau st honoré because of the sheer number of pastry techniques needed in one single dish:

puff pastry, pâte à choux (dough for cream puffs), caramelized sugar and Creme Chiboust, a filling made from pastry cream and Italian meringue.

slow cooked duck legs

duckleg01

Recipe from Mark Bittman at the NYT. He was writing this week on grubstreet about grilling duck legs too, although the only grill I have is the one at the top of my oven and isn’t the bbq grill he was talking about.

Anyway, the method we see people on cookery programs most of the time is confit duck legs. I don’t really want to waste a bottle of oil so this slow cooked method is better.

In a cold pan over medium heat start browning the duck legs, skin side down. In the meantime, prep carrots, celery and potatoes. The recipe has onions but I ran out so I used extra celery and 4 cloves of garlic. Added potatoes for a true one pot meal. I chopped the veg into larger chunks than the recipe to give more bite.

Once the duck skin has crisped up, turn over and brown the meat for a couple of minutes. Transfer to baking dish.

Pour out almost all the duck fat (I have an old peanut butter jar I use to keep my duck and bacon fat). Sauté the veg for about 10mins, transfer to baking dish with duck. Season with s&p, rosemary, thyme.

Heat chicken stock in pan to deglaze and bring to the boil. Pour into baking dish until most of duck legs are covered, making sure the skin isn’t covered. I didn’t have enough stock, it was perfectly fine to top up with boiling water.

Cook at 200ºC for 30mins, then turn oven down to 180ºC and continue cooking for around 1hr until duck is tender and most of the liquid has reduced.

duckleg02

Very, very good. There was just about enough sauce to cover the baking dish, and it had a nice intense flavour. The recipe says use homemade chicken stock and I agree, it makes all the difference. The duck was fork-tender and had lots of flavour.

We are lucky that we can get duck breast and leg fairly inexpensively, perhaps because the locals don’t know how to cook them. It’s frozen and definitely not gressingham duck we get in the UK, but with the right cooking method, is one of our staples. Easy to make too. Total cooking time around 2hrs, but mostly unattended.

ingredient vs cook

lambrack04

The small supermarket had rack of lamb, buy 2 packets at 30% off. We don’t have room in the freezers for 2 packets so today’s lunch was rack of lamb #firstworldproblems.

From start to finish, 45mins. I seasoned with s&p and rosemary, browned in a pan then put in 180ºC oven for around 15mins. I almost overcooked them because I put the rested chops back in the oven (now off) to keep warm but luckily they were still pink inside. Making rack of lamb is straightforward for me, I consider it an easy staple. Occasionally I undercook or overcook slightly but I’ve always been happy with the results. Mostly, the lamb we get are frozen and from new zealand. I’ve also tried australian, welsh and scottish with good results.

It occurred to me that it may not be as simple to make for other people. How hard is it to ruin lamb? How hard is it to ruin good ingredients?

Which comes first, the ingredients or the cook. Difficult to answer. A good cook can make the most of poor quality ingredients: beef stew instead of steak, using vegetables wisely. But give a perfect wagyu to a cook who only knows how to boil meat or grill steak until well done and the meal is ruined.

turkey quesadilla

turkeyquesadila

I’m gradually becoming more knowledgeable about mexican food. I wish I can eat at Rick Bayless’ place all the time but mostly it’s tex-mex that I encounter. I know I prefer soft tortillas and I don’t like gigantic burritos–just looking at it kills my appetite. I’m nowadays more likely to order quesadilla.

We made really nice homemade tacos in chicago, I enjoyed it very much. So much so that I took the remaining tortillas home. Actually, quesadillas are very easy to make, hardly need a recipe. I had to go to the more expensive japanese supermarket to get grated mexican cheese. Then it’s just heating a tortilla, sprinking cheese and adding turkey (from the freezer), then more cheese on top and another tortilla. Flip so both sides are golden brown. I used the 2 tortilla method instead of folding one over.

So yummy! I have to check if I can get tortillas, too much trouble to make my own.

avocado toast

avotoast

Saw avocados at the supermarket 3 for US$5, large and ripe too. So it’s a no-brainer to make avo toast for lunch. There are plenty of recipes out there, that combines the avo with poached eggs, smoked salmon, feta cheese. Many recipes smash the avos and season with s&p. I just sliced mine and arranged on toast, didn’t need seasoning.

Yummy yummy yummy.

It seems to have become some sort of hipster, millennial food and attracted some unwanted attention when an Aussie baby boomer scolded millennials for ordering

smashed avocado with crumbled feta on five-grain toasted bread at $22 a pop

(that’s AUD) instead of saving up to buy a house. Honestly, with so much corrupt 1% money floating around the world, young people will need to skip thousands of avo toasts in order to afford to buy property.

avotoasthousing

The BBC did an avocado toast housing index. They:

took the average cost for avocado toast in a handful of cafes in each city, and looked at how many you’d need to forego to afford a 20% deposit on a home. House prices are based the average price for a 90sq m apartment outside the city centre

67 years in London, 54 years in HK, 32 years in Sydney. For Aussies, it’s ironic. When Chef Thomas Lin from Ruby’s, an Australian café in NYC, arrived in the US, he was surprised that people treated avo toast as a fancy, trendy food item rather than something normal people ate for breakfast:

There are two things you have in the morning on toast. You have Vegemite on toast, or you have avocado on toast. Sometimes you have Vegemite and avocado on toast.

I hope avo toast doesn’t go the way of artisanal anything, matcha-flavoured everything, food served Jamie-style on chopping boards and gets classified as a food trend that needs to die. Because it’s delicious, simple and healthy.

More avo! More avo toast!

jicama salad

jicamasalad

Mum bought a jicama from the market, her friends told her they eat it raw in a salad. It must be good because her friends are not the type to eat raw vegetables.

I’ve never knowingly tried jicama although apparently it’s an ingredient in popiah and rojak. It’s interesting to see it being described as the most exciting vegetable you’re not eating. I see it in the market fairly often and never thought to buy it.

Lots of salad recipes, usually with fruit like mango, or orange and a lime chili dressing. It seems to be a little tasteless, like a savoury apple, so need stronger flavours.

I julienned half of one and had it with salad greens, cucumber, cherry tomato. I could have used orange, apple or watermelon but there were fresh lychees in the fridge so I popped a few in. Normally I don’t use dressing in salad but for this one I whisked up some lemon juice, white balsamic, honey and evoo.

