Who let the monkeys in the kitchen?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

"I'm going to have to leave you," said Mr. Kitchen Hand.

"Fine, I'm taking the kids to your parents," I said.

So he left, for a business trip, on very short notice, and since it's school holidays, I've whisked the MC's down on an impromptu visit to Nana and Pop Hand.  (Sorry for freaking you out with that first sentence Mum!) :)

I had a total of one full day at home to unpack from our weekend away (which was lovely and relaxing, thank you to those who've asked), then repack for our trip down to the grandparents.

So, to keep the kids entertained while I ran around doing boring household type stuff, I got them to make Monkey Munch/ Puppy Chow (inspired by Jennifurla and Indigo) :) Monkey Munch is probably something North Americans are very familiar with, but I'd never heard of it until at a barbecue last summer. A visiting American extolled the virtues of said snack, proclaiming it far superior to the Honey Joys that were on offer. Needless to say, I was intrigued!

Finding a recipe was the easy bit, I just looked at Jennifurla's recipe.

Finding the right type of cereal was much harder. Only Mr. Kitchen hand eats cereal in our house (and he eats it for dessert at that!), so we very seldom venture down the cereal aisle. I probably purchase a box of corn flakes about once a year (to make Honey Joys for birthday parties), and the occasional mini multipack cereals to take on camping trips. So I was under the illusion that I could find Crispix easily. Alas, after hunting high and low, the only similar cereal I could find was a Coco Pops Chex, which I decided against getting (can we say chocolate overload?). Eventually, I settled for something called mini-wheats. "Low salt! High Fibre! " the package proclaimed. Well, ok then, let's add some salt and other goodies to you.

The whole process is very simple. First you measure out the cereal.

Then you melt chocolate chips, butter and peanut butter together and mix thoroughly into the cereal. I melted the chocolate mixture in a microwave safe jug, and omitted the vanilla recommended. We did the mixing in two large bowls, so the MC's could each get their own stirring job. Then I had a go at mixing the whole lot together to ensure everything was evenly coated.

Next, I tipped two (separate) half cups of icing sugar into two ziplock bags (one for each child). Popped the cereal in and they gave the bags a good shake. I probably should have sifed the sugar first, but this isn't really an aesthetically pleasing snack we're dealing with here, so it didn't really matter.

Et voila! Monkey Munch.

Junior masterchef it ain't but it kept the MC's happy, and oooh boy does it taste good! I understand the appeal and it's definitely a keeper.

Have a fabulous weekend, and I'll be posting sporadically and trying to keep up with your comments when I get a chance. (Please do excuse me if I miss a few!).

And before I forget there's still time to vote for Project Food Blog. If you like the Moroccan b'stilla I made, I'd love your vote. You can click on the widget at the top left of my blog. Thanks heaps and thanks very much for helping get through to round 2!)

A September session with the Daring Bakers.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Hello everyone, thanks for visiting while I was away. Here’s the Daring Bakers post as promised, it’s a day late but hopefully it still counts.

The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.

We were to decorate the cookies according to the theme: September, we could do anything that meant “September“ to us.

I must admit I was really rushing to complete this challenge before we went away, so the results aren’t as smooth as I would have liked. I also used baking paper icing bags instead of proper bags with tips (didn’t want to spend time washing and drying bags in between colours), so didn’t have as much control over fine lines.

Decorating these sugar cookies has given me new-found respect for all you cookie decorators out there. While I soon got the hang of getting a design onto the cookie, actually achieving a perfect smooth finish was much harder than it looked! Hats off to you!

Without further ado, here are my cookies:

September means: Spring. Snowflakes and jonquils are two of the earliest bulbs that flowered in the garden this year (make that the only bulbs that flowered!), and the cheery sight of them meant winter was on the way out.

September is also my Daddy’s birthday. Happy Birthday Dad! Sorry for the lack of presents ;P

And lastly, Mr. Kitchen likes to do a lot of this:

Which made me think of this:

(Here’s the official website for that film, in case you’re going huh?).

And then I ran out of time and just did spots and swirls on the rest of the cookies (sorry Mandy!).

Don’t forget to check out the other Daring Bakers and the recipe for the cookies can be found at the Daring Kitchen.

