Monday, December 1, 2014

Claypot Chicken Rice


Please do not be deceived by the name of this dish.  Certainly, there's no claypot used to cook it. All the ingredients are dumped into one big magical pot......the rice cooker.  After thirty minutes, a nice savoury meal is on your table ready to pamper your rumbling tummy.

If you are looking for a quick and simple meal to prepare, this could be the one to consider.  Only three steps :

1. Marinate the chicken
2. Stir fry the marinated chicken
3. Dump everything into the rice cooker

THAT'S IT!  As easy as ABC!!  Though quick it is not entirely express as you may need to marinate the chicken pieces for at least half an hour and further cook the rice for another half an hour. 

Frankly, I don't really know much about the origination of this dish, all I know is you can find it in almost every food court in Malaysia and Singapore.  



I cooked this dish last week.  It was my second try dishing this out for my family.  Sadly, I ruined the rice on both occasions in that the rice came out mushy.  Not to be worry, it is not because of the recipe but merely my clumsiness by being kiasu adding too much water.  Anyway, here are three different rules of thumb when cooking rice :
  1. Double the water to rice, minus a few tablespoons. So, for 1 cup of rice, it would be 2 cups of water, minus 2-4 tablespoons. 
  2. Put the rice in the pot and add enough water so that the water level is about 1 inch above the rice.
  3. Fill pot with water so that the level of the water is one thumb knuckle above the level of the rice. 

Claypot Chicken Rice Recipe
(adapted from Ms I-Hua of The Chronicles of Ms I-Hua)

Ingredients:
500 grams of boneless chicken [breast and/or leg pieces] (bite sizes)
3 cups of long grain rice
500 ml of water (or enough to cover the rice and up to the first line on your index finger –> as demonstrated)
2 lap cheong
6-7 dried Shiitake mushrooms
5  cm x 10 cm piece of salted fish (optional) + 1 teaspoon of sugar (optional)
Ingredients for the Marinade:
 1/2 teaspoon dark soy sauce
2 tablespoon oyster sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoon ginger juice
1 teaspoon cornflour
2 tablespoon Shao Tsing wine (Chinese Rice Wine)
Pinch of salt
Drizzling Sauce (mix together):
2 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
2 tablespoon light soy sauce
2 teaspoon sesame oil

Procedure
  1. Mix the marinade ingredients with the chicken and let sit for a minimum of 30 minutes, of course the longer the better, giving the marinate ingredients to permeate into the chicken pieces.
  2. Whilst the chicken is marinating, soak some dried Shiitake mushrooms in hot water, to rehydrate them. Slice the lap cheong (3mm slices) and set aside.
  3. Once the mushrooms have been plumped up by the hot water, drain and squeeze out the excess water. Slice the mushrooms and set aside.
  4. Slice the salted fish up into tiny pieces. In a small saucepan, heat up a tablespoon of vegetable oil, and shallow fry the salted fish pieces. Add a teaspoon of sugar (if you like), to caramelise the salted fish. Set aside for garnishing later.
  5. In a rice cooker, cook the rice according to the manufacturer’s instructions. A general rule is to cover the rice with water until the water reaches the first line of your index finger (from the top layer of the rice, not the bottom of the pot).

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Creamy Mushroom Fettuccine With White Wine And Chicken Nuggets

Nothing can stop me if my palate suddenly craves for a certain food.  Just like any loving dad who easily spoils his child by submissively giving in to his request however unreasonable they may seem to be, I too will find ways and means to satisfy and fulfill my hungry pang, no matter how unreasonable the situation turns out to be.

Two days ago, for no particular reason, I suddenly craved to have fettuccine pasta for breakfast. Though rushing for time and knowingly that there's nothing much left in the refrigerator, this hard headed bozo just bulldozed against the odds and finally managed to whip one out in a miniscule 20 minutes, yes from boiling the pasta to making the sauce....all from scratch!

I immediately made a quick browse on the net looking for something simple and fast to prepare.  So, here's the recipe my ravenous eyes scanned and caught.  In fact, there were abundant on the net and most of them were so simple to prepare that I did not even bother to have them bookmarked or jotted down.  As a result, I wasn't able to credit the source of the recipe.  I did try to find it back but gave up finally as it was just like looking for a needle in a haystack.     

