Friday, 31 August 2007

Apple Pie and a new Camera


Last weekend, we were supposed to be somewhere to do something but the kids were really tired and as a result Highly Cranky! I decided to go alone to do the something somewhere and while I was away, the lovely wife took it upon herself to cheer up the kids with some of her fabulous Apple Pie.

The kids were still in the Ratatouille (the movie and not the food) mood and so they decided to decorate the pie using our cookie cutters for the leftover dough. In case you can't figure it out, the top most figure is a mouse while the bottom is a heart. Thus you get Mice Cheese Love. Don't ask me why my wife didn't put it in the proper order of Mice Love Cheese but I'm sure there is a logical explanation that involves the bright ideas of two wide eyed kids!

Anyway, the smell of luscious Apple Pie greeted me as I walked back into the house and the crankiness of the two kids had loooong disappeared. It's amazing how the promise of dessert - and especially Apple Pie - can act as comfort food.

The pie was supposed to sit to rest for about an hour or so but the impatient, beady little eyes of the Apple Pie Vultures caused us to cut the pie almost as soon as it was out of the oven. I must say it was certainly delicious.

The next day, we were out shopping and I decided I was going to buy myself a new camera! Yes, I had had my own beady little eyes on a Digital SLR for the longest time. After using my trusty Canon Powershot S30 for amost 6 years, and having wanted an SLR for almost 25 years, I finally decided I was going to splurge and get myself the Canon EOS 400D. Yeah, say what you want, but I have a soft spot for the Canon.

So I brought home the 400D and decided I was going to test it out straight away on another slice of Apple Pie. That way, I also got to have another piece on the excuse that I was actually just testing out the camera. I should have used the same plate setting but I was really just too lazy. So these are pics with the New Camera.




I think it makes a world of difference having a good camera and I'm hoping my photos will improve tremendously. Or maybe I'll just have to accept that I need to hone my skills a lot more and it's really not the camera that is causing bad pictures......

Whatever it is, I loved my wife's Apple Pie and I love my new Camera!

Merdeka!





Today is our Independence Day or Merdeka Day! Although this may be primarily a blog about food, today I fly my nation's flag with great pride on my blog for all the world to see!

On 31 August 1957, we gained independence from the British. Today we are a proud nation, just 50 years old. I'm not terribly patriotic or political, but I do feel there is something special about Merdeka.

My wish for the nation is that we continue to live in peace and harmony, away from all the natural disasters that seem to be striking other parts of the world. I wish that my children will grow up to also love this country and contribute to its growth, not just economically but culturally, socially, technologically and all manner of development. And I wish that all Malaysians, regardless of race or religion will continue to unite together as one.

Happy 50th Merdeka to all Malaysians!



To my manifold new found global friends, that want to read more about Malaysia, visit this wikipedia link

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart




It's Daring Bakers Challenge time again!!
This is my second month in this group and thus my second official challenge. I must say that it is turning out to be a really interesting group and I'm having a lot of fun.

Only problem is that my weight has gained with all this dessert making. My wife has asked if the DB's can stop issuing dessert challenges.... :)

Anyway, this months challenge was issued by Veronica and Patricia and is really up my alley. I love anything to do with Chocolate and I've also had plenty of experience making Caramel. So when I saw the challenge for this month, I lifted my haughty little nose into the air, gave a snort and did my arrogant rooster shuffle. (it's really quite a sight to behold...!!)

August has been a particularly busy month with most of my weekends taken up. Anyway, I finally decided to do this challenge on the weekend of 18 August. The recipe specifically said that the dough needed to be prepared a day ahead. And so it came to pass (yeah, I love that line) that on the Friday evening after work, I prepared the dough..... and that was when my nose started to angle sharply downwards in humility.

