Saturday, May 25, 2013

Mango Salsa


I hate falling behind on my updating this blog, but as I've said many times before, life sometimes just gets in the way. Though I still carry a considerable passion for food, cooking sometimes just seems to take a little too much energy, especially after a difficult or busy week at work. Well, not all cooking. New things. I've eaten plenty of home-cooked meals in the past few months--to the point of having to occupy an additional inch or so of the sofa now, in fact. I just haven't had the time to look through recipe books to find something new that I wanted to cook.

But that's okay. There are plenty of old, tried and tested recipes in my head that I still haven't posted here so at least they're new for the blog. Like this delicious mango salsa.


Now, most of the time, people just add a bit of onion and tomato and call it mango salsa, but I find that the slightly spicy flavours of the peppers, chili, and coriander actually compliment the sweetness of the mango a considerable lot. The lime is a must, as well!

So without further ado, here is the recipe!

Ingredients (Serves 2-3)
3 medium mangos, diced
1 red pepper, diced
4-5 Thai red chilies, finely chopped
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 tbs coriander, chopped finely
Juice of 1-1.5 lime(s)
Salt and pepper to taste
Directions
  1. Guess how easy it is--yup, mix it all up and you're good to go! Goes fantastically well when wrapped in a tortilla with slices of salt/pepper marinated grilled chicken. Try a lime and onion marinade for the chicken too!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Soy Milk


A couple of months back, I made a bit of a failed attempt at cooking some Chinese food. I think I became really moody because things didn't go as well as I'd expected, because I never really managed to finish making everything I had planned on the menu. One of these things was soybean milk.

In fact, I've been meaning to make soy milk ever since I bought a blender that came with a special attachment to make it. The attachment is just a wire mesh cylinder that fits right on top of the blender's blades. You put your beans inside the mesh with lots and lots of water, start the blender and wait until the beans turn to mush and you get some fresh and yummy soymilk!

Well, it's not that easy. There's still a couple more steps involved after this process to make it taste less like cardboard and more like the soy milk from your average hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Hong Kong. Supposedly one of these steps also involves adding pandan leaves, but since I have no idea what that is, I didn't bother; it still tasted just as it's supposed to. It's also very very cheap to make as just a handful of beans can give you enough milk for a couple of days!

Ingredients
  • 1 handful soybeans, hydrated overnight
  • Water, lots of it
  • Sugar, to taste
Directions
  1. Make sure the soybeans have been fully hydrated. An overnight bath with lots of water will do them well.
  2. Add 1/4 cup of beans with 3-4 cups of water inside the soybean milk-making attachment in a blender. If you don't have this attachment, add the beans straight into the blender with water. Blitz away until the beans are crushed and the water turns nice and milky white. 
  3. Use a cheese cloth to strain away the liquid into a container. Strain through the cheese cloth a couple more times until you're left with a soft and silky jug of liquid.
  4. Transfer the liquid to a pan and add sugar to taste. Stir to dissolve the sugar as you bring the pan to a boil. This is apparently where you'd add pandan leaves, but I didn't.
  5. Let the milk cook for a while to get rid of the bitterness, but keep stirring. And it's done! You can drink it warm, at room temperature, cold, in coffee, tea, or whatever. I prefer it when it's been in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Fettucini Alfredo



Who doesn't love a serving of possibly one of the simplest, creamiest, heaviest, heartiest, but utterly delicious pasta dishes? Well if you say you don't like it, you're probably lying to yourself or you aren't human.

There really isn't much that needs to be said about this other than the fact that I highly recommend using double or heavy cream instead of single cream for the pasta. It results in a thicker sauce, but one which just makes you want to cuddle up in bed with a teddy bear and a huge smile (in other words, its yummy to the Y).

It makes for a great side or a mains, and goes well with sauteed garlic shrimp or chicken breast, or just some steamed veggies like broccoli or asparagus (perhaps with a hint of a balsamic reduction sauce?). Apologies for the crappiness of the photo--only had a phone camera at hand at the time.

