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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

My Sweet Malaysia

Every year, I look forward to this event. I am usually all excited by June and shoot Babe a mail or a message on messenger. I love each and every theme of the events that she has organised. She picks great theme and is very good at rounding everything up. The best bit about the event, besides the host is that you get a variety of recipes in one post and meet fellow Malaysian foodies, especially those that you haven't met/encountered before.

For Merdeka 09, Babe picked a theme that is close to my heart - and I guess everyone of you too - something sweet which is served as a snak, tea time treat or dessert in Malaysia. The timing can't be more perfect since Merdeka this year (31st August) falls in Ramadhan when all the treats that are usually not served during the other time of the year will be especially made and feted on. It is also the time when those of us who bake start thinking of kuih raya - cakes and cookies that are served during Eid.

When I found out about the theme 2 weeks ago, I got so excited and start to think about the things I want to make. I have even bought some ingredients to experiment with. I am still undecided because there are so many to choose from!

Head over to Babe's blog to find out more about the theme for this year's Merdeka and how to participate. If you have an idea of what I should make, feel free to leave a suggestion in the comment section.

Photo Credit: Babe_KL

Monday, July 27, 2009

spaghetti with butter crab sauce

MY earliest memory of eating crab is chasing after flower crabs on white sandy beach and having them barbecued... my mom peeling the flesh and feeding them to me. It is still the one thing I schedule into my every home trip. Chasing trip. BBQ. Eating crabs on the beach. In fact I don't consider it going home until I have my feet dip into the blue blue south china sea.

Perhaps because I was so spoilt with such great seafood since I was so young, I tend to dress most of the ones available to me that I feel have been away from the sea for more than a day, saucewise I mean. This is a take of the much loved Malaysian Butter Crab - usually baked or steamed using whole mud crabs and served hot with steamed buns. It is a great dish serve in a banquet and to be shared. I love the creamy, spicy butter sauce for crabs, with a sprig of curry leaves or two. These days I prefer to use crab meat, shelled from fresh seasonal crabs and weave them into spaghetti. It is easier to eat and you still get to savour every morsel and enjoy the sauce.

It's a great dish to serve for 2 and a little toddler who is taught to learn to appreciate crab... before the age of 2.

Spaghetti with butter crab sauce

enough spaghetti for 2 - cooked according to package instruction
500g crab claws - shelled and set aside
5 garlic - crushed and chopped
2 bird's eye chilies - chopped finely
1 sprig curry leaves
olive oil
2 TBSP butter
1/3 cup cream
salt and pepper

1. While the spaghetti is boiling, heat up some olive oil in a wok/pan.
2. Add garlic and when it turns brown, add chili and curry leaves.
3. Add the crab meat and stir until cooked.
4. Add some butter and cream and turn the fire off. Season according to taste.
5. Drain the pasta and add into the sauce. Mix everythign thoroughly.
6. Heat up the wok again and season again. Dish up and serve immediately.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

object of lust

I received a box of Baked Brownies for my 40th birthday, all the way from New York from my best friend, G. I was too huge and in too much pain to bake some for myself and was moaning to him. Baked doesn't ship internationally but G got it fresh for me and did one of those guaranteed city to city 24 hour delivery courier thing. It was soo good, I wish I didn't have to share. That was almost two years ago.
Since then I have been making my own happily ever after brownies and almost too chicken to order the book so I can get the recipe of the brownies I have lusted over since that first bite. Too chicken because what if it was not as good as my memory? It's like one of those perfect one night stands - you don't ask for names and phone numbers - you just enjoy the moment. But I keep seeing the brownies popping up in blogistan. Blogs that have been raving about the brownies. My own copy of the book arrived just last week and I have been baking from it since. I played with the brownies recipe - adding different flavourings and using different combination of chocolate and cocoa powder. You see, I have been clearing my stash of Valrhona since May when it got warmer. I usually order Valrhona in 3kg packets so it is pointless to order some now when I was down to about 165g. I decided to use the 70 percent cacao brands available in my supermarket and Van Houten cocoa powder. I love each and every experiment and will share with you the others later.

I didn't really alter anything in the ingredients but what I did changed the texture and taste of brownies quite significantly. I just used two different texture of sugar because I prefer to bite into the coarse raw sugar. It is the same reason for using fleur de sel instead of plain fine salt. Maldon works for crunchy bites as well. I also like the fact that they rise to the surface of the brownies making them look a little gritty, not at all giving away the deep chocolaty and fudgy interior.
The dark muscovado sugar caramelised as it baked and gives another dimension to the brownies - almost toffeelike. The fleur de sel also elevates the taste and brings out the chocolate better. The result is a brownie that is so sexy - salty, caramelly, dark and so chocolaty - it begs to be kept. You would, you know and not just as a dirty mistress either.