As it's gonna be quick preparation, obviously there's no way I would have enough time to prepare the chicken pieces.  Instead, I substituted it with chicken nuggets.  Hey, surprisingly it turned to be just as good.  The flavour from the nuggets just complimented so well with the creamy pasta.  Slurp!  I would highly recommend that you try this for once if you are looking for a super quick meal.  While preparing the sauce, I  concurrently boiled my pasta and popped the frozen nuggets into the microwave to defrost them and subsequently into my mini oven to toast them.  By the time my sauce was ready, my pasta and the nuggets were also cooked.  Quickly, I dished them out onto a plate, sprinkled some pepper corns and voila, an elegant-looking pasta dish was waiting for me, all ready to put a big smile on my face.

Now, here the step-by-step method preparing the creamy white whine mushroom sauce..... 

Stir fry the garlic, then the mushroom
Add in the white wine and simmer for 5 minutes

Add in the thickened cream
Simmer until the sauce thickens to the desired consistency
Ingredients
(serves 3-4)
fettuccine pasta, boiled al dente
6 pcs chicken nuggets, oven baked
6 pcs button mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3/4 cup white wine
1 cup thickened cream
3 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp oregano
1 tbsp sugar
salt and pepper


Method:
  1. Boil the pasta as per packaging instruction.
  2. Oven baked the chicken nuggets.
  3. Stir fry the chopped garlic until golden brown.
  4. Add in the sliced mushrooms and fry them until the sides are brown.
  5. Add in white wine and simmer for about 5 minutes.
  6. Add in the thickened cream.
  7. Add in the grated parmesan cheese. (I omitted this)
  8. Simmer the sauce until the it thickens to the desired consistency.
  9. Add in salt and pepper.
  10. Drizzle the sauce over pasta.
  11. Top the dish with chicken nuggets & pepper corns.
  12. Ready to dig in.




Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Udang Masak Lemak Nenas, a Nyonya Classic


Masak Lemak Nenas is another quintessential nyonya dish, a must-try dish when you attempt to explore nyonya cuisine.  You walk into any nyonya restaurant, this dish is undeniably one of THE dish that the waiter will highly recommend that you order.     

The sweetness from the pineapples and prawns, the saltiness from the salted fish, the creaminess from the coconut milk, the spiciness from the chilli paste coupled with the extra tang from the lemongrass, galangal, tumeric and ginger all of which just blend so perfectly, giving the whole dish a good balance, guarantee to please and satisfy your palate to the max.  This is indeed a dish your taste buds will thank you dearly.


Needless to say, this has always been one of my top favourite nyonya dish and my classic comfort food until today. Masak Lemak Nenas is always served with steamed white rice.  For my personal preference, I always complement it with sambal belacan (another must-try nyonya-style chillie paste) or sambal cili garam (another classic Nyonya sambal).  Like most nyonya dishes especially if they are gravy based, we the Peranakans (the Sraits born) will always eat using our five fingers as we can practically lick each of them if the dish is good.  Oh, I'm drooling now!!

Now, let's get down to the recipe.....

Ingredients
  • 200g prawns
  • 150g pineapples, sliced
  • 2 cups of coconut milk
  • 3 cups of water 
  • 1 salted Ikan Sepat (Gourami fish)
  • sugar
  • salt
  • oil to fry
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves (optional), I omit this
  • 1 teaspoon of tamarind paste
 To blend (A)
  • 10 fresh chillies, I used about 6 as my family can't really take too spicy
  • 15 shallots or a palm full
  •  3 pips of garlic
  • 1/2 inch of galangal
  • 1/2 inch of turmeric
  • 2 stalks of lemon grass, sliced
  • 3 candlenuts
  • 5g of belacan (shrimp paste)

Steps to prepare

  1. Toast belacan over fire or on a dry pan until fragrant.
  2. Blend all ingredients in (A). Add some water to ease blending process.
  3. Add oil to pan and fry (A) until fragrant. When it’s fragrant, the paste will change into a darker shade of red.
  4. Add water.
  5. Add pineapples and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.
  6. Then, add coconut milk. Make sure the fire is small and keep stirring or else the gravy will turn lumpy.
  7. Add prawns, ikan sepat, tamarind paste and sugar. Wait until prawns cook.
  8. Finally, switch stove off and add kaffir lime leaves. Stir evenly and serve.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Steamed Pumpkin Cake


This savoury dish is a typical Chinese snack usually taken during breakfast or afternoon tea.  I made this over the weekend as I was ordered by the 'home minister' in my house to clear the two pumpkins that had been lying idle in the kitchen for almost three weeks.  