Enjoy the rest of the week ☺

(Btw, voting is now open for Project Food Blog, thanks very much for helping get through to round 2. If you like the Moroccan b'stilla I made, I'd love your vote. You can follow this link or click on the widget at the top left of my blog. Thanks heaps!)

Let's go Morocco! (Project Food Blog Challenge #2)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

(Thank you! Thanks to your support I've made it through to the next step in Project Food Blog! Our next brief was to prepare a classic ethnic dish, preferably one we weren't familiar with. As you'd know from my last post, I'm actually away on holiday at the moment but luckily, the day before we left , I decided to cook an unfamiliar classic ethnic dish - just in case . Be prepared, eh ? So please excuse any spelling errors, or if any of the text makes no sense and excuse the dodgy photos taken at night. I prepped this post at an ungodly hour before our trip and I'm cooking it at an internet cafe while my mind is on the brilliant sunshine outside. Happy reading and I'll see you all real soon!) :)

Morocco - the very name conjures images of spices and souks, tangerine coloured scarves (I don't know, this is my fantasy ok?), mint tea and camels. So exotic, and so, so far removed from where I am now. It's one country I'd dearly love to visit, but since it doesn't look as if I'm going to get there anytime soon, at least my tummy can go on a little bit of a culinary odyssey.

I can't remember where I'd first heard about b'stilla (or bastilla, pastilla, or any other variation that sounds like it),  but when faced with the challenge of creating a classic dish, I knew immediately this is what I would make.

B'stilla is a type of pastry/ pie usually made with pigeon, but I just. cannot. go. there. (*cough* flying rats *cough*, sorry pigeon fanciers). Chicken was what I went with. And instead of the traditional warqa pastry, which I didn't have time to attempt, I used store-bought phyllo pastry.

 When I started looking for b'stilla recipes - I discovered that no two recipes are alike. However, most of them involved a filling of chicken (or pigeon), egg and spices, mixed with almonds, sugar and cinnamon.

Inside the bastilla - YUM!

So I picked the recipe from Epicurious to try, because it involved the added challenge of making the ras-el-hanout spice mix from scratch.

This is how my b'stilla making experience went:

Prepped spice mix ingredients, then discovered that mortar and pestle broken, resorted to processing the spices in food processor. Loooooooooong wait later, managed to sift enough ground bits to use in recipe. Stored the rest of the shardy spices in a jar to be ground later. Note to self - go get new mortar and pestle.

Spices ready to be ground for ras el hanout (cardamom, aniseed, fennel, allspice, cinnamon, coriander, cloves, cinnamon stick, sesame seeds) - I left out the red pepper flakes and added a tiny bit of paprika and pinch of cayenne pepper  instead. And forgot the pepercorns but just added more pepper when seasoning the dish. On the lower right is ground ginger to be added to the dish too.

Lightly dusted out the processor, made almond sugar using fried almonds, sugar (I subbed icing sugar for caster sugar) and cinnamon (as per Epicurious recipe linked above).

Fried almonds, ready to be turned into almond sugar

Next step: cook the chicken filling. I used 4 chicken legs with the skin removed. This part was actually very simple. It's a bit like making a spicy, wonderful smelling casserole. First some onion is browned, then garlic and spices added, then  the chicken, saffron liquid and a little stock are put in. The chicken is simmered until tender. Here, I deviated slightly from the given recipe. I removed the chicken to a bowl to cool, then shredded it and discarded the bones (rather than leaving it to steep in the stock - I'd cooked  it for longer than suggested so it was full of flavour).

The most expensive spice in the world

Then it was time to add the egg. Reading this part of the recipe confused me somewhat but after checking out this link, I knew that the eggs needed to be cooked until scrambled. At first I found it hard to judge how much liquid was left in the pan, and when I added the beaten eggs in, I panicked because it looked like soup! I turned the heat up and kept stirring and luckily it all came together. Phew!

After the egg was drained and cooled, it was mixed into the chicken, along with diced herbs and a squeeze of lemon juice.

The fillings, to be mixed together - cooked chicken, scrambled egg mixture, diced herbs

Now it was time to fold. After checking out these three links (photo essay of bastilla making,video of seafood bastilla,step by step cooking school photos it was actually quite easy. Make sure the phyllo pastry is completely at room temp or it will be brittle and crack. Don't skimp on the butter and don't overload the pastry, use only 3 or 4 sheets so the outside gets golden and wonderfully crispy.