It’s really good. Crunchy with some texture. Definitely somewhat like an apple or pear. Really helps add depth to a salad.

cauliflower steak

caulisteak

I made not very successful cauliflower steak. This is one of the trendy cauliflower food that has cropped up recentlly, a far cry from the awful soggy cauliflower we used to get when we were younger.

It’s simply a matter of cutting the stalk part of a cauli, seasoning with s&p, chopped garlic and lemon juice, and roasting in the oven. 200ºC for around 45mins. I think these weren’t as successful as I wanted them to be because I was using a different type of cauliflower. Not the usual tight bulb with white florets, these have more space between the branches and so didn’t give a whole steak. Tasted nice though.

braised pork rib tips

braisedribtip

The small supermarket is having a chain-wide 30% off sale on all items until Monday. The aisles, usually choc-a-bloc with boxes and goods, are already clear and some shelves are almost empty. There are also more people than usual.

I bought wine, water, noodles, cheese, ice cream and saw rib tips at a low, low price. Easy to cook, just stew in the vacuum pot overnight with mirepoix, chicken stock and a glass of red wine. Had half a lemon left over from cooking salmon, added that. Some sweetcorn, added that too at the end.

Served with bulgar wheat. First time cooking bulgar wheat (though not first time eating), I think I like it better than couscous. Same cooking method: simmer in water till absorbed, turn off the heat and sit for 5-10mins.

What’s great about the rib tips, aside from tenderness from braising, is that there are lots of soft bone, or cartilage, in with the meat. It’s the white tube-like nub at the tip of the bone, it doesn’t have much flavour and is chewy and crunchy. It’s one of those food items like offal or fish cheek, that are revered by people in the know but most lay people will spit it out.

salt

The NYT had an artlcle on the single most important ingredient in cooking.

Salt.

Salt obviously adds saltiness. It also reduces bitterness, enhances sweetness and brings out aromas. There’s science involved.

There was a time when I undersalted everything, and my dad used little or no salt when cooking. I’ve changed it up a little now, and have stopped worrying about the amount of salt I use. Yes, I’m aware of all the health warnings about salt’s effect on blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease and all that. But as the NYT article says,

anything you cook for yourself is lower in sodium than restaurant food.

On average I eat out once or twice a week, so around 10% of my meals are higher in sodium and potassium. My theory is, the rest of the meals at home will balance it out. I enjoy eating out, but honestly I prefer cooking at home. Outside food is too salty, too oily and there are certain cuisines I rarely eat because I can cook it at home. Two lamb chops in a restaurant cost the same as two racks from the supermarket; most pasta we can cook ourselves; steak too, even though I will splurge out and go to Hawksmoor or a good steakhouse.

The trick to using salt is to use it better. There are so many different types of salt, it’s a poor excuse to use table salt. Table salt is the worst, a teaspoon of it is much saltier than, say, a teaspoon of sea salt or herbed salt. Here’s some of my salt collection:

salt

Left, from back: plum salt from wakayama, japanese sea salt, korean sea salt, himalayan pink salt, good-with-everything salt, truffle salt, regular sea salt, french flavoured sea salt.

I don’t think I even have common table salt at home. If I need to use plain white salt, it’s from the mill. My day-to-day salt is the blue tub front left, lakeland’s good with everything salt that is mixed with herbs. This means if I take a pinch, it’s not all salt. I’m so used to flavouring with this that I know how much to use and what it will taste. The NYT article again:

what matters most is that you’re familiar with whichever salt you use.

I’m also keen to use other sources of salt. Soy sauce, cheese, bacon, duck fat. Anchovy is expensive here so I rarely use it. When I was around 10 years old my parents told me to marinade some pork. Young me discovered marinading with worcester sauce and I’ve been adding it to everything that needed flavour since then. Even at 10 I knew about umami? Probably not, but it’s a cute story.

I can’t remember which tv chef–I guess it’s all of the–who told us to season and taste each stage of cooking. I never add salt when I’m making stock and anything that needs to cook for a long time, I salt at the end. As for how to salt, Jamie Oliver tells us to sprinkle from a height; Emeril does his ‘bam’ routine. And of course there’s salt bae aka chef Nusret from turkey:

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flounder spinach rollups

flounderspinach

I bought a couple of packets of flounder filets at the supermarket. Mum and I aren’t very good at fish with bones so I prefer to stick with salmon or white fish filets. This is the first time I tried cooking flounder. The first batch, I pan-fried them but it wasn’t successful. The filets were too fragile and difficult to keep whole. Plus I couldn’t find much flavour to them.

For the second batch I decided to roll them up and bake them. It was dead easy. Cooked some spinach, rolled in filets, secure with toothpick. Baked in 180ºC oven for 15mins. I served them with hollandaise sauce which shamefully I have to admit came from a packet. I can make my own, but we had the packet so it’s best to use it up before it expires.

Since I was turning the oven on, I made sweet potatoes too. I’m so much happier with the rollups than the pan-fried version. I’m sure I can cook the rollups in a pan, either pan-fry them or poach them. Oven seems the best though, to keep them whole.

duck risotto

risottoducktomato

When we took my great aunt to lunch a few weeks ago for peking duck we came away with leftover duck meat and the carcass. They’ve been sitting in the freezer so i should use them.

I made stock with the carcass. Half the stock I used in congee, which seems to be traditional at least in my family; the other half I made risotto whch is less traditional–I think I’m the only one who makes risotto. Honestly, it’s not difficult.

Heat the stock and keep at a low simmer. Sauté garlic in olive oil, add risotto rice to toast for a little bit. Add the stock one ladle at a time, stirring until it has been absorbed. Total time was around 40mins until the rice was cooked. I added sun-dried tomatoes (soaked and diced) and fresh tomato because that’s what I had in the fridge; plus the duck meat. It’s good use of leftovers.

One thing I’ve notice about my cooking the past year, I’ve barely done any baking or made food I used to eat when I was living by myself. Whereas in the past I’d stick a tray of chicken thighs in the oven, cook a whole savoy cabbage and eat that 3 days in a row, that’s hardly what I can serve to mum. She’ll say she’s fine but I bet opening a whole packet of ham and calling it a meal is not something she would be happy doing. I’ve had to plan what I cook for lunch and dinner almost every day and try not to repeat two meals running. Mostly it’s pedestrian food. Fry or grill some protein (salmon, pork chop), add simple vegetables (greens from the market) and some form of carb (mash, rice). Try to make soup (pork+carrot+sweetcorn) every week. Everything is seasoned with s&p and italian seasoning. Perfectly edible but no spark.

recipebooks

I can’t remember when was the last time I flipped through a recipe book for inspiration. I don’t know where the creativity has gone. What happened to a whole weekend of cooking, or beetroot & sweet potato stack, or summer lasagne, or vegetarian savoury bread pudding, or roast belly pork, or delicious chocolate quinoa cake. Sigh.

