Sunday, 28 September 2014

Stout and second chances...




Life is full of second chances.
It's been a little crazy lately. I didn't mean to take a break from the blog over the summer, but so many changes were taking place that I thought it'd be best to just take a step back from writing and focus on what was going on. One of the major changes that has happened is that I've had to change my degree pathway from a Bsc. Psychology, to Bsc. Biology. Well...I say 'had to' but honestly? It's working out better than I ever imagined it would.

Doing biology has been one surprise after another. The most basic one? that I actually do enjoy it. Looking back, I probably didn't hate the subject so much in first and second year. More like... I deemed it unnecessary? Because this wasn't what I planned to do with my life! I didn't plan on actually wanting to study about how bees pollinate flowers. I was supposed to be on my way to getting a psychology degree and helping children from troubled homes. I've been raised with the idea that I would choose to do something in university and that would determine the course of my entire life. Literally. Dad has been in medicine practically his whole life, starting off as a medical student and staying a doctor till this day. Mum went to nursing school, and while she's not a nurse anymore she still works in hospitals. Hell, up till about last year, she was still working in the same hospital that trained her all those years ago. At the time, doing Psychology seemed like the most sensible choice...but now I'm not so sure.

But anyways, giving Biology a second chance has been the most amazing thing that has happened to me in a while. I'm enjoying my classes, I've made new friends and rediscovered old ones and this year is really setting off with a bang. I'm not sure what this second chance in bio is going to lead to, but I hope it ends up the same way as my second chance with stout.


Dad first gave me a swig of stout when I was 16 and I ABSOLUTELY hated the stuff. Thought it was horrible and bitter...couldn't understand why anyone would like to drink it. Vowed I would never touch the stuff again. Well, I found this recipe in a cake chart being sold at the center where I did a biology field course just before classes started again this year. Saw the recipe, went meh, and left it forgotten in my bag till this week.

So I just turned in the lab report on Friday that I had to do for that course, and surprise, surprise found the cake chart I had bought in my bag. Open to the chocolate stout cake recipe. Well guess what? I'm a girl who knows a sign when she sees one. Hightailed it over to the St. Andrews Brewing Company and got myself a bottle of their oatmeal stout.

Ok...not gonna lie I haven't fallen madly in love with stout. But I'm not as repulsed by it as I was when I was 16. In fact it tasted pretty good. No where near as bitter as my first one was, very smooth and rounded. And in this cake? It works miracles. Thanks to the stout what would normally be a regular chocolate sponge becomes moist, and dense and very, very moreish. But at the same time it's light enough that you could comfortably eat a second slice without feeling too bloated.

And so I leave you with this recipe in good faith of second chances. However the cards may fall, I wish your tough decisions end like so; in acceptance, stout, and above all, chocolate.



Chocolate stout cake*
*The recipe for the cake comes by way of the Field Studies Council 70th anniversary cake chart. All proceeds from this recipe chart go towards the FSC Kids Fund, which provides financial support for groups of disadvantaged young people who would like to visit one of their centers for an FSC experience.

Cake
- 100g soft butter
- 250g dark soft brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 150g a.p. flour
- 1/4tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 50g cocoa powder
- 200ml stout

+ Preheat your oven to 180'C (160'C for a fan oven). Grease and line 2 20cm round cake tins.
+ Cream the butter and sugar together, then gradually mix in the beaten eggs.
+ Sift in the flour, baking powder, bicarb and cocoa in then fold through. Stir in the stout, and mix till well combined.
+ Divide between the two baking tins, and bake for 35 minutes, or till cake tester comes out clean from center. Allow to cool on wire rack for 10 minutes. Then unmould from baking tin and allow to cool completely.

Marscapone Cream
- 250g marscapone cheese
- 1/3 cup double cream
- 1/3 cup icing sugar.
- 1/2 punnet of raspberries
- grated chocolate
+ Beat together the cheese, double cream and icing sugar till nice and thick.

To assemble
- Put down a layer of cake and top with 2/3 of the marscapone cream. Dot the raspberries over that layer, reserving the prettiest one as a topping. Cover with the second layer of cake and pipe the remaining marscapone cream on top. Finish with a raspberry in the center, and chocolate shavings.



















Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Soul food...




Someone please put an end to my torment. Why do we have exams? Why? I am not going to be a doctor. My line of work is not going to need me to make split second decisions on someone's life. I'm assuming as a psychologist I will have the luxury to let the patient leave, then calmly consult my copy of the DSM-IV-TR (whichever edition it will be in) and determine "hmm...yes...schizophrenia it is..."

Elisa has done nothing but laugh at me this past week, simply because I've been watching John Bluth's Thumbelina on repeat and listening to the Roger and Hammerstein's Cinderella musical soundtrack (ahem, Santino Fontano? Paolo Montalban? Please fall in love with me?) from dawn to dusk. And you know what I have HAD IT. Where is my prince charming? Is my fairy prince lost? Normally I rescue myself with chocolate, but I need reinforcements for the exam diet. If anyone can look you in the eye and say that they sincerely do not want a fairy prince to take them on a magical bumblebee joy ride so they don't have to study, then they are LIARS.


Ah well...ranting and fantasy aside, what I say is true. My body is weak and my soul is TIRED. And assuming you're in the same place, this recipe will help. Mushroom soup is is the elixir of life. It has the power to calm the body and soothe the soul. This version is very chunky, and you get nice chunks of mushroom throughout, held together by a thin rich broth. Use any mushrooms you'd like. Well...ok, please don;t use button mushrooms if you can help it. They're sad sad little things with basically no flavour. Much like students during finals week.






Mushroom soup

~ 1 Tbsp butter
~ 1 Tbsp olive oil
~ 2 cloves garlic, minced
~ 1/4 diced sweet onion
10-12 mushrooms of your choosing, cut into rough 1cm bits.
~ 1/2 cup chicken stock
~ 1/2 cup milk
~ salt, black pepper and smoked paprika to season
~ a handful of chopped chives.



+ In a small pot, melt the butter and olive oil together, then use it to fry the onion and garlic till fragrant.
+ Add the mushrooms, and let them sweat for a little bit. They'll soften up and go nice and tender. Season with some salt and smoked paprika.
+ Add your chicken stock and milk, simmer till the soup is as thick as you would like it to be. At the last minute, toss in your chives. Sprinkle over some black pepper for a little extra kick.


Alright guys, this recipe is my exam week present to you. Take a break, stretch your back and make it for yourself. Mop the bowl with some bread and feel your body slowly come back to life.
Remember, you are going to be absolutely fine. You have done as well as you possibly can and no one can ask for more than your best.

Good luck!


Friday, 2 May 2014

Sweet finishings...

                                          

Revision week is upon us, and as usual all I can do is watch Anthony Bourdain wax lyrical about the food I have left behind. I really need to force myself to start thinking about Comp Phys and Psychology instead of Nirwana Maju banana leaf...but I'll just watch one more curry laksa video...just ONE more..

Anyways, before the sadness of revision week set in I had two lovely people come over for dinner. Ben and Jen helped me so much during Flavours of Malaysia and were such an integral part of the night. Problem is Flavours turned out to be a bigger success than we expected it to be, and because Ben and Jen were helping two of our volunteers by the time they got to the hall all the food was gone. That dinner was my way of saying thank you for being there every step of the way, especially when it came to bargaining for ingredients in Dundee.


I'd already decided on a chicken rendang and briyani for the main meal, but dessert was proving to be a challenge. Sago Gula Melaka would've been the perfect end to such a heavy meal, but I was a little low on the sago front. Making a cake would've been too involved, and also very heavy. It got to the point where I was almost resigned to sending them home without dessert when one of those beautiful flashes of inspiration hit me in the face. I had strawberries.

So, this Strawberry Sago dessert was born and by God did it go down well. Not too sweet and very refreshing it was almost a... Malaysian take of strawberries and cream if you will. To keep it nice and chilled we use frozen berries instead of ice cubes so the whole thing doesn't get watered down. It also adds a very nice texture, and if you use clear bowls you'll get to see the ruby red crumble peaking out between layers of smooth smooth coconut cream and sago. I have to say though, you could probably do this with any berries. The key to making this dessert lies in using pandan leaves. Without them the sago loses some sparkle and the coconut cream is not half as fragrant. Any Asian supermarket should carry them, or if you plan ahead, I'm fairly sure you can get them from Amazon.



