Saturday, July 30, 2011

Singapore Chilli Prawn

To get my mind off things that might trigger another ''I-have-to-have-that-lust''.( No ,I'm not talking about shoes anymore!) I deliberately stayed out of the kitchen and end up cleaning the house instead . Hurrah! FF's going to be happy when he gets home, for once .I spent the rest of the aftenoon rearranging photo albums and looking at  pictures . Then, I found the album of our  previous Singapore holiday and guess what, the sudden creeping, conniving craving  takes over!  I gave in and started digging out our pantry for things I need for a recipe. Damn! I have to have Singapore Chilli Crab today! Off I went to the biggest shop and pray to  Poseidon to grant me some must needed crustaceans. Oho! The god of the marine world showed no mercy,  no fresh crabs for you Emily, I could almost hear him bubble merrily under the sea.   Sometimes when it rains, it pours. I went to three different grocery shops driving like a woman possessed but I could not find any chillies too. Singapore Chilli Crab without crabs and worst without chillies! Blasphemy!

Along with Hainanese chicken, chili crab is one of Singapore's signature dish. Knowing how much pride and devotion Singaporeans have to these dish, I am a bit apprehensive to show this crabless, chilli-less version . I don't want to bastardize this national dish so please excuse me. Here's my poor imitation of Singapore's much revered specialty, using prawns. I simply have to have this dish today.

       Step 1: Make the Chilli sauce

Mix together 1 cup of tomato sauce or tomato ketchup , 3 tbsp. sweet thai chilli sauce ( there goes my chillies!), 1 cup water, lemon juice from 1 lemon, 1 tbsp. brown sugar, few drops of sesame oil and 1 finely chopped seeded chillie peppers if you have. I added 1 tsp. of chili flakes instead. Mix everything together, if you want more fire in it, add more spicy agents. Chillies or chilli flakes. Set aside if you have achieved your preferred taste. It has to be sweet, soury and spicy.

Step 2. Cook everything

Sweat the aromatics. Heat few tbsp. or oil in a wok, sautee 1 medium sized onion, finely chopped until translucent.Add in 3 finely chopped garlic cloves a 1 thumbsized ginger root, also finely chopped. Add in 1 seeded and chopped chilli or 1 tsp. of chilli flakes.

Stir in fresh shrimps. Season with salt and pepper. Stir until prawn turns paprika red. Takes only few minutes.

Add in the chilli sauce. Bring to a boil, covered. The sauce thickens as it cooks. If sauce appears too watery or runny , dissolve 1 tsp. of cornstarch in  3 tbsp. of water and stir in until you achieve the consistency that you want. Season again with salt and pepper if necessary.

Turn the heat off. Beat one egg and the add beaten egg into the pan. Let it set for 30 seconds without stirring then gently fold everything together and tadaaaaah!

Singapore Chilli Prawn in 10 minutes!

Singapore Chilli Crab is usually eaten with fried Mantou buns. A dough that could be steamed and fried which is used an err utensil for scooping up the sauces and cleaning up  one's plate from savory greases. Since finding fried mantou in our local grocery is a common as finding a mud crab in the stream beside our  house. I end up buying pretzel bun instead.

Well, what do yah know, it's perfect for scooping too!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Paella Valenciana my way....

Paella  ( Pa-eya) is named after the pan in which is it cooked. Technically, my version is anything but authentic since I haven't got a paella pan to begin with.I used the biggest pan that I have which happens to be thick and non-stick. (Boooooh!) An absolute no go for paella purist and  could lead any sensible Spanish into a cursing fit. However, perfecting a dish depend on the person who is cooking it, if one  has an undeniable affection for the dish itself,for its  tradition, for the process of making it, and for the people who will be eating it,then it is   what matters most. It also helped that I married a German. (^_^).

The paella pans are usually roundish with loop handles on the side, shallow with thin layer of conductice metal  ( plain or enameled  steel). The size of the pan varies. It could be small to feed one person or  big enough serve the  entire village on paella fiestas.

Men, their paddled paella and whirlpool sized pan.

 Most  importantly   paella pans must be wide enough which would allow rice to spread thinly at the bottom of the pan creating a socarrat. A socarrat is the crusty, caramelized rice that  stick at the base of the pan. Tutong as we Filipinos calls it. My granny's favorite snack if I may add.

Original Valencian Paella uses chicken and rabbit meat and in which different kinds of  beans were added . On the mediterranean coast however , seafood replaces the meat since these were rather a plenty ,thus creating Paella Marinara or paella de marisco. Paella Mixta on the other hand is the combination of both.  The way how a paella is cooked also differs and each claimed to yield a perfect result. Here's how I did mine.I still have a long way to go and I watched  and  yes I still am willing to learn.

Paella Valencian ala Emily

Step 1. The initial saute

Heat few tablespoon of olive oil into your pan. If you are lucky enough to have a paella pan then hurrah! Into it goes the meat. I cut 400 g of chicken breast into portions. To be honest I was quite curious how rabbit meat taste like, but the last bunny I saw was still furry ( snowy white at that), hopping and eating carrots sticks  at FF's cousin's  house so I'll  pass on rabbit protein ...for now. Brown meat then season with salt and pepper. Take out from the pan and set aside.