What has worked is forward planning and cooking for multiple meals. Adam Liaw, masterchef australia s2 winner, wrote that the fundamental issue with modern day recipes assume it’s for one discrete meal:

Making a simple dish that’s over and done with in under an hour is all well and good, but it is also a very inefficient way to cook.

He gave examples: Japanese cooking relies on pickles and condiments made in advance; French cooking is full of sauces and stocks that cannot be made in the alloted 15-, 30- or 60-minute timeframe of a typical recipe.

Motherjones takes it further and tells us we’re using recipes wrong and the one-meal recipe is not a good use of time or money. We should be taking the long view:

Say on Sunday, you cooked a pot of beans, roasted a whole chicken (tip: butterfly it), and whipped up a simple vinaigrette as a salad dressing and marinade. Monday’s dinner could be a quick chicken-bean soup; Tuesday could be taco night; Wednesday, these elements could be incorporated along with some quick-sautéd vegetables into a pasta.

I’m fully on board with this. Planning and leftovers are such an important part of my daily cooking. Here’s to the duck that was first served as fancy Peking duck, its carcass made into stock and two different dishes came out of it for multiple meals.

Next up, 101 Cookbooks’ one tomato sauce, three lunches. All vegetarian too and I’m loving those tiffin boxes.

magic cake

magiccake01

The ingredients for magic cake are straightforward: butter, sugar, eggs, flour, milk. The magic is created with the proportion of the ingredients and when baked at a low temperature, it separates into 3 layers: the lowest layer is a dense cake, the middle layer creamy custard and the top layer is a crunchy, light genoise sponge. This recipe was from the telegraph.

500ml milk
2 vanilla pods
4 eggs, separated
150g sugar
1tbsp vanilla extract
125g butter
110g flour

scrape the seeds from the vanilla pods, heat seeds and pods with milk until boiling
remove and leave to cool and infuse for 1hr
beat egg yolks with sugar and vanilla extract until thick
melt butter and add to mixture
fold in flour
add milk little by little
whisk egg whites till soft peaks and fold into mixture, no need to mix thoroughly, there should be lumps of egg white floating in a liquid mixture
bake at 150ºC in a lined tin for around 50mins
leave to cool in tin before turning out, chill in fridge to set

Very tasty and rich. A little less sugar next time, I find with most baking recipes I need to reduce the amount of sugar. My magic cake didn’t separate as well as the ones people post; the bottle dense layer probably needed a little more cooking. I was also impatient and ate a slice before it had a chance to chill in the fridge.

Definitely must make again. Most people credit jocooks as the originator of magic cake recipes and she has many different flavours like lemon, chocolate, butterscotch (ouch, too sweet probably), coconut.

food at home

butternutsquash

Mum bought a small pre-cooked chicken from the frozen food shop last time she went to the market. The cooking instructions were to remove outer packaging and put chicken in inner wrapping in boiling water for 17mins. I had it boiling in the bag for around 30mins just to make sure it’s heated all the way through. Quite nice, can buy again.

I put the bones in a ziploc bag and realised I already have 3 large bags of chicken and turkey bones. Time to make stock.

Went to the market and bought a ginormous butternut squash to make soup. Some carrots, an onion and a couple of tomatoes too. I have celery at home. Then because I couldn’t resist, broccoli and cauliflower. Also a loaf of bread and a bottle of korean rice wine that was on sale. Pretty heavy load to take home.

thai coconut curry

Mum visited a farm expo with her friends and came back with galangal. I’d only recently started cooking with more ginger so I was like, I have to learn a new recipe.

Googling ‘galangal recipe’ gave lots of examples such as curry, soup, satay. It’s used in several iconic southeast Asian dishes: beef rendang, penang laksa and tom kha gai. Kha is the Thai word for galangal.

thaicurry01

There are plenty of Thai, Indonesian, SE Asian stores around. Two already at the market. The nice lady there helped me gather all the other ingredients for a Thai curry in addition to the galangal: lemongrass, thai basil, kaffir lime leaves, chili, fresh lime. I already have coconut milk. I didn’t really follow any particular recipe or measurements.

3 chicken leg, skinned and deboned, cut into pieces
1 cauliflower, cut into pieces
about 2 tbsp galangal, finely grated
3 stalks lemongrass, thinly sliced
1 handful keffir lime leaves, sliced
1 handful thai basil, reserve some for decoration
3 cloves garlic
half a red onion
1 small chili
1 can coconut milk
juice of 1 lime
chicken stock
small block rock sugar
fish sauce

thaicurry02

Mise en place took a good half an hour. The chicken and cauliflower had to be cut into bite-sized pieces. All the herbs and spices were chopped or grated. I decided to use only one small chili because mum can’t eat food that is too spicy.

Brown the chicken, remove from heat. Sautée garlic, onion galangal and lemongrass until onion and garlic are soft. Add rest of herbs and spices. Return chicken to pan, add cauliflower and rest of ingredients. Season with salt, pepper, fish sauce.

thaicurry04

Simmer for about 1hr. The cauliflower got a bit soft and some of it melted, but I didn’t mind.

thaicurry05

Serve with rice. I added a couple more slices of chili to my plate, it was just spicy enough to feel the heat. Very coconut-y and tasty. I think leaving in the fridge overnight will improve the flavour.

Other ingredients that will work: potato, carrot, pork, fish, tofu. For a low carb version, make cauliflower rice instead of normal rice.

I had galangal, chili and thai basil left over. They all went into the freezer. The galangal directly; the chili after washing and drying; and the thai basil after blanching in hot water for 2 seconds then drying.

turkey and kale frittata

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When I was stripping the turkey we got for Christmas I ended up with a box of small bits of meat too small to serve on its own. It’s useful for fried rice, soup, filling for baked potato, pizza topping. I made frittata.

