Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Halabos na Hipon

The easiest way to cook shrimp (hipon) is halabos-style.  The most basic halabos is simply ginger, salt, water and shrimp!  But I like a few more ingredients and I usually cook my halabos with ginger, garlic, red onions, wansoy, leeks, rice wine, salt and water.  I tried using Sprite once before (suggestion of a friend) but it seemed strange (at least to me) so I stuck to my usual concoction.

This time, however, I tried using Thai fish sauce instead of salt.... and added a couple of dried chili, for hubby's benefit (he loves a bit of a spicy kick!)...

And I always have a dipping sauce on the side...

The recipe:

a lot of sliced ginger (at least 12 thin slices)
4 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 small onion, sliced
1 stalk leeks, sliced diagonally, white and green parts separated
1 stalk wansoy, roughly chopped
2 or 3 pieces dried chili (whole)
1/2 tablespoon rice wine
1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons Thai fish sauce
1/2 cup water
1 kilo really fresh, large, whole shrimp, rinsed

Saute the ginger, garlic, onion, leeks (white part only), and wansoy in very hot oil.  (I always use a wok and high heat for this recipe.)  Add the dried chili and stir a few times around the wok.  Add the shrimp and stir fry, tossing every few seconds.  Splash in the rice wine and fish sauce (and keep stirring).  Add the water (I actually use hot water).  Keep tossing and stirring.  When the shrimp turn pink/red (and usually the water has evaporated by then also), transfer the shrimp to a serving plate (keep warm while making the dipping sauce).  Garnish with the green part of the leeks.

In the same pan, saute 4 slices of ginger in a mix of olive oil and sesame oil.  Add a couple of sprigs of wansoy.  Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce and 1 teaspoon of oyster sauce.  Immediately add 1/4 cup of water.  Adjust seasonings (as always I add chili because hubby likes it).  And because this is a dipping sauce, I prefer it a bit on the salty side so sometimes I add a bit more soy sauce.  But keep in mind that various brands of soy sauce have varying degrees of saltiness!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Food for the Gods Cookies

I made Date Walnut Rum Truffles and had some dates and walnuts left over.  It was not enough for a batch of Food for the Gods (bars), but it could be good enough for a small batch of cookies. 

I was pressed for time, so I simply adapted the recipe for the famous Original Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies as the base for my "food for the gods" cookies.  But 5 dozen cookies is really too much for us so I halved the recipe.  To make the cookies Christmas-y, I added half a tablespoon of molasses and half a teaspoon of apple pie spice.  The chips were substituted with chopped dates.  I also pressed a walnut piece on top.  In the end, I felt the dough was a bit wet so I added 2 more tablespoons flour.

The resulting recipe:

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon apple pie spice

1/2 cup butter, softened
3/8 cup sugar
3/8 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon molasses

1 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
more walnuts, as topping

Combine dry ingredients together; set aside.

Cream butter with sugars until light and fluffy.  Add the egg; mix well.  Mix in vanilla and molasses.  Stir in dry ingredients.  Fold in chopped dates and chopped walnuts.  Drop by tablespoons on paper-lined cookie sheets.  Bake at 350F about 10 to 12 minutes.  Makes about 30 cookies.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Buko Macapuno Salad

I love buko salad.  Every Christmas, however, I dismiss it from the menu, because as Christmas Day draws nearer, the price of buko goes higher... to the point of being astronomic on Christmas Day itself.  That meant having fruit salad instead.

This morning, however, our friendly neighborhood magbu-buko (coconut vendor, with a rolling cart) came around and offered his wares at 2/3 the usual price (these days, at least).  I was tempted but having decided to go fruit (again) this year, I politely refused.  He wouldn't take no for an answer, and to show me the error of my choice, he opened one and showed me the lovely buko meat that was just perfect for salad.

(Side note here - when we buy buko we always specify - mala-uhog, pang-salad, or pang-gata.  Mala-uhog, or literally "snot-like" or "mucus-like", is from very young coconut.  The meat is gelatinous, like the texture of mucus, and is commonly used in desserts and drinks.  Pang-salad, literally for salad, is, as the name suggests, best for buko salad.  The meat is rather firm but not tough or dry.  Pang-gata simply means for coconut milk/cream.  The meat is from old or matured coconuts and is really tough.  It is so tough that a grating machine is used to grate the meat off the buko shell; it is this grated coconut meat that is used to extract coconut milk or coconut cream.)

Anyway, having seen the pang-salad buko meat, ignoring it was not an option.  Quite suddenly, I was struck with longing for buko salad!  And, while the timing was not ideal (it was still a few days before Christmas), the chance to have buko salad this season was too good to pass up, especially since I had nata de coco in the pantry, as well as some homemade macapuno preserves!!!!!!!