Firstly, I didn't understand why a dough needs to be prepared in advance. Why not just prepare the dough and bake it straight off I asked myself haughtily (while still doing my rooster shuffle)... I even asked around on the DB blog but I didnt read the answer that would provide assistance till after I had made the challenge.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I was expecting a thick sort of dough. You know, the sort of dough that you get with ready made Shortcrust pastry. But no! This dough was like cookie dough - in fact even a little like cake dough. To complicate matters, the shortcrust recipe was for 3 tarts and so I halved it. It was just so soft and mushy I figured I HAD to have done something wrong. The rooster has just left the building....

I contemplated adding some flour to the dough but I thought I'd just stick to the recipe and have some faith. So I worked the dough into a ball and chucked it into the fridge.

The next morning I woke early since I couldn't sleep thinking about the tart - she was mystically beautiful with pouted lips and seductively swaying hips - Oh sorry, I meant the Chocolate Caramel Tart! Hehehehehehe. :)

So while everyone was asleep, I took the dough out of the fridge and found it had hardened. I rolled half of it out and lined the fluted flan pan that I had decided to use. This was another 'headache' for me. I realised that the pan would probably be too thin for the tart but at the same time, I wanted something that looked nice. I didn't fancy making it in a springform pan or a square pan either so I chose the fluted flan pan. (I actually also like the sound of that - fluted flan pan - reminds me of a fancy Peter Pan kind of thing, but I digress)

The pan lined well and I docked the dough all over before covering it with greaseproof paper and filling it with red beans to bake it blind. I shoved it in the oven to bake and then took it out after the required time. I hastily poured out the red beans and then peeled of the baking paper. The crust was lovely! The rooster was back!



While the crust was cooling, I made the caramel. I used my trusted method of just adding a few spoons of water to the sugar and then boiling it till it caramelised. The recipe said that the caramel should be made by the Dry Method but Veron had allowed this to be deviated. I added the cream after letting the caramel cool a little. This caused the caramel to harden a little but I had expected this. A little stirring over heat and everything combined nicely again. I then added the eggs and flour. No problems there.


It was time to fill the pan and it was then that I realised that I would have a lot of caramel left over. Even after filling the flan pan half full, there was still a fair amount of caramel left over.

Next step was to bake the caramel-egg mixture and again this was no problem. I baked it for about 20 minutes - slightly longer than the recipe stated - on the advice of other DBs who had said it didnt really set.

While the tart was baking, I made the mousse, again with little problem. One thing I would do differently if I make this again, would be to chill the caramel filled tart before covering with the mousse to allow the caramel to set up properly rather than just cooling it. When I tried to put the mousse on, the caramel layer was still a little soft and started to break a little when I spread the mousse over it. So... I decided to pipe the mousse on and then smoothen it out.

With lots of caramel left over as well as mousse, not to mention shortcrust dough, I decided to make mini tarts. These turned out rather well too!



Finally, to finish off the dough, I made shortcrust cookies.



Taste wise it was a little sweet but still very delicious. Some of the DBs had commented that the cinammon in the crust was a tad overpowering so I reduced it a little. I found that I like the slight cinammon aftertaste that it created. The melding of Chocolate and Caramel flavours was wonderful and combined nicely with the nutty crust. I think I got my layers right even though they may have been slightly on the thin side. I think any thicker and the dessert would be cloying.




The wife and kids loved the dessert although they too felt that it was a little sweet and would be much, much better with Dark chocolate rather than milk. I tend to agree. This however didnt deter them from finishing off half the tart after dinner!
Just look at my two darlings stuffing their faces on their Second Serving of Chocolate Tart - too immersed in eating to even smile!



