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!



Wednesday, 12 March 2014

The good brownie...





I'm really picky about my brownies. To me, a good brownie starts with the way it looks. Specifically that beautiful, crackly tissue paper crust. You know what I'm talking about right? That light, flaky top that all great brownies seem to have. Then when you bite into it, it shouldn't be cakey or gooey. No, a good brownie hits that golden sweet spot of FUDGY and it tastes of CHOCOLATE. Not a flat, vaguely cocoa-ish taste that disappears into a sugary abyss 2 seconds after you bite down. No. A superior brownie will punch you in the face with an intense, deep, dark chocolate high that'll swirl around your entire mouth till you basically see nothing but chocolate.



Having said that, I can't make a good brownie.
Don't get me wrong, I've tried over and over.
But brownies have always been a problem for me. I know they're supposed to be one of the first things you learn how to make, but I've never found a recipe that's been able to co-operate. Somehow it always ends up either dry or undercooked. Most times straight up burnt. NEVER with the Holy Grail of 'beautiful crust'. Maybe I'm being over-critical but I've just never been happy with how my brownies turn out.

So I'm still on my brownie quest. Maybe not quite with the determination and vengeance that I started off with, but I do try. It was on one of these brownie quirks that I tried making Alice Medrich's cocoa brownies. I've seen so much about them over the years online, but always passed them over as potential flops. I mean... a brownie recipe with no chocolate? Madness! Then one fateful evening a brownie craving arose and I didn't have any dark chocolate in my cupboard nor was I willing to walk 40 minutes to get some. I really wish now that moment had come sooner. Alice's brownies are brilliant. They've got that perfect fudgy texture and chocolatey flavour. I added a sprinkling of Maldon sea salt over the top and that did it for me. My only criticism was that I didn't get that crowning tissue paper crackle. Although, that could've been something I did wrong. Any ideas? Comment below if you know the secret to that beautiful top!



Alice Medrich's Cocoa Brownies

- 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
- 1 1/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
-1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 cold large eggs
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cups walnut or pecan pieces (optional)


+ Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
+ Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water (I just used the microwave. Blast for 30 seconds and stir. Repeat till smooth). Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.
+ Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one.
+ When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.
+ Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack. Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

I'll leave you to bask in your chocolate comas. :p Till next time!

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Student cooking...

And yet again I've fallen into the no-post trap! Sorry folks, it's been a crazy busy period over here in St. Andrews. More specifically I was in a play written by a friend of mine and it was a bit of a mad scramble to have it up. It was absolutely beautiful and everyone was impressed and happy now the cast is depressed and suffering from PSD (Post Show Depression :p) What to turn to in the light of such a debilitating disease? Why food, of course! Specifically comfort food. And what better comfort food than the kind which invokes flavours from home? Which leads me to a Malaysian Student staple...



Brahim's sauce packets. If you're a Malaysian student studying abroad chances are you stock up on these every time you're home. They're a great quick fix, but it gets a little boring just simmering meat in them. Personally, I rarely use my Brahim's packets for what they're meant to do. :p I get cheeky... I use them as marinades, as basting sauces, as bases for soups, and now I've found a new use. To steam fish. :)



The sambal tumis paste...doesn't really taste like proper sambal tumis. It lacks a certain...richness? sweetness? I don't know. What I DO know is that with a little bit of tweaking it makes a nice spicy steamed fish topping. Served atop a bed of hot white rice, if you close your eyes you could almost convince yourself you're back home. :)


Spicy steamed fish
- 1 cod fillet (if frozen, thawed completely)
- veggie oil
- 1/4 red onion
- 2 Tbsp Brahim's 'Kuah Sambal Tumis'
- 3 Tbsp water
- salt and sugar
- chilli flakes (the Brahim's paste isn't very spicy)
+ baking paper

* I know the pictures show green beans under the fish, but those were half cooked and half uncooked and just entirely very weird. I have a feeling you'd have to steam them separately to include them in the dish, or else you run the risk of overcooking your fish. A bit too much faff really. You'd be better off just stir frying them.

+ Place your cod fillet in the baking paper.
+ Stir fry the red onions till beginning to be translucent. Add the chilli flakes and Brahim's paste, along with 3Tbsp of water. Add salt and sugar to taste. And simmer till slightly thickened. Set aside and allow to cool.
+ Spread the spice paste over your fish and twist the baking paper parcel shut.
+ Place in steamer and steam for 7-9 minutes. The fish is done if it flakes easily when poked with a fork. Check at 7 please. There're few things in life less unpleasant than overcooked fish.
+ Remove packet from heat, and pour contents onto a waiting bed of hot steamed rice.



More next time guys!

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Back to Scotland...



My first post back in Haggis-land!
It's strange... it was very hard (harder than usual) to leave home but when I got back to the Bubble the routine came back like I never left. Walk to lectures...walk to Morrisons...do my laundry...prep meals for the week... It's funny. Being here somehow transforms me into a 'responsible' adult. :p Imagine that?

That's not to say I don't miss home though. I do, very much so. Granted, homesickness doesn't hit me as hard as it did in my first year but I still feel it every once in a while. Not surprisingly I feel it most during meal times...somehow a mushroom omelette doesn't quite compare to a good prawn curry, y'know what I mean?

Anyways, it's times like these that I'm thankful for being able to cook. If I miss something, chances are I can whip up something akin to the real thing! Granted, the flavours aren't usually spot on, but I get as close as I can. :)



One of the last things I threw together before I left were these prawn fritters. Cucur udang, as it's known back home is a very common teatime treat. More likely than not if you've grown up in Malaysia you would've had these as a snack at some point in your life.



 While most recipes use fresh prawns, these get their richness from pounded and fried dried shrimp. If you have all the ingredients on hand, they come together in a snap!



Cucur Udang
- 1/4 cup dried prawns, pounded fine
- 1/2 cup a.p flour
- 1/4 tsp ground tumeric
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 carrot, grated
- 3-4 shallots, sliced thinly
- 1/4 cup chopped up Chinese Chives*
- 1/4 cup cabbage, sliced finely
- 1/2 red/green chilli, chopped finely. 

1. Fry the dried prawns till golden brown. 
2. Mix all the ingredients together. 
3. Heat up enough oil to shallow fry the fritters 3-4 at a time. ( a handy trick I leart in cooking class: stick a bamboo skewer into the oil. When little bubbles start streaming out around the tip, the oil is ready for frying!
4. Drop tablespoons full of the mixture into the oil, and fry turning once till golden brown. 

5. Drain on paper towels and serve hot with chilli sauce. 



HAPPY EATING!!