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May 30, 2012

Baileys goes with Everything!

I hate winters for the most part, I kind of love them for the fact that I have a better appetite and I am able to entertain more frequently. One thing I make sure we do through the season is have a dessert almost every day. Honestly, we do that in summers too but then ice cream is a much easier solution. One of our staple favourites is bread and butter pudding, its so warm and fuzzy to eat and it can be very versatile too. I like to incorporate different fruits and nuts into the recipe to make this dessert different every time. I tend to miss it in the summers, so this year I decided to make it in summers too and I realized that its yum cold too. I make it more moist than usual and refrigerate only till cool with an infusion like Bailey's it makes the dessert even more interesting. What I loved about it was how the liqueur set at the bottom and I didn't want to turn it out, I served it in the ramekins I set it in!

Base:

50 gms butter
1 tbsp caster sugar
2 croissants or brioche 
A few raisins

Custard:

4 egg yolks
4 tbsp caster sugar
500 ml full cream milk
100 ml Baileys Irish Creme

This recipe makes 4 standard ramekins worth. I prefer to use Brioche though a croissant makes this dessert awesomely buttery and gives it a lovely sweet/salt balance. Cut the breads in half, butter both sides and settle at the bottom of the ramekin. Then start your custard. For the crème anglaise or custard, beat the egg yolks and sugar together in a large bowl. Heat the milk in a saucepan until it just comes to the boil, take it off and pour onto the egg mixture, whisking as you do so, that will ensure it doesn't cook the eggs and curdle the mix. Clean out the pan and pour the egg and milk mixture back in. Slowly stir the mixture over a low heat until it thickens; don't let it boil or the eggs will scramble. Cool completely, then add the Baileys, adding it when hot can split the mix.

Pour the custard up to 3/4th of each ramekin. Bake on 180 degrees for 8-10 minutes or till its set. Cool and refrigerate. Serve cold with a dribble of Baileys on the top too! Enjoy!

Pesce Al Cartoccio

I love making foods wrapped in pastry or crusts, 'en croute' as they say and those are invariably heavy. How can they not be? It's usually beef, ham or bacon and cheese kind of preps in puff pastry, my brother would call it High BP wrapped in a Coronary (hahahah!) putting my only guinea pig off my 'en croute' dishes ... oh ya! the guinea pig is my dad these days since A is away! So from cooking for a strapping young man I am now cooking for a kid and a senior which makes me have to question a lot of the ingredients and techniques I otherwise love to use!Which is when I decided to go back to steaming, I personally don't care for most steamed foods except foods made in parchment, those retain flavour like no other dish. The paper traps in everything, or banana leaves too but those are now harder to find, so parchment it is! And I usually make fish this way, with vegetables and different seasonings, flavours and blends. Here are a few ideas to try with Papillotes.....

I use sole fillets, though I feel drier fish like Tuna turn out pretty good too. The quantities below are for 1 papillote with 2 pieces of 150 gms each. I don't use one  large piece because it tends to dry out. The fillets are just about an inch or a wee bit thicker.

Oriental:

1 tbsp dark soy
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
Salt & Pepper
Veggies: a cupful of slivers of red and yellow bell peppers, spring onions and 2 cloves of garlic and 1/2" of ginger (crushed)

Season the fish with the sauces place in the centre of half a sheet of parchment, about 12" by 12", top with the veggies, fold and place on a baking tray with the folded side down so it doesn't open up. Bake on 200 for about 15 minutes.

Italian:

1 tsp Chilli paste
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp roasted sesame seeds
2 tbsp feta cheese
Salt & Pepper
Veggies: sliced zucchini, sliced tomato, sliced white onion

Season the fish, place in the centre of parchment paper, top with cheese and veggies, fold and bake.





May 5, 2012

Simplest Laksa Ever!

I love Laksa, Curry Mee, the typical Singaporean one! Its actually got a whole lot of ingredients and the recipe I learnt had three different components which made making it very cumbersome. I spent quite a bit of time in the kitchen wondering how and why a typical street dish would be this intricate. Perhaps the recipe I had was for a restaurant version or just to make home chefs feel incompetent. The  flavours in essence were so simple when you ate it, so why the big troubles?

