Thursday, September 20, 2007

cooking for buka puasa

it is universally known that malaysians love eating, and are crazy about food. which is no wonder that now we have developed a new culture in our society which is to have ramadhan bazaar annually. this bazaar, filled with all sorts of contemporary and traditional foods, caters to working people who dont have the time to cook after work.

this is the time when you get to eat that favourite dish of yours, or sample "exotic" traditional food which isnt found in just any shops or stalls anymore. for example, the ever so sweet and soft nekbat or the rich akok or bunga tanjung, or even tahi itik (never mind the name, nothing to do with the duck's poo).

however, despite the convenience offered by ramadhan bazaar, i prefer to cook on my own. probably i have the leisure to do so, but i think that it is better to eat our own homemade cooking. you'll be more satisfied, it's hygienic, more delicious and cheaper! some sellers do not bother about the quality of the food they sell, so that is the biggest letdown.

since day 1 of puasa, i've been cooking - made puding buih (which tasted richer and more delicious than the bland instant custardy sauce that came with the jelly that i bought last month), cooked my own char kuey teow, ikan percik (my god, the taste of charcoal grilled fish is divine! especially when you buy the freshest of fish), and today i made currypuffs.

i could have bought all these, i know. it'd save me time. but at least i'm happy that my ailing mother is eating the food that i cook. this reminds me of a guy i once knew - he asked me why i bother to bake a bread when i can just buy one.

because it's therapeutic. and because it's a joy.

so ladies, cook!!

Monday, August 06, 2007

healthy food for weightwatchers

after series of buffet meals at hotels, i decided to sort of give my colon some fibre that it needs. one of my favourite dishes is popiah basah, a healthier version compared to its fried sibling. i had used amy beh's recipes to make popiah, and i made the popiah skin on my own. i still cant master making the skin though, and as a result, the skin was rather thick. anyway, i'll put here amy beh's recipe.

popiah basah

2 carrots, shredded
300g sengkuang, shredded
100g french beans, sliced finely
100g cabbage, shredded
(i added in some taugeh...and although the recipe calls for dried shrimps, i decided to forgo it)
2 tb oil
1 tsp chopped garlic
salt and sugar to taste

sautee the ingredients

amy beh's recipe calls for a western-eastern fusion sauce. however, i experimented and came up with somewhat an original sauce for popiah

cili boh
gula melaka
ground peanuts and some coursely ground peanuts
asam jawa or vinegar

cook the ciliboh with some melted gula melaka. then add the ground peanuts to thicken it up. balance the sweetness and the heat with some sourness of the asam jawa or vinegar.

popiah skin

600g flour
200ml water
1 tsp salt
(i used the recipe twice, and you need a lot of water for this. 200ml isnt enough for you to form a soft dough)

mix together until it forms into a dough. wrap in plastic, put it aside. heat a heavy cast iron griddle over a moderate heat. rub the surface with a piece of oiled cloth. take a handful of the soft dough and rub quickly and lightly across the pan to make a think round shape of a desired size. lift the skin and stack on each one.

to assemble:

lightly spread the sauce over the skin, then sprinkle some ground nuts. put it some cooked filling then some fried shallots. roll the skin and voila!

Gastronomic delights around the world

last june, i toured england and paris. obviously, being a foodie, i would try some of the foods there, but unfortunately, the choices are not as wide as what we have here in malaysia. muslims in malaysia never have to worry about halal food, because there's halal food everywhere. in the western world, it's a different matter. and worse, the cold weather makes the tummy rumble more than what it's used to over here.

so, what did i sample over there? i had a nice dinner of chicken briyani at an indian restaurant at earl's court. well, no dalcar or anything else, since a plate of briyani cost 5 pounds. next, i had a truly wonderful nasi goreng at naha's corner, situated at mara building in central london. the nasi goreng was flavourful, but its char kuey teow is to die for. there are also some halal food sold in certain kiosks, like this one kiosk at victoria coach station. there are beef and chicken pastries, which i bought enthusiastically on our ride to paris.

you're not in paris unless you have a breakfast of its famous croissants. the hotel we stayed in is truly parisian and though modest, one can sense the parisian chic in its decor. the baked goods arrive at 7.20 am every morning, and by 7.30, we the malaysians would be down to partake this joyous meal. there are danishes and croissants and plain old robust wholemeal rolls accompanied by mashed fruits, french butter, jams and marmalade, herbed cheese (c'est tres bon!) as well as your usual coffee and cocoa.

the problem with us the malaysians is that we always think about the next meal, especially in a foreign country. so, what we did was we ta paoed the rolls and croissants (just like heidi does in the novel of the same name), nicely wrapped them up in our serviette. they were to be our lunch during our paris tour. on the second day we were there i noticed that the kitchen lady was quietly staring at us as we made frequent trips to the pantry to get more and more pastries.

i read a lot about the sidewalk cafe, and how the french like to drink coffee facing the crowd. we stopped at one of the cafes, had a lunch of wonderful chocolate filled crepes and people watched.
i had a similar crepe in camden market, but a bigger crepe, filled with strawberries and cream and vanilla syrup (and it dripped down my blouse) and i washed it down with freshly squeezed orange juice (unlike malaysian orange juice sold at our typical restaurants which is so diluted).