Fry some kale until soft, add turkey and season. Pour in 8 eggs and cook until bottom is done. I had to add more eggs as the pan is too large. Put under the grill to firm up the top. Very easy and tasty. I drizzled some sriracha on my slice.

steak in dishwasher

via eater, Christian at cook with meat shows us how to cook sous vide steak in the dishwasher.

According to this video, put a vacuum sealed steak in a 90-min dishwasher cycle at 50ºC (they say 122F) then sear with olive oil and butter. Looks like it works.

Irrelevant to me. Wonder if a washing machine works. I doubt it.

bbmm tea, sneakers, sake tasting

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Met up for tea at toastbox; great value for money, we were at the café for more than an hour with just tea/coffee and toast. Spotted a poster for a popup sportswear outlet upstairs and got there to be faced with a literal mountain of sneakers. I got one pair and mm got 3 pairs, 40-70% off.

The reason for meeting up was to go to the japanese wine stands at sogo. We were there on thursday and bought 15 bottles between us. The promoters there said they were opening some new bottles for tasting this weekend, so we were there to try some new ones as well as re-taste others available. There were so many varieties of sake and umeshu. One of the tasting was from an interesting glass device. A small tap at the bottom and separate compartment for ice.

In the end we bought even more bottles, I have 10 in total now. Different sakes including one made from organic rice. Also different umeshu from different types of plums and aged for different times. One used whisky techniques, and tasted stronger. There was also a 3-year one that was richer and had more depth of flavour than a corresponding 7-year.

spaghetti meatballs

spagmeatballs

This is the first time I made spaghetti with meatballs. All right, actually it’s capellini because that’s what we had. Combined minced beef and minced pork (around 60:40, but that’s because it’s what I have) with 1 egg, some flour and seasoning.

Sautéed some garlic and onion in a pan, added the meatballs to brown. Added water, tomatoes, tinned tomatoes, ketchup, worcestershire sauce, herbs, s&p and simmered for about 45mins. Could do with longer, had to turn the heat up towards the end to reduce the sauce.

Pretty good. Definitely tasted homemade, better than spag bol.

steamed egg with pork mince

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Tried my hand at making steamed egg with minced pork. The ultimate comfort food. Goes very well with plain rice and supposedly one of those dishes that are easy to make yet hard to master.

Steamed the pork first, seasoned with soy sauce, sesame oil and I chopped a few dried mushrooms in with the mixture. Poured in the egg and water mixture and steamed for 10mins.

Not quite as silky and smooth as it can be. The egg was overdone on the outside but undercooked in the middle. Apparently both the heat and egg:water ratio are important. I used 1:1 egg and water (measured in measuring cup) but next time will try 1:1.5. And use low heat.

cauliflower rice / couscous

Been noticing more and more cauliflower getting onto fine dining menus. As a purée serving as a perfect bed for scallops; as a curried tempura and cooked three ways [pdf]. It’s touted as a superfood nowadays.

I made cauliflower rice, aka cauliflower cous cous. It’s described as a low-carb substitute for the starch component of a dish. It’s also gluten-free, vegan and forms part of the paleo diet.

Easy enough to prepare. Grate the florets of a whole cauliflower using a box grater. The stem is harder to grate, just put it in with other vegetables. There are many cooking methods for the rice: steam, sautée, microwave, roast in oven. I just tossed it around in a pan with a little s&p and water for about 10 mins until it felt cooked and there were no visible white uncook bits.

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Served some with slow roasted pork and crackling. I don’t have much luck with making crackling in the oven so these were fried in a very hot pan.

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Another batch of the cauliflower I treated like regular couscous by mixing in dried cranberries and pecans from a packet I bought at the farmer’s market a long time ago.

I knew it’s cauliflower and I could taste the vegetable freshness. But it’s true, it’s just like rice, couscous, mash in its ability to accompany the main protein and absorb gravy. Doesn’t make you bloated after the meal too. Definitely must make more.

duck breast, eggs baked in potato

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Lunch was duck breast, potatoes and carrots. Nothing too remarkable, we get duck breasts easily and I’ve gotten pretty good at cooking them. Mum prefers them a little more cooked so I make them medium. Love that every time I have duck fat available for the next week or so. Half a teaspoon to use in sautéing vegetables make all the difference in flavour.

The best thing about the meal were the eggs baked in potato. I’ve made them before a few years ago and always wanted to do them again. It’s dead simple but just takes a little time. Bake the potatoes until tender, around 1hr. Halve and scoop out the flesh carefully, leaving the skins as a shell. Carefully break an egg into each shell and return to the oven to bake until done, around 10-15 mins. Really tasty and healthy, plus there’s mash leftover for the next meal.

#8: old musical | #61: 4-course meal

Completed a couple of 101.1001 tasks during the trip.

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Task #8 is to go see an old musical. I saw Matilda, which I’d seen in 2012 in London. Love the production, I can see myself seeing it even more times in London again, in other locations and if it goes on tour. Although based on a children’s book and targetted at children, it has a lot going for adults too. I’m still humming When I Grow Up.

Task #61 is to plan, cook and serve an three-course meal, with wine. I had an idea of what I’d like to cook when at home, which I may still do so another time. This meal was actually a 4-course meal I planned at the last moment when I was in the huge seafood store in Chelsea Market. The sheer variety of seafood there was enough to make anyone want to make a feast.

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For starter I had a mixture of topneck and littleneck clams. I preferred the small littlenecks, with their sweeter flavour but the entire dish was fresh and fabulous.

For mains I panfried a skate wing with spot prawns and kale. I haven’t had skate for a while, can’t get it at home. Probably overcooked it a little, but still tasty. The prawns were wonderful.

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A small cheese board of cranberry and goat’s cheese I got from the supermarket, a Paymaster goat’s cheese from Brooklyn that was washed in chocolate whiskey and an Alderney hard cheese made from raw organic hard cheese, from a creamery in the Catskills.

Dessert was stuff I had in the fridge: blackberries and raspberry sorbet.

Funny when I posted on fb, people were congratulating me on my cooking. The clams were simply boiled in water until they opened and seasoned with a little fennel tops. The fish, prawns and kale had the most cooking but, er, pan-frying is one of the easiest things to do. Cheese and dessert were putting food on plates. But all in all, I’m very satisfied with the meal. Since it was only me, I couldn’t go crazy with wine and stuck with the one bottle.

#60: tiny but intense chocolate cake [recipe]

Task #60 of 101.1001 is to open a cookbook to a random page and make whatever comes up.