All I can taste in good Laksa is the chilli paste, a hint of fish sauce, warm coconutty curry and maybe a little sesame oil. So that's when I decided to make my own Laksa recipe. The good thing about this one is its got all the taste and half the work, recipes like that are always my favourite. I love to cook but that doesn't mean I need to spend hours in the kitchen..isn't it?

200 gms fresh egg noodles, boiled to soften
1/2 cup red and yellow bell peppers cut into 1/2" pieces
Few snow peas, snapped into two
1/2 cup spring onions finely sliced
6-8 garlic cloves, smashed
1 tbsp finely sliced lemon grass, optional, since some people find it very overpowering
2 chicken breasts cut into small pieces
8-10 prawns, I use half in the curry and half as a garnish, the garnish ones are batter coated and deep fried, I like to make a batter of egg white and rice flour, very crunchy :)

4 tbsp cooking oil, I use olive, kind of adds to the tartness of the dish
2 tbsp Sambal oelek paste, add more if you like it spicy
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp red chilli flakes
freshly ground pepper
salt

2 cups thick coconut milk, I like to use the MAGGI coconut milk powder because its a bit sweetish, the canned and tetrapack variety sometimes need 1/2 tsp of sugar to really get the coconut kick.

Heat oil, add the onions and garlic, fry till transparent but not brown, add the bell peppers, the snow peas and the chicken pieces. Fry for 3-4 minutes or till the chicken is cooked white all over. Add the Sambal paste and fry for 2 minutes, add the coconut milk, the fish sauce, sesame oil, chilli flakes, pepper and salt. bring to a boil, throw in the lemon grass and the prawns, simmer for few minutes, till the prawns have changed colour. I hate overcooked prawns, so medium prawns need just about 3-4 minutes to cook in the curry.  Check the spice, if you like more and since the noodles are yet to come, add more sambal paste or more chilli flakes. Top this curry with noodles and the fried prawns and dig in.

Other stuff you can add to this dish to make it more colourful and wholesome is boiled eggs, halved, fried cubes of tofu, bean sprouts (stir fry them to make them crunchy, mmmm!). If I am in the mood for only seafood, I don't use chicken at all, I make this with pieces of any firm white fish (sole usually), squid, prawns and scampi.

Oh ya and before you guffaw at the bell peppers, try this version ....

Enjoy!

May 2, 2012

Decadent and Dark!

Apart from my aversions to gelatin and yeast...well not aversion more like fear but don't tell them, I also abhor packet desserts! No offense to anyone but they never taste like they're supposed to, you know, all rich and decadent and gooey! I once got these microwaveable 3 minute fudge cakes in bowls and though they were pretty yummy, there was an after taste I couldn't get rid off...damn I had to have a shot of Baileys to remove it ;) So even though I believe I love to cook meals, I am a closet dessert fiend too! There are times I soooo crave a decent dessert that I spend hours making one just for the three of us to enjoy... sometimes my friends are recipients too but off late everyone has been too busy to meet up. Which is why the big batch of chocolate ice cream I made is tediously being had by Ally and I every day, this is day 3! We're not complaining, not at all... considering the first batch had too much cocoa, the second one was tweaked and has come out tops! I don't have an ice cream maker, I don't have the budget or the space for it and since Mother Dairy and Baskin take good care of our ice cream needs, I doubt I will put one to good use. What I learnt from the two batches I made was how important it is to disturb the ice cream a couple of hours into setting and doing a quick re-whip, this second batch was rich, creamy and not even a wee bit crystalline.

The recipe is from this months BBC Good Food, a blessed publication and the only one of its kind in our entire country! I'm sorry I tweaked it but I am also glad I did... Indian cocoa is very powdery, bordering on chalky and it gives a very pasty texture to the ice cream, I wanted something more creamy. I chose chocolate because even if you go wrong with it, no one minds finishing the fouled up lot :)

The ingredients below are half of what they suggested, it filled a loaf tin meant for a 500 gms cake. I used an aluminum loaf tin to set the ice cream mainly because its the metal that would cool the fastest and it fit in my freezer very well.


