Friday, December 05, 2008

spaghetti bolognese

i achieved my nirvana or shang ri la of bolognese today. it was perfect, i could taste the sourness of the tomato puree' and the delicate flavours of the herbs.

most malaysians have eaten spaghetti bolognese, some try to cook it at home by opening the jar of preggo or tearing off the packed instant sauce. some cook from scratch and decide to malaysianise the bolognese sauce by adding chilli.

i remember listening in horror to the tale of a teacher who said that it's easier to cook bolognese sauce out of a maggi packet. what she doesnt know is that the process is almost the same as cooking from scratch. in my opinion, it is better to stretch our patience and time in order to have a good hearty meal. and also, i'm a purist, therefore i try to stick to the basic recipe. i even use olive oil. when cooking bolognese sauce, you need a lot of chopped onions and garlic, celery, tomatoes, carrot and tomato puree'. i prefer beef to chicken, because beef has a hearty taste that the chicken does not have. from experience, i learned that it is better to use minced meat rather than manually mincing the meat on your own. using commercially prepared minced meat (or if you have a grinder, that is even better) ensures your sauce to be thick. i tried to mince the beef but my sauce ended up being runny. anyway, i use thyme, oregano and basil in my sauce, and i put pepper as well. let it cook for at least one hour. i do not try to improvise to suit the malaysian palette because for one thing, this is an italian dish.

hopefully, those who read this will be inspired to try and cook bolognese from scratch.

Monday, November 10, 2008

seri muka & apple cinnamon teacake

my favourite malay kuihs has to be seri muka, cucur badak and karipap. i've learnt how to do cucur badak and karipap, but i've never tried seri muka. the best seri muka i've eaten was in KL, during my niece's wedding when my sister ordered it for the guests. i have so many recipes of seri muka that i just didnt know which one to choose. so i called one of my sisters to ask. her response? "go and buy." unperturbed, i called my sister in-law. in the end, she said that malay kuihs can be difficult to make and she advised me to buy. buy??? what do you all mean buy??? i don't buy, i make! finally i decided to follow Amy Beh's seri muka recipe. i followed the recipe to the t, only that i added in an extra egg. the custard was a bit soft, but that was because of the slow fire and also because of the extra egg. my only complaint is that the custard layer is too thin, and the next time i make this, i'll double the custard. the next recipe is the apple cinnamon teacake, which i love because it reminds me of comfort. the recipe is my own, i modified it from the basic butter cake. 250g butter 200g brown sugar 250g flour 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 1 teaspoon cinnamon some raisins 2 small granny smiths apple, chopped 6 tablespoons milk use creaming method, bake at 180 C until it's baked.

Friday, October 31, 2008

my margherita pizza

this is my favourite, margherita pizza, the simplest but the most satisfying pizza.


i love eating briyani. of course, one cant have briyani everyday, it's a rich dish, as it uses ghee in the rice and the gravy. in the span of 2 weeks, i have made 2 briyanis - hyderabad chicken briyani and fish briyani. my hyderabad chicken briyani was superb, despite the fact that i hate the taste of white pepper, preferring the black pepper instead.

i bought a very big piece of fish steak from the wet market yesterday, and was contemplating on making curry. but, i decided to make fish briyani based on the recipe i typed out from my sister's recipe book. i must say that i didnt study the recipe thoroughly, so the fish was a bit bland when it was supposed to be marinated with salt, turmeric, ground chili and fennel seeds. i didnt buy almonds as well, so i had to rely on the almond slivers that i have at home, which i ve been keeping for god knows how long. the rice was okay, it's just that i could taste the rancid almond, and as i said, i was supposed to marinate the fish with the spice mixture. well, anyway, all is not lost.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Gulai Daging Kampung

Gulai daging isn't kari daging. they dont taste the same although they nearly look the same. probably because gulai daging is the malay version of curry, without the curry leaves, the cinnamon, the cloves, the star anise and the cardamom. gulai daging is usually served at feasts, usually at kampung feasts when they serve it with white rice instead of the usual and nasi minyakkurma daging.

i remember i asked my mother to cook for me once, a long time ago, but hers was rich and spicy, nothing like the light but flavourful gulai daging kampung. since then, i ve wondered how they cook the gulai, and wished to learn it.

i made the gulai today. and it tasted the same like the ones that i like! actually the recipe is written at the packet of spice mix powder. i bought the rose brand spice mix powder, which is commonly used for making gulai. i'm not going to refer to the packet now, but i will tell you what is involved in making gulai.