Presenting...  Buko Macapuno Salad! 

This is actually a twist on my personal, traditional buko salad...

The recipe is likewise as simple and as easy... even if the measurements are estimations...

coconut meat from 5 buko, the pang-salad type
1 large bottle of nata de coco, drained
half a large bottle of macapuno preserves (mine was homemade!)
2 cups cream, mixed with
1 cup macapuno ice cream

Just toss everything together and chill thoroughly before enjoying!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Viennese Mocha Mix

This year I am running late with my Christmas schedule.  Being swamped with work, I completely forgot about my list, gifts and tags!  And I haven't even started with my Noche Buena menu!!!  Of course it didn't help that the oven seems to be asking for a check-up.  (For several years now I gave out baked goodies for Christmas.)  But it turns out that it's a blessing in disguise since I do not have time to bake anyway!  But I still had to figure out what to do about Christmas giveaways.  I needed something that was fast, delicious and personal!

I finally decided to make a mix.  A couple of years ago I experimented with a spiced cocoa mix, with great success.  I was thinking of doing something similar, but more "grown up", with coffee (decaf, of course) and other spices.  Viola!  Viennese Mocha Drink Mix...

with instructions, ready to be sealed...

The recipe is actually a combination of my spiced cocoa mix and the Mochaccino recipe recipe I found in this book...

But I skipped the sugar in the mix, just in case any of the recipients have issues with sugar, they can sweeten their drink as they prefer.

By the way, the mochaccino mix is great!!!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Singaporean-style Congee

Hubby and I recently tried out a Singaporean-style restaurant.  He ordered the laksa while I had the congee.  I was used to the Chinese-style rice porridge but this Singaporean-style was different!  It was yummy, but the texture was definitely not the usual that I'm used to.

How do I describe the texture?  The first thing that struck me that the "thickness" of the congee.  The usual congee that I make (or eat in Chinese restaurants) is a thin, watery gruel.  This congee was thick like oatmeal.  More significant, however, was the grains of rice, which were broken (or smashed?) into tiny bits.  In contrast to the Chinese-style congee where the rice grains are so soft they're quite mushy, this Singaporean-style congee had al-dente bits.  There were no whole grains, of that I was certain, but what bits I could sense in my mouth were definitely firm.  I found the texture to be quite interesting.  And of course, I wanted to try and see if I could recreate the texture.

I asked a friend (who had worked in Singapore for several years) if she had any suggestions.  She did!  The first secret, according to her, is the crispy fried shallots (and the resulting shallot oil).  After that was the so-called congee rice grains, which were broken rice grains instead of the usual whole grains used for steamed rice.  Then there was the liquid to rice grain ratio.  The Chinese version has more liquid per cup of rice, the Singaporean version has lesser liquid, and uses chicken and/or pork stock.

Here's how I made mine (generally following my friend's instructions)...

Prepare the chicken stock beforehand.  Our local supermarket sells (usually) the rib cage, the back part and/or neck parts as soup bones and they're a lot cheaper then other chicken parts.  To make about 6 cups of stock, use 7 to 8 cups of water with 2 pieces of the back part, 3 to 4 ribs or 8 to 10 pieces of neck.  My mom tells me to put everything (an onion, quartered, 1 or 2 whole tomatoes, 1 stalk celery, chopped roughly, and slices of ginger, as well as salt and pepper, to taste, and the chicken, of course) in the stock pot and bring to a boil, skim then simmer at least an hour, preferably 4.  Strain everything and let the stock cool.  There's usually a bit of chicken meat on the bones and I add these to Dexter's food as additional treats).  If there is no time to make homemade stock, feel free to use canned stock or instant stock using bouillon cubes.

Make the crispy fried shallots ahead too.  Place 1/4 to 1/2 cup of sliced shallots in a frying pan.  Pour in enough canola oil to cover the shallots.  Do not crowd the shallots in the pan.  Turn on the heat to medium (at most) and gently fry the shallots (about 4 to 5 minutes, more or less).  If the shallots brown too quickly, turn down the heat a notch or two.  When the shallots are golden brown, strain the shallots and air dry (again, do not crowd the shallots; better to spread the shallots in a single layer).  Reserve the oil where the shallots were fried ("shallot oil") and let it cool.

This next component is optional but since I like conpoy (dried scallops) and dried shitake, I almost always add this to my congees.  Rehydrate (separately) about a tablespoon of conpoy (whole pieces not necessary, bit and pieces are fine) in hot water (the resulting "broth" is quite flavorful so don't throw it away).  Rehydrate dried shitake mushrooms (I used 6 to 7 small pieces) until soft.  Or use 2 to 3 medium pieces and slice into thin strips.  Set aside. 