I was cracking my head hard thinking of what to cook the pumpkins with.  Of course, I was trying to be creative (oh, please!) and thinking of something different and special......like pumpkin juice, pumpkin cakes, pumpkin muffins, pumpkins buns, pumpkin breads or even pumpkin ice-cream.   Well, none of them seemed appealing to me.  Not wanting to take the risk, I finally decided to go back to the usual savoury steamed pumpkin cake, a popular breakfast or party snack among the Chinese community.


Well, preparing the dish is surprisingly easy, nothing very complicated.  The ingredients used are rather standard and easily available.  The 3 most basic ingredients are rice flour, water, and of course pumpkin (mashed, grated, or cubed).......that's it!  To make it savoury and flavourful, minced meat (either chicken or pork), mushrooms, chinese sausages, dried shrimps and fried shallots are added.  Then, comes salt and pepper for taste AND spring onions and sliced chilies for garnish.

Now, the most important part is the texture of the cake.  This is where personal preference comes in. Some like it hard and springy AND some like it slightly softer.  It all depends on the water used.  The standard flour-water ratio is 1:3.  For example, for 100g of rice flour, we may need 300g of water.  From here, you work your way up or down.  If you prefer a slightly softer texture, then add a little bit more water (about 50ml) and vice versa. 

The Recipe:
(adapted from Fong's Kitchen, with slight modification)

Ingredients
700g of pumpkin
250g of rice flour
1 tbsp of corn flour (to make the texture smooth)
750ml of water

100g of chicken/pork meat
70g of dried prawn
1 tsp chicken stock, powered form
3 dried mushroom (optional)
1 chinese sausage (optional)

2 tsp of oil
2 cloves garlic

1 tsp Salt
1 tsp pepper

10 shallots
1 red chilli
1 stalk of spring onions

Preparation :
  1. Soak the dried prawns, mushrooms and chinese sausage for half an hour or until they are soft. (As there's flavour in the water, I did not throw it, instead I used it to make up to the 750ml of water required)
  2. Skin and cut the chicken meat into cubes.  You may also mince the meat.
  3. Mince the garlic.
  4. Skin the pumpkin and cut it into small cubes.
 Method:
  1. Steam pumpkin until soft and fork tender.  Lightly mashed half of it.  Set aside.
  2. Add water and chicken stock to the sifted rice flour and corn flour.  Stir well until flour is completely dissolved.
  3. Heat two tablespoons of oil in a wok over medium heat. Fry garlic and dried prawns until crisp and fragrant.
  4. Add in chicken meat, mushrooms and chinese sausage and stir-fry until it is cooked.
  5. Add in pumpkin and continue stir-frying, about 2-3 minutes.
  6. Add salt and pepper. 
  7. Pour in the rice flour mixture, and stir it till it turns sticky.
  8. Pour mixture into a 21cm round cake tin and level the surface with a spatula.  (You may drizzle some oil on the spatula to ease leveling the surface)
  9. Steam it over boiling water at medium fire for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  10. Prepare toppings while steaming the cake. Cut shallot into slices and fry it till light brown. Slice the red chillies and spring onions.
  11. Remove the cake from the steamer and sprinkle topping ingredients immediately on the hot cake. 
  12. Wait for the cake to cool down before cutting into slices and serve.
Notes:
  1. If you want your pumpkin cake to look slightly yellowish, mash the pumpkin a little.  
  2. The cake can be kept in the refrigerator up to a week. Before serving, heat it up in the microwave oven or steamer. Alternatively, it can be cut into rectangle and pan-fry until light brown. The pan-fried crisped pumpkin cake is utterly delicious. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Fluffy Pancake


If you are looking for a light, soft and fluffy pancake, then this recipe will win you over.  Though I am not a fan of pancakes, I do crave for it once in a blue moon.   I have tried making it once but wasn't really satisfied with the outcome.  They turned out a little rubbery and compact.  But this recipe gives you a really soft and light texture that it easily absorbs anything that is spread and drizzled on be it butter, honey or syrup.

One thing that I like about this recipe is that it uses the egg separation method.  Egg whites and egg yolks are beaten separately and this eventually makes the pancake light and fluffy.  A drizzle of any kind of syrup (for me I like maple syrup best) or even honey is just what you need to complete everything and to brighten your day.      