Buon appetito!

Ingredients (Serves 2)

  • 250g dry fettuccine pasta
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shaved or grated
  • 1/4 cup double (or heavy) cream
  • 1 pinch black pepper
  • 1 pinch nutmeg

Directions

  1. Cook fettuccine in a large pot of unsalted water.
  2. In another pan over low heat, melt the butter. Add in the cream as the butter melts. Stir continuously to combine the two. Do not turn off the heat!
  3. When the pasta is cooked (al dente, preferably), lift it out with tongs and transfer it right into the cream sauce while it's dripping wet.
  4. Increase the heat to medium and swirl the pasta around in the sauce until it's all combined.
  5. Add half of the cheese and keep swirling the pasta until it's coated with the cheese. If needed, add a couple of tablespoons of pasta water to thin the sauce. Add the rest of the cheese and repeat this step.
  6. Serve immediately with a dash of black pepper and nutmeg sprinkled on top, and with some grilled or steamed veggies on the side. Sauteed and grilled meats work well too!

Kerala Kozhi Eshstu (Kerala Chicken Stew)




One of my favourite presents from this past Christmas was a book on Indian recipes. I love home-cooked Indian food, but I've never had the confidence to try and cook it at home. With this simple and easy to follow book, however, I really have no excuse now.


Though I can't remember the name of the book (I'm too lazy to go look for it), I especially like the fact that it offers a wide variety of recipes from all over India that cannot commonly be found in Indian restaurants. The recipes are generally more home-friendly, as well, and are not very heavy (again, unlike most of the Mughlai food served in the restaurants).


This recipe, particularly, is very light and versatile. It's fresh and fruity enough to be good for a summer or spring lunch, but it also has chili and garlic to add enough of a heartiness for a chilly winter or autumn 'eve. All in all, it instantly received our seal of approval at home.

Ingredients (Serves 2)
  • 2 green finger chilies, roughly chopped (+ 1 for garnish)
  • 1/8 tsp turmeric
  • 1/8 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger, grated (+1/2 tsp for garnish)
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil (e.g. grapeseed)
  • 2-3 curry leaves
  • 1-2 cloves
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 500g chicken drumsticks (or thighs), skinned and pricked
  • 100ml coconut milk
Directions
  1. Crush the chilies, turmeric, coriander, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, and 1 tbsp oil together with a mortar and pestle. Add 1-2 tbsp cold water and mix together to make a coarse paste. Alternatively, use a blender for this step.
  2. Heat the remaining oil over medium heat in a pot. Add curry leaves, cloves and the onion. Fry for 2-3 minutes until fragrant.
  3. Add in the paste. Fry for another minute.
  4. Reduce the heat to a medium-low. Add in the chicken and fry for around 10 minutes or until the chicken is partially cooked and golden brown.
  5. Rinse out the left-over contents of the mortar (or blender) with 100ml of cold water. Add them to the pot. 
  6. Add in the coconut milk. Mix the ingredients in the pot well. 
  7. Once the contents start to boil a little, lower the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the chicken is tender and cooked.
  8. Garnish with chopped green chilies, raw ginger (if you like), and serve hot with lemon rice, appam, or even pita bread. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Lamb Stew with Christmas Spices



Planning for Christmas dinner in Hong Kong, especially in my dorm-like kitchen, is always a bit of a headache seeing as there is a chronic shortage of ovens in this city! On top of this, my little shelf-oven decided to commit suicide (probably because of the dread of being overworked at Christmas), so I really had to be creative in what to cook.

I wasn't worried about the sides as much--the buttered baby potatoes from last year (with slight modifications with more butter and parsley) would suffice. But even though the lazily cooked slab of beef (a,k.a. steak with red wine sauce) from last year was super yum, I needed something that was a bit more adventurous.

