Lamb and Carrot Ragu

Not as hard as it seems. Really, I was surprised at how tasty it was considering I made it, and I’m bad at meat.

Lamb and Carrot Ragu

Lamb and Carrot Ragu

Inspired by a brunch I had somewhere in North Melbourne, but the recipe is mine

4 pieces round lamb bone chops – it has to be something with a bit of bone in it
8 tomatoes, chopped
2 carrots, diced small
1 red onion, chopped
5-7 cloves garlic, chopped
1.5 tablesp tomato paste
1 tablesp balsamic vinegar
1/2 teasp cumin seeds
3 bay leaves
1/2 teasp black pepper
Salt and sugar to taste

A pressure cooker

  1. Brown onion and garlic in some oil. Add the cumin seeds.
  2. While while that’s browning, chop the carrots. Then add the carrots.
  3. Same for the tomato – while the carrot browns, chop the tomato. Then add the tomato and a little salt.
  4. Mix it around and then close the pressure cooker lid. Pressure cook on high for around 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. Clean the excess fat off the lamb. Open the pressure cooker (quick release), then add the lamb, tomato paste, black pepper, balsamic vinegar, and bay leaves.
  6. Close the pressure cooker, and cook on high for around an hour.
  7. Open the pressure cooker (quick release), then boil off the excess water until the sauce thickens. Taste and adjust the salt and sugar as needed.
  8. Serve over some small size pasta ūüôā

Kuah kacang

Coming from someone who hardly eats or even likes kuah kacang much, the assignment to make kuah kacang for a Raya gathering can be described as a bit of a gamble.

Kuah kacang is not something that I find to be particularly notable. I don’t gravitate towards it on buffet tables. I find it too sweet and sickly, and sticky, and oily. I don’t generally dip my satay in it. I am even less keen on the Indonesian version than the Malaysian version, which is even sweeter.

I’m not selling this very well, am I?

Kacang

Perhaps I have just never had a nice homemade kuah kacang. Actually, that’s not true – I have had Bigfoot’s mother’s kuah kacang, and wasn’t hugely keen on that either, a view which flies in the face of common opinion. Please don’t tell her. I think kuah kacang just doesn’t push my buttons.

But. BUT. I did quite like this. Maybe I adulterated it beyond recognition. Maybe it is not sweet enough to be proper kuah kacang. Or perhaps too spicy, or salty. Obviously, I ¬†don’t think so. ¬†It could be one of those strange things where once you have put effort into it, you trick yourself into liking what you have made. But hey, my peanut sauce, my rules / choice of seasoning.

 It also went down pretty well with the rest of the deprived-of-Malaysian-food-crowd. Yay me! 

Kuah Kacang / Malaysian Peanut Sauce (Satay Sauce)

Based on Anna Qawina’s recipe, tweaked and seasoned differently

5-8 cloves garlic
1 large purple onion, or 2 smaller ones
2 stalks of lemongrass
10-20 dried chillies, washed – adjust depending on how hot you want it
A thumb’s length of ginger
A slice of toasted belacan, around 1/2 cm thick and the length of your thumb – note that I have female-length thumbs, so don’t go too crazy. Toast it gently over a flame or in a toaster oven / dry fry in a pan until the colour changes a little.

1/2 cup water
500-800g blanched peanuts, toasted or fried
1 piece of gula melaka – this is the approximate equivalent of 1/4 cup of packed brown sugar, but start low and work upwards to taste.
1 tablesp asam jawa / tamarind paste in hot water, mushed until the water turns brown
Sugar and salt, to taste

  1. Grind the garlic, onion, lemongrass, chilli, ginger, and belacan in a blender or chopper until you get a paste. Fry this over medium heat until fragrant.
  2. Chop the peanuts roughly in a chopper or blender, then add them to the pan. Add the water so the texture is closer to a sauce. ¬†Add extra water if needed. Lower the heat slightly, and stir so that the peanuts don’t burn.
  3. Add the gula melaka/ brown sugar, and stir until it is all combined.
  4. Season with the sugar, salt, and asam jawa. I obviously added no sugar, some salt, and almost all the asam jawa.