Bitter Chocolate Ice Cream:


Ingredients:

4 Egg Yolks
90 gms Caster Sugar, they suggested Golden Caster Sugar and even though they said Tate & Lyle, I found it too expensive at the Gourmet store I live near. Also I hate to buy products I don't have other uses for!
1/2 liter Full Cream Milk
150 gms Dark Chocolate, I used Morde, mainly because this was test batch #2 but I like the results and at Rs.200 for 400 gms, this fits in my budget perfectly.
100 gms Cocoa, again I didn't use the Hershey's one I stock for 2 reasons, I have heard Dutch processed doesn't make for great cocoa and number two, Cadbury's is cheaper.

Method:

Use a hand mixer to beat the egg yolks and sugar till thick and pale. Use a whisk to mix the cocoa and the milk, add pieces of the dark chocolate to it and bring to a simmer. Keep stirring so it doesn't burn at the bottom and blends well. Pour this mix over the yolks and sugar while still hot, beating all the while. I used a wooden spoon to fold it all in. Wet an aluminum container, like I said I used a loaf tin. I moisten it, so its easier to take the brick out if you need to remove the whole thing, my mom used to do this with Kulfi moulds, which were aluminum too. Put it in the freezer, remove after 2 hours or so, let is soften a bit and use a whisk to churn it up nicely, this avoids ice crystals in the ice cream and it works. Freeze until solid.

The magazine had a great idea, leave the ice cream in the fridge for 20-30 minutes before to soften! 'A' loves rock hard ice cream, which he then goes on to blend into a goopy mess, inexplicable??!! But I like ice cream that is easy to scoop and you don't need a hammer and chisel to get a slice or scoop!

Enjoy!

May 1, 2012

Happy Birthday Zeph!

We got Zephyr on 22nd May 2003, she was all on 21 days old and for us she became our first born child. Being a German Shepherd Zephyr was the cutest puppy ever and in so many she still thinks she's one and we sorta do too :) ... for the longest time her one ear would flop over and we thought it was the cutest thing! I remember that December on New Years Eve, Zeph kept wincing during her morning stroll so we took her to who we thought was the best vet in town. He did an x-ray and informed us that Zeph had hip dysplasia, a condition which wouldn't let her carry a litter and which may prove to be a nuisance to us! A nuisance we asked? He said she would be crippled eventually and sickly as well, maybe we ought to consider putting her down before we bonded.... it's the first time I saw A weep, he was inconsolable, "before we bond" he asked me, this is our girl ... we walked out with Zeph in tow never to return again! Zeph grew up happy and extremely loving, a tad timid for a German Shepherd but then again she was too humanized to realize she had a jaw that could sever an arm! When she was 3 we brought home our newborn baby, our second little girl, Alyssa! We didn't keep them apart for a single day and if I scan our old hard drives, I will surely find pictures of a tiny Ally with this giant fur ball. We have video clips of Zeph taking off the baby socks with teeth that could chomp off the baby's foot! They have grown very close over the last 6 years and its a pleasure to see Ally respect animals and Zeph love kids.

Today Zephyr is all of 9 years old and in some ways it breaks my heart. Considering she has lived so bravely with her hip condition, survived kidney failure and several resulting conditions, she is a happy, cheery dog, who brings joy to many! Her pa is not here these days and I'm sure he misses her terribly today but he will be happy to know that Zeph's b'day is all worked out. She is going to enjoy a honey and peanut butter cake, her dinner is boneless lamb with pumpkin, all the things she loves. She just had a bowl of mango ice cream, which is a once a year thing for her and I could almost see her smile. Here's the recipe for Zeph's cake in case you have furry little lovelies to cook for!





Ingredients:

1/2 cup plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp peanut butter
4 tbsp cooking oil
Few pieces of yellow pumpkin
2 tbsp honey
1 egg

Mix the flour and baking soda then add all the remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour into a greased baking dish and bake on 200 C for around 10-12 mins or till a skewer comes out clean. I frost the cake with a few tablespoons of fresh cream or you can use cream cheese as well but at Zeph's age, all this is too much fat and she has trouble digesting it!

Enjoy Zeph!!
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