Enter this fabulous lamb stew with Christmas spices. The original recipe was posted on BBC's Good Food website. I was a little skeptical when I first read it because it looked way too simple for a Christmas meal, but it was a HUGE and pleasant surprise! There definitely needed to be a few modifications based on equipment and taste: I don't have a dutch oven, for instance, so I had to make do  by cooking for a longer time in a stew pot, and I suppose I could've been less stingy with the meat because it ran out so quickly! Definitely recommend adding more meat and making sure that there's more gravy when serving because IT IS DELICIOUS and will leave people licking their fingers and begging for more. Plus, it'll leave your entire house smelling like Christmas.

Ingredients (Serves 2, but really just 1.5)
1/2 white onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, sliced
2 cm fresh root ginger, shredded (with a peeler, for example)
1 tbsp olive oil
270g organic lean lamb neck fillet, cut into bitesize chunks
1/2 cinnamon stick
2 cloves
1 cardamom pod
1 pinch of ground saffron
1 small bay leaf
1/4 tsp coriander seed powder
1/2 tbsp ground almonds
300-600ml low-sodium beef stock
6 dried apricots
Salt, to taste
Directions
  1. Fry onions, garlic, and half of the ginger in oil on medium heat for about 15 minutes or until the onions start to brown. 
  2. Add lamb and the remaining ginger to the pot and stir-fry till the lamb is browned on all sides.
  3. Add all spices (cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, saffron, bay leaf, and coriander seed powder). Cook for a minute to release their flavours.
  4. Add almonds and 300ml of beef stock. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Compensate for water-loss by adding in more beef stock or water, as per taste. Take this time to also season with salt according to taste.
  5. Add apricots and simmer for a further 15 minutes or until the lamb is tender. Add more water if the sauce becomes too thick.
  6. Serve piping hot with fresh french bread and a side of buttered baby potatoes

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Tomato Spaghetti Soup



The supermarkets in Hong Kong have been marking the end of summer and beginning of autumn by selling copious loads of lush red tomatoes. As the weather's beginning to cool here, this is the perfect time for some warm soups. Put two and two together, and you know what's coming!

I came across this recipe while flicking through an old cookbook. While the original called for orzo, I had forgotten that I'd run out and so when I got back home from the market, I had to stand around the kitchen counter for a solid five minutes trying to snap dried spaghetti strands into orzo sized chunks. Not quite the same thing, but good enough nonetheless!

The soup was very light and perfect for this time of the year. Definitely something that I will make again.

Ingredients (Serves 2)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
2 large tomatoes
750 ml vegetable stock
100g broken spaghetti (about 1” long pieces)
3-4 tbsp chopped parsley leaves
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Directions
  1. Fry the chopped onion and celery in a saucepan using 1 tbsp olive oil until soft.
  2. To peel the tomatoes, score a cross on their base with a knife and put them in hot water for 1 min. Then, transfer them into a pot of cold water and remove the skin--it should easily come off.
  3. Halve the tomatoes and remove the seeds. Coarsely chop the remaining flesh.
  4. Transfer the tomatoes to the pan with onions and celery. 
  5. Add vegetable stock and spaghetti and bring into a gentle boil. Cook for about 10 mins.
  6. Season as per taste, and add parsley. Cook for another minute before serving.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Khoresht Gheimeh (Persian Stew with Beef and Split Peas) - Redone


It's been a while since I made any hearty stews at home, and though there are tonnes to choose from, nothing  says warm comfort like Gheimeh (though Fesenjoon is pretty close too). I might not have mentioned but Gheimeh is a Persian stew that goes back to ancient times. Even before tomatoes were introduced to the Persian empire, people were making this stew with saffron to add the reddish tinge that this soup is famous for. What I definitely know is that it's absolutely delicious, though I do have to emphasize that this is not a recipe for a summer's day because of its warmth. Cool autumn weather like that of this past weekend  though, was perfect for this stew.


After uploading the original recipe to the blog, I tried making Gheimeh again a couple of months ago for a pot-luck. Unfortunately, instead of using the original recipe, I thought I would experiment with Batmanglij's recipe in her cookbook New Food of Life. Weirdly, she uses copious amounts of fresh orange zest and limu-omani (Persian dried lime) that make the stew very very bitter and leave a strange taste lingering in your mouth.