Ben was nice enough to come by a little early to take all these beautiful photographs you see today. He and Jen came bearing a veggie and pork stir fry and some dim sum. And believe you me, we FEASTED.



Strawberry Sago
Serves 4

+ 1 punnet strawberries
+ 1/4 cup sago pearls (the small ones)
+ 1/2 can thick coconut milk (about 200ml)
+ 3 pandan leaves
+ 1/4 cup sugar
+ 1/4 cup water
+ The juice of 1/2 a lime
+ salt

~ Wash the strawberries and hull them. Choose 4 of the prettiest ones and set aside for garnishing. Cut the rest up into smaller pieces, wrap in foil and freeze for at least 2 hours. 


~ Wash the sago pearls and soak them for 30 minutes. Place in a saucepan with a pinch of salt, 2 knotted pandan leaves, and plenty of water, then boil till translucent. Strain, then pour into a lightly oiled container and place in the fridge to set and chill.

~ Don't forget to stir the can of coconut milk before pouring out! The really thick cream would have floated to the top and set. Pour the coconut milk into a saucepan with the remaining pandan leaf knotted up and a pinch of salt. Set on a low heat. Be careful here guys... coconut milk is very prone to separating on high heat. You want that in a rendang, but not a dessert. Heat the milk till steam starts to rise off the top, then immediately take off the heat and allow the pandan to really infuse it's scent and flavour. Pour into a jug, keep the pandan leaf in there and set in the fridge to really chill.

~ Melt the water and sugar together to make a simple syrup. When all the sugar has dissolved, take off the heat and squeeze in the fresh lime juice. You shouldn't add it at the beginning because lime juice can get bitter when it's been heated too high. Once again, when cool to touch place in the fridge to completely chill.


~ Now, when you're ready to serve take the strawberries out of the freezer and mince em' up in a food processor with a little bit of the lime syrup. Remove the pandan leaf from the coconut milk, and mix in your chilled sago. Layer the dessert up, starting with the frozen strawberry mixture, then the coconut-sago mix. You should have 4 layers, ending with a coconut-sago layer. Garnish with the strawberries you set aside earlier and a drizzle of the lime syrup. Serve up more on the side for those guests with a sweet tooth (I'm looking at you, Ben :p)

And that's that! Good luck for finals week everyone. Don't forget to treat yourself and be kind to your body. It'll be summer soon!!


Friday, 11 April 2014

Banananananana....


WHERE DID THE SEMESTER GO???
Seriously guys, this is ridiculous. I could've sworn I started second year just last week. How are we a month away from the summer holidays? How? This is outrageous. Unthinkable. WHAT EVEN?

It's times like these that really frighten me...cause so much has gone past and it really feels like I've barely accomplished anything. Well...maybe a few things. I'm slowly starting to branch out and figure out my own recipes for one thing. It's exciting and wonderful and quite the adventure I must say. Eventhough most times it's less about figuring out the right ingredient ratio and more about working around what I have left in my pantry.


This banana bread was something I've wanted to make for a while. It's very moist and full of rich bananana flavour. A lot of that will depend on how ripe your bananas are. You really need to let them go as spotty and black as you possibly can. Not like the ones in the first picture. I had to wait a couple of days for them to be really ready.  Overripe is the only way to go here. If they reach that perfect all-black stage but you haven't got time to turn them into banana bread, just bung them in the freezer, and defrost when you're ready.


Chocolate chunk banana bread. 
- 2 large VERY ripe bananas
- 1 tsp honey
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1/4 cup of 1 part vegetable oil and 1 part melted butter (I'm sorry, I know that sounds super weird but that's how it gets so moist without tasting oily)
- 1/4 cup yogurt
- 1 egg
- 1 cup flour
- 1/4tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 150g semi-sweet chocolate, cut up into chunks

+ Preheat oven to 180'C
+ Mash the bananas with the honey and vanilla. Beat in the yogurt, oil, butter and egg.