Because of differences in terminology and how ingredients are measured, I never use American recipes. For the longest time the only American food website I visit was simply recipes because of the old MT-loyalty thing. Gradually I added smitten kitchen, especially after Ms Perelman added proper measurements to her recipes. I bought her book when it came out, even got an autographed copy.

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So when I decided I should start cooking again, as in not just day-to-day cooking, I grabbed the book and opened it up. There, on page 250, is a recipe for tiny but intense chocolate cake. Looks divine, and very simple to make with easy ingredients. Can’t find it on her website, but it was on house and garden. I love the description:

In the short list of recipes I think any baker should have – or simply any person with friends, who delights in making those friends happy – is a chocolate cake to be thrown together just because I… Well, actually I did not know today was your birthday. Of course I am free tonight!

85g butter – the book says 85g, online recipe says 115g
115g chocolate
3 eggs, separated
65g sugar – online recipe says 45g
vanilla extract – i made it myself
pinch of sea salt
pinch of cinnamon

Melt the butter in a small saucepan until almost brown. Remove from heat, add chocolate and stir until chocolate has melted. Let the mixture cool.

Whisk egg yolks, sugar, vanilla, salt, cinnamon until smooth. I only used about 10g sugar because I was using toblerone instead of 70% chocolate. Add chocolate mixture. Whisk egg whites separately until stiff peaks, then fold into chocolate mixture.

Bake at 180ºC for 15-20mins until skewer comes out clean.

Remove from oven, allow to cool inside tin. The cake will deflate and come away from the side of the tin, at which time it’s okay to take out.

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The recipe says to use one 15cm/6-inch tin, but I only have the standard sized ones so I used even smaller 12cm/5-inch tins. Yielded 3 cakes.

Very, very light! It was like biting into air. Flourless cake, that’s why. I used barely any sugar so it wasn’t too sweet. From start to finish, less than 1 hr and it took that long because I couldn’t be bothered to get the electric whisk out and whisked the egg whites by hand.

Excellent last minute recipe and definitely worth making again.

lunch today: duck breast

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Lunch today was duck breast which I cooked from frozen because there wasn’t enough time to defrost. I’m still not very good at getting the skin crispy although I managed to render a lot of the fat. Finished off in the oven for 10mins.

Served with leftover potato and carrots; added flavour by tossing them in a little duck fat. The green salad was fresh though. I added cherry tomato and cucumber.

two lunches

Two contrasting meals yesterday vs today.

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Sunday lunch was at a busy, noisy vietnamese place. Mum had pork chop glass noodles and I had the three-way rice: red rice with chả lụa pork rolls, chicken wings and lemongrass pork chop. Came with a drink and I could upgrade to one of the special drinks. I opted for salted lemon and ginger ale. I should buy some lemon and salt and make my own preserved lemon.

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Monday lunch was homemade butternut squash soup with leftovers. I made the soup by spending the entire Sunday afternoon making turkey stock from the usual suspects: bones that have been sitting in the freezer, carrot, celery, onion, garlic, peppercorn, random herbs. Roasted the butternut squash while the stock was simmering. The soup did not need any seasoning, it was sweet from the squash and there was enough salt from the bones (was from a roast turkey). Bulked up using leftover alphabet pasta, ‘hairy’ courgette, pork chop and tofu that has also been in the freezer. Yep, frozen tofu is so totally different from regular tofu, it’s

sturdier, chewier, more flavorful

and gives another texturual dimension to a soup. I call it presentation!fail but delicious.

seared salmon sushi

Today it’s my day to teenager-sit my niece. Had a quick lunch with sis and went back to her place. Made lunch for my niece (pasta with tomato sauce and cheese) which she wolved down, it was good to see her eating.

She has taekwondo on fridays. We were very lucky to get a taxi quickly, although the traffic was horrendous due to an accident. She normally has one hour of lesson and the second hour she helps her teacher to teach younger kids. I followed sis’ routine while I waited for her: went to m&s to get snacks and drinks; the japanese supermarket to get sushi and waited at the bookstore until for a text. Grabbed a taxi, picked her up outside the library building and headed home.

Dinner was sushi, mainly salmon. They’ve been searing the salmon using a blowtorch so I tried the method out too. It’s so much fun. I tried to use the part of the flame just above the blue flame where it’s supposed to be hottest, but not always successful. That, and I had the blowtorch in one hand and the iphone in the other, hehehe.

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Tasted very good. Sis says gis normally only eats about 4 pieces; she polished off a good 6 pieces, plus a piece of scallop sushi and half the portion of okra I bought as the veg component of the meal.

I used to have a blowtorch, when I wanted to try making crème brûlée. Never got round to doing it though. May be I’ll get another blowtorch and do some searing. Sis used safety goggles, I suppose I should have too, I still have mine from the lab.

prawn & clam pasta

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Probably the last meal I’ll cook at home, at least for a while. If I end up selling the flat, it will be the last meal cooked at home forever.

I had to walk down to the station to sell something. I thought about going out for lunch, may be at the craft beer place. Decided against it. I had a bottle of beer at home, so I went to the market and got some fresh prawns and clams. Opened a can of tomatoes and cooked up some remaining pasta. Probably more expensive than lunch at the craft brewery, but it’s all homemade. I had a moment when I started cooking when I realised I’d packed away my salt, herbs, pasta and can opener; luckily I know which box they were in.

So, yeah. Last cooked meal at home. Going to sis’ for dinner and she’ll bring me lunch tomorrow when the movers are here. The end of an era.

toad-in-a-hole

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I just felt like it, so I went to the supermarket and bought a packet of sausages. The batter is a standard pancake / yorkshire pudding mix.

150g flour
2 eggs
450ml milk
seasoning

Make a hole in the flour, add the eggs and milk and whisk until no lumps. Add s&p and herbs, I used thyme.

Heat oven to 200ºC, roast the sausages in 2tbsp oil for 5-10mins. Pour the batter into the baking tray and bake until golden, around 40mins.

I think the tray was too large so the batter was too spread out, making it a bit burnt at the bottom. In retrospect I should have bought two packets of sausages; or used a smaller baking tray.

Seasoning was nice. Crunchy on the bottom and soft in the middle. And sausages.

applesauce cake-bread

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This applesauce bread-cake recipe is from cooking on a bootstrap, formerly known as A Girl Called Jack. Jack Monroe is a writer, cook and activist who first came into the public eye as a blogger sharing recipes from trying to survive as a single parent on £10 a week. Now a media personality due to activism against poverty (and the Tory govt) and after coming out as non-binary transgender. Interesting person to follow on twitter, there are always good stories on politics, family and cooking.