Well, just a little bit of sharing....I have learnt the following tips in order to make a good pancake : 

  1. Never over-flip your pancake so that you can get a fluffy pancake.  Over-flipping will just deflate the pancake.
  2. To know when exactly you need to flip the pancake is to wait for the bubbles to form in the centre and then burst.
  3. Always apply oil to the pan with wadded paper towels.  This is necessary to avoid  uneven cooking.  If you pour oil directly into the pan, in may pool in some areas while leaving other parts of the pan dry.  The uneven cooking will cause the flapjacks to burn in some areas and undercook in others.  
  4. Once the pancake is cooking on the pan, give it some space. Do your best not to shake the pan or move the batter -- this will hinder the pancake from rising properly.

If you wanna try making your own pancakes, here's the recipe, adapted from Edith of Rumbling Tummy.  Till then, have a great day ahead!

Ingredients:

280g plain flour
8g baking powder
78g castor sugar
½ tsp salt
3 egg, separated
1.5 cup milk
85g melted unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla



Method:
  1. Sift flour and baking powder. Add sugar and salt together into a large bowl.
  2. Whisk yolks, milk, melted butter and vanilla together.
  3. Whisk wet mixture into the dry mixture. Should be slightly lumpy.
  4. Whip the egg white until medium peak. Not stiff. Do not over whip the egg whites.
  5. Gently fold in half of the egg white into the egg batter with a large spatula. Then gently fold in the remaining egg white.
  6. The batter should be slightly lumpy and have large parts of the egg whites not fully incorporated.
  7. Heat pan and add 1 tsp butter. With a fat ladle, scoop the batter and pour into the hot pan.
  8. Flip over once brown to cook the other side.
Serve warm.

Happy trying!




Saturday, August 2, 2014

Soft Fluffy Orange Cake


I have been making orange cakes several times and this recipe is by far the best and the most satisfying one.

I whipped this cake when we had our sibling get-together session on the first day of Hari Raya Aidilfitri.  We have not been meeting each other for almost three months. Since the meet up was arranged during tea time at mom's house, I was thinking that perhaps a simple homemade cake would just go perfect with a cup of hot coffee.

Coincidentally, I stumbled upon this amazing recipe on Google+ while waiting for my sister's call.  I could not exactly recall what attracted me to this recipe but all I knew, this could be THE  recipe I was looking for and before I could say anything further, I was already in the kitchen whipping my magic.

Thankfully, everything turned out well and I was absolutely pleased with the results.  The cake rose and baked beautifully in the oven.  For the first time ever, in my baking history - No domed shape!  No cracked top!  No over-burned top!  What came out was - a soft, moist and fluffy little sweet treat, all ready to wow me and the entire family.


True enough, the cake was a winner that afternoon.  In fact, it's always a bliss to eat a cake while it's still warm, soft and fluffy.  That could be the reason everyone was going around ooh and ahh and subsequently complementing me and my wife.  Wait a minute, my WIFE?  What has she got to do with the cake?  Actually, what they meant was....."you are damn lucky to have such an amazing husband."  LOL!  Well, to me it was THE RECIPE that made me so-called AMAZING, okay!  I - JUST - FOLLOW! 

So, my dear friends, if you wanna be as AMAZING as I am, then FOLLOW the recipe below....(hehehe!)


The Recipe:
(adapted from Monica of  Lick The Bowl Good)

Note : For this recipe, I have reduced the amount of sugar both in the cake and in the orange glaze.  I find the sugar used in the orange glaze was a little crazy.

Cake:
  • 1 cup (2 sticks/about 230g) unsalted butter, room temp.
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (I reduced to 3/4 cup)
  • 4 eggs, room temp.
  • 1 1/2 tsp. grated orange zest
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 7 Tbsp. fresh squeezed orange juice
Glaze:
  • 2 cups powdered sugar (I reduced to 1 cup)
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tsp orange zest
The Method:
  1. Heat the oven to 350F. Butter a 9-inch cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. 
  2. Then butter the paper and set aside.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar well, until it is very pale and thick - this will take quite a while.
  4. Add the eggs one by one, beating well after each addition, then add the zest. Add the flour, baking powder and salt all at once, and beat well, then slowly add the orange juice until it is incorporated.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin, and bake for 35-40 minutes - or until an inserted skewer comes out clean (slow is best, so don' t be afraid to cook it longer. If it starts to brown too much on the top, cover loosely with a sheet of buttered foil.)
  6. Allow cake to cool in pan for 15-20 minutes on a wire rack. Then invert onto a plate, remove the parchment paper and allow to cool completely before glazing.
  7. To make the icing, stir the orange juice into the icing sugar until you have the right spreading consistency. 
  8. Pour the icing onto the cake and spread with a spatula or butter knife, allowing the icing to drip down the sides of the cake.
  9. Leave the icing to set before cutting the cake into wedges or storing in an airtight container.