All in all, yet another very satisfying Daring Bakers challenge. Check out the rest of the Daring Bakers and more information about the group at .
The Daring Bakers Blogroll

This is the recipe that was given to us and in the spirit of the Daring Bakers, we HAD to follow:

Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart (by Eric Kayser)
Preparation time: 40 minutes
Baking Time: 30 minutes
Refrigeration time: 1 hour
One 9-inch(24-cm) square pan; 1 10-inch (26-cm) round baking pan

Ingredients
½ lb (250 g) chocolate shortbread pastry (see recipe below)
1 ½ cups (300 g) granulated sugar
1 cup (250 g) heavy cream (30-40 percent butterfat) or crème fraiche
¼ cup (50 g) butter
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
2 ½ tablespoons (15 g) flour
1 ¼ cups (300 g) whipping cream
½ lb (250 g) milk chocolate

1. Preheat oven to 325 °F (160 °C).
2. Line the baking pan with the chocolate shortbread pastry and bake blind for 15 minutes.
3. In a saucepan, caramelize 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar using the dry method until it turns a golden caramel color. Incorporate the heavy cream or crème fraiche and then add butter. Mix thoroughly. Set aside to cool.
4. In a mixing bowl, beat the whole eggs with the extra egg yolk, then incorporate the flour.
5. Pour this into the cream-caramel mixture and mix thoroughly.
6. Spread it out in the tart shell and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
7. Prepare the milk chocolate mousse: beat the whipping cream until stiff. Melt the milk chocolate in the microwave or in a bain-marie, and fold it gently into the whipped cream.
8. Pour the chocolate mousse over the cooled caramel mixture, smoothing it with a spatula. Chill for one hour in the refrigerator.

To decorate: melt ½ cup (100g) granulated sugar in a saucepan until it reaches an amber color. Pour it onto waxed paper laid out on a flat surface. Leave to cool. Break it into small fragments and stick them lightly into the top of the tart.

Chocolate Shortbread Pastry

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Refrigeration :overnight
To make 3 tarts, 9 ½ inches (24 cm) square
or 10 inches (26 cm round)

Ingredients:
1 cup (250g ) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 g) confectioners’ sugar
½ cup (50 g) ground hazelnuts
2 level teaspoons (5 g) ground cinnamon
2 eggs
4 ½ cups (400 g) cake flour
2 ½ teaspoons (10 g) baking powder
1 ½ tablespoons (10 g) cocoa powder

A day ahead
1. In a mixing bowl of a food processor, cream the butter.
2. Add the confectioners’ sugar, the ground hazelnuts, and the cinnamon, and mix together
3. Add the eggs, one by one, mixing constantly
4. Sift in the flour, the baking powder, and the cocoa powder, and mix well.
5. Form a ball with the dough, cover in plastic wrap, and chill overnight.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

The Pretzel Endeavour



Pretzels, for me, always bring back fond memories of my rather frequent trips to Germany back in the '90s. I used to travel to Munich and Hanover on work and it was in Munich (or rather Munchen) that I was first introduced to the Brezen, as pretzels are called in Germany. My prior experience of pretzels was the tiny, dried, crispy kind and not the soft, baked variety.
I've always wanted to make pretzels. Why? Mainly because my son and daughter both love the pretzels at Aunty Annies (That's a franchise and not a relative...) Also, its the kind of thing that's nice to be able to make - especially for bragging rights down at the pub. I mean, imagine if I was back in Germany, scarfing down a huge Brezen while simultaneously gulping down a Dunkles (Dark Beer). I could then say (in a german accent):
"Ja,Ja... Zis Brezen is very good, but perhaps next veek you come to my house and I vill also make you zie Brezen...."

I can imagine a few large mugs of beer dropping to the floor....!!

Anyway, once I learnt that the roots of the Daring Bakers was started by a Pretzel challenge issued by Ivonne of creampuffs in venice I decided I was going to try and do it as well.

So this morning, I printed out the recipe and decided to get my hands stuck into kneading.

Now I immediately ran into a problem. 500F equates to 260C and my trusted oven only goes up to 240C! Never mind, I would just set it at its maximum. Next I didn't have any Kosher Salt. Never mind, just use some normal salt. Wait a minute, why not use my Rosemary Salt mix? That might taste better. So I did.


Here's the recipe:

Adapted from The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion.