Enjoy with some other raya food. Savour it thoroughly, because I’m only making this once a year! ūüôā

Precious, precious salmon head

Look at this beast! For $2! And possibly free in future! I think I’m switching fishmonger.

Can't believe people throw this away

For reference, that head is the size of my hand with all fingers outstretched. And it includes the bottom half of the salmon collar.

Mr Fishmonger says he will give me these for free if I am a regular (free!! free!! My Singaporean within rejoices, and I’m not even Singaporean). However, I can’t decide whether he is just bribing me to buy his other stuff with the offer of free fish head. But free fish head is free fish head. One doesn’t sniff at free fish head.

I feel a bit like a cat that someone has bribed to be friends with them using leftover dinner.

I wonder if he has other types of fish head too.

My mother thought I was depriving myself when I excitedly shared news of my purchase with her. She was all: “are you eating properly? Don’t starve yourself to save money!” She didn’t quite grasp that I specifically wanted the fish head, and asked 3 different fishmongers for it, simply because salmon head is awesome.

If you haven’t tried it, lock your squeamishness in a box and give it a go. It’s a really fatty part of the fish with lots of smooth flesh (much more moist than salmon steak), and crispy skin all over when done well.

We dumped the bones / fins in a slow cooker with some water, onions, salt, and pepper. There was so much fatty salmon goodness that the resulting stock tasted almost creamy.  Hello udon noodle soup. Another post, maybe.

The salmon head became this roasted amazingness you see below. Prompting a discussion of the merits of a simple dinner of a (whole) salmon head each, and rice. Looks like I need to get 2 salmon heads next time.

Salmon head in teriyaki sauce

Roasted Teriyaki Salmon Head 

Teriyaki sauce based on the one used by Just Bento, but with substitutions the sake.

Salmon head + collar
Salt

2 tablesp soya sauce
3 tablesp sushi vinegar
1 tablesp rice vinegar
1 tablesp sugar

  1. Wash the salmon head and collar, and rub with a little salt. Set aside for half an hour.
  2. Wipe the salmon with a paper towel to remove excess moisture. Mix the sauces and sugar in a small bowl, and pour over salmon. Set aside for 10 minutes.
  3. Roast in an oven for around 15 minutes or so at 220 degrees C, until the skin is a little charred on the edges and the fish is cooked through. If your salmon head is large, you may need to flip it over and cook for a further 5-10 minutes.

A prettier pie than previously anticipated

Or is it a galette? I don’t know what the rules are for naming pies. It is in a pastry. Therefore, it is a pie. Feel free to elucidate if you know the pie-rules. Don’t report me to the pielice (get it, pie-lice/po-lice?) Let’s leave it on that terribly embarrassing¬†note and proceed to the recipe, shall we?

This is a pretty flexible recipe. The only requirement is that the filling is dry and solid enough that it is able to stand by itself in the centre of the puff pastry and not leak out. And the smoked cheese really adds something. By adding something, I mean in the sense of fancy food bloggers “oh my goodness, it really adds a special something!!!” as opposed to the view that, of course, if you add cheese then you are adding ‘something’, i.e. cheese, to the pie.

I think this is one of the tastiest pies I’ve made so far, and it tasted awesome over the next 4 days as cold lunch. If you want to crisp up the pastry again, reheat it in the toaster oven for a couple of minutes.

Soon to be pie See ugly folding - but it didn't fall apart! Isn't it pretty

Seafood Leek Smoked Cheese Galette 

1 sheet puff pastry
1 egg
2 handfuls of grated smoked cheese – I only had enough for 1 handful, so I used a second handful of cheddar
1 handfuls mixed seafood
2 small fillets of fish
3 large leeks
1 tablesp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tablesp sugar
1-2 teasp black pepper
A pinch of salt
A dash of chilli flakes