NOTE (from Monica) : I thought the glaze was rather sweet and needed more orange flavor so I suggest adding some grated orange zest to the glaze for more intense flavor.



Saturday, July 26, 2014

Banana Turnover


I was at McDonald's (MCD) the other day (well, my usual hang-out area while waiting to pick up my son from school) enjoying their latest promotional craze - Banana Pie.  Well, I have to admit that I really fell for the pie the moment it set in my mouth.  The crust is just perfectly thin and super crisp.  The filling is slushy and yummy.

It hit me so hard that I literally went bananas scouring the net searching high and low for a similar recipe of which I finally called it quit and waved the white flag.  Seriously, I can't seem to find any pie recipe close to that of McDonald's's version.  All I could find was the open-type but not the enclosed one.

Persistent as I was, I  decided to make it from scratch.  First, I would have to search for the filling recipe, then followed by the pastry recipe.  Looking for the filling recipe was surprisingly easy.  I only found one recipe (that resembled McDonalds's version).  So, I hadn't had any choice to choose from - take it or leave it!  So cruel!  As for the pastry recipe, well I have to admit that I was more fussy and picky on this.  Actually, all that I am looking for in a pastry is that it has to be crispy and flaky.  I was somehow glad that I finally found one.

Well, it took me two days before I got both the filling and pastry recipes that passed my so-called personal requirements.  Once done, I got down to business and made them.  All I could say, the making process was straightforward and pretty easy.

But more importantly, what's my verdict on this recipe?  On a scale of 1-10, I would give an 8.  I am generally satisfied with what came out.  The filling was yummy with a nice buttery banana-ry aroma (except that it's a little on the sweet side).  The pastry was buttery, crisp and what's more important is it was SERIOUSLY FLAKY!!!  So, generally, FILLING + PASTRY = NICE BANANA TURNOVER.


 You may ask me - you gave 8 out of 10, so what happen to the remaining 2?  Well, so long as I don't find the McDonald's-like type, the pie does not deserve a 10 from me.

The Recipe:
A) Ingredients for the filling:
     (adapted from Taiwanese Cooking)
  • 4 ripe bananas, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
  • 4 Tbsp. margarine or butter
  • 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. corn starch, dissolved in 2 Tbsp. water
Instructions:
  1. Heat margarine or butter over medium heat in a wok or frying pan. Stir in sliced bananas and cook for about 2 minutes.
  2. Add sugar and lemon juice, then cook for another 3 to 4 minutes over low heat until the texture becomes slightly creamy. Add the corn starch, dissolved in water, to the mixture. Once the filling is creamy with chunks of banana, turn off the heat.  So, this is how it looks like finally.


B) Ingredients for the pastry:
     (adapted from The Pink Whisk)

  • 300g plain flour
  • 225g butter, cold diced
  • (35g caster sugar for sweet pastry/1 tsp salt for savoury)
  • 6-8 tbsps cold water
Instructions:

  1. Measure out the plain flour into a large bowl.
  2. Dice the cold butter into small pieces.  Easiest way I’ve found to do this is to work on a plate.  Slice the butter and add a good spoonful of the flour for the pastry.  Tossing the butter in the flour as you dice stops them from sticking to each other and keeps the pieces separate.
  3. Add the butter to the flour and start to rub it in with your fingertips.  Now maybe the reason I love flaky pastry so much is it’s the lazy persons pastry, you don’t want to rub it in fully pretend you’re making a shortcrust and do a half hearted job, only rubbing it in half way – so there’s plenty of little pebbles of butter still left.
  4. Stir through the caster sugar for a sweet Flaky pastry or 1 tsp of salt for savoury.
  5. Start to add the water, just a couple of tablespoons at a time and mix it together with the blade of table knife until it just comes together without being crumbly.
  6. Lightly knead the pastry in the bowl to form a dish.
  7. Wrap it in clingfilm or a freezer bag and place it in the fridge to chill for 1 hour.
 That’s it!  Flaky Pastry done!


C) Assembling Everything
  1. Roll the dough (according to your desired size) into a square. 
  2. Put 2 to 3 heaping tablespoons of filling in the center of each square and fold in half into a rectangular shape. 
  3. Use a fork to press the edges firmly closed and to also make a decorative pattern.
  4. Arrange the turnovers 2 inches apart on a cooking sheet or in a baking pan lined with foil.
  5. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Brush the turnovers with an egg wash, consisting half of water and half of eggs. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown.

 HAPPY TRYING!!