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Sunday, April 26, 2009

muisjes koekjes

April must be the month for boys to be born. In the past week, we have had the arrivals of three. My nephew was born last week and two more friends in the neighbourhood received the joy of first borns. And I know at least three more friends expecting the arrival of little men anytime now.

While babies are a joy to hold and to play with, motherhood in the first month is really not easy. Trust me, it is exhausting! Not only the little joy has to be fed every two hours, you have to change them, burp them and just before you thought you can get a little shut eye and put your feet up, it is their next feeding round.

And there is the thing about not having time to yourself. Sometimes you feel you can't even have time to shower. And there is the thing about being up to visitors who no matter how good they are at making appointments just to see mommy and baby, you just can't wait for them to leave.

There is this beautiful tradition in The Netherlands where the visitors are usually treated to muisjes on beschuit - anise sugar sprinkle on buttered rusks. You get the pink and white ones for girls and blue and white for boys. I love the tradition and the taste of the beschuit with muisjes.

I thought it would be great to make cookies with the muisjes so instead of spending time in the kitchen preparing the beschuits, which if you have a group of visitors at the same time can take a while; you can just bring a cute cookie jar or tin out and serve them with tea or coffee.

The muisjes are already sweet enough so the cookie base has to be more neutral and rusky. I devised the basic recipe for the sugar cookies and cut down the sugar further, replaced a cup of flour with oatmeal and instead of using almond meal, I used half a cup of chopped toasted almond. The result is a buttery, crunchy oatmealy and nutty sweet and spicy cookies which was very popular with my two friends and their families. I left a cookie tin with each so they can serve them for their guests but they both told me they left the cookie tins by their bedside for their own enjoyment.

Muisjes Koekjes

1 cup flour
1 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup rice flour
1/2 cup almond - toasted and chopped
1/4 cup corn flour
125g light brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
250g butter- cubed
1 egg, slightly beaten
3 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
a bit more milk or eggwash to glaze the cookies
enough muisjes to decorate the cookies

1 Using a food processor, combine and pulse the dry ingredients for a few minutes.
2 Add in butter, egg, milk and vanilla extract.
3 Blend thoroughly
4 Chill in disk shape in 3 different plastic bags for at least 30 minutes. This will make them so easy to roll.
5 Heat up the oven to 160 C
6 Take the chilled dough from the fridge and set on a floured board.
7 Using a floured pin, roll out the dough to about a 1/4 inch thickness.
8 Cut out and brush with a little milk.
9 Place the muisjes in a bowl. Press each cookie into the muisjes.
10 Place them on an ungreased cookie pan.
11 Bake for 10- 12 minutes at 400 F or 160 C.
12 Remove the cookies from the oven as soon as you see them turning color at the base of the cookie.
13 Let cool completely.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

happy earth day

I am beginning to believe that 99percent of gardening is weeding. I have been spending the past few weeks weeding and before I can turn my back, I can almost hear another horsetail breaking the earth of my front yard. I don't want to use chemical because ultimately I would like to leave some piece of heaven for my children and their children - and I do believe heaven is right here on earth if only you make time to make sure it is.

Not using chemical means me going to bed with a sore body every night. I decided revenge is a dish best served cold and remember a BBC programme on foraging for food in your own neighbourhood. I no longer remember the title of the programme so I just searched for a dandelion recipe on the archive with success.
Here is where things become interesting. I have never actually thought of *harvesting* weed to sue for salad. I raised some lettuce, rucola and other vegetables last year quite successfully. But until I saw the BBC programme, the only thing I ever did with dandelion was to weed them with vengence. And OK I have picked the seed balls in the park and blew them ;-) spreading evil weeds everywhere. SO I guess it is karma that they have invaded my garden. You won't believe how much dandelions I have in my front garden. It's enough to actually make some dandelion wine with the flowers and still have young leaves to use for salad. It is perfect for a spring dinner al fresco.