when you think of britain, you'll think of afternoon teas - silverware, white linens, scones and jams and tea. but coffee seems to be a popular choice over there, and it costs only 1 pound 50p for a cup. i guess this has something to do with popular culture, just like jamie and nigella are trying to turn cooking into a cool "hobby" instead of thinking of cooking as slaving yourself in the kitchen.

oh that reminds me, i forgot to find the add to jamie's fifteen restaurant in east london, but i managed to take picture with his wax figure at madame tussaud's. doesnt really look like him, i had to peer into his chef uniform and saw a small symbol of fifteen.

i always make it a point to buy a cooking utensil when i travel. over at petticoat lane, i bought a grill pan and in paris i bought a set of glass ramekins. my travelmates were amused, but then they're not foodies like i am.

i wish i had tried out more dishes, like fish and chips, but i doubt its halalness. but all the same it was a wonderful experience for me.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

my recent masterpieces

fresh pasta with tomato sauce
cinnamon buttercake
cinnamon rolls
well, i havent blogged for quite some time! to tell you the truth, these past few months have been so hectic for me (what with rushing from class to class) that i seldom bake now. but that doesnt mean i 've completely stopped.

i made croissants for a friend last 2 months, and yes, the smell of homemade pastries is just wonderful. better than a homemade bread actually. and there was once when i felt like eating cinnamon rolls so i just read up some recipes and voila! talking about cinnamon, i made a cinnamon buttercake last monday, with just the basic poundcake recipe.

last sunday, i thought of making my own fresh pasta, (which i had tried but never succeeded because it's too thick), and with some all-purpose flour, an egg and olive oil, and some kneading, i finally succeeded. i just visualise jamie oliver's instructions in the book and i also remember that fresh pasta deserves fresh tomato based sauce, so i made that. i dont know if the italians think it's good, but for me, so long as i can make my own pasta, i'm ok with it.

Friday, January 19, 2007

kiwi cake, durian mousse cake and butter crescents

i made this kiwi cake last thursday for a fren.
this is durian mousse cake, just a normal sponge cake layered with durian mousse and cream. yum!
these are butter crescents, which resemble more like bread than its richer more french counterpart the croissants (also they share the same name). i must be getting better because i posted this recipe once, and the crescents look hard and flat, compared to these fat, glistening rolls!

Friday, January 05, 2007

cooking shows on tv

as a foodie and also an aspiring cook, i never miss the cooking shows on astro. my mother can recognise jamie oliver's voice from far away, because i always watch his shows, and as my mother said "asyik pasal makan je". the other programmes that i like to watch is nigella shows, come dine with me, and sometimes surf the menu and made to order. the only programme that i miss is delia smith's cooking show. unlike jamie or nigella, delia is about finesse and will teach the most basic in cooking, which includes boiling an egg or how to whip up a meringue.

what i love about jamie is his camaraderie and easy ways. the fact that he invites his frens over to eat whatever he's cooking for the show, shows that he's a nice bloke. and also the fact that he went at such great length to change british schools' dinners shows that he is a chef with a big and honest heart.

nigella is more stylish, and represents the modern mum. dubbed as the domestic goddess, her words are melodious and soothing, and full of adjectives such as "satiny melted chocolate" or "molten lava of melted chocolate". you can see the camera focusing on her savouring her own creations, to encourage people to view food not as an enemy, but something as a soothing fren, to sample the epicurean delights.

both cooks love chilies and both cooks bring international cuisine into their shows. jamie is more adventurous though, often than not creating fusion styled dishes, as is the trend today.

there is a new foodie series, called chic eats, every friday at 8pm on channel 11.

to those who love watching such cooking shows, you'll be pleased to know that there are more of such shows on BBCE (channel 26) every saturday morning starting at 7.30am.

A New Year, A New Resolution

yes, a whole new year. another exciting year, and hopefully it's much much better than 2006. anyway, i'm on mediterranean diet now (well, not really authentic mediterranean diet). so what's involved in mediterranean diet? to eat less carbs (but still there are carbs), more lean proteins, veggies and fruits (yeah yeah...we hear that all the time), good fats which derive from olive oil and nuts.

i've already switched from my normal homemade white bread to homemade wholegrain bread, sure it doesnt taste as nice and soft as the white variety, but i keep thinking of the fibre and what it does to my colon. to those of you who are interested in watching your weight and have the time to kill (to bake, i mean) i give u my wholegrain bread recipe

for 1 loaf of bread

1/6 cup brown sugar
1 tsp honey
1 cup warm water
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast

dissolve the ingredients above until the mixture is frothy.

1/8 cup oil
1 tsp salt
2 cups hi protein flour
1/2 cup wholemeal flour
1/2 cup oat bran
some poppy seeds
some sunflower seeds

add the oil and the salt to the yeast mixture and stir. then, add in the flours and the seeds. work your dough on a flat clean surface and knead the dough for 5-8 minutes or until it has become elastic. leave it to rise until it has doubled in size in a well-oiled bowl, making sure that the top part of the dough is equally coated with oil.

when it has rise, punch the dough. i personally prefer to knead it for a few secs to punching the dough. shape it into a loaf and put it in a well-greased loaf tin. leave it to rise and bake at 200 C for 20 mins (baking time will vary frm 1 oven to the other).

take your bread out and leave it to rest for at least 5 mins or until it can come out frm the tin easily. leave it to cool completely on a wire rack.