For the dough:
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 package (2-1/4 tsp.) instant yeast
1 cup warm water (you may need a little more)

For the pretzel topping:
1/2 cup warm water
1 tsp. sugar
kosher salt
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

1.Combine all the dough ingredients in a large bowl with your hands. Work the ingredients together until you can form a ball. If the dough is very dry, add a bit more warm water until it comes together. The dough will look messy, but don’t worry about it.
2.Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and begin kneading by pushing the dough away with the heel of your hand, and then folding it back in onto itself. Push the dough away again and then fold back in. Continue this motion, working the dough until it’s smooth. This should take anywhere from 8 to 10 minutes. (Alternatively, you can knead the dough in a mixer with your dough hook for 5 to 6 minutes).

3.Once the dough is done, sprinkle some flour on the dough and put it in a large, oiled bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 30 minutes to an hour. It will rise considerably.
4.Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
5.Dissolve the sugar in the warm water and set aside.
6. Divide your dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece out into a long rope that’s roughly 24 inches in length. (Don’t make it too long or your pretzels will be too thin.)
7. Taking hold of the ends of the rope, cross the rope over itself to form a circle with about 4 to 5 inches on each end that are sticking out. Twist the ends over themselves and secure each end on either side of the pretzel.

8. Carefully dip the pretzel in the water and then place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the other pieces of dough.
9. Sprinkle the pretzels with the kosher salt and let them rest for about 15 minutes.
10. Put the pretzels in the oven for 6 minutes, then rotate the trays and bake for an additional 6 minutes. Keep an eye on the pretzels so that they don’t burn.
11. Remove the pretzels from the oven and immediately brush them with the butter. Keep brushing them with butter until you’ve used it all.

I must say I was rather surprised at how well the pretzels turned out. I should have made the 'dough rope' a little thinner and longer. I should also have baked it a bit longer to allow it to brown more but this wasn't a bad effort for a first try. The pretzels were delicious too - rather crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

I scarfed one down as soon as it cooled down and would have had another except that we were rushing off to lunch. The lovely wife raised an eyebrow in surprise as she took a bite as I don't think she was expecting that I'd be able to make such delicious pretzels.



Now all I have to do is to book my flight to Munchen so I can brag about being able to make Brezen...!!

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Creamy Lamb and Two Mushroom Linguine



I think I've mentioned before that the easiest way to get me to cook something is for my wife to mention that she ate this "wonderful dish and really enjoyed it." Nothing gets me into the kitchen faster - oh, except if my kiddies ask for something.

And so, my wife came back home with stories of how she had "tremendously enjoyed" her lunch at some place at work. She went on to describe the thin, juicy pieces of lamb in a lovely creamy sauce blah, blah, blah... I just listened, trying hard to fight these feelings of volunteering to make her something similar. I was just about to say "I'm glad you enjoyed your lunch" when she smiled at me demurely and said "I bet you could make it."

So I did. We went over to my Brother-in-laws for dinner last Sunday and I volunteered to bring dinner. Since his two kids and mine all love pasta, I decided to take up my wife's 'challenge' and make the "Oh so lovely, lamb pasta" that she had been raving on and on about..... (no, really she wasn't that bad)

For want of something better to call it, I call it Creamy Lamb and Two Mushroom Linguine. It had to be Linguine, coz that's what she had at the restaurant and if I had used anything else, she may have said that the linguine was better. And we Can't Have That now, can we?

How did I make this? Quite easy really.

Ingredients
400 g lamb
4 lamb sausages
4 cloves garlic - chopped
2 large onions - sliced
Black Pepper
2 bay leaves
2 tsps basil
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
half a leek -sliced thinly into rounds
200g white button mushrooms
200g swiss brown mushrooms
50 ml cream
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
100 ml milk
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 red capsicum
Salt


Method
Cut the lamb into thin strips then season with salt and pepper. Cut the sausages into thick rounds. Cook the lamb in a little oil until nicely browned. Set aside. In the same pan, cook the sausages. Set aside. Using the same pan again, sautee the garlic and onion with the basil, oregano, bay leaves and thyme. Add in more black pepper if you like. Toss in the leek and continue to sautee. Add in the mushrooms and cook till the juices come out. Throw in the lamb, sausages and the cream and mix well together. Allow to simmer.
Meanwhile, make a roux by heating the butter and adding in the flour, stirring well to combine. Add in the milk and cream together with the nutmeg and cook till thickened. Add this into the lamb mixture and mix well. Let simmer to allow flavours to infuse together.
Just before serving, slice the capsicum thinly and stir it into the hot sauce.