I used Steve Wallis' Dandelion salad with lardons, quails' eggs and mustard vinaigrette and replaced the lardons with smoked salmon and added fresh tarragon and dill and served it with some waxy new potatoes. The results is nothing short of heaven.
note: will post the photo of the salad tomorrow - my camera run out of juice just as it began to upload. I just want to post this today for Earth Day:-)

Monday, April 20, 2009

princess and fantasy cookies

At 9, they may be too old to sleep on a princess bed but not too old to get crazy over the pink sprinkles called Princess and Fantasy by Dr Oetker. When they get bored with PS2, Wii, Nintendo DS and dressing up dolls online and don't want to mess their hair under the April Shower, they want to bake cookies.
So they dig up trusted recipes from old magazines and recipe books, found a fairly reliable one for sugar cookies and started to work. The result was 3 cookie tins full of sugar cookies in spring/Easter shapes, all dressed in pink and two very happy princesses!

Sugar Cookies
2 cups flour
1/2 cup rice flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1/4 cup corn flour
200g caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
250g butter- cubed
1 egg, slightly beaten
3 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Using a food processor, combine and pulse the dry ingredients for a few minutes.
2 Add in butter, egg, milk and vanilla extract.
3 Blend thoroughly
4 Chill in disk shape in 3 different plastic bags for at least 30 minutes. This will make them so easy to roll.
5 Heat up the oven to 160 C
6 Take the chilled dough from the fridge and set on a floured board.
7 Using a floured pin, roll out the dough to about a 1/4 inch thickness.
8 Cut out and put on an ungreased cookie pan. Decorate with sugar sprinkles or smarties
9 Bake for 10- 12 minutes at 400 F or 160 C.
10 Remove the cookies from the oven as soon as you see them turning color at the base of the cookie.
11 Let cool completely.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Bunny side up

Egg in the basket, for Easter

Happy Easter everyone!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

another way with tempeh

A few nights ago we had a lovely dinner of Cereal Prawns made with Oatmeal and Tiger Prawns. Sorry I have no photos to show. It was gone before I can take any. But it got me thinking that it might be a great way to wok tempeh up.

I usually fry tempeh and it it with sambal kicap, have it as part of a fabulous salad or as Sambal Tempeh with some white baits and peanuts (will blog about this soon). I thought Cereal Tempeh would be great minus the cereals and minus the butter that the prawn is usually cooked in. The results was quite a revelation.

First you have to get the tempeh just right. It has to be sliced quite thick. The reason being to enjoy the nuttiness of the soy in tempeh, you have to have a bit of bite into it. And the tempeh has to be crunchy so the yeasty taste won't overwhelm. This I find can be achieved by frying it twice like frying the perfect french fries.

The oil used for frying has to be a mixture of fresh oil and oil that has been used to fry something else. To reuse oil once or twice is very common in Asian cooking. Often the oil used to fry chicken or prawn used again in stir fries, noodles, fried rice and sauces. Sometimes the same oil is used a few times to fry fish and chicken. The reasons for this are it will coat the tempeh with extra flavour and it achieves higher temperature than using fresh oil alone.

The curry leaves used in this dish has to be fresh to get that *kick*. You can use dried chilies or chili flakes instead of the fiery bird's eye chili. And if you fry everything right, the dish will keep in a jar at least 2 weeks and a month in the fridge. I didn't use any cereals because I think the tempeh is crunchy enough and soak up all the flavours very well but would try it with oatmeal the next time.