This is a vegan recipe that is supposed to cost 9p per serving. It’s always good to come across healthier recipes.

2 apples (whatever kind)
1 tsp lemon juice
100ml vegetable oil
225g plain flour
1.5tsp bicarbonate of soda
1tsp cinnamon
2 tsp sugar (if using tart apples)

Dice apples and cook with lemon juice until soft. Leave the skin on for texture. Leave to cool. The recipe says to drain but I didn’t have any liquid in the pan.

Sift dry ingredients into a mixing bowl, add applesauce and oil. I found the mixture very dry so I added a little water to loosen it up.

Bake at 180ºC for 35-40mins.

applesaucecake04

The result was nothing like I expected. It was quite dry and almost like a crumble. I think it needed one more apple and lots more liquid. Or I hadn’t cooked the apples mushy enough. It was nice though, if I didn’t think of it as being like the apple equivalent of banana bread. I was missing the richness of butter; flavourless sunflower oil simply isn’t as good.

Served with vanilla ice cream, which was gave more sweetness and acted as sauce (took it out of vegan territory, but it’s not important for us). I’m thinking we can also use custard, jam, honey, fruit compote or coulis. It definitely needed a sauce or accompaniment.

happy pancake day

pancakeday2016

It’s Shrove Tuesday, so I made pancakes for tea. Easy to remember ingredients:

100g flour + pinch of salt
300ml milk
2 eggs
1tsp vegetable oil

The recipe says to rest the batter for 30mins. I usually don’t, but this time I did. A little googling reveals that it’s to do with letting the starch absorb the liquid, the gluten to relax and the air bubbles to disperse evenly. The end result is supposed to be a thick, uniform batter and more delicate cooked product.

They do seem easier to cook, although we scoffed them down too quickly to really appreciate the texture or delicate taste. The first one never works properly–that’s an accepted fact. Cook’s perk.

Parents had them with maple syrup or peanut butter. I had mine with lemon and sugar. Simple is best.

burns night dessert: cranachan

25-Jan is Burns Night, celebrating Robert Burns’ birthday. Traditionally Burns Night supper has a particular order. The guests are piped in, the Selkirk Grace is said:

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit.

Then the star of the meal, haggis, is piped in, welcomed by reciting the poem To A Haggis. The haggis is served with neeps & tatties, and the meal finishes with cranachan and a toast with whisky.

I like haggis, but we don’t have it readily available so it’s just normal meals today. But I did make cranachan for dessert. It’s the Scottish version of Eton Mess, really. The traditional recipe uses double cream, toasted oats, raspberries and whisky. Some chefs add their personal touches, folding a raspberry purée through the cream, macerating the fruit, substituting mascarpone, making fancy granola.

cranachan04

I didn’t want to use double cream. The smallest container I can buy is a 250ml carton, plus I don’t like plain cream. I substituted with vanilla ice cream instead.

The oats were, I’m ashamed to say, instant from a packet. This was flavoured with apple and cinnamon; the dried apple and cinnamon sugar gave a caramel-y fruity flavour when melted and mixed with the toasted oats. Quite nice.

cranachan02

It’s an assembly dessert. I put a few raspberries at the bottom of the glass, added ice cream, more raspberries then the oats. Poured over about 1tbsp whisky straight from my hip flask. Ate it with whisky. Washed down with whisky. More whisky afterwards, of course.

Happy Burns Night!

a explosion of fruity flavours

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It’s the start of baking season! I helped out by cutting the glacé (candied) fruits for fruitcake. There were 4 tubs of red & green cherries and pineapple. Sweet and sticky. And very colourful. Definitely Christmas-y. The fruitcake has lots of sugar, 2 cups of southern comfort, took around 2hrs to bake and will be soaked in more southern comfort until ready to eat. I had the honour of cleaning the mixing paddle and just that bit of batter had enough southern comfort to give an oomph.

 

running 12km | homemade chicken drumstick

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12km 1.30.10hr 7.31min/km

Went out to the end of bowen road and back, 12km went by quite quickly. Since it’s a public holiday, there were tons and tons of people out walking and hiking. Glad it was only out and back once for me.

On the way back I stopped at the supermarket and bought some chicken drumsticks. Grabbed a butternut squash and was horrified at the price tag at the till, so had to exchange for another type of pumpkin at a more reasonable price. Cooked it all with okra and israeli couscous. Found a small tin of olives that dated from chicago, so added to the roasting tray for flavour. There are leftovers, which ended up proving problematic as I have no fridge. Had to leave the aircon and wrap the food tightly in a box then foil.

Met mm for drinks then dinner. Many places were closed so we just went to a nearby pub and then a small diner. We’ll meet again tomorrow for lunch, so nice.

 

cooking with friends menu

Dinner with friends a few weeks ago and someone mentioned party venues with kitchen facilities where we can have a dinner party. I think those places are mainly for people who want to have a birthday party and bring in drinks and snacks. Some of them seem to have kitchens with microwave, oven and hob. I bet the ‘oven’ is a small electric countertop one. Then again if rachel khoo can run a restaurant in her tiny paris flat with a small electric oven, I can manage too.

I played around an online menu generator for the menu. They make you sign up and pay to save the graphic so I just took a screenshot.

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I figured, we can munch on something before dinner, and I like the idea of small profiteroles with a mushroom filling. On second thoughts, I may need to find an amuse bouche recipe that doesn’t need an oven, or one that only takes a few minutes to make. May be the salmon egg rolls from Donna Hay.

The salad is easy to make, and I can get around the limitations of small ovens by making lamb rack. If the oven is too small, I’ll probably switch to mashed or sautéed potatoes. The apple crumble was what everyone voted to have, it can bake in the oven while we’re having our mains.

It’s not exactly what I want to cook for a 3-course menu, but I have to take into account the limitations of an unknown kitchen. Anyway, this is all a fantasy right now, I’m not that close with those friends who suggested the gathering, I’d go only for the opportunity to cook.

 

simple salmon

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Seems like forever since I cooked a meal for myself. Still coughing badly so I kept it simple and made salmon with grilled tomatoes. Clams were on the shelf next to the salmon so I added a handful for additional flavour. Took 10mins to make and less than that to eat.

salmon with potato stack

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We were watching a cookery competition program where one of the sets of contestants made salmon with potato stacks and asparagus with lime vinaigrette. Mum turned to me and said, “can you make this tomorrow?” So I did.