After trying her recipe out, I had to try and make it using my original recipe again, just to remind myself how good it actually is if made correctly. Thankfully, I succeeded! I did make a couple of positive changes (inspired by Batmanglij) to the original recipe, which explains why I'm posting it again here.

Ingredients (Serves 2)
200g beef, diced
1 large red onion, grated
1 large potato, cut in thick matchsticks
1/2 cup yellow split peas, soaked
2 tbsp tomato paste
5 tbsp grapeseed (or other cooking) oil
2 tbsp lime juice
1 limu omani (Persian dried lime; optional)
3/4 tbsp turmeric
Salt and pepper to taste
Directions
  1. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a frying pan. Add onions, turmeric and a little salt. Fry until onions are caramelized (completely browned; approximately 15 minutes).
  2. Add in the beef. Stir fry for 5 minutes or until the beef is slightly cooked.
  3. Add tomato paste to the pan and heat for a minute. Add in 2 cups of boiling water and heat through, stirring occassionally.
  4. Transfer to a stew pot along with two more cups of boiling water. Cover and simmer on low heat for 45 minutes. You may need to add more water occassionally to compensate for water loss.
  5. Meanwhile, boil some water in the frying pan. Add the split peas and cook for 20 minutes or until al dente. Drain and reserve the split peas.
  6. Add lime juice and the split peas to the stew, and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Cover and simmer for a further 30 minutes. 
  7. Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in the frying pan. Add the potatoes, along with a sprinkle of turmeric and salt, and pan fry them until golden. Reserve until ready to serve.
  8. Make holes with a sharp knife in the limu-omani before adding it to the stew pot. Cover and cook for a final 15 minutes.
  9. Serve the stew with the pan-fried potatoes, along with garlic-infused cous cous or saffron-flavoured rice.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Chicken Kebab with Yogurt Sauce



Yogurt is turning out to be quite the cooking staple at home these days. Well not really; this is only the second dish that I've cooked with yogurt in it, and probably the third or fourth that I've ever tasted in my life. I'm used to eating yogurt as a side complement to a main course, or as breakfast or that quick snack between meals, but using it in a heated sauce just never occurred to me, or at least I never tried it. After the success of my Lebanese Meatballs in Yogurt Sauce, though, I had to go back and try again!


Of all things, I'm so proud of my ever-improving grilling skills. The chicken, thanks to the marinade, but also to my gorgeous new griddle, was very delicious! It tasted light with just enough charred flavour from the hot griddle, and was so juicy in the middle. Thinking about it is making me hungry again even though I just ate a huge bowl of sichuan noodles!


Improvements? Can't think of any except in technique. Initially, I just took the chicken chunks out of the marinade and immediately put them on the griddle, which obviously led to a thick layer of carbon forming at the base of the griddle as the yogurt quickly burnt away. This can be easily sorted by making sure that you shake off the lose marinade before sticking it on to the pan.

Ingredients (Serves 2)
300 ml (3/4 carton) Yogurt
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp chopped Oregano
1 tbsp chopped fresh dill
1 tbsp chopped parsley
½ tbsp dried or 1 tbsp fresh tarragon
250g chicken breast, cut into 1” cubes
Juice of ½ lemon
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Directions
  1. Mix yogurt with herbs, garlic, lemon juice and salt and pepper in a small bowl. 
  2. Add in the chicken cubes and make sure they are completely doused by the marinade. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and let it rest in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight.
  3. Brush a griddle pan with olive oil and put it on high heat until it’s very hot. 
  4. Reduce heat to medium-high. Place the chicken cubes on the griddle and cook each side for at least 3 mins or until it’s halfway cooked. Turn and repeat until the chicken is thoroughly cooked. You may need to wipe off the burnt yogurt marinade from the pan or the chicken cubes when you turn the meat.
  5. Pour the remaining marinade in a saucepan and heat it gently over low heat. Stir continuously to avoid the yogurt from splitting. 
  6. Remove from heat after a few mins and use as a sauce for the kebab. This dish goes very well with saffron rice or cous cous.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Lebanese Beef Meatballs in Yogurt Sauce