I've never used lamb in a creamy pasta dish before but it was certainly delicious. The lamb sausages made a nice difference too. The kids loved it and my wife was pleased. With that lovely twinkle in her eye, she smiled at me and said, "See? I knew you could do it, and even better too!"

This is also the dish I am taking to the Six Month celebration Party for Presto Pasta Nights hosted by Ruth at onceuponafeast
. Congrats Ruth!

I also made a Pavlova for dessert and took along some of the leftover Daring Bakers Challenge - but I cant tell you what that is since its a secret till the 29th of this month - suffice to say it was delicious!

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Feeling lazy after Ratatouille - so it's Lamb Chops


We all went to watch Ratatouille this morning! My wife had bought tickets last night and we went to watch the movie at 11am down at KLCC. The kids were excited and even more so to take their sweaters along. Yeap, the air-conditioning can get a tad bit chilly in the cinema. It was a really fun movie and we all had a really good time!
After the movie, the kids were tired and so were we. I was especially tired as I had woken up early to do this months Daring Baker's challenge. Anyway, after the movie, we popped into the Supermarket and I decided to buy some Lamb Shoulder chops for dinner.
The chops were lightly marinated with garlic, ginger, black pepper, some soy soyce and HP sauce and then slowly baked in the oven. I stir fried some mushrooms with loads of garlic as well coz in this household, mushrooms are almost obligatory. Then I quickly stir fried some zuchinnis and made some more Herbed Rice. This time, I added some pine nuts and turmeric to the rice so it turned out slightly nutty and with a nice yellow colour.
So that was the nice simple meal tonight. Not much work but yet a lot of satisfied faces. The kids especially liked thelamb as well as the rice and mushrooms - but we all know how much they like mushrooms!
Maybe, just like in the movie, my kids will one day eat something at a restuarant that will bring back memories of the food their Daddy used to lovingly cook for them........

Friday, 17 August 2007

Tagged Again....!

It looks like I've been tagged again.... maybe I'm getting popular...? Anyway, My friend Marye over at Apron Strings and Simmering Things as well as frozen-music as well as ...yeah, she has many, many blogs.

So anyway, Marye tagged me and these are the rules:


1. You have to post these rules before you give the facts.

2. Players, you must list one fact that is somehow relevant to your life for each letter of their middle name. If you don’t have a middle name, use the middle name you would have liked to have had.

3. When you are tagged you need to write your own blog-post containing your own middle name game facts.

4. At the end of your blog-post, you need to choose one person for each letter of your middle name to tag.

5. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.


The problem is, I DONT have a middle name. Neither have I wanted one nor have I ever thought of a middle name that I would like. With a first name that is 11 letters long, who needs a middle name....
So, just to be a sport, I'm going to use my Son's Middle name rather than my first name or the abbreviated version of it. Here goes:

A: is for Angelina my wonderful wife, who is my cooking muse, the source of plenty of joy, a wonderful mother to my two darling kids who incidentally both have middle names starting with 'A'.

N: is for my surname which incidentally means 9 precious stones. It is also for 'Nonsense' since I believe everyone needs to have a little nonsense in their lives - ask my kids, we have heaps of fun with my nonsense!

I: is for Intelligence or maybe the lack of it. Actually, I think I'm very intelligent, its just that sometimes I'm too lazy to use the intelligence I was given. I is also for my Indian heritage and last but most definitely not least, it is about recognising that you need to take time out for the most Important thing in the world - and that is the I in me, myself and I.