Step 2: Make Sofrito

In same pan, I made the sofrito. Sofrito consists of  garlic, onion and tomatoes cooked in olive oil, and is used as the base for many dishes such as paella.It could vary in each region in Spain and latin America. Additional vegetables, herbs and spices could be added into it depending on one's preferenc and dish. In my paella recipe, I sautee one  finely chopped onion until translucent. Then added 3 cloves of crushed garlic and 2 large chopped tomatoes. Set the heat to medium and let the vegetable cook until mushy. Takes about 8 minutes. I then added 2 red bell peppers,  cubed and saute it for a minute.

Step 3: Add the liquid

I poured 1.5 liter of warm chicken stock into the pan. Bring the liquid into a boil then put the chicken meat back into the pan. Simmer under medium low heat for 15 mintues, covered. Add in a pinch of saffron dissolved in water. Saffron  contributes color as well as a subtle background flavor to the rice. Annatto seeds is a widely used  substitute for saffron back in my homeland. A cheap and efficient alternative. I also added powedered paprika and chili flakes.Turmeric could be another spice you could use.Season with salt and pepper. Add 500 g of paella rice. Cook al dente without stirring. Takes about 20 minutes.

The third step may differ. Some recipes require stocks and liquid  to be added into the sofrito ensuring a rich broth before adding the rice. Others claim that sauteeing the rice in sofrito renders a more flavouful grains and naturally more delicious paella. Again, it's a  matter of choice. 

Step 4: Add the seafoods

Arrange seafood on top of the simmering rice about 5 minutes before it is fully cooked. I wish I could have more choices here like clams, crabs or any fresh crustaceans but alas, the place I live takes pride in its vast array of cheese and sausages but not fresh fruit of the sea. I was lucky to find some nice fat king prawns  and a thick slab of cod fish ( 300 g) which I seasoned with salt and pepper and cutted into cubes. I would have loved to use some mussels but I could not find any. Well one can't have everything I guess.

To give a nice contrasting color, a cup of peas was added into the pan. I totally skipped beans, I do tend to have a rather windy reaction to it. (^_^)

Serve straight from the pan and it's almost as authentic as the one made in Valencia! More paella por favor!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Caramel Popcorn and Movie Marathon, my answer to varicose problems.

After more than a week of stress filled shifts with me being on my feet most of the time, I finally got a few days off. A much deserved and revered break for my dilated and growing leg veins. My almost smoking heels need cooling off and a day on the couch with legs raised up is just the way to do it. Coach potato for a day and proud of it!

Me,  35 err  20 no  17 I mean 10   ok 3 years from now.Thanks Ren Ren for reminding me!You seemed to forget foot calluses from hours and hours of walking .

Now, a movie marathon is a good excuse to do...nothing. And when somebody says ''movie'', naturally popcorn echoes back in answer . But since I have all the time in the world...again,  I'm not settling in for a mere microwave popped corns. I'm thinking about something more calorie laden than that. Let's talk about butter and sugar and nuts and things that aren't good for you when taken in excess but we love anyway. So let have some  of it now, shall we?

Step 1. Make the pop corn

Yeeeees that's butter with capital letter B and we are having enough of it in this recipe. Fill your pan/pot with 2 tablespoon of butter  and a bit of oil . Add in about 300 g of popcorn kernels. Do it in batches if you are using a narrow pan. Just make sure each kernel touches the bottom of the pan. Cover but not seal completely to allow moisture to excape. Ok, am I explaining too much? I guess anybody who can tie his shoelace knows how to make some popcorns!( What am I thinking? Excuse me as I burry myself in it....)Transfer popcorn in a big mixing bowl when you survive this  step.

Step 2. Make the caramel sauce

Heat  250 g of butter in a saucepan and add in 400 g of brown sugar and 125 ml corn  syrup until bubbly, stirring constantly. Let the fat and sugar bubble merrily for 5 minutes without stirring. Add in 1 teaspoon of vanilla paste. Take out from the heat and add in 1 teaspoon of baking soda. Be careful, the soda causes caramel to double its volume and become vigorously foamy. That's blisters and burns waiting to happen.

Step 3: Combine everything

Stir 1 can of salted toasted peanuts ( optional and you can use other toasted nuts too). Pour  caramel over the popped corns and toss everything using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until popped corns  are well coated with that gooey caramel goodness. Line baking pans with baking paper or aluminium foil. Tranfer caramel popcorns into it and:



And spread some more. Bake popcorns at 120 °c for one hour , stirring every 15 minutes.
Take out from the heat. Hold back for a while and let it cool off for a couple of minutes and break apart into clusters. Store in an air tight container. It could stay crunchy for up to 10 days.....or not. By the time I'm done with Ip Man 1, the popcorn bucket was already half empty.

Donnie Yen's  furious fist was almost a blur, his lightning speed  is astonishing. Our living room was filled with the sound of his punches..