To make the congee, rinse 1 cup of congee rice grains until the rice washing water runs clear.  Set aside.

Saute 2 to 4 thin slices of ginger in the shallot oil.  Put in about 150 to 200 grams of thinly sliced pork (or use ground pork) and cook until done.  Remove the pork and throw in the rice grains; stir fry several seconds.  Add 6 cups of broth, the rehydrated conpoy and rehydrated sliced shitake.  Cook on low to low-medium about 20 to 30 minutes, or just until the broken grains are al dente.  Garnish the congee with the crispy fried shallots, sliced century eggs and a dash sesame oil.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Prosciutto-wrapped Stuffed Chicken Thighs

Some weeks ago, hubby and I tried out a "new" restaurant.  And I saw bacon-wrapped chicken breasts on the menu. I was intrigued by the picture.  But I was deterred by the humongous layer of fat on the bacon depicted in the picture.  But the idea of chicken wrapped in pork simmered in my mind.  So now I'm trying it out... with prosciutto instead bacon and thighs instead of breasts.  And to make things more interesting, I decided to stuff the thighs with cheese and basil (although the truth is, I just wanted to finish the leftover cheese sticks and fresh basil leaves in the fridge!)

Here's a peek inside...

I started with about 700 grams of bonesless, skinless chicken thighs.  The pack I bought contained about 10 medium-small pieces.  The first thing to do is to trim the thighs (remove excess fat); rinse then drain.  Then pat dry with paper towels.

Meanwhile, cut the cheese sticks into manageable pieces (depending on the size of the chicken thighs) and wrap in a basil leaf.  Use 2 or 3 leaves if the basil leaves are on the small size.  Make enough for all the thighs and set aside for a while.

Place the chicken in between 2 sheets of plastic wrap (or wax paper) and pound until flattened.  Sprinkle a small pinch of fine salt on the meat (but personally, I did not season the chicken anymore because the prosciutto is salty enough and the basil brings a lot of flavor already).  Wrap the mini basil-cheese rolls inside the thighs.

Then wrap the stuffed chicken thighs (carefully!) in prosciutto, making sure that the ends are covered and sealed (otherwise the cheese may "escape").

Shallow fry the chicken pieces about 3 to 5 minutes each side (longer time if the chicken thighs are on the big side).



Sunday, December 7, 2014

Stirfry Beef and Peppers

When I was still a child, the main meal in my parents' house was dinner (served usually around 6:30 in the evening).  It usually consisted of a soup or vegetable dish and a meat or fish dish, and steamed rice, of course.  The meat dish was almost always a stir-fry dish, since it was the easiest and fastest type of dish.  And it would be ready in less than an hour.  That was considered fast enough, considering food preparation (in those days there was no such convenience like sliced meats or vegetables).

This dish is an example of such "fast" food in those days.

These days, however, this dish is even faster!  It is ready to eat in 30 minutes.  Talk about fast food!

The secret is buying pre-sliced beef, and pre-sliced vegetables, if available.  I used super thin slices of rib-eye.  I sliced the peppers myself since I didn't find pre-sliced ones.  Still, since I did the slicing while the beef was marinating, there was no time "wasted". 

400 grams super thinly sliced rib-eye beef
2 tablespoons soy sauce
a dash shaoxing rice wine
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 large yellow bell pepper, julienned
1 large green bell pepper, julienned
cornstarch slurry

Marinate the beef in the soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil and black pepper for about 10 to 15 minutes.

Towards the end of the marinating time, heat oil in a frying pan until very hot.  Throw in the julienned peppers (as well as a pinch of salt) and stir fry a couple of minutes until half done.  Remove from the pan and let the oil heat up again.  Then throw in the beef and stir fry.

Add back the peppers.  If the mixture is too dry, add 2 to 4 tablespoons of water or stock.  Adjust the seasonings according to personal taste and thicken with cornstarch slurry.  Serve hot over steamed rice.

Dinner in (almost) a flash!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Special Pandesal

Pandesal is usually a lean bread, with simple ingredients like flour, yeast, salt, sugar, water.  But when it's special, it means that the pandesal contains eggs, butter, milk...

This recipe was given to me a while back but it took some time before I tried it out.  And it's pretty good, actually.

Here's the recipe:

1.  Mix together:  1 cup lukewarm water, 1/4 cup oil or melted, cooled butter, 2 slightly beaten eggs.

2.  Mix together (dry ingredients):  1 tablespoon instant yeast, 3 tablespoon powdered milk, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon table salt and 4 1/2 cups bread flour. 

3.  Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. 