I must come up with a better name for this dish... any ideas?
Cereal Tempeh without the cereal
400g tempeh - sliced to about 0.3cm squares
2 cups of vegetable oil+ 1/2 cup of pre-used oil (I used the oil I fried the prawns from the night before)
5 garlic - crushed and chopped
5 bird's eye chilies - chopped
a bunch of fresh curry leaves
a handful of dried shrimps
1 tsp black mustard seeds
salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar
1. In a fryer, combined 2 cups of vegetable oil and 1/2 cup preused oil
2. Cut the tempeh into bite size but not too thinly.
3. Soak the dried shrimps in hot water then drain and pound lightly.
4. When the oil is smoking, add tempeh in batches, fry for about 1-2 minutes then remove and drain on kitchen paper. Do this until you finish frying all the tempeh.
5. Refry the tempeh in the same oil for about 3 minutes until golden and crispy.
6. In a wok, add in 3 TBSP of oil and when the wok is smoking, add curry leaves, chopped garlic, mustard seeds and chilies. Fry until fragrant.
7. Add dried shrimps and fry a bit more then add the tempeh.
8.Mix thoroughly for about a minute or two, season with some salt pepper and a pinch of sugar. Dish out immediately. This will keep in a jar for about 2 weeks or up to a month in the fridge.

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Sunday, April 05, 2009

Kip Ananas

There are dishes that is comforting because they always work. You can work them around with different vegetables, replace the onion with leek or spring onion, spice it up with anise and cinnamon, flirt with chilies and the variations yield something else but equally satisfying. Kip Ananas is like my little Barbie Doll - oh yes she is now 50 eh? - and has been around for probably longer than I have lived.
OK it is usually called Sweet Sour Chicken but humour me today, I am entering this dish to the March WTISIM organised by Andrew over at Spittoon Extra. I can't really resist because I always have 2-3 cans of Pineapple in my pantry. Ananas is pineapple in Dutch and Kip is Chicken and this is what this dish usually called when you go to the local Chinese restos.
I thought of making something more elaborate with fresh pineapple but you know the weather was so gorgeous this past week, I thought we all need something quick that will work every time.
Kip Ananas to me is a true classic - something which travels through geographical border to greet you in the world in a Chinese takeaway counter or restaurants. And because it is usually something which most of us encounter for the first time in a restaurant, I used the restaurant technique which is usually employed to keep the chicken breast moist and springy - Velveting. It is a simple process of marinating the chicken lightly then deep frying in a smoking hot oil in lightening speed. Then drain out on kitchen paper while the sauce is prepared and added to the sauce later.

Kip Ananas
300g chicken fillet - cut into cubes
1 egg white
1tsp cornflour
1 TSP pineapple syrup (from the same can as the pineapple)
2 cups oil
200g pineapple slices - I use half of a 567g can
1 onion
3 garlic - crushed and chopped
1cm ginger - chopped
1 TBSP tomato ketchup
1 TBSP chili sauce
2 TBSP pineapple syrup
1 tsp honey
salt and pepper

1. Whisk egg white and add the cornflour and pineapple syrup.
2. Season the chicken cubes with salt and white pepper. Add the egg white mix into the chicken. Mix thoroughly and leave to marinate in the fridge for about 10-15 minutes.
3. Slice the onion and the pineapple slices.
4. In a bowl, combine the tomato ketchup, chili sauce and pineapple syrup together.
5. Heat up one cup of oil in the wok and once it is smoking add the chicken cubes. Fry for 2 minutes, remove and drain on kitchen towel. This is the velveting process and has to be done very quickly and there is no need to brown the chicken pieces.
6. Remove most of the oil from the wok and leave about one tablespoon. Return the wok to the hot stove and when it is smoking, add the ginger, garlic and onion and fry until fragrant.
7. Stir in the sauces and mix some more. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
8. Add the chicken pieces and stir fry for about 4-5 minutes. If using other vegetables, add at this time.
9. Add the pineapple chunks.
10. Add honey. Taste for seasoning. Serve immediately.

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

Malaysian Beef Noodle Soup - Soto Daging

Sometimes I feel like the noodle monster. I can eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner and also for elevenses and tea in between. I even dream up ways to eat it and how to cook it. This is my absolute favourite way of eating noodle - in noodle soup, especially made with beef soup, or what is known as Soto Daging.