1 egg + a splash of milk for the eggwash

Oven temperature: 180 degrees C

  1. Slice the leeks and fry over medium heat with a little oil until soft. Add the sugar and balsamic vinegar, and continue to heat until the leeks caramelise slightly on the edges.
  2. Mix the egg, cheese, leek, salt, pepper, and chilli flakes – reserve a couple of tablespoons of cheese for later. Add the mixed seafood.
  3. Place the puff pastry on a sheet of baking paper, and scoop the pie filling into the centre of the sheet of pastry. Leave around 2 inch clearance on each side of the filling.
  4. Cut the fillets into strips, and place on top of the filling, skin up (if the fillets have skin).
  5. Fold up the edges of the puff pastry into a pie shape, starting with one corner and working around until all sides are folded up. Take a look at the picture above for an idea of how to fold it up.
  6. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the assembled pie. Rub a little eggwash (egg mixed with milk) on the exposed puff pastry.
  7. Bake for 40 minutes, until the pie is a nice golden colour.

On the Clash of Cuisines

Bigfoot and I have this problem, in that he says all Chinese food is bland and I strongly, vehemently, and occasionally violently disagree with him. And I continue to politely suggest that his taste buds have been corrupted by a lifetime of curry powder and exposure to poor quality pork-free cantonese  food.

There is a whole world (of Chinese food) out there. And I will win this personal crusade. Bit by bit, fighting tooth and nail each step of the way.

After this meal, the score stood at 5,001:0 (me being the victor. Of course, I’m also the only one keeping score, but whatever).

Preconceptions vanquished

Szechuan Eggplant with Spicy Tauchu 

Adapted from Smokywok.

2 medium sized eggplants – cut into sticks
1 cm knob salted fish – chopped
5 (small) cloves garlic – chopped
Thumb sized knob of ginger – sliced
3 stalks spring onions – chopped into 1-2 inch lengths
2 red chilli – chopped
1 teasp szechuan peppers

2 tablesp spicy tauchu (bean paste)
2 tablesp soya sauce
1.5 tablesp sugar
2 tablesp chinese black vinegar
1/4 cup water

  1. Pre-cook the eggplant – either fry it for a couple of minutes in a wok, or toast it in the toaster oven for 5 minutes. I toasted mine.
  2. In a claypot (or a pot with a lid), fry with a little oil: salted fish, garlic, ginger, spring onions, chilli, and szechuan peppers.
  3. Throw in all the sauces and the pre-cooked eggplant. Stir it up and wait for the sauce to boil.
  4. Once the sauce boils, lower the heat to medium-low, and cover with a lid. Cook for 10 minutes or so, until the eggplant is cooked and the sauce is absorbed.

Lea’s Favourite Lala

Lala, I have missed you. Pipis (as they appear to be named here in Melbourne) are pretty similar. I do love my clammie types.

I was so excited that I didn’t take process shots. Oops. The process is pretty simple though.

Food like this needs no further introduction, though pretty pictures would probably endear it to more people. Without further delay, I present one of my favourite foods:

Oh lala I have missed you

Ginger & Spring Onion Lala (or Pipis)

Adapted from Rasa Malaysia’s ginger & spring onion crab.

600g lala / pipis
Thumb size knob of ginger
8 stalks spring onion
1 red chilli

1.5 tablesp oyster sauce
1/2 tablesp sesame oil
1/2 tablesp fish sauce
1/2 teasp sugar
1/2 teasp white pepper
1/4 cup water
1/2 teasp corn flour

  1. Clean your lala / pipis, if they aren’t already clean.
  2. Slice ginger into sticks. Chop the red chilli too. Finally, chop spring onion into 1-2 inch lengths, separating the white hard bits and the green bits.
  3. In a little oil, fry the ginger, chilli, and white parts of the spring onion until fragrant.
  4. Throw in everything else – sauce components, cornflour, green bits of the spring onion, and lala / pipis.
  5. Cover for 5-8 minutes with the heat on medium-high, until all the lala / pipis have opened.

Ode to pie

Everyone likes pie. Do you like pie? I like pie.

Far too cutesy pie beads

Pie is not really a thing that one can say no to. And today, in the silence of the still morning, amongst the clackings of my keyboard, I suddenly decided: I want pie.

Why? Does pie need a why? One can never deny the pie.