4.  Knead for about 10 minutes, until the dough is tacky but not wet. 

5.  Gather the dough into a ball.  Place it in a greased bowl and cover with a towel.  Let it rise for about an hour or until doubled in size.  (I was told that if I wanted soft pandesal, let it rise until tripled, or about an hour and a half.)

6.  Dump the dough onto a floured surface and deflate.  Halve the ball and stretch each half into a log about 12 to 14 inches in length.  Cut each log diagonally into 12 pieces.  Roll each piece in bread crumbs and place on greased baking trays.  Let rise about 40 minutes to an hour.

7.  Bake in a preheated 375F oven for about 18 to 25 minutes.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

B's Granola Bars

The little girl received this cookbook last Christmas.

This morning, the little girl asked me if we could make Granola Breakfast Bars from the book.

Except that she had a lot of other requests... chocolate chips instead of raisins, rice krispies instead of nuts... add marshmallows and more chocolate chips!

But most of all, she wanted to make the recipe all by herself.  And for the most part, she did.  Of course I wouldn't let her use the knife or switch the oven or stove on...

(from top left to right, bottom left to right)
1. Mix together 1-1/4 cup oats, 1/3 cup each marshmallows, chocolate chips and rice krispies.
2. Heat 1/4 cup honey, 1/4 cup butter and 1 tablespoon vanilla sugar over low heat until sugar is melted.  Remove from heat, add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and a pinch of salt.
3. Pour the hot "syrup" into the oats mixture and mix thoroughly.  The chocolate chips may start melting.  Press the mixture into a buttered, lined and (re)buttered 9x6-inch pan.  (The book recommends the use of a potato masher.)
4. Sprinkle more chocolate chips on top.

(Note:  We adjusted the recipe to fit a smaller pan and adjusted the ingredients to accommodate the various add-ins that the little girl wanted.)

Bake at 325F for 25 minutes.  Cool completely in the pan before slicing into thin bars.  We cut ours into 12 by 3 bars.

It was sooooooo yummy!  The little girl couldn't help munching!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Chicken Thighs with 40 Cloves of Garlic

I'd been eying this recipe for the longest time.  I've read many variations of it... from the so-called Engagement Chicken in the cookbook "100 Recipes a Woman Should Know", to Julia Child's, to a million others on the internet.  But, the price of garlic dissuaded me again and again.  Especially when its price tripled a couple of months ago!

But for now the price of garlic has returned to normal, more or less.  And, for once, the pantry had a lot of garlic, more than usual.  And I was actually fearful that it would start sprouting!

Then, at the last minute, BFF was coming over for a visit, so it was the perfect time for this recipe.  She actually requested lemongrass roast chicken but...  I wanted to (finally) make this chicken with 40 cloves (that's about 4 heads) of garlic! 

Anyway, in the end I decided to adapt Alton Brown's recipe, since it looked simple and fast!  But I "personalized" it.  Here is what I did -

1 to 1.2 kilos chicken thighs (about 7 to 8 pieces)
40 cloves of garlic, lightly smashed and peeled
2/3 cup canola and grapeseed oil mix
6 sprigs of fresh rosemary (leaves off the stem and coarsely chopped)
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
juice from 1/2 sweet orange, 1 small lemon and 1 lime (or big calamansi)

Clean the chicken thighs (remove fats and excess skin, etc.).  Rinse, drain and pat dry.  Set aside for a while.

Combine oil and garlic; gently heat until garlic smells fragrant.  This will take just a couple of minutes.  Let the oil cool to almost room temperature.  Meanwhile, mix together rosemary, salt and pepper.

Arrange chicken pieces in a baking tray (I used a disposable aluminum one).  Pour garlic oil all over and (use your fingers) to coat the chicken with the oil.  Rub the chicken with the rosemary-salt-pepper mix (get some in between the skin and meat too!)  Arrange chicken skin side up and drizzle the citrus juices all over.

Bake at 375F for about 45 to 55 minutes or until skin is browned and crisped.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Higado a la Italiana

Hubby likes liver.  And peppers.  And onions.

Me?  Nope.  But because hubby does, I cook them for him.  This time, all in one dish.

I had planned on an adaptation of Julia Child's Liver and Onions (yes, I am utterly fascinated by her cookbook Julia's Kitchen Wisdom, recipe on page 42), but in the end, I chose to adapt this recipe, especially the marinade.  For the peppers and onions, I followed Julia Child's Pipérade recipe, of course slightly adapted too.

Higado a la Italiana, my way:

Liver part:

500 grams liver, cleaned and trimmed to 400 grams or so, sliced into relatively thick slices.

(I used pork liver, but everyone else recommends calf liver.)