There are a lot of ways of making soto. The most ubiquitous is probably soto ayam which is served with rice cakes, bergedil and sambal kicap. You can find various recipes to this delicious concoction. My personal favourite of soto ayam is done the Madura style which is quite different from the ones you find in Malaysia. For soto daging, I like using sup tulang because I find it the flavour more robust and richer than plain beef soup. This is especially important since my soto is usually served with egg noodles or mi hun, thin rice noodles. The soto will be a one bowl meal with flavours built around the soup and the noodles and complemented by the other condiments and toppings. I also like layering texture so there will be plenty of fresh thinly sliced cucumber, crunchy bean sprout that is just barely blanched, crispy fried potato slices and fried shallot. For extra aromatics, there will be chopped celery leaves*- the herbs not the vegetable.
A little condiment that can make or break your soto is the sambal kicap. You can of course just cut some bird's eye chili, squeeze a little lemon and add some light soy sauce and it will be alright. But for it to be amazing, you have to make a special sambal kicap. I learnt to make this sambal in Jakarta about 10 years back. My friend Tuty taught me to fry whole garlic to be added to the chili paste, instead of using fresh garlic which makes a world of difference. The fried garlic lent a sweet aromatic taste to the sambal and is balanced by the tangy rice vinegar and fiery chilies. You then have a choice to pair the sambal with light or thick dark soy sauce. I use Kicap Sedang ABC a thick, glossy soy sauce which has the same texture as Kicap Manis but none of its cloying sweetness. To pep things up further, a squeeze of lime juice.

Put extra condiments and sambal on the table and let everyone help themselves to it, especially since with soto as good as this, one bowl is never quite enough ;-)

The recipe:
500g egg noodles
1 quantity of sup tulang
1 cucumber
100g bean sprout (taugeh)
2 bunch of celery*
fried shallot (bawang goreng)
potato crisps (kerepek kentang)
sambal kicap

Mise en place is important for this. Prepare the soup ahead and the rest are just assembly work. and it is paramount to keep the soup boiling hot when you serve it.
1. Prepare the fried shallot. Slice the shallots thinly then fry in hot water and once it is crispy and golden, leave it on paper towel.
2. Prepare the potato crisps. Slice 3 potatoes thinly using a mandolin or your knife. Wash it thoroughly in hot water until all the starch is removed. Leave to rest for 10 minutes in a bowl of cold water. The potato slice will curl. Drain in a colander.
Add some salt to the oil you used to fry the shallot for extra flavour. Fry the potato slices in batches until golden and crispy. Remove and drain on paper towel.
3. Prepare the sambal kicap. Chop one chili and some bird's eye chilies and add to your pestle and mortar with some sea salt. Add 3 fried garlic and pound some more. Add a dash of rice vinegar, 1 tsp of sugar and mix into a thick sambal. Add some soy sauce and lime juice.
4. Prepare the cucumber. Cut the cucumber into thin strips and set aside.
5. Chop the celery leaves and set aside.
6. Prepare the noodles. Add them into a big pot of boiling water. When they are ready, wash under a running cold water until cold. This will keep the texture from turning limp and floury. Set aside.
7. Put the sup tulang on the stove and keep it simmering. Remove the beef and shred the meat using a fork and spoon. Keep the meat warm.
8. Keep a big pot of hot water on the stove ready while you assemble everything. Keep your serving bowls warm at the same time.
9. Blanch the noodles in the boiling water, drain and add to the bowls.
10. Blanch the bean sprouts and place on top of the noodles.
11. Pile the shredded meat, chopped celery, cucumber strips, fried shallots and potato crisp on the noodles and ladle the soup onto each bowl.
12. Serve immediately with sambal kicap, more potato crisps and fried onions.
note on celery leaves:
In Malaysia, we don't use coriander in soups; we use celery leaves. It is even known as daun sup (soup leaves). The correct Malay term for it is daun sadri. Daun means leaves in Malay.