Sweet and Salty Sexy Brownies
(adapted from the famous Baked Brownies)

325g flour
1 tsp fleur de sel or Maldon salt
2 TBSP cocoa powder - I used Van Houten
315g dark chocolate at least 70% cacao - I used Cote d'Or Noir Intense - chopped
225g unsalted butter
1 tsp instant espresso powder
150g dark muscovado sugar - I used Billington's
130g coarse raw sugar
5 large eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 175C. Butter the bottom and sides of 30cm by 30cm square baking tin.
2. Sift the flour and cocoa powder together. Stir to mix in the fleur de sel. Set aside.
3. Place the chocolate pieces, butter and espresso powder in a glass bowl and put it on top of a sauce pan with simmering water over fire whisk gently until they melt together. Turn off the fire and add both sugar. Don't worry of the raw sugar doesn't melt - that is the point of using them. Remove the bowl off the pan now. It would be at room temperature.
4. Whisk in the egg one by one until well combined. Add in the vanilla and stir gently. Do not overmix or your brownies will be cakey.
5. Gently fold in the flour with a spatula. Again, do not overmix!
6. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Check if the brownies is firm. Turn off the heat but leave the brownies for another 10 minutes. This will avoid overbaking which will turn out a dry, flat one dimensional brownies.
7. Take the brownies out after that and let it cool completely. Cut into squares. Enjoy!

1. I changed the time in the oven and use my usual method to making sure my brownies do not overbaked. It works very well for me and the friends who have been using my happily ever after brownies.
2. Wrap the brownies in plastic foil and it will keep at room temperature for 3 days.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pineapple Baked Rice, Take 2

I make this dish so often and have been mailed about it so often, I actually didn't realise until Sharon pointed it out last week (or was it 2 weeks ago?) that I didn't post the recipe on the blog! The post was done in November 2004, one of the first food postings I actually did. I was new and since it was initially a post done for my now defunct private blog; it didn't occur to me to post a real recipe. After all, it is basically a fried rice recipe and being Malaysian; fried rice or nasi goreng is something you make by just chucking everything in the wok, not something you consciously plan.

Since then I have made a conscious decision to post real and more accessible recipes in this blog. Real as in, measuring all my ingredients, if possible to a T (though for some it is really impossible!) and noting the cooking/baking time. Mailing with my readers enlightened me to the problems and things I should be take more care about in writing recipes i.e the metric measurements I use, the level of familiarity and accessibility with the ingredients and the skill of the cook.
A little note on the ingredients - I use whatever I have in season and what is in my pantry and fridge. For instance, I list a cup of peas because fresh peas are now in season but you can also successfully use frozen petits pois, snake beans, french beans and which ever beans you happen to have. There are different types of mushrooms available in my supermarket and I use them interchangeably. Just use the ingredients here as a guide and go wild wokking! It is however important to keep everything cut and chopped more or less to the same size. I use the pea again as a guideline for all the vegetables. The garlic, ginger and shallots should be chopped finely so they almost disappear during the cooking process. The lemongrass is there ONLY for flavouring - peel a few layers out, cut the stem to about 5-6 cm, crush the bottom with something heavy and taken out before you bake the rice!

The hardest thing which is also the most important is to describe what you should endeavour to achieve, taste wise. This dish for instance will have to be colourful by using different colours in the ingredients. It will be a canvas of deep rich yellow which is achieved through the usage of curry powder. The fragrance a melange of intoxicating pandanus, lemongrass, ginger, curry and luscious with pineapple that is sticky and sweet.

The texture of the rice is sticky, sweet and silky. This is achieved not by using sticky rice but by using cold cooked rice and the juice of the pineapple. If you can't get fresh pineapple or you want to experiment before using the fruit, you can use tinned ones by employing the juice and the fruit. It will be sweeter than if you use the fruit itself and then you should just fry it and bake it in a dish and you will not get the caramelised fragrant and taste from using the pineapple boats.

When you finally take a bite, the sticky sweet velvety rice will drape your tongue - prepping it for the piquant, spicy, curry sensation before the very subtle chili tickle the back of your throat. And with every movement in your mouth, you discover the different texture and flavour of every single ingredient.