+ Shift in the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Stir until just combined.
+ Stir chocolate chunks through batter.
+ Pour batter into well buttered loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes or until cake tester in center comes out clean.
+ Let cool in pan for 5 minutes, before turning out onto wire rack to cool completely.

Before we go, wanna see my beautiful Flavours of Malaysia profile picture?

Wanna know what Flavours of Malaysia is? Just click here!! -->

Friday, 4 April 2014

I say tomato you say...

In case you haven't realised by now, food makes me very happy. It's gotten worse since coming to university... my day can go from shit to glorious under 5 minutes if I find some nice strawberries or an unusual pasta. Or in this case...some beautiful tomatoes.



I mean look at them! Are they not the most beautiful vine tomatoes you've ever seen?? I normally don't even like tomatoes but I saw these sitting on display all ruby and beautiful and I just HAD to get them. And boy am I glad I did. These tasted amazing. Really sweet and..well...tomatoey? You know what I mean right? When you buy not-so-nice tomatoes and all they taste of is water? It wasn't a case at all for these. I could've eaten them raw...which I didn't.

I haven't gotten that emotional over vegetables yet. :p



This dish was something I saw on a Jamie Oliver show. It's crazy easy, and suits whether you're feeding just yourself or a crowd. Imagine if you will, taking this dish steaming out, straight from oven to table. Plonk a fresh baguette on the table and let everyone just dig in together with their hands. Or toss in some pasta and devour when it's cold and rainy outside.

Rather than give you a set recipe, I'll type out rough proportions so you can scale up or down as necessary. Unexpected guests you need to impress? You can have this on the table in 45 minutes WITHOUT slaving over a hot stove.



Oven Roasted Tomatoes and Sausages
- Enough vine tomatoes to cover the bottom of your baking dish when halved.
- 1 clove of garlic for every 2 sausages
- oregano
- salt
- sugar (if your tomatoes need a little brightening up)
- Olive oil
- 2-3 sausages per person

+ preheat oven to 190'C

+ Wash the tomatoes and halve them. Arrange them in a baking dish so they are (mostly) cut side up. Roughly chop garlic and add to baking pan. Season with oregano, salt and if needed, sugar. Drizzle a healthy dose of olive oil over the tomatoes and toss to combine. Rearrange tomatoes cut side up if necessary.


+ Prick sausages once so they don't explode in the oven. Arrange them over the top of the tomatoes. Bake for 45 minutes, turning the sausages halfway so they brown on all sides. When turning the sausages you might want to drain away some of the fat from the pan, quite a lot comes out of the sausages.

+ Enjoy with warm crusty bread or hot pasta. Or both! :)

p.s- leftovers from this are great! Imagine the pasta bake that would come out of this...


Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Altnaharrie Fruit Butter...

 

It's been a little over a week since I got back from Blenheim. Of course classes have picked up full swing, what with the exams being just over a month away. Flavours of Malaysia is coming up very soon as well, so everyone on the committee is getting ready to release some yummy Malaysian goodness over the town!! :3
 


Needless to say...the stress is building up a little. I find myself constantly in one of those there's-too-much-to-do-so-I'll-do-nothing-at-all type moods, and it doesn't help that I've just found the first 2 seasons of Ugly Betty on Netflix. Somebody give me a shock I need to get out from under my duvet and get my life back on track!!


Sometimes I find myself drifting back to Altnaharrie...long days  spent in that sun flooded conservatory...watching horses and pheasants in the field...strolling to the village co-op to pick up supplies for dinner (which led to a fair bit of improvising on my part, the co-op wasn't exactly well stocked) and most of all to the little kitchen. I spent a week of blissfully sunny days overlooking the garden cooking up little things with too much butter and not enough vegetables. This fruit butter was one of the first things I made there. It was made to fill a Victoria sponge, but there was soo much extra I had it with my granola and yogurt for the rest of the week. Lesley enjoyed it soo much that I made another batch before I left for her to have for brekkie too. :) It's one of those things you just throw together and let blip away on the stove while you have a long, leisurely breakfast. Simple, and delicious.