Marinate liver in a mixture of:

8 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon cumin
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cava wine vinegar
1/8 cup olive oil

Meanwhile, preheat the wok/skillet with about 1/4 to 13 cup canola oil and prepare the following:

1 large onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 small green pepper, julienned
1 small red pepper, julienned
1 small yellow pepper, julienned
1/2 teaspoon oregano, or Italian spice mix
pinch of salt

Flash fry the liver (Julia Child recommends a light dredging in flour, but I was in a hurry and skipped this) then remove from the pan.

Saute the onions and garlic in the same pan (remove excess oil if you like).  Add the pepper strips and stir fry.  Season with oregano or Italian spice mix, and salt.  When the peppers are halfway done, add back the livers and cook until your desired done-ness.  Hubby and Lola N like their livers still pink in the middle but A-te J likes them pretty well done.  Solution?  Remove hubby's portion when done and continue cooking the rest!

In any case, serve immediately!  In my experience, liver does not taste good when they've cooled!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Julia Child's Pipérade

Recently, I received a copy of Julia Child's Kitchen Wisdom.  I admit I really haven't read it although I scanned some pages.  This particular recipe caught my attention, due to its simplicity, but mainly because hubby just loves peppers and onions!

Presenting Julia Child's Pipérade -

The recipe is ridiculously easy.  I saw a collection (or selection?) of recipes, including this Pipérade, here.   The only adaption that I did was to include a yellow pepper (because I love yellow peppers!)

Hubby was, as usual, happy!  Because this dish could possibly be his favorite!!!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Apple Cake

When I was a little girl, I loved apples.  I remember eating at least one each day.  And I loved the tart green apple best of all.

But my love for apples were only for the chilled fresh fruit.  I distinctly disliked apples in any other form except fresh, chilled and without the skin!  So while my mom's apple pie was possibly the best, I ate little of it (although to be fair, it was the only apple pie I would eat).    I did not like apple cake at all, although last year, I decided I liked this Apple Upside-Down Cake.  

As I grew older, I grew less fond of apples.  But this did not mean that I did not try to use them for baking!  Especially since we (usually) get a lot of apples in December.  So I baked a lot of apple desserts... mommy's apple pie (at least trying it), apple tarts, apple muffins, apple cakes... all of which everyone else would eat, not me.

Then last week, I discovered Dorie Greenspan's recipe for Marie-Helene's Apple Cake.  I loved it!  And it was rather easy to make.

As usual I made little changes... like using a mandoline to slice the apples instead of slicing them into chunks (it was really faster to use the mandoline!)... adding apple pie spice...  reducing the sugar and using light brown sugar (and then sprinkling the top with more light brown sugar and more apple pie spice)... and finally, using 2 6-inch Springform pans instead of a single 9-inch.

I used a mix of Fuji apples and Gala apples, although I think I might have overdone the apples.  Dorie Greenspan's recipe called for 4 apples (varying kinds).  What I had was 1 medium Fuji apple and about 6 small Gala apples.  I thought 2 small apples would be equivalent to a medium one...

I love, love, love this cake!!!  It's more apple than cake, I would say, and I really like that the apple slices still have a crunch to it!  And the brown sugar on top added more crunch too.

Hubby had his cake with vanilla ice cream and he was so happy with it that he got second and third helpings!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Ham-wrapped Asparagus

This is an easy way to upgrade asparagus. 

Simply wrap parboiled asparagus in ham (in my case spiced ham from the deli) and then bake it for few minutes and it's done.  It is THAT easy to make. 

Cut the asparagus pieces (use the ones with thicker stems) into strips slightly longer than the length of the ham.  Parboil the asparagus, then plunge into ice water.  Meanwhile, remove moisture from the ham by blotting with kitchen towels.  If the slices are thick, cut the ham in half (using a whole thick slice will result in pieces that are too bulky!), otherwise leave the (thin) ham slices alone.  Wrap an asparagus spear in a piece of ham and secure with a toothpick (I cut a double-edged toothpick in half).  Arrange single layer in a baking dish.

Bake in a preheated 375F oven for about 5 to 10 minutes, just until the asparagus spears are warmed through.  Remove the toothpicks (the ham should not unravel!)  Serve immediately.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Tropical Christmas Fruitcake Bites

For once, it was a very quiet day and I was feeling quite lazy.  So I pushed work aside and went into the kitchen.  Whenever I'm feeling out-of-sorts, I think of experimenting in the kitchen.  So I looked in the pantry and the fridge to see what I had... and found some leftover dried fruits... coconut, papaya, pineapple, mango.  I also had chocolate chips, mixed tropical fruit juice (that the little girl did not like) and Tanduay rum, in addition to the usual flour, sugar, butter, etc.