* end of self indulgent poorly written rhyming *

Pre-caramelised leek Post-caramelised leek

Also, I work from home at present and so I can do these odd things like make pie in the middle of the day. Of course, that means I am back here at the computer working at midnight. Very clever. The sacrifices we make for pie, sigh. (Pie? Sigh? Geddit? snigger snigger)

Hello pie!

Caramelised Leek and Feta Pie with Zaatar Crust

I had leeks in the fridge so cobbled something together. I didn’t like the pie crust I used, and will update the recipe when I find one that I do like.

3 leeks
2 tablesp balsamic vinegar
1 tablesp sugar
Approx 1/2 cup feta, cut into small cubes
3 eggs
150ml milk
Black pepper

1 portion of your favourite savoury pie dough + 1 tablespoon zaatar

  1. When you make your pie dough, add the zaatar to the flour and then continue to prepare the pie crust as per normal. 
  2. Slice the leeks so they are approx 3cm long each. Stand them all up in a frying pan. Pour over a little oil and fry them standing up that way for 5 minutes on medium-high heat.
  3. Slosh the vinegar into the pan, and wait for a couple of minutes so it drys a little. Then sprinkle in the salt.
  4. If you want, gently flip all the little leek cylinders upside down, so both sides char. The easiest way to do this is with a pair of chopsticks, in my opinion
  5. When cooked (and the pie crust is ready to be filled), arrange in the pie crust and place cubes of feta between the bits of leek.
  6. Whisk the eggs and milk together. Pour over the leeks into the pie crust.
  7. Bake for around 15-20 minutes until browned. Use the same temperature as required by your pie crust.

Dreams of Plum Ice Cream

Apologies up front – I don’t have a picture of the final ice cream.

Sorry. I took it to a friend’s house, and was late and too busy eating, and even managed to get a nice warmed spoon out to scoop it on to a plate in that nice egg-like shape. And then I forgot to take the picture. I also forgot to scoop it nicely but that’s another story.

So all you have is this measly process photo.

Plum + Cream

What to do, right? Make it yourself. Pretend it looks as good as that indulgent picture of cream and plum puree looks. Dream about if for a couple of days (yes I did that)

I have tried many times to make ice cream, and even took an ice cream course at Tom’s Palette in Singapore. My one and only cooking class, yays.

I have never been able to reproduce the results at home. Even though ice cream is one of my favourite things. I probably like a good ice cream better than cake (gasp). It is a gift that keeps giving, patiently waiting for you in the freezer until you need it most. Cake is fickle, it goes dry and weird after a few days. But, alas. No ice cream-making luck so far.

Until this day!

A whole new world of ice cream has opened up. Beware friends, fatness beckons.

Also – I don’t have an ice cream maker, only a food processor with a strong engine (hello, Rambo ;)). Hooray for multi-purpose appliances! If you saw the size of my kitchen, you’d understand.

Plum Ice Cream

Basic recipe adapted from A Canadian Foodie‘s rhubarb ice cream, various proportions edited.¬†

Plum puree

Will give you excess puree – eat it with yoghurt for breakfast ūüôā

6~8 plums
4 tablesp sugar – or to taste

  1. Whizz the plums in a food processor to break them down.
  2. Add the sugar, and cook at around medium-high heat in a pan for 15 minutes, stirring regularly. Add more sugar to taste. 
  3. When the consistency and sweetness is as you like, return to the food processor and blitz until the puree isn’t lumpy anymore. Cool and set aside.¬†

Ice cream

6 large egg yolks
1 cup of milk – I used skinny, that’s all I had that day
115g sugar
1/4 teasp salt
1.5 cups plum puree
1.25 cups heavy cream

  1. Heat the milk, sugar, and salt in a pot, until it warms up to around 50 degrees (a bit too hot to touch, but not very hot). Stir regularly. 
  2. Add the egg yolks, one by one. Turn up the heat a bit to medium, and keep stirring for about 15 minutes. You want to get the custard to set a bit – if you dip in a wooden spoon, it will coat the back of it. And if you swipe your finger across the coated spoon, the streak where you swiped your finger will stay clear of custard (I’ll take pictures next time, promise)
  3. Mix the plum into the cream.
  4. Strain the custard into the plum-cream, and whisk until it cools down. Or stick it in the fridge. Mix it again by hand when it’s cool.
  5. Put it in the freezer in a metal container for around 45 minutes. After that, remove and blitz in the food processor on a high speed, until creamy-looking.
  6. Freeze again, 6 hours up until over night. Then cut it into pieces and process again until creamy.
  7. Freeze again for a couple of hours before eating.