First time I made potato stack, I wonder why it took me so long? I normally bake or sautée my potatoes, but this will definitely be part of my repertoire. Thinly slice the potatoes, toss in s&p, rosemary and olive oil. Stack on a lined baking tray and bake at 200ºC for about 45mins, until golden brown on the outside and soft inside.

Didn’t have asparagus, so I made some carrot and cucumber disks that mirrored the round potato stacks. The downside was I slightly overcooked the salmon, sigh.

pan-fried salmon with caramelised fennel

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Continuing the theme of eating more fish, I made salmon and fennel for lunch.

Standard salmon fillet from Ikea—the best value and best tasting salmon available to me. I had a head of fennel but I didn’t want to turn the oven on for just one head, so I looked for pan-frying recipes. The one from Delia at bbc goodfood looks great, but like most Delia recipes, seemed a bit fiddly. My simplified method was to slice the fennel and blanch in boiling water for 3 minutes, then brown in a pan with apple balsamic, worcestershire sauce and honey. Took around 10-15mins. Pushed the fennel to the side of the pan then cooked the salmon, which is why it looks so burnt on top, it absorbed the fennel debris.

Sigh, I’ve come to realise that the vegetables I love to cook with like fennel, kale, savoy cabbage, I have limited access to. They are also extremely expensive. The salmon (frozen) was also twice the price of fresh salmon in the UK.

chilled cheesecake

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I realised I don’t have searchable recipe for chilled cheesecake. It’s hidden on an old page that was part of v1.0 of the website and no longer linked. And it’s so old it’s in ounces, so I need to update it. I’ve also based the new recipe on the packaging of ingredients available to me; the recipe converts to 350g cream cheese, but cream cheese packets are 200g, so I used 2 packets.

50g butter
120g digestives
400g cream cheese
75g caster sugar
zest and juice of 1 lemon
gelatine — about 1 tbsp in 3 tbsp hot water, this is powdered
250ml double cream
3 egg whites
1 punnet blueberries, or other fruit

  1. make base using butter and digestives, chill until set
  2. break up cheese, add sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice
  3. dissolve gelatine in water, add to cheese mixture
  4. add fruit
  5. whisk cream until soft peaks, fold into mixture
  6. whisk egg whites until firm peaks, fold into mixture
  7. pour mixture over base and chill till set

cooking for the masses

The retirement home where mm volunteers is apparently looking for a cook. I’m guessing volunteer also. The requirements are cleanliness, know how to cook for 20+ people and other usual criteria. Of course mm wants me to start volunteering so she perhaps jokingly suggested that we should apply and show off our cooking skills.

I’m skeptical. I doubt the retired fathers and nuns there are used to my style of cooking. And I doubt there are suitable equipment; an oven is out of the question.

I got to thinking though, what if I am asked to cook for 20 elderly people. What will I cook? I’m sure there is a budget so only simple ingredients.

chickencacciatore02 poachchicken01

My first instinct is chicken. A simple chicken cacciatore with pasta or healthy, no oil poached chicken with rice and vegetables. Both recipes use chicken breast, which is more expensive but easier to digest. Easy to adapt to boneless chicken thigh or drumstick.

sisuk107indian green curry vegetable

With many mouths to feed, a one-pot meal makes sense. May be curry, which can be made with chicken or vegetables. Or portugese chicken, which is chicken curry without the spiciness.

risottomushroom happynoodles01

For a more carb-heavy meal I could make risotto (aracini with leftovers) or that simple dish from the now defunct happy noodles: pork chop, sausages, fried egg with fried noodles. I don’t know if any of these recipes are scalable, I hope so.

#97 use more herbs & spices

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Task #97 of 101.1001 is to stop using as much salt and substitute with herbs &amp spices.

One of the biggest advantages of staying at an airbnb is home comforts like a kitchen. The flat we stayed in London had a nice kitchen with proper hob, oven and utensils. The downside is that you’re limited to what is already present, unless you buy or bring your own flavourings. I was making roast lamb shoulder. There were olive oil, salt and pepper. Although half a drawer was full of herbs & spices it was chilli, curry powder, star anise and the like. I could use them, of course, but what I really wanted was rosemary, which wasn’t available. I didn’t get any fresh sprigs when I bought the lamb, so I improvised with other dried and fresh ingredients.

I used some italian seasoning, s&p. The side dishes with the lamb were roasted fennel and asparagus. I finely chopped bits of fennel and asparagus offcuts, and used those as the fresh herbs.

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It’s definitely the quality of lamb, but I’m hoping the improvised seasoning helped too. The lamb was roasted to perfection and the side vegetables were really good.

europe day 31: london last full day

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Today is the last full day of our trip. Sad, sad, sad. In a way we are both happy to be going home; but we also don’t want the trip to end.

The plan today was to have not a lot of plan. For lunch I made the lamb shoulder we were going to cook yesterday but were too full. Plus roasted fennel and asparagus. There were salt, pepper and italian seasoning at the flat but the garlic on the shelf was too dry. I used bits of fennel and asparagus to add flavour to the lamb. It worked out very very good, may be needed 2 more minutes of cooking, but we like rare to medium rare. Served on this long wooden board, just like Jamie.

No plans, except to walk around. Walked down Kilburn High Road through Paddington Rec to Little Venice. My home grounds. I can’t help it, I gravitate towards Maida Vale whenever I can. It’s in my bones.

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We skipped the cafés at Warwick Avenue and the canal boat waterside café. It started to drizzle and get cold so we stopped at an aussie café along the canal for tea and cake. Afterwards we headed towards m&s—ended up buying a whole lot of stuff. Bus back towards Kilburn, bought more stuff for dinner and to bring back. We don’t have a huge baggage allowance and we’d been careful about what we packed and bought. There’s still space for important stuff like whisky, cereal, tea bags and even a couple of bags of kale.

no family recipes, it’s okay

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It’s International Women’s Day. There are articles where writers talk about the women who have most influenced their lives. Top of the list, their mums and grandmothers.

I must say I don’t feel influenced by Mum or either of my Grandmas. [Caveat: I don’t feel terribly influenced by anyone specifically so it’s nothing against Mum or Grandmothers.] I don’t think there’s any legacy they will pass to me. People who are chefs or go on cookery competition shows always say that their greatest cooking influence is their family. “I cooked at my grandmother’s knees” is a common sentiment.

