Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Where have all the roses gone?

What is in the soil here?? This rose was the size of my hand!!

So... I've been known to do some pretty out there things in the name of food. I once went to Dundee with John only to have his eyes bug out at the 1kg of fresh garlic I was bringing back from the Asian supermarket to make my own garlic paste. I haven't done that in a while, there were days when my fellow biology classmates could smell me coming from a mile away so it seemed like a good idea to stop.

Since buying the Honey&Co.Baking book I have been obsessed. I've gone through it atleast once a day,lovingly stroking the pages in a mildly disturbing yet eerily accurate Gollum-esq manner. I've been a kid in a candy store, scrambling to figure out what to try first. There aren't too many crazy ingredients featured in the book, yet living on a student budget you have to be prudent about spending on exotic ingredients. I shopped around for ages before buying some rose water and orange blossom water, scouring the internet to save as much as I could. I've just finished shelling a bag of pistachios by hand cause it worked out a little cheaper than ready shelled nuts (next time I won't bother, turns out the shells make up half the weight of the bag so you get a lot less anyways =.=;). In a mildly thrifty haze I was looking up the price of rose petals online when it suddenly hit me... YOU have roses in the garden, Mallini.

Ok...so I didn't actually plant them. But it seems a shame to waste if all they're going to do is look pretty till they fall off and die, no? Might as well put them to good use!

So I plucked 3 of the largest blooms there were, and got to drying them. I have to say it is a mildly tedious process to save £1.99, but if you have a bit of time and Mock the Week playing in the background it can be a pleasant experience.

Rose petals laid out to dry.

A couple of tips, don't use any petals that have turned/ are turning brown because that will cause your final product to be completely brown as well. If it just has one or two brown spots, it is worth just tearing those bits off. You want to submerge the petals in a tray of water, just to clean off any nasties that may be on them. Even after doing that you'll still have to pay attention and look out for the tiny mites that wander around. You don't want those ending up in your cooking. Finally, dry the petals by patting them with some kitchen towel first before laying them out to dry. If you lay them out damp, there's a good chance they won't dry out properly and will just go moldy. Lay the petals out on clingfilm covered trays so that they have some space between them, and leave them in an airy place that has plenty of indirect sunlight. I put the trays in our conservatory and turned on the dehumidifier to help dry them out faster.

My petals took about 2 days to dry completely, thanks to the dehumidifier. Don't be tempted to store them away before they're completely dried out and crispy, or else the petals will just go moldy later on.

And that's it! It really was amazing that these shrank to about 1/4 of their original size. They smell quite faint...not so much like roses but like grass. :-/ I don't know if that's because they had to dry for such a long time, or if the commercially dried ones are further perfumed as part of the process. The colour of the petals do intensify upon drying, and they're going to add lovely pops of colour to whatever you put them in. So now I've now got a small jar full of dried rose petals to play around with! Stay tuned, it won't be long till they're used!

All those petals into one wee jar...

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Honey&Co. at Toppings book shop

So I went for something fantastic that I can't wait to tell you all about. 
After spending a really great week in Newcastle with Sulekha (who I am missing already :( ) I got back into the bubble yesterday just in time to freshen up and head to an event hosted by Toppings book shop on Bell street. 

Toppings has a whole host of events going on in conjunction with the Open, a massive golf tournament that's being held in St. Andrews right now. Last night, they were hosting Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich the power couple behind Honey & Co. a middle eastern inspired restaurant in London. Sarit and Itamar came up by train to hold a live cooking demo centered around their newly released cook book, 'Honey & Co. The Baking Book'

Chilled orange blossom and earl grey tea

Arriving just before the event was about to start, I was greeted at the door with a glass of chilled orange blossom and earl grey tea (which I would like to drink for the rest of my life thank you very much). The shop was already fairly full, and I would've had to take a seat at the back if one of the owners hadn't taken pity on my tiny Asian stature and ushered me up front. A massive tray filled with bites of buttered fruit tea loaf was already floating around the store, hinting at the many tidbits we were to be treated to that night. 

Sarit and Itamar were absolutely adorable. Clearly very much in love with their work, they showed us a few quick things they make in store; an herb frittata, sesame halva, and a fresh kanafeh. 
Cutie patooties Sarit and Itamar

Guys I got SO excited. This is a beautiful middle eastern dessert made by sandwiching a mix of cheeses (Sarit used feta, goats cheese and cream cheese) with two butter coated layers of a nest like phyllo dough called kadaif. You then soak the whole thing in orange blossom syrup and top it with pistachios and rose petals. It's an incredibly lush and fragrant dessert that presents so many wonderful tastes and textures to enjoy. Crispy, creamy, nutty, salty, sweet, perfumey...just AAAHHHH!!!!!! Having seen it being made I am now SO determined to whip it up myself at home.  Anyone know where I can get a hold of kadaif pastry in Scotland?