Then a light bulb moment!  How about fruitcake, but using tropical fruits?  (And yes, cacao is a tropical fruit so chocolate chips count!)  And no, it is not too early to make fruitcake!  (It might even be a bit late if it is for Christmas!)

Anyway, I found a recipe in my mom's files for a "white" fruitcake and used it as a guide to make my own tropical, white fruitcake.  I made a lot of changes, mainly using dried tropical fruits, mixed fruit juice (pineapple, mango and banana juice mix), tropical forest honey (instead of molasses), chocolate chips and cashews.  To hasten baking time, I scooped the batter into mini muffin cups and square muffin cups. 

Immediately after taking the fruitcake "bites" out of the oven, I poked holes all over and brushed Tanduay rum on top several times.  The smell in the kitchen was just heavenly! 

Here's a peek inside...

Basically, any recipe for pound cake would do as a base (a "full" pound cake would make 2 medium loaves), just substitute an egg with 1/4 cup pineapple or mango juice and rum, and 2 tablespoons sugar with honey.  Then fold in about a pound of mixed dried tropical fruit (about 4 cups, depending on the fruits), 6 oz chocolate chips and 6 oz chopped cashews.  A full recipe would yield about 90 to 100 pieces of fruitcake bites (mini-muffin sized).  Of course they're not really white, more like yellowish... 

Hubby, the foremost fruitcake lover, declared this experiment a success!


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Last Minute Halloween Treats...

Halloween is a relatively new "holiday" where I'm from.  When I was a child, it was quite unheard of, in fact.  October 31 was simply the day (or night) before the day we visited our dearly departed.

In recent years however, it has become a really big deal!  There are all sorts of activities and the malls are full of Halloween decors and costumes... along side the Christmas decorations!

Anyway, the little girl has discovered Halloween in the last couple of days and all of a sudden wanted to celebrate it.  Unfortunately, I was unprepared.  I had to buy candies as well as figure out how to make Halloween treats that were not too scary for her (gory stuff like witches, ghosts, bloody what-nots...) but could qualify as Halloween-y.  Solution?  Google!

I found "spiders" made from cookies, frosting, and pretzel sticks.  Here is my version. 

And another one...

The little girl was surprised when I presented the "spiders" but she had a great time dismantling the legs and eyes and biting into the body!!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Thai-style Pork-stuffed Omelet ( ไข่เจียวยัดไส้ด้วย หมู)

When I need comfort, I turn to food...

My first choice is almost always soup, but for today, I am settling for my number 2 comfort food - eggs.

And I remembered that a long time ago, hubby and I ate this supremely tasty pork-stuffed omelet in a (literally) hole-in-a-wall eatery.  Don't ask me where though because we were just walking around and we saw a lot of people going into this door.  We were curious so we went in and up some narrow, rickety stairs was this rambunctious crowd lined up (haphazardly) for food - "turo-turo" (literally "point-point") style.  Which was actually a good thing because we didn't speak a word of Thai and it did not seem like they spoke any English!

Obviously all these people could not be wrong (as to the quality of the food) so we lined up as well and pointed to what we felt we wanted to eat... rice, soup, curry (obviously) and this square parcel of scrambled egg (which I chose because I thought it would not be spicy).  Turns out the best of the lot was the omelette!  It was slightly spicy, but it got really spicy because it was garnished with sriracha sauce!

Here is the latest of many attempts to re-create that dish.

This latest try is the one that looks most authentic... I (finally) checked youtube for demo videos on how to wrap the filling into a square.

For the filling, I found the interet abound with recipes (as usual), but I based my filling (roughly) on the recipe which I found in this book

For the filling:

Marinate for 15 to 30 minutes: 

1 cup ground pork (about 150 to 180 grams)
5 pieces large, shelled shrimp, minced
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon Thai fish sauce
1 teaspoon crushed black peppercorns

Meanwhile, prepare:

3 thin slices ginger, smashed
1 medium onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced 
1 large tomato, diced
1 medium potato, diced
small handful wansoy, minced finely
2 teaspoons Thai fish sauce
2 teaspoons oyster sauce
1 to 2 teaspoons chili sauce (or sriracha), optional (for me)

3 eggs, beaten with
1/2 teaspoon fish sauce, or to taste

Heat a wok and saute the ginger, onion and garlic.  Add the tomatoes and stir-fry several seconds.  Add the marinated meat and wansoy; cook a couple of minutes then add the diced potatoes.  Season to taste.  Add water or stock, if necessary (the final mixture should be rather dry).  Cook until done; set aside.