 


Altnaharrie Fruit Butter
- 200g strawberries
- 2 satsumas
- 2-3 Tbsp sugar ( I used Lesley's homemade vanilla sugar. Adjust according to how sweet your fruits are)

+ Wash, hull and cut your strawberries into halves. Peel the satsumas and cut off the whitish membrane that surrounds each segment. Try to conserve as much juice as possible while doing this.
+ Mix everything together in a medium saucepan and set on the lowest heat setting you can turn your stove to. Leave to cook, stirring occasionally for 45 minutes or until thick and jammy.
+ Allow to cool, then bottle up in a clean jar. Keep refrigerated. Goes great on yogurt, toast, pancakes and in sponge cakes.

Till next time! :)

Monday, 17 March 2014

Blogging from a train to Blenheim...

SPRING BREAK IS HERE LADIES AND GENTLEMEN. I’m heading down south (I think?) to stay with mum’s penpal. It’s a little sad outside…very grey and gloomy. But BBC weather says that it’s going to be nice and warm in Croughton so I’m not complaining. J It’s not quite going to be a wild spring break in Cabo (Although seeing the chickens wandering around in bikinis is a pleasant thought) but I’m really excited. The last time I saw Lesley was when I first arrived in the UK, and I’ve been dying to go back to her beautiful house ever since.

Despite their protests, I’ve promised to cook for my keep which I’m really looking forward to. To be completely honest I’ve kinda lost a bit of my cooking kick this semester. Too much going on, too many deadlines… a change of scenery is just what I need to get back into gear. The train ride has given me a chance to start planning menus in my head. I know I want to do spatchcock chicken at some point and I’ve brought curry powder for an Indian night, but the rest is pretty much up in the air. Shall I do the roast pork belly again you think? Or maybe dumplings? And what about something new? Puddings? The brain in pulsing with new recipe possibilities and I’m glad. It hasn’t had a chance to do that in a while.

Speaking of cooking (not that I ever talk about anything else), Fiona decided on Saturday night to show Eli and I what a proper British roast dinner was like. On a crazy whim we got into her car for an adventure!
 (When I say ‘adventure’, I mean a chicken run to Morrisons, with a stop at Sally’s quad to steal some rosemary)



Anyways I volunteered to make a lemon raspberry tart for pudding. And this is a recipe I really wanna share because it’s so simple to throw together. It’s the sort of thing that looks very glamorous but literally takes minutes to put together on your part. And it all boils down to a little bit of cheating (i.e-using a pre-made shortcrust tart shell).

Now don’t get huffy. When your counter is covered in potato peelings, oil spills and raw chicken sometimes a pre-made crust is what pulls you back from the brink of dinner party insanity. And no one will honestly be able to tell the difference. Once you pop the shell on a baking tray, all that’s left for you to do is whisk up the fabulously lemony filling, pour it in and bake.



Lemon Rasberry Tart
-         -  One 20cm premade shortcrust pastry shell. (be careful to choose one that isn’t cracked or broken)
-          - 2 whole eggs
-          - 2 egg yolks
-          - ½ cup castor sugar
-          - ¼ cup flour
-          - The juice of 2 ½ lemons (Quick tip: rolling the uncut lemon on the counter before squeezing will give you the most juice with minimal effort)
-          - 1 small punnet of raspberries.
-          - Icing sugar and double cream to serve.




+ Preheat your oven to 180’C
+ Put the tart shell on a baking sheet with some parchment paper underneath.
+Whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, castor sugar and flour. Then add the lemon juice and mix well.
+ OK, so you’re going to want to put your pastry case in the oven and then carefully pour in the lemon filling. I poured it in first and carried the lot over, but that resulted in a good lot of the filling sloshing out of the pastry case before the tart even made it to the oven!
+ Bake for 20 minutes. There won’t be any jiggle to the filling when you take it out. Don’t worry; this is more like a lemon bar topping rather than the usual lemon curd. It will still be smooth and creamy when you cut into it.
+Let the tart cool down and transfer to a plate. Bejewel the top with raspberries and chill for atleast 2 hours.
+ Just before serving, dust with icing sugar and serve with some double cream on the side.



:3 I’ll leave you to humbly accept the fountain of compliments you receive for all the ‘hard work’ you put into dessert. Enjoy!