 

 

More Easy Vegetables: Sesame-Sugar Long Beans

Easy vegetable recipes are pretty much my staple, with a throw-everything-in-and-fry omelette and rice.

Here is yet another one. Sometimes, dinner is for watching Masterchef Professional after a long day on Excel, rather than actually cooking.

Be lazy, lik ea bean

Sesame-Sugar Long Beans

Learnt it from my uncle, this works with any green / leafy veg

3-4 servings of green beans, chopped
2 tablesp sesame oil
1 teasp soya sauce
1 teasp sugar, brown / white
A dash of white pepper

2 thin slices of ginger – for blanching. They don’t even need to be skinned, just clean ūüôā

  1. Boil some water in a pan, and drop in the two slices of ginger. Cover with a lid, and bring everything to a rolling boil. 
  2. Blanch the ¬†beans for 30 seconds or so, taste one to check done-ness. If it’s how you like it (I like mine under-done), drain off the water and transfer to a bowl. If not, keep checking until it is cooked enough.
  3. While hot, pour all other ingredients into the bowl, and stir well. Taste. Adapt as you like.

Baked Real Whole Fish

Oh woe is me, for the want of barbecued fish but lack of a barbecue.

Photo 25-02-2013 18 47 45 Photo 25-02-2013 18 57 26

Sympathy not forthcoming, I resolved to remedy this disaster.

I ended up making baked fish with a Thai inspired sauce (what is it with me and Asian adaptations at the moment?? Note to self, please don’t let your angmoh side start getting in control of things here. If you start adapting classics like claypot chicken rice, part of you will die inside.)

Photo 25-02-2013 19 23 54

Anyway, not that it makes any of this it more acceptable, but I did note that this style of cooking = moist soft fish while retaining a nice slight char on the sauce flavours at the end.

Photo 25-02-2013 19 56 30

Thai Style Baked Fish

Method from Thaifood.About.com, edited to suit the flavour I wanted. 

Medium red snapper

10 cloves garlic
2 sticks lemongrass – white part only
1 small red chilli
1 green chilli
4 tablesp soya sauce
1 tablesp oyster sauce
2 tablesp fish sauce
3 teasp brown sugar
Zest of 1/4 of a large lime
Juice of 1 a large lime
A large bunch of coriander

Tin foil
An oven-safe dish large enough to hold your fish – to prevent drips

  1. Clean and scale your fish, if this hasn’t already been done.
  2. In a good food processor, dump in all the sauce ingredients except for the lime juice and the coriander.
    1. Add 80% of the coriander, reserving the rest for garnish
    2. Add half the lime juice
  3. Blend everything. Taste, and adjust lime juice and sugar as necessary.
  4. When you’re happy, roll out enough tin foil to encase the fish and drop the fish in the middle of it. Pack a couple of tablespoons of paste into the fish cavity. Slash the sides of the fish vertically a couple of times, and pack some paste into there too. Make sure paste coats both sides of the entire fish. Reserve a couple of tablespoons of sauce / paste for later.
  5. Loosely wrap the fish in the tin foil, and place in the oven safe dish. This prevents drippage and makes your life easier later on.
  6. Bake at 190 degrees C for around 20 minutes, adjust if your fish is bigger. Mine was a medium sized fish.
  7. Check if the fish is done (i.e., flesh inside the cuts on the side of the body is no longer translucent). If so, open the top of the tinfoil, pour in the rest of the sauce. Turn the oven to max / grill setting, and grill the exposed fish for around 5 minutes, or until the top reaches your desired level of charred-ness.