L: is for Love - for love is what ultimately makes everything worthwhile. Recognise that there are different kinds of love and in this respect, love well, love often and spread this love everywhere. Call me a hopeless romantic but I believe that Love will truly save the day, and the world!

So now I have to tag 4 people and these 4 are my new found foodie friends..!

Jen - The leftover Queen
KJ - A Cracking good Egg
Elle - Feeding my Enthusiasms and
Patricia - Technicolor Kitchen

Monday, 13 August 2007

Mille Feuille



It was my wife's birthday on Friday, 10 August. Happy Birthday Hon!

While most people are usually trying to figure out what present to get their other half, I spent half the week pondering what cake to make for her. Which incidentally drove me half mad.

I wanted to make her something different, something that I hadn't done before. So that ruled out cheese cakes and chocolate cakes and any variations on that theme. I had made her a Cheesy Fruit Flan last year that she absolutely loved, especially since it was light and fruity.

So.... for this year, instead of a typical Birthday Cake, I decided to make her a Mille Feuille otherwise known as Vanilla Slice (Aust), Napoloen (US) or Custard Slice (UK). I prefer to call it a Mille Feuille simply because it's French and French is after all the language of love. It also sounds a helluva lot more interesting and glamourous than a Custard Slice. I mean picture this:

Friend: so what cake did you have for your birthday?
Wife: Well, my husband made me a custard slice - it was really delicious
Friend: Oh.. custard slice...

and compare that too:

Friend: so what cake did you have for your birthday?
Wife: Well, my husband made me a Mille Feuille - it was really delicious.
Friend: A Mill what? oh Wow! It sounds so lovely. You're so lucky!



You get the picture??!!

So what the heck is a Mille Feuille? It means a thousand leaves or sheets in French - Mille (thousand) Feuille (sheets). Its basically a pastry made with several layers of puff pastry alternating with a sweet filling, typically pastry cream but sometimes whipped cream. A Vanilla Slice typically has only two sheets of pastry sandwiching a thick layer of pastry cream.

The recipe is based on one I found in The Australian Women's Weekly Cookbook. I wanted more layers of pastry though and also wanted to add some chocolate to the recipe. So this is what I did.

Ingredients
2 sheets ready rolled puff pastry
3/4 cup caster sugar
2/3 cup cornflour
1/2 cup custard powder
500 ml milk
500 ml cream
60g butter
2 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla essence
150g good quality dark chocolate

Method
Line base and sides of a load pan with foil. Place pastry sheets on greaseproof paper and bake in a preheated 220C oven for about 15 minutes. Pastry should be nicely puffed up and browned. Let cool and then gently flatten the pastry.

Make the custard. Combine sugar, flour and custard in a pan. Add the milk and cream and mix well till smooth. Stir over medium heat until mixture thickens. Remove from heat and add in butter, egg yolks and essence. Mix well till smooth.

Melt the chocolate over a double boiler. Cut the pastry into 4 slices and trim to fit the pan. Place on slice of pastry into the pan and spread with chocolate then cover with some custard. Place another slice of pastry on top and press down. Repeat and finish off with pastry on top. Cover top with chocolate. Chill - preferably overnight.

Remove dessert from pan and remove foil carefully. Trim sides on dessert so that the layers show.



The custard mix was a little powdery and I put that to the large amount
The layers of custard and pastry were really quite lovely although the custard tasted slightly powdery. Also, I realised too late that I had forgotten to add the butter into the custard. That was why the custard was a little runny but my wife likes her custard that way.

I also decided to make some Strawberry Coulis with some of the leftover frozen strawberries from the Daring Bakers challenge. That added a lovely contrast to the dessert

Needless to say, the dessert was enjoyed by all!

Saturday, 4 August 2007

Saturday Fry Up



So the wife and kids wanted a little bit of a Fry Up for Dinner.

We all trooped to the supermarket in the morning to do oru weekly groecery shopping and that's when we bought a variety of sausages. I thought I'd also make some Chips (French Fries to some) since the kids love them so much. I learnt somewhere that the secret to good fries is to actually fry them twice. What I do however is to parboil them first then I fry them. This makes the fries nice and soft on the inside yet crispy on the outside.