Heat about a tablespoon of canola oil in a non-stick, flat frying pan, 11 to 12 inches in diameter.  When hot, pour in the beaten eggs and spread around to form a thin layer.  When the eggs are cooked, place the cooked ground meat filling in the middle and fold into a square parcel.  Flip into a serving plate.  Garnish with wansoy and serve with sriracha or sweet and sour sauce.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Curry Fishballs, HK Streetfood style

All of sudden, I had a craving for curry fish balls... the kind that we used to buy in the hole-in-a-wall place a block or two away from friend J's house.  A quick look in the freezer and I found a pack of Singaporean fish balls!  So off I went to the kitchen to cook a batch of curry fishballs, in the HK street food style that I (hopefully accurately) remember.

They were delicious and quite similar to the ones we always enjoyed!

200 to 250 grams fish balls
1 large onion, finely minced
2 large cloves, finely minced
1/3 cup yellow curry powder
1 tablespoon sesame oil
dried chili flakes, to taste, optional
1/2 cup coconut cream
1/2 to 1 cup chicken broth
salt and pepper, to taste
dash of fish sauce
cornstarch slurry

Saute the onions and garlic until fragrant.  Add the yellow curry powder and sesame oil and stir-fry until a paste forms.  Add chili flakes, to taste, if desired.  Add the coconut cream, 1/2 cup chicken broth and fish balls.  Season to taste with salt, pepper, fish sauce.  Simmer until the fish balls are puffed up (add more chicken broth if necessary).  Thicken with cornstarch slurry.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Faux Miniature Eggs Benedict

Every once in a while, hubby has friends over.  When he does, I take the opportunity to experiment with "finger" foods.  This time, the idea came from a book on canapes.

Although, I wonder how much change can be made to a recipe and still be considered authentic.

Because what I did was more of a bastardization... but in my defense, I wanted to use items that were already in the kitchen and pantry considering that I did not have time to go out and buy ingredients....

Classic or traditional eggs benedict are made of poached eggs and Canadian bacon on English muffins, topped with hollandaise sauce.  Mine were cheese, salami and fried quail egg on toast, topped with faux Ceasar dressing.

In short, my version is faux... or better known as... fake!

But it was fun to make and quite easy too! 

First, using a round cookie cutter, cut one or two circles of toast.  Place a slice of cheese on the toast, then a piece of folded salami.  Top with a piece of fried quail egg.  Drizzle with faux Ceasar dressing (or use a bottled one).
Then sit back as the praises fly (hubby's friends were impressed!  even the one who was on a strict diet could not resist!  ☺☺☺☺)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Shrimp Vermicelli in Claypot (กุ้งอบวุ้นเส้น หม้อดิน)

Here's another try at Thai food.  This time the recipe link was forwarded to me by friend M, who currently lives in Bangkok.

As usual I made changes... the first of which was that I did not use a clay pot.  I didn't have a clay pot so I just used a glass casserole.

And because I couldn't find my mortar and pestle, I couldn't grind the spices together, so I just layered them as is.

I also added mini shitake mushrooms... and skipped the celery...

And I scaled the recipe to make about 6 servings...

The verdict?  Super yummy!  Another favorite!  Yey!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Tom Kha Gai (ต้ม ข่า ไก่)

If it seems like I am on a Thai-food binge, it's because I am!  After tasting real Thai cuisine, I am absolutely hooked! (And to think I already like the "localized version" Thai food.)  Time to recreate a popular Thai dish in my kitchen.

The Chicken and Galangal in Coconut Milk Soup is by far my most liked dish.  It's the easiest one for me to make too, considering I have galangal (havested mid-last year and frozen/dried), lemongrass and kaffir lime in the food garden!  Then, just last Sunday, I found lime in the weekend market.  Together with the fish sauce (น้ำปลา) I brought back from Thailand, my ingredients line up was virtually complete.

And given its popularity, the web is full of recipes.  In my case, however, I followed the recipe in this book (which I bought at the airport on our way back).  The book is not a new publication (it was first published in 2003) and certainly not the latest by the author but it has been re-published almost every year!  And flipping through its pages, I found it more suited to a novice to Thai food (like I am) considering it has a section on basic Thai ingredients and a general introduction to various Thai sauces and pastes, as well as "step-by-step" photographs.  (And notice the bookmark - Thai souvenir from MBK!)

While there are many recipes on the internet, quite a number of them indicate ginger as an ingredient rather than galangal.  I don't believe that ginger should be substituted, especially since Asian markets already have galangal paste, dried galangal, etc.  Besides, it cannot be Chicken Galangal (ข่า or Kha) Soup without galangal!