I don’t have any family recipes passed down from the older generation. None of my grandparents cooked. Mum is an okay cook, but she is a better appreciater of food. My dad is the best cook in this group, and like me, he’s not the best at presentation.

I learned cooking from tv and reading recipes. Now I cook so I can share with my family. I wish I had a chance to cook for my grandmothers.

30.30 #15: new recipe onion soup

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Task #15 of 30in30 is to try a new recipe.

Mum felt like onion soup so she bought a ton of onions. I don’t like onions so I usually relegate it to a flavouring as a component in mirepoix. Although IIRC I never made onion soup, I don’t think it’s something that requires a recipe. I mean, cook the onions, add liquid and simmer, right?

Ha!

There’s a good discussion about the various methods for making onion soup. The type of onions to use, how long to caramelise the onions (from Michel Roux Jr’s 30-40mins to Thomas Keller’s 5 hours), the type of stock, additional seasoning (balsamic) and even what alcohol to add (cider, brandy).

Here’s what I did. I chopped 6 large onions and cooked them in butter for about 1.5hrs. I stirred like crazy towards the end, and left the lid off to reduce the liquid and break down the onion further. Most recipes call for beef stock which I didn’t have, I compromised by adding about 100g total of cubed beef with the onions.

After 1.5hrs the onions were soft and mushy and turned a nice medium brown. I then added vegetable stock I had in the freezer. Brought the whole lot to a boil and kept at a rolling boil for 20mins. Seasoned with s&p, thyme, worcestershire sauce, a dash of balsamic and soy sauce. Recipes tend not to include worcestershire or soy sauce, but they are my secret ingredients for adding umami to soups.

The cheese toast was made from baguette and shredded cheese. Proper cheeses like gruyere or comteé are simply too expensive and difficult to find so I used processed, sigh. I toasted the croutons on both sides before melting the cheese on top. Sprinkled more cheese onto the soup.

I was fairly pleased with the results. A tad too watery, I could have done with another 10-15mins reduction at the end, or taken half the soup and blitzed it. Still not a fan of onions.

#pancakeday: pikelets and crêpes

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It’s Shrove Tuesday, which means PANCAKES! No, I haven’t forgotten why we eat pancakes on the day before Lent starts.

For tea I made pikelets. I love this pop quiz:

What’s a pikelet?

Is it:

  1. a regional type of crumpet
  2. a type of pancake found in Australia and New Zealand
  3. stage name of Australian musician Evelyn Morris
  4. a North Staffordshire delicacy, a thicker form of oatcake with raisins added
  5. all of the above

The answer is (5). Most commonly the recipes I see are either (1) or (2). Complicated ones like this from Bake-off’s Ruby Tandoh that makes flat crumpets, I want to try this one day because, well, Ruby! and crumpets!!

What I used was a simple pancake-like recipe. I added blueberries because I felt like it.

150g SR flour
pinch of salt
1tbsp sugar
200ml milk
1 egg
1 punnet blueberries

Make a well in the dry ingredients, add egg and milk. Whisk slightly until no lumps, add blueberries. Drop 1 dessertspoon of the batter into olive oil/butter and cook till bubbles appear on top, flip and continue cooking till golden. Serve with blueberries and maple syrup.

Makes around 25 pikelets around 6cm (2.5in) in diameter.

So easy, and very tasty. They are small, so it’s easy to portion control. A combination of drop scones (with holes) and crumpets (less thick). Unlike pancakes, which go soggy when refridgerated, these are small enough to keep in the fridge as snacks, reheated in the microwave or eaten cold.

And because it’s pancake day, I made mushroom crêpes for dinner and served them with Ikea meatballs.

poached salmon, carrots, two potatoes

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Saturday was Valentine’s Day. What I did: running, market then teenager-sitting my niece whilst Sis and BIL went for dinner. I made poached salmon, carrots, mashed potato and purple sweet potatoes. My niece approved, the salmon was just cooked, still a little pink in the middle. She ate it all, including all the veg and potatoes, so there were no leftovers. I’m particularly pleased about this, becuase she is a picky eater.

What mm did: went to a seminar on St Francis. I guess I could have gone with her if I didn’t have to spend time with my niece. Hmm, thinking about it, nope I wouldn’t.

#58 new recipe: double chocolate tart

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Tasks #49-58 of 101.1001 are to try 10 new recipes. It’s great that the 10th one turned out so nice.

I’ve mentioned before that even though I’ve been baking for a long time, it’s usually cakes and biscuits. I only tried bread a few months ago and choux is the only pastry I’m comfortable with. I rarely work with the most basic pastry of them all: shortcrust.

So we were watching MKR4 repeat and I decided to try the double chocolate tart one team made, because it looked so indulgent.

for the pastry:
150g cold butter
185g plain flour
25g cocoa powder
50g icing sugar
1 egg yolk

for the filling:
350g chocolate
80ml cream
50g brown sugar
2 eggs + 4 egg yolks

Sift the flour, cocoa and icing sugar into a large bowl, mix butter until resembling breadcrumbs. In the recipe they use a food processor but I couldn’t find mine, and besides I’m not sure it works anymore. Takes longer using hands but it’s not too bad. Put the mixture back in the fridge for 5mins to cool, then add the egg yolk. Combine into a dough. Initially I thought one egg yolk surely wasn’t enough to bind so much dry ingredients, but it worked after a bit of elbow grease. Knead on a flat surface briefly. Chill dough in fridge for 30mins.

Roll out dough to a tart tin. Well, I don’t have a tart tin, so I used half the dough and rolled out into a regular small cake tin, mending gaps where necessary. I tried to trim the side so it was flat. Cool the pastry in the fridge for 5mins, then blind bake at 180°C for 15mins with baking beans, followed by 10mins without. Didn’t have baking beans at parents’ place, so substituted with rice.

While the baked pastry case cools, make the filling. Melt chocolate and cream in a bain marie. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, egg yolk and sugar until frothy. Combine with melted chocolate carefully then pour into pastry case. Bake at 160°C for 30mins. Cool at room temperature, then in fridge until set.

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The pastry was quite short, may be a tad too short, but I like it. The filling was rich and, yes, indulgent. Should have served it with strawberries or raspberries but didn’t have it. Added to the richness by pouring a little cream over. I’ll have to buy a proper tart tin, it’s one of those desserts I’m going to add to my repertoire.