I also fried some mushrooms as to me, mushrooms are an obligatory part of a fry up. I also made some garlic bread and tried poaching some eggs, but wasnt too succesful with the poaching, so I ended up sort of frying them. Anyway, the sausages tasted really great with two kinds of mustard and the eggs weren't half bad either although they looked a little messed up on the plate - halfway between being poached and fried...!

Not a helluva lot of work but yummy nonetheless.

Friday, 3 August 2007

Meat, Mushrooms and Chocolate....!

What more could you really ask for in a meal? All three of my favourite kinds of food - Meat, Mushrooms and Chocolate. Of course we had to throw in a salad to ensure some fibre but that's beside the point!
This meal was cooked up on the 28th of July when we had my Aunty Ariam over for dinner. Genealogically speaking, she is actually my fathers cousin so that would make her my Second Cousin rather than my Aunt - if I understand genealogy correctly. Regardless, in my family (and generally everywhere in Asia) if there is a relative that is older than you, they automatically become an aunt or uncle. Heck, we are so respectful that even a stranger you meet on the road is called an Aunty or Uncle, or Big Brother, Grandfather or whatever.... its kind of nice really. But I digress. This is supposed to be about food and not about respecting our elders or about Social graces - although social graces do play an important role in eating.... but I digress again.

So anyway. What to cook for my Aunt and her son? (He would be my cousin - or Second Cousin Once Removed - if we get back to the genealogy thing - but enough of that!)

I decided I was going to start off with Stuffed Mushrooms


I personally love mushrooms in any form and I've often made stuffed mushrooms. Everyone seems to love them so I though that was a sure bet. For the main meal, I decided on Turkish Style Lamb Sausages.


To add some substance and also to soak up the sauce, I thought I'd serve the sausages with some Herbed Rice.
A leafy salad would be thrown together too for the obligatory fibre. And finally for dessert, I tossed up between Tiramisu and Dark Chocolate Mousse Cake.


I decided on the Choc Mousse Cake primarily because I know my Aunt loves anything Chocolate. I was also craving a chocolate fix. The deciding factor was when my little princess asked if I could make her my chocolate mousse cake!

I had a great time with this dinner and everyone enjoyed it. My wife said that I outdid myself with the cake and both my kids absolutely loved it. With reviews like that, I'm a happy, happy man.....!

Stuffed Mushrooms



I usually like to use Portobello Mushrooms but its sometimes hard to find ones which have a decent cup that is not too flat once the stem is removed. You know, like a C-cup rather than an A-cup. Okay, Okay, I'll stop being naughty. But you get what I mean. More often than not, the Portobellos sold around here seem to be flattened somehow and dont have a nice cup, and so its really difficult to stuff them. I used Swiss Browns instead and these mushrooms have a nice cup once the stems are removed - only problem is the mushrooms are really small when compared against a Portobello. (I was going to say something here about whether 36As are better than 32Cs...... but I'll behave - Bad Boy. Bad Boy.)
Anyhoo.... back on to food...! This is one of my tried and tested and I sometimes make variations on the stuffing. Most times I add in some chopped chilli for a bit of zing but this time I opted to add some nuttiness with Pine nuts.

Ingredients
6-8 Portobello or 10 Swiss Brown Mushrooms.
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp rosemary
Handful of Pine Nuts
100 g breadcrumbs
2 tsp ground black pepper
Salt
Olive Oil

Method
Remove stems from mushrooms and chop finely. Place the mushrooms, open side up, in a lightly oiled Pyrex dish or baking tray. Heat the oil in a pan and lightly fry the black pepper, oregano and rosemary. Add in the garlic, onion and chilli and fry till fragrant. Add in pine nuts and continue frying. Add in the chopped mushroom stems and cook until tender. Add in the breadcrumbs and fry lightly.
Fill the mushroom caps with the mixture.

Bake