In any case, here is a recipe quite similar to the one in the book.  The slight differences - I used coconut cream (about 400 ml), chicken stock (made from the breast bones, about 500 to 600 ml) and instead of straw mushrooms, I used about 250 grams oyster mushrooms.  I also added a generous teaspoon of coco-sugar and adjusted the fish sauce according to personal taste.

My verdict?  While it tastes great immediately after it is cooked, I discovered that it was better the next day!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Poached Fish in Lime & Coconut Cream (ปลา ใน มะนาว และ กะทิ)

I am still recovering from my Bangkok vacation, which includes withdrawal symptoms due to the yummy Thai food that I am missing now that I'm back home.

Solution?  Try to cook food, Thai-style.  I say Thai-style because I don't know if this dish exists in Thai cuisine, but I am making it inspired by Thai food and using "Thai" ingredients - kaffir lime (I have a couple of trees in the food garden!), coconut cream, lime, galangal, chili...

300 ml thick coconut cream
2 fillets of sole, about 700 to 800 grams
3 tablespoons fish sauce
3 pieces kaffir lime leaves (double leaf)
1 large lime or 2 small limes (or lemon)
2 pieces dried galangal
2 pieces finger chili

Place 150 ml of coconut cream in a baking dish (just big enough to fit the fillets).  Rub 1 tablespoon of fish sauce on each fillet then lay the fillet in the coconut cream.  Add the remaining 1 tablespoon fish sauce to the remaining 150 ml of coconut cream; mix then set aside.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350℉.  Slice the kaffir lime leaves into thin strips.  Slice half the large lime or 1 small lime into thin rounds.  Slice the finger chilies in diagonal strips.
Place the dried galangal in the baking dish (not on the fish).  Arrange the lime slices on the fish fillets, then place the kaffir lime leaf strips and finger chili pieces all over.

Bake about 30 to 35 minutes.  Drizzle lime juice over the fish after it bakes, in accordance to personal taste.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Madiera Cake

The little girl wanted to bake a cake for her beloved Ninang R.  She kept insisting, and she even chose the pan herself.  It was a pan in the shape of a flat cupcake.

Here is the cake. 

I chose a madeira cake recipe because madeira cakes are supposed to be unfrosted.  And although they are usually baked as a loaf, I figured they could be made into a "flat" cake, too, with adjustments in baking time.  My choice for a recipe?  Nigella's Mother-in-law's Madeira Cake recipe.

It's delicious!  How do I know?  Because I sneaked a little cupcake on the side for me!

Now I almost wish I didn't have to give the cake to B's Ninang.

Oh well, I just might bake another one!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Minced Pork and Shitake over Steamed Tofu

This is a variation of the basic steamed tofu dish (which is just steamed tofu topped with thick soya sauce).  A bit more complicated than the Century Eggs over Steamed Tofu but delicious all the same.

Here's the recipe:

2 blocks of tofu
2 thin slices of ginger
1 small onion, sliced
2 cloved garlic, minced
1 teaspoon XO sauce
4 pieces dried shitake, rehydrated and diced
200 grams ground pork
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
cornstarch slurry

Steam the tofu (I do this in the rice cooker, on top of cooking rice!  Saves on energy!).

Saute the ginger until lightly browned; then discard.  Saute the onions and garlic until soft and fragrant.  Add the XO sauce and stir-fry until fragrant.  Put in the mushrooms and ground pork.  Season with soy sauce and oyster sauce.  The mixture should exude some liquid, if not, add a few tablespoons of stock or water.  Adjust seasonings to your taste (hubby likes a bit of chili for some heat!).  Thicken with cornstarch slurry.  Pour over steamed tofu.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Chai Po Omelette (菜脯蛋)

Chai po (菜脯) is crunchy, salty preserved radish.  When I was little, I would eat chai po with congee, especially when I was sick.  But in an omelette, it is such a treat, much more so when fresh shrimps are added!

It's not really difficult to make...  here's the main cast of characters...

from the top left - minced garlic (2 cloves), 30 grams chai po (minced into fine bits, and rinsed and squeezed dry), 1 stalk of leeks (sliced diagonally, white and green parts separated), and 80 grams shrimp (rinsed then shelled then sliced into "cubes")...

and of course, 2 eggs with a splash of milk (lightly beaten)...

Saute the garlic and the white part of the leeks.  Add the chai po and about half of the green leeks; stir fry several seconds.  Add the shrimp and mix for couple of minutes, until the shrimp turns pinkish.  Pour in the eggs and stir to mix.  Turn the flame to low-medium.

Shift the edges of the omelette to the middle and let the uncooked portions slide out to the edges.  Do this at regular intervals until the omelette looks evenly cooked.  I cover the pan to encourage cooking, but do not increase the heat or the bottom will get burnt.

Use an 8-inch, non-stick pan for best results.