Clockwise from top right; herb frittata, chickpea shortbread, carrot walnut cake, knafe.

Throughout the night they kept bringing out trays of baked goodies that had been featured in the book. There was an incredibly moist carrot walnut cake, some really fudgy chocolate pistachio cookies, and my personal favourite a gluten free chickpea shortbread.

I bought the book the minute the cooking demo was over and got it signed by Sarit and Itamar. We had a little chat about what halva referred to in our respective cultures (When you say halva in Malaysia you're usually referring to a firm jelly-like sweet made with semolina, as opposed to the sesame fudge we were served last night). I know it sounds obvious, I mean they are chefs and all, but their love for good food was palpable and rolled off the couple in waves. This infectious enthusiasm glows from the pages of The Baking Book, with each recipe accompanied by it's own little anecdote.

When you leave home to start somewhere new, you very quickly identify pockets of familiarity to take refuge in when the 'newness' becomes too much to handle. While reading Sarit and Itamar's writing, I had the overwhelming feeling of being back in my grandmother's kitchen where she tried to teach me how to make my favourite vadai. This book, with it's bright yellow cover and beautiful photography beckons to you. It invites you to look inside, to thumb through the pages, to laugh at the stories and try the recipes within. I have never been anywhere in the middle east (YET) and I can't say I share the same cultural identity as Sarit and Itamar, but for some reason having this book feels like holding a part of home in my hands.

It won't be long before I have a crack at the recipes in this book, and I can't wait to visit Honey&Co. with my parents when we're down in London this year.

To see more about what Toppings bookstore has on, go to their events page here.

And while you're at it, you might as well check out Honey&Co. online ;)

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Let's start slow

Ok, ok, I am cutting it a little close...but I am still keeping to my 1 post a week promise!
This is going to be a quick one cause I need to get to work early tomorrow, but that's  pretty fitting since this recipe is fairly no-fuss.

I made this for a couple of friends who came over for dinner earlier this week. Having a couple of things to do around the house *coughbingewatchorangeisthenewblackcough* I needed to make something that didn't require me keeping a constant watch on it. This pasta sauce is great because for minimal fuss you get something that tastes like you've been stirring it for hours. Using the oven gave the sauce a depth of flavour that I have yet to achieve from my slow cooker. Anyways...without further ado!

Butter roasted chicken pasta
- 2 large red onions
- 1 bulb garlic
- 6 chicken thighs, skin and bone on
- 1 tbsp oregano
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp butter
- 500g tomato passata
- 1 tbsp chilli flakes
- 1 chicken stock cube
- sugar and salt to taste

- Cut the onions into rough quarters and separate garlic cloves. Scatter into baking tray and place chicken thighs skin side up on top. Season with oregano, pepper, and salt. Dot the butter on the chicken.

- Roast in a 200'C oven until chicken skin is golden brown. Pour in passata, crumble stock cube, and mix through chilli flakes. Cover the baking tray with foil, then turn oven down to 180'C and bake an additional 45 minutes. After that time, take the foil off and remove chicken from tray. While the meat rests, mash up the sauce and try to fish out as many garlic skins as you can. Debone and roughly chop the meat (This'll be super easy, the chicken will be falling off the bone), then mix back into sauce and place back in oven for an additional 15 minutes.

- Boil your pasta of choice till al dente and serve with a wedge of cheese so people may anoint their serving in cheesy goodness to their heart's content.

Have a good week people!!

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

A summer in St. Andrews

*sigh* I really need to get this posting thing down don't I? Imagine my embarrassment at discovering that the last time I posted was 6 months ago....the shock the HORROR. 

And it's not from lack of cooking! Oh no... I've been very busy in the kitchen this past semester. But you know how it is? You cook you study and next thing you know you're too tired to post anything up and the cycle just goes on and on. 

Well here's my attempt at another heave ho and I am going to try really REALLY hard to post at least once a week. Ambitious I know. :p

Well, quick update time. I'll be in St. Andrews over the summer for an internship with the School of Biology. I'm very excited to see what my Scottish summer will bring, especially food-wise!

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.

- 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!!