Donnie Yen: Kachaaa! Chatachaktaktaktak chakchak chak!
Me: Crunch! Crunch! Crunch! Crunch! Crunch! Crrrunch!

We are now officially an item......I mean the popcorn and I.

My preciouuuuuuuuuusssss!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tuna Lasagne

A recipe that would certainly make Garfield happy. It's cheap, it's easy and it's delicious . You need no paw to like this too. Just make sure you cook enough of  to avoid any cat fight at the table.Okeeey I'm overreacting, too much tomatoes and tuna flake are invading my system right now, it simply has to get out. So grab your pans cause we're making some yummy lasagne!

Tunalicious Lasagne ala Emily

Step 1: Make the Tuna and Tomato sauce

Put 4 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan, heat under medium heat. Add in medium size chopped onion, sautee until translucent. Add in 2 cloves of crushed garlic and cook until aromatic. If I were Italian, I bet I will be hearing ''Mio Dio! or  Mama Mia'' and get pitted olives throwns at me for using canned or packed tomatoes in a pasta dish. But then, I like to make things easy so instead of having fresh tomatoes , I  settled for a mass produced chopped tomatoes----in a pack. Practical and efficient. Add in 2 packs ( about 400 g each) of chopped tomatoes into the sauteed onion and garlic. Stir in a handful of chopped oregano, thymes, basil and throw in 2 bay leaves. Add a tablespoon of white sugar and season well with salt in pepper. Stir in 3 cans of tuna in oil (drained) and take the sauce out from the heat.

Step 2: Make the Bechamel sauce

Bechamel sauce is a white sauce used in many French cuisine  as well as  in some Italian dishes such as lasagne. To make this basic white sauce, you need to make a roux. A what? A roux doesn't have fangs , breathe fire or walk on 8 legs, sidewards.It is  a cooked mixture of flour and fat ,usually butter. The thickness of this  sauce depends on the ratio of flour and butter.  Roux is traditionally equal parts of butter and flour but you can add more butter if you want your sauce to have a richer flavour. Under medium heat, heat 80 g of butter until melted, add in 50 g of flour and stir well. The roux will be rendering a freshly baked bread aroma after a minute or two. Add in 750 ml of warm milk while stirring constantly. The sauce thickens as it cooks. Season well with salt and pepper, add in about 50 g of grated parmesan cheese and take it out from the heat.

Step 3: Assemble the Lasagne

Spoon enough tuna sauce to cover the bottom of you casserole dish or baking pan. Cover the tuna sauce with lasagne sheets.  Some lasagne requires precooking. The one I used however don't have to be preboiled. Spread some bechamel sauce over the lasagne and cover it with thinly sliced mozzarella. I used about 4 mozarella balls in this recipe. You can use shredded melty cheese as well. Repeat this process until all the ingredients are used up. The last layer has to be the bechamel sauce. It will crisp up as it bakes. Sprinkle  50 g of shredded parmesan cheese. Bake lasagne at 180 °c for about 35 to 40 minutes or until the bechamel sauce turns golden brown and bubbly at the edges.

Serve pipping hot with green salad ( I know! I know!) and crusty garlic bread.

Come to mama!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

Another delicious and easy to make cake that pairs wonderfully well with morning coffee or afternoon tea. I might not be a fan of drinking both but it did not stop me from enjoying this cake. This ring shaped cake with distinctive ridges is typically  German. In some parts of Germany as well as Austria, such cakes are often called Gugelhupf from the German word Kugel (which means globe or ball) and Hupf (action word which means to hop) and is a reference to the cake surface going up while being baked. This is cake is versatile and there are many different recipes out there , from chocolate based, nut and alcohol based to more  refreshing and fruity versions. Here's just one of them.

Butter a bundt cake pan well, sprinkle with breadcrumbs to avoid cake from sticking when baked.
In mixing bowl, cream 250 g of softened butter and  250 g sugar until pale and thick. Beat in 6 eggs one at a time until sugar is thoroughly dissolved.

Mix 500 g of flour ,2 tablespoon of baking powder and a pinch of salt together. Sieve half of the flour mixture over the butter and egg mixture. Add in about 4 tablespoon of milk and fold everything together using a rubber spatula. Repeat until all the flour is used up and add spoonfuls of milk if cake batter is too dry.Do not overbeat. Add extra flavor booster. I added a spoonful of rum. You can use Bourbon or liqueur of your preference or you could also completely omit the spirits .Add in a cup of chocolate chips or  chopped pecan nuts or candied fruit if you want. Transfer batter into the bundt pan .

Bake cake at a preheated oven  at 180°c for 50 to 60 minutes until cake is done. ( To test it, insert a toothpick into the cake and if it comes out clean, then it is ready.) Take the cake out from the oven, let it cool in the pan  for about 10  mintues and invert the cake carefully into a rack. It could be serve at it is but it would taste even better if glazed. I used vanilla flavoured glaze which i poped into the microwave for 2 minutes until it reached a spreadable consistency.

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