The traditional way of making b'stilla seems to be to fry it. I tried one fried, and one baked. The fried one went a little oopsie, I didn't judge the temperature of the oil well (rushing remember?), and accidentally overdid the outside a bit, then had to pop it in the oven to make sure the filling was warmed through. To check for filling doneness, stick the tip of a knife in and test the temperature - this explains the slashes in my pastry.

Fried bastilla -oopsie

The baked version came out with a slightly soggy base at first, but I tipped it out onto a baking tray and put it back into the oven to rebake - ahh, perfection! Crisp and golden outside, moist, fragrant filling, with a surprising yet pleasant taste from the sweet almond and sugar topping. I was very impressed with the b'stilla, and although I have not had the "authentic" version to compare it to, one bite into it and I was indeed transported to the Morocco of my mind. We managed to polish off both the pastries for dinner.

Baked bastilla

Inside the bastilla - YUM!

It's a dish I'd definitely make again but I think I'll leave the cinnamon patterning on top to the experts:)

Thanks for reading!

(Hi again! Voting is now open for Project Food Blog round 2. Thanks very much for helping get through and I'd love your vote again. You can follow this link or click on the widget at the top left of my blog. Thanks heaps!)

A tale of two crumpets and a quick break.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hello little crumpet.

Crumpet, crumpet, crumpet…it’s such a funny little word isn’t it? Although, be very careful never to mistakenly say “strumpet” instead. o.O

So, what exactly is a crumpet? Over here in Ozland, a crumpet is a circular, mini pancake–like thingy with lots of holes (see how technical I got?).  It’s usually split in half, then toasted and buttered and served for breakfast or a snack.

I’ve only ever tried store-bought crumpets once or twice – after much pleading by the mini-critics. Not sure about you, but I am loathe to spend money on things like pre-packaged pikelets, crumpets, biscuits etc, because I know I can make tastier versions at home. And these goodies will have none of the preservatives and additives of their storebought counterparts.

Anyway, long story short, I’d wanted to make crumpets for a long time but hadn’t done so because I thought I needed special rings to shape the batter. However, when flicking through the September issue of the ABC Delicious magazine, I found a recipe for crumpets, which used ordinary egg-rings. Joy! (yes, easily amused).

First, I tried a recipe by Bill Granger that I’d been eyeing for the longest time. They turned out looking very good and but somehow I thought the texture wasn’t quite right. They were very fluffy, and I thought crumpets were supposed to be a little chewy. But who am I to say, here I am comparing Sydney’s “breakfast king” crumpets with supermarket crumpets. Don’t get me wrong, they actually tasted fine and we ate them all up, it was just a textural thing for me.

The fluffy ones

Next I tried the recipe in the Delicious magazine, and this time the texture was spot-on. The two recipes were quite similar ingredient-wise, but in Bill’s recipe, there is an added step of adding water and baking soda to the crumpet batter after proving, and I think this is why it becomes fluffy.

The chewy ones

But it really depends on your taste preferences. I liked the chewy ones while the MC’s much preferred the fluffy ones.

I could give you both recipes and let you decide for yourself, but I won’t, because:
a) I’m too lazy to type them both out (at least I’m honest!)
b) I’m in a bit of a rush as we are heading off for a very short holiday break tomorrow.

So goodbye my friends, I’ll come by and visit your blogs when I return, and I may not get a chance to get to your comments while we’re away.

Have  a wonderful weekend! And do stop by on the 27th to check out the  Daring Bakers challenge reveal☺ Actually, better make that the 28th….

Crumpets (adapted from a recipe by Dead Man Espresso café, published in September 2010 issue of Delicious magazine)

450g plain flour
7g sachet active dry yeast
300 ml milk
250 ml hot water
Melted butter (unsalted) for greasing

Combine the flour and yeast in a large bowl. Mix the milk and hot water together. I used milk straight from the fridge and water straight from the kettle which resulted in a lovely warm mix. Make sure it’s not too hot or it can kill the yeast. I made this milk-water mix in a large heat proof jug so that it was easy to pour.

Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in  the milk mixture, while mixing all the time. Mix until well combined.  I used a fork, but in the other crumpet recipe, Bill recommends using beaters (which I did). The fork takes a lot more elbow grease, but both ways worked well.