So, once again it's been a while since I updated this blog. There's just been too much happening these days as I try and settle into my work/study role this semester. It's not that I've stopped cooking, but rather than my lack of free time has only allowed me to cook up simple things that are already posted on this blog. The only thing worthy of mention from my cooking adventures lately is that the marinara sauce from my spaghetti and meatballs recipe is amazing on its own without the meatballs. It especially makes for a great light lunch.

Instead of going back to those recipes today, I felt like eating something different. I initially thought about making Persian okra stew, but as I'm trying to stay away from acidic food this week, I had to give up that thought (plus, there wasn't any okra available at the supermarket today). Instead, I went with this Lebanese beef meatballs in yogurt sauce recipe.
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At first, the idea of meatballs cooked in yogurt sounded really weird to me, but the dish was very tasty and perfect for the heat of the summer as it was very refreshing and cooling. The meatballs could definitely have been better (see improvement suggestions below), but other than that, it's definitely something I can't wait to make again!

Ingredients (Serves 2-3)

  • 300g minced beef
  • 1 small white onion, chopped finely
  • 1 tbsp coriander, chopped
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp ground cardamom
  • ½ tsp dried dill
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • ½ tsp corn starch
  • ½ tsp plain flour
  • ½  tsp cumin seeds
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

  1. In a bowl, mix ground beef, onion, dill, ground cumin and ground cardamom.
  2. Make a meatball out of every tablespoon-worth of the mixture.
  3. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Fry the meatballs until all sides are brown. Transfer meatballs to absorbent paper towels.
  4. Dissolve corn starch and plain flour in 2 tbsp water and add to the yogurt in a saucepan. Whisk the mixture until smooth. Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes, stirring continuously.
  5. Add meatballs to the yogurt mixture and simmer for a further 5 minutes. 
  6. Add cumin seeds, coriander, salt and pepper. Simmer for another 3 minutes. Serve with pita bread or cous cous.

Suggested Improvements

  • Salt and pepper need to be added to the meatballs as they were quite bland on their own.
  • The meatballs were quite tough. Adding breadcrumbs or bulgar wheat to the mixture might help their texture. Cooking them directly in the yogurt sauce rather than frying might also help. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Torshi Mango (Persian Mango Pickle)



I have a weird lust for sour food; anything ranging from citrus to fruit lather appeals to me! Among all things sour, though, pickles stand high up for me as they are highly adaptable and easy to keep. They also go well with all sorts of stews, especially with those that have beef or lamb in them.

Now that it's summer and there's an abundance of mangoes in Asia, I thought of making this spicy (and sour!) pickle to complement many of the dishes I've tried making like gheimeh, fesenjan, and torshe kebab.

And it's worth mentioning here that a couple good things about this pickle is that it can be consumed just one day after canning, and that if mangoes are not in season or if you simply don't like mangoes, you can easily replace them with other fruits like kiwis.

Here's how it's done:

Ingredients
4 mangoes, peeled and diced
2.5 cups, white vinegar
5 tbsp tamarind sauce
2 tbsp lemon juice
5 dried chili peppers
5 cloves garlic
1 tsp ground angelica (golpar; optional)
1 tsp nigela seeds
1 tbsp ground coriander seeds
1 tsp salt
Directions
  1. Pour the lemon juice on mangoes and set aside for at least 1 hour.
  2. Bring the vinegar to a boil in a pan. Add garlic and tamarind sauce, and simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Add in the spices and simmer for another 5 minutes.
  4. Finally, add in the mangoes and simmer for 1 minute.
  5. Pour the mixture in a clean glass jar. It can be eaten the day after, but it's better to age it for one month.