1kg chicken meat or beef, sliced

to be blended
10 shallots
5 cloves garlic
a slice of galangal
a slice of ginger

(to be mixed with the shallot mixture)
1 tablespoon rempah masak powder
1 tablespoon rempah gulai powder

some tamarind pulp, diluted with some water
2 tablespoon cili boh
2 bowls of coconut milk (should not be thick, it should be diluted)

first, fry the cili boh in some oil. then add the spice mixture. fry for awhile, until the spice is cooked. if it's drying up, add in some water. after 10 -15 minutes, add in the meat. then add in the coconut milk and tamarind. cook until the meat is tender or until the oil surfaces (which, according to my mother, denotes a beautiful kari or gulai)

Ramadhan delights

"you're staying alone, and you cook?" these are the questions posed by my colleagues during the fasting month.

yup. unlike other working people who don't have time to cook, i take cooking as a therapeutic and creative session. a few years back, i would not even be interested to cook malay main meals, as i was only interested in baking and western dishes.

but things have changed now. i've evolved. while i still love the international cuisines like the tex-mex or italian or indian, i've very much gone back to my roots this year, that is to cook the malay dishes.

those who read my main blog, which is the happy red poppies, will come across the article i wrote about making nasi kerabu. while my mother would have told me that i still need to learn and havent really passed the test, i think the kerabu tasted okay except that it was a tad sweet.

since i've a lot of ulam left, i decided to make laksa terengganu yesterday. there are 2 types of laksa terengganu - one with spicy red gravy, and the other is a milder white gravy, some sort like the gravy you eat with laksam. i prefer the white gravy, and after a phonecall to my mother, i set off to the kitchen. actually, the gravy is simple to make: just boil some selayang fish, then debone them and grind them with some shallots and black pepper, and cook them with coconut milk. sauteeing isnt necessary. the laksa is eaten with the ulam of daun kesum, and cucumber as well as some other fragrant herbs, and with condiments of belacan, cili boh and salt.

today, i decided to make bubur gandum or wheat porridge, which used to be a teatime treat every Sunday when i was a student at Seri Puteri. i bought a packet of wheat whole grains which can be found in any grocery store. it is usually called "terigu". like making soya bean milk from soya beans, the wheat grains have to be soaked for a few hours. then, i started boiling them with water, then i added the coconut milk and sugar. and of course, before you turn off the fire, add in a knot of pandan leaf, as it will emit that wonderful fragrant smell.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Terengganu's Bubur Lambuk

most malaysians know Kampung Baru's bubur lambuk when it comes to Ramadhan, but i fail to see the attraction. i've tasted it, and found it to be mild and safe. terengganu bubur lambuk, on the other hand, is robust, gutsy and full of earthy flavour.

so what makes Terengganu's bubur lambuk different? besides the usual santan, our local dish uses ground boiled fish meat and young fern shoots and other plants like pucuk ubi, daun kadok, daun kesum, daun kelo. these are really the wild vegetables, and not cultivated vegetables that you get from the market. which means they have more vitamins and minerals.

because of the strong fish flavour and smell, the terengganu people device a way to mask the flavour thus making the flavour more subtle - by adding black pepper and lots of ginger to it, the de-wind agent for those who suffer bloatedness.

in summary, the porridge is a healthy choice for those who are concerned with their health, and what's more, it's cheap!

recipe for bubur lambuk

1 1/2 cup of rice
enough water to make porridge

boil the rice first.

2 steamed/boiled selayang or mackerel (the freshest fish you can get, so the sweetness stays in the porridge), de-boned
1 onion
3/4 inch to 1 inch of ginger
some black peppercorns

grind the ingredients using pestle or mortar or food processor. add the ground mixture into the almost cooked porridge, then add some coconut milk (the freshest you can get, or the taste will be a bit rancid). add in the leaves of the wild vegetables or sayur kampung. add salt to taste.

have fun cooking!