It is a show off dish and made perfectly, can be served by itself with no accompaniments as a main dish. It is of course delicious to be served with a few other ingredients to complement rather than to compete - as long as they remember the star will always be the rice itself ;-)
Pineapple Baked Rice

one pineapple - cut into two pineapple boats. Scoop out flesh of the fruits with a melon ball and keep it chilled in the fridge until ready to use. Save the juice of the pineapple in a bowl.

3 cups of cold cooked rice - preferably cooked the night before and leave to cool in the rice cooker or a tight container in the fridge. I prefer to use Thai pandan/jasmine rice.

150g chicken thighs or breast fillets - cut into cubes
150g prawns - shelled and deveined
1 cup peas - I used snaked beans, you can also use french beans which is chopped into the size of peas
3 baby carrots - chopped to the size of the peas
5 chestnut mushroom - chopped to the size of the peas
2cm ginger chopped finely
2 garlic chopped finely
3 shallots chopped finely
1 fresh chili - chopped finely
half a bunch of coriander - chop the stem and leave the leaves whole
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup cashew nut
1 lemon grass - crushed
1 TBSP curry powder - any brand available to you is fine
2 TBSP oyster sauce
1 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp fish sauce
salt, pepper and sugar to taste
cooking oil
equipment - wok, aluminium foil, baking tray

1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Heat oil in the wok and when it is hot and smoking, Add the cashew and fry till golden and take it out, drain on a paper towel.

2. Add in the shallots, ginger, garlic and lemongrass and fry until fragrant. Add in the chopped chili and coriander stem.

3. Add the chicken and fry until it turns opaque. Add the prawns.

4. Add in the curry powder and stir to make sure the chicken and prawns are coated.

5. Add the oyster sauce, soy sauce and fish sauce and the reserved pineapple juice. Let everything cook for a bit and taste for seasoning.

6. Add in all the vegetables, pineapple and raisin and stir everything until they mix well for about 2-3 minutes. The mixture should be a little wet but not soppy.

7. Add in the rice and cashew. Stir furiously until everything mix well and the rice is yellow. taste and adjust seasoning accordingly.

8. Scoop the rice into the pineapple boats. Wrap the boats in aluminium foil and place on a baking tray. To BBQ, just place the pineapple boat as is sans baking tray.

9. Bake for 10 minutes. Leave to cool slightly. Be careful to tear open the foil as the steam can be very hot. Scatter coriander leaves on top of the rice. Serve immediately. Enjoy!


Monday, July 13, 2009

it's not that I don't want to update...

I have been having a lot of problems with Blogger lately. Can't seem to stay long enough to even write or cut and paste a para! It keep shutting down on me saying saving/publishing may fail!
Will be back soon with a kick ass recipe!

Monday, July 06, 2009

raspberry and almond cake

Some cakes are dreamy. They transport you elsewhere just by breathing in the fragrance when they are baking. This one takes you to a balmy evening, in a large tent, in the middle of the desert, by a large fire. The scent reminds you of bavlava - nutty, intensified by the toasting of the almond, and enriched with the teasing of rose attar, achieved by rose extract or a very good rosewater. But instead of sticky nuts encased in layers of filo, it's a moist, dense, rich and fragrant cake that is not at all cloying.

Then you taste the raspberry - sweet, tart and bursting with ruby raspberry goodness and you think Turkish Delight without the chewy funky over the top taste. You close your eyes, dream of the bright starless skies of the desert and take another forkful, and another... and another...

Raspberry Almond Cake
250g butter
250g caster sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp rose extract (or rose water)
1 cup milk
2 TBSP yoghurt
100g almond - toasted
250g flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
a pinch bicarbonate soda
a cup of raspberry

1. Preheat the oven to 175C.
2. Toast the almond and blitz in a food processor but not until it is too fine. Add a bit of flour to the food processor and blitz further so all the almond oil is absorb in the flour. Add the rest of the flour, bicarbonate soda, salt and baking powder together and blitz further.
3. Mix yoghurt and milk together. Set aside.
4.Beat butter and sugar until it is pale and fluffy.
5. Add egg one by one, beating well in between. Beat in the rose extract.
6. Fold in 1/3 of the flour, then half of the milk. Follow by another 1/3 of flour mix and then milk, ending with the rest of the flour mix.
7. Pour the batter into baking dish.
8. Add the raspberries to the cake and swirl it around.
9. Bake for 25 minutes or until a skewer used to test it come out clean.

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