Cover the batter and leave in a warm place for an hour or until doubled in size. I covered with plastic wrap, but the recipe recommends using a damp cloth.

Heat a frying pan (preferably non-stick) over medium heat, then grease the egg rings. Place the egg rings in the pan to heat gently, then very carefully, without deflating the batter, pop about 2 tablespoons in each egg-ring. Fry very gently until the top is set (about 6-7 minutes), then turn over and cook the other side. Make sure the top is set or it will get very messy, and try to keep the egg rings on when turning, it helps the crumpet keep its shape.

Serve warm with butter. Or let it cool, split in half and toast.

The crumpets are supposed to freeze well if wrapped airtight in foil.

Memories of summers past – Macattack 11

Monday, September 20, 2010

(We interrupt our regular Malaysian Monday programme to bring you this special macaron feature.)

For some of you, the cooler months are approaching, but down here downunder, we eagerly await the days when we can throw off the long sleeves, slip on the sandals and spend time at the beach. Yee-ha! Summer’s on the way and as you can probably guess, I’m a big fan.

But when I read this month’s macattack challenge - to turn our favourite childhood summer memory into a macaron, I was initially stumped. My childhood home is a tropical country with no real seasonal variation except for rainfall levels. We technically didn’t ever have a summer when I was growing up. Or if you look at it another way, we had endless summer, a year long bonanza of warmth.

We took the heat for granted, what we yearned for instead was a touch of coolness. Although we did head to the beach occasionally, more often than not our holiday destinations would be to the hills. To places where we could experience the novelty of having to wear a cardigan outdoors (fancy that!) and where we could watch our breath fog when we breathed out.

So, the question of “what sort of macaron to make ” played on my mind for awhile. And one sunny Sydney day recently, as I sat and daydreamed, I heard a native bird calling outside and the answer hit me in a flash. The drowsy warmth, the lazy birdsong, transported me back more than thirty years, to my grandfather’s house. This was a place where I spent so many happy childhood hours. My father’s family would meet up here most weekends, and as the adults sat around talking, I’d lead the gang of kids off on adventures in the large garden (I was the eldest, therefore the boss).

The grown -ups left us to our own devices and we concocted all sorts of games. Sometime, it was “perfume making” - I’d send the troops out to collect flowers and leaves and then we’d bung it into a metal pail of water, getting ourselves soaked in the process. Other times we’d build hideouts, play “catching” (tip/chaseys), harass the dog or just goof around doing whatever it is kids do.

When it got too hot, we’d head indoors to read, or play board games, or watch cartoons. You could see out into the garden from almost every room, and I remember just flopping lazily in a chair with a book, watching birds flit from tree to tree in the afternoon heat. One of my favourite birds to spot was the (black naped) Oriole (Oriolus chinensis). It is a beautiful bird with a distinctive cry, and I would get a thrill every time I saw the flash of yellow and black plumage signalling we had a garden visitor.

Frequently, the Orioles would land in the rambutan tree, looking for a feed. The rambutan tree also happened to be my favourite perch in the garden. It had a low branch just the right height for hanging off like a sloth, and us older kids could climb its branches quite easily. A sheet of plywood stuck in the fork became a makeshift treehouse.

So I made Oriole macarons (black sesame shell, yellow filling of tumeric and mango buttercream) and rambutan macarons (shaped shells, cream cheese icing for filling, sliver of rambutan in filling) and basked in some nostalgia. How I loved that house (and my grandparents too of course!).

Thank you Jamie and Deeba for bringing back such wonderful memories.

Thanks for joining me and have a great start to the week.

For the black sesame macarons, I used a basic French macaron recipe by Helen of Tartelette, and subbed 50g black sesame powder (from Asian supermarkets) for the same amount of almond meal.

For the filling, I smushed half a mango through a sieve and reduced it (in the microwave) until thick. I let this puree cool, then mixed it with the tumeric buttercream left over from my satay cupcakes. I did have to use some more icing sugar to counteract the liquid.

For the rambutan macs, I made a plain macaron shell, and tinted it red, which turned out to be not quite red enough. I’m thinking of getting powdered colours for macaron making from now on. To make the spikes, I scooped some of the batter aside while I piped the rest out into circles. This allowed the reserved batter to dry out a bit. I then used a small metal spatula to take tiny amounts of the reserved macaron batter and touched it onto the surface of the piped macarons to create tufty bits.