Monday, June 09, 2008

arabian delights

when i was about to go for umrah, 2 of my students who had gone for umrah told me "teacher, you should try the ice cream". the other one said "teacher, dont forget the kebab". oh please, i'm going there to commune with God, not to satisfy my palette!

however, i'm a culture vulture and a foodie and so i cant resist the temptation. as Saudi Arabia has higher temperature compared to Malaysia, it is a common sight to see ordinary food stalls serving soft serve ice cream. even more amusing is to see grown men in ihram licking their ice cream away on a typical summer day which is around 40+ degrees celsius. fruit juices are big in Saudi Arabia - and i mean, real undiluted fruit juices, unlike the ones sold in malaysia, which is very much diluted so that cheapskate people can make more money. carbonated drinks are arabs' fave, a can only costs SR1, compared to our RM1+ over here. however, when i was there i missed my fave drinks - soya bean milk, winter melon tea, chrysanthemum tea, lychee drinks- typical south east asian drinks. and talking about drinks, i was offered kahwa by an arab woman in Masjidil Haram. it is supposed to be coffee, but it's not like turkish coffee that i had when i dined at Al Rausyar with my Seri Puteri friends. kahwa tasted more like some natural remedy for something - i could taste ginger, cardamom and god knows what else they put in there. and it tasted bitter. i took a sip. probably half a sip. and decided that i just couldnt drink anymore.

arabs eat a lot of breads, so you see breads everywhere. not sandwich breads, but rustic breads that look like thick pitta bread. they can eat it plain with yoghurt. my fave is shawarma chicken, which is thinlike unleavened bread (chapatti style) with chicken kebab and fresh vegetables in it. i also tried falafel, thought it was mince meat, but i was wrong. it's like vaaday, only less spicy. the briyani rice is nice, although i think a little bit more spice in the rice would be nicer. the portion was big, 2 persons can finish 1 serving. unlike in malaysia where we're so used to eating briyani rice with an abundance of dhall curry or honeyed chicken or ayam masak merah or pickles, their briyani rice only consists of rice and chicken/lamb/mutton. i guess you've to pay extra if you ask for curry. a container of briyani rice costs SR10. my brother the pilot had mentioned the rice he ate in a big tray, which is typical arab style of eating. he told me they love to eat the rice with kibasy (i really dont know the term in english). on the last day we were in mekah, the rayhar officer brought 2 trays of rice with kibasy, and feeling curious i decided to have a taste. and it was awful. i couldnt stand the smell and nearly vommitted, the smell reminds me of mutton. okay, so i know that i cant stand mutton and kibasy.

Ikan Celup Tepung

at last, after a hiatus of not cooking, i've returned to my domain of heavenly smells and (sometimes disastrous) creations.

when i was in mekah 2 weeks ago, i had this sudden craving for ikan celup tepung or flour batter coated fried fish. this is especially famous in Telaga Batin near to KTrg's airport, where you can see a lot of cars flocking the rustic seafood restaurants. go to the one with the most cars, and that means the first shop after the T-junction. besides fish, there're also other seafood such as squids and prawns. and what's more, you can enjoy your seafood with the seabreeze cooling you, and sweet air kelapa to quench your thirst, and a seaview with coconut trees. hahaha TDC should take me in as a writer for their pamphlet.

anyway, i've digressed from my original intention, which is to talk about how to buy fresh fish and how to prepare ikan celup tepung.

my sister was amused to see that some terengganu folks buy fish at hypermarkets, which is a big no-no for us the fish connoisseurs. but i prefer to go to the wet market, where everything is fresher. so how does one pick a fresh fish? a fresh fish should not have red eyes (unless you're buying red snapper). the eyes should be clear and lucid. the fish itself should be firm to the touch, and the skin should be silvery clear and not cloudy. the gills should be brilliant red, and not dull red. in kuala terengganu there are certain places where you can get the freshest catch - at chendering near to taman permint jaya, near the small bridge of SMKA Sheikh Abdul Malek, and also the wet market at Pasir Panjang.

it is best that you eat the fresh fish a.s.a.p, which is why i decided that the simplest dish is the best for such fresh fish. the batter is the same as the batter to make goreng pisang (or pisang goreng, as my BM teacher used to tell me) - which means some kapur (alkaline), turmeric powder, flour, water and salt. just dip the fish in the batter and deep fry it and voila! remember that the wok must be clean or else the fish will be stuck to the wok.