I diced some canned rambutans (drained well), and sandwiched this into the macs using a very simple cream cheese icing (butter, cream cheese, icing sugar).

This batch had a frill foot because I didn’t quite have enough aged eggwhites and had to top up with fresh. Who knew 15gs would make such a difference. Speaking of difference, I also used soft icing sugar mixture this time and found my macs slightly more stable (thanks Hungry Rabbit for the idea). Soft icing sugar mixture contains cornstarch, and apparently most of the icing sugar/powdered sugar in North America contains cornstarch (correct me if I'm wrong?). I still find the nacarons brown a bit too much on top though, so I tried reducing the amount of icing sugar and upping the almond meal – by 10g each. The macarons end up a bit too chewy, so don’t be tempted to do this.

PS - Voting is now open for Project Food Blog (see previous post on Satay Cupcakes). If you would like to vote (pretty please?), either click on the widget at the top left of my blog, or head over to this link. Thank You very much! (Voting closes Sept 23)

Satay cupcakes – want a piece of me? (Project Food Blog Challenge #1)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Yup, you read that right. These here are Satay flavoured cupcakes.

And right about now, you’re thinking, but “Why? Shaz, why?”

You can blame it on Project Food Blog. Consider these cakes the result of a gastronomic brain-storming session if you will.

See, I had to come up with a post that would define “me”, and my blog. What makes Test with Skewer tick? 

Well, figuring out what Test with Skewer was NOT, came very easily: I am not an expert, I am not a trained chef, I am not an aspiring cookbook author, and I am so definitely not elegant, nor do I take killer photos.

Then I remembered the reason I chose Test with Skewer as my blog name. Obviously, I love to bake, but the word “test” really sums up my attitude towards baking – an experimental, gung-ho, “I wonder what would happen if” sort of approach. When a recipe says something has to be done a certain way, I have to know “why”, and then I’ll probably try it with my own method anyway, hang the consequences.

Playing with food makes me happy, and writing posts to share with you gives me lots of joy. I hope they make you happy too. Laugh at me, laugh with me, it doesn’t matter. Just laugh.

And the type of food I make tends to reflect this. I want food that is good for sharing, food that surprises and inspires, and most of all, food that puts smiles on faces.

Which is how I ended up with these Satay Cupcakes. They’re quirky, playful, and inspired by the flavours of my Malaysian heritage ☺  Don’t worry, they’re not as odd as they sound. The cake part is flavoured with galangal, coconut milk and lemongrass. Then I added a smear of tumeric and cinnamon buttercream, and topped it all off with peanut marzipan.

And know what? It really does taste a little like satay. Surprise your friends, make some for them and watch their faces when you tell them what’s in it! Oh yes, I like a good joke too ☺

Satay cupcakes

(adapted from a recipe for Perfect Pound Cake by Rose Beranbaum. I’ve just rewritten the recipe to try and keep it short, I also use the weight measurements wherever possible)

(Infuse the coconut milk with the galangal a few hours ahead if possible)

3 tablespoons coconut milk (45g) – unsweetened, I used canned
3 large eggs (150g without shells)
1 ½ cups (150g) cake flour sifted (I used AP flour)
¾ cup sugar (150g) sugar (I used caster)
¾ teaspoon baking powder (3.7g)
pinch of salt
13 tablespoons (184g) butter (softened)
Thumb sized piece of galangal – peeled and sliced (sub with ginger if galangal is hard to find)

For lemongrass syrup:
1 stalk lemongrass (white part, bashed with back of knife)
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup water

Start by warming the coconut milk and the galangal together, I did this very quickly in the microwave. Leave the galangal pieces in the coconut milk, cover and leave in the fridge to infuse for a few hours or overnight. Galangal looks a bit like pink ginger and has a beautiful spicy-floral scent. It isn’t very strong, so the longer you leave it to infuse the better. My final cakes had only the faintest trace of galangal aroma.

  Fresh galangal(L) and fresh tumeric(R)

Strain the coconut milk, discard the galangal pieces and proceed with the recipe.

Preheat oven to 175˚C/350˚F.

Combine the coconut milk and eggs in a small bowl, I usually use a large measuring jug to help with pouring.

In a large mixing bowl, place all the dry ingredients, then mix on low speed for half a minute (I use electric handheld beaters) to aerate. Add the butter and half the milk mixture. Start beating on low speed, then increase speed to high and beat for about one and a half minutes.

Scrape down the sides and add ½ the remaining milk mixture. Beat until well combined, about half a minute or so. Then add the rest of the milk mixture and beat until combined.

Divide between cupcake cases and bake until golden. Because it is a pound cake, the tops will dome and split.

While the cakes are baking, stir the lemongrass, sugar and water over low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Simmer gently then turn off the heat and leave to infuse. Mixture will become syrupy upon cooling. Just before pulling the cakes out of the oven, warm up the lemongrass syrup if needed (to thin it down). Use a skewer to poke holes in the tops of the cupcakes when they come out of the oven, and carefully spoon the syrup over the top of the cakes. Remove from pan and leave to cool on a wire rack. Spoon a little more syrup over cakes if desired.

Decorate with tumeric icing and peanut marzipan. Allow the cupcakes rest a few hours before eating (I left mine overnight), to allow the flavours to blend together.

I made about 15 cupcakes and 12 mini cupcakes.

For the tumeric icing, I beat about 150g softened butter until light (a couple of minutes), then added sifted icing sugar (powdered sugar) until the desired consistency was reached. I used about 200g or so. Then I added some tumeric powder. Sometimes I find tumeric can taste a bit “musty” so I added a pinch of cinnamon to sweeten it.  I also added a teeny bit (about 1 tablespoon) of coconut milk to the icing. Adjust the amount of spices to suit your palate. Be careful, tumeric stains!
Actually, this made way more icing than I needed, so half this quantity would probably suffice.

For the peanut marzipan, I halved this recipe for a cooked marzipan, and replaced the ground almonds with ground peanuts, and I weighed out 30g of eggwhite. My peanuts weren’t as fine as could be (I’m not impressed with my food processor at the moment), but the resulting marzipan was so tasty I kept eating the offcuts. It rolled out really well too. Definitely a good recipe and one I’d use again.

 Peanut marzipan

So, you’ve stuck around this far, I’m guessing you’re really patient. Will you be kind enough to vote for me when the time is right? I’ll announce the voting requirements when I find out more.

(Edit: Voting is now open! You can vote for me either by clicking the Project Food Blog widget on the top left of my blog, or by heading to: this link. Your votes are greatly appreciated, thank you! Voting ends on September 23rd)

Till then, thanks for reading and enjoy the rest of the week ☺

Malaysian Monday 50: Oyster Omelette (Oh-Chien)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Happy Monday everyone.

Bit of a milestone today – my 50th Malaysian Monday post. Little did I think I’d have the energy or enthusiasm to get this far when I first started. And I certainly didn’t think that it would turn into a blog-event! Thank you so much for all your encouragement along the way.

Feeling a little celebratory, I thought I’d get some oysters. Just for me. Well, I would have shared them with Mr. Kitchen Hand, but he’s not here right now, and he also absolutely flat-out refuses to eat oysters. “You do know they’re filter feeders?,” he often likes to point out.

Why yes, yes I do.

In fact, my science brain and my food brain (ie. my stomach) had this conversation earlier today.

Science brainUm, you do remember all those uni. lectures involving heavy metal contamination and  shellfish, don’t you”
Food- brain “Shush!
Science-brain “And you do know you can’t just wash the contaminants off, because they’re like, inside”
Food-brain  - (sticks fingers in ears) “La la la la la”

No one ever accused my stomach of being mature.

Oysters there would be, and hang the consequences!

I wanted to recreate one of my favourite hawker stall (street vendor) dishes – the aforementioned omelette. If this sounds familiar, it’s one of the dishes I mentioned in my post about a hawker centre experience.

The end result was surprisingly close to the original. I say surprisingly because I had to do some substitution and wasn’t sure if it would work. The flavour was pretty spot on, but the texture wasn’t quite right (because of the substitution). The oyster omelette that I remember from my days in Malaysia, is a soft and eggy concoction with a slightly sticky, stretchy base, studded with juicy oysters. Mine turned out almost correct except for the sretchy base, I got some slightly sticky, chewy bits instead.

But it tasted wonderful and took hardly any time at all to prepare, so I’m calling it a success.

Makeshift Oyster Omelette
(inspired by this recipe by Amy Beh)

The recipe I based it on calls for sweet potato flour, which I couldn’t find, so I substituted with potato starch instead.

a) Half a dozen oysters
(I used the large Pacific Oysters). The recipe recommends soaking the oysters….what?!! Do not touch the oysters except to remove them from their shells and tipping them into a bowl with as much oyster-liquid as possible (watch out for grit).

b) 1 slightly heaped tablespoon potato starch (should actually be sweet potato flour)
(I just grabbed a dinner spoon out of the drawer and used that, not a proper tablespoon measure)
c) about 2 tablespoons water
d) pinch of salt

Mix the salt, starch and the water until a smooth mixture is obtained – looks a bit like thin milk.

e) 1 stalk green onion (also called scallions or eschalots)
f) 1 clove of garlic

g) 1 egg beaten, seasoned with a dash of light soy sauce.

h) About 1 tablespoon vegetable oil for frying.
i) Wedge of lime to serve.

Prepare everything and have it handy near the wok because once you start, everything needs to be done very, very quickly.

Slice the green onion into small rings, save some of the greener bits for garnish. Finely dice the garlic.

Heat  a wok over medium high heat, add the oil and swirl to coat. Stir the starch mixture again if it has settled. Pour the starch mixture into the hot wok and immediately add the egg. Give it a quick stir, then push it aside and add the onion and garlic. Stir-fry the onion and garlic for half a minute or so until it smells good, it doesn’t have to be cooked through. Add the oysters, and draw the egg back, giving it a little stir but be careful, do not work too vigorously, we’re not aiming for scrambled eggs.

It only requires very little cooking after the oysters have been added – the egg should be golden and the oysters should be heated through, that’s about it. Dish up, garnish with reserved green onions,  and serve with a wedge of lime and chilli sauce for dipping.

I’ll be sending this omelette to Nate and Annie from House of Annie, who are hosting this month’s Muhibbah Malaysian Monday round-up. Visit this link to submit your entries.

Have a great start to the week☺

36 Hour Cookies that pass the test

Friday, September 10, 2010

Phew! It’s been one of those “life-gets-in-the-way” sort of weeks. Nothing major, no dramas or upheavals, just a slightly busier than usual routine for us – which explains the lack of updates.

Turns out, these were the perfect cookies to make during busy times. The cookie dough needs to be refrigerated for at least 24 hours before baking, so you could whip up the dough one night and bake it the next or even the day after.

Apparently, resting the cookie dough does good things to it, as explained in this article. I’d first heard about the concept not too long ago, while reading this post on Tartelette’s blog (she’s done a gluten free version).

Of course, I wasn’t going to just take it at face value was I? I made the dough according to
the recipe
provided in the New York times, and baked batches at different time intervals just to see if there was any real discernible difference.

Note, I did make a couple of changes -  the recipe calls for a combination of bread flour and cake flour, but not having either of those on hand, I just used all purpose flour. The other item I substituted was plain old supermarket dark chocolate chips (called choc bits here) rather than the chocolate disks or Valrhona fèves recommended by the recipe.  I also made smaller tablespoon heaps of the cookies rather than the ice-cream scoop size recommended.

12 hour cookies

So, after 12 hours, we ended up with a slightly flattish cookie. The texture was very crisp on the outside edges, and nice and soft in the centre. We’re fans of the soft cookie. However, I could taste that slightly chemical soapy flavour from the baking soda, which I cannot stand.

After 24 hours, the flavour had mellowed more, no hint of the soapy taste, but I think I slightly overbaked this batch. The cookies were crisper throughout, and had only the teeniest hint of chewiness towards the centre of the cookie.

24 hour cookies

Then after 36 hours, and careful baking, we ended up with cookies that were crisp on the outside, very chewy in the middle and with a very mellow overall flavour. It wasn’t too sweet, and there was a pleasing richness to it.

Overall, we thought the texture of the first 12 hour ones were the best, but the flavour of the last won out. The cookies also tasted great even after 3 days storage. The texture held up surprisingly well too. Some other cookies I’ve made tend to go a bit “stale” after a couple of days.

The most interesting part of the whole experiment? It passed the MC Senior test! She refuses to eat most choc-chip cookies, but absolutely loved this lot. I don’t know if the pseudo-scientific experimentation intrigued her, or whether it was the slightly less sweet flavour that won her over.

 36 hour cookies

Definitely would make these again, but I would use huger chunks of good chocolate next time. I think the chocolate flavour would permeate the cookie better that way. And if I get the time, I might even go get the two different flours ☺

Have a great weekend!

Malaysian Monday 49: Starfruit Konnyaku Jelly (Jell-O)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Happy Monday everyone, hope you’ve had a great weekend.

I’ve got a couple of interesting things for you this Malaysian Monday, and they combine to make a very simple, refreshing dessert.

First up is a Starfruit, also known as Carambola, or Belimbing (in Malay). This tropical fruit is a childhood favourite. It’s an oddly shaped fruit with a waxy skin, and is usually sold when it’s green. This is the under-ripe form, when kept at room temperature it becomes yellowish-green, and then yellow with a tinge of orange through – getting softer and sweeter as it ripens. The fruit can be eaten at any stage, depending on your taste preferences. I like to eat the starfruit while it’s still greeny yellow because I like the crispness and the tart flavour. The fruit bruises quite easily when it’s ripe, and if not handled carefully, will end up with brown nicks and marks on the skin. It’s still perfectly edible.

The flavour is very tricky to describe because it’s so unique. It’s a little bit cool and refreshing like a cucumber, sort of sweet-tart like a green apple, and has a little bit of citrus, kiwifruit and pineapple flavour in there as well.

To serve starfruit, it’s really simple, wash and dry well and slice horizontally to show off the star-shape. Before slicing, we also like to run a vegetable peeler along each star ridge to get rid of the thick skin there, leaving the rest of the skin intact.

While checking out what Wikipedia had to say about this fruit, I found out that it contains a lot of oxalic acid and people with kidney ailments have to be wary of eating it. Starfruit can also interfere with some medication.

Next up, we have some konnyaku jelly powder. I don’t remember seeing this when I was growing up, we ate a lot of agar-agar instead. However, on our recent visit to Malaysia, “konnyaku” was all the rage, there were sweet jelly(jell-o) versions, and savoury noodle versions. These noodles are the so called “miracle” zero-carb noodles you may have seen advertised on the interwebs. The sweet jelly has a really interesting texture, a little bit chewy and firm, while still being jellyish.

I was really intrigued by Konnyaku, and some quick research (aka Wikipedia) showed that Konnyaku is the japanese variation for Konjac, which is a plant of the genus Amorphophallus . And if you check out that stub, you’ll find that the word Amorpho is ancient greek for without form/misshapen and we all know what phallus means ;P. My, the things we learn without even trying!

I had a couple of different packets of konnyaku powder to try, one contained pre-mixed sugar and I used this packet first as I want to experiment further with the other ones. The ingredient list on the premixed packet read : sugar, jelly powder, malic acid, but I think it wasn’t complete.

When I checked the other packets, from a different brand, they read: Carrageenan, Vegetable Gum, Konnyaku Powder. More and more interesting! I knew that Carageenan is derived from red algae, and I always assumed it was similar to agar-agar.  Apparently not. For the science geeks : “Its major differences from carrageenans are the presence of L-3,6-anhydro-α-galactopyranose rather than D-3,6-anhydro-α-galactopyranose units and the lack of sulfate groups.”

I peeled this off the side of the pan after I'd made the jelly. It's stretchy!

Anyhoo, I made some jelly, and popped some starfruit in. Very pretty, and I love the texture. Be careful though, it doesn’t dissolve on the tongue like gelatin and can be a choking hazard for kids.

To make konnyaku jelly, it’s pretty simple. Just follow the steps on the packet which involved boiling water and adding the contents of the packet, plus a drop or two of essence for flavour. I added some orange blossome water. I set them in a muffin tray, and unlike gelatin, they set at room temperature, and very, very quickly in the fridge. Best served chilled.

And guess what? We have a new host for Muhibbah Malaysian Monday #3. Nate and Annie from House of Annie have voluteerd to host for the month of September. To submit your entry, visit this link on their site, they’ve set up a simple form (how organised!) that you can use.

Sorry for the extremely lengthy post, have a great start to the week. Oh, and to my Malaysian friends who will be celebrating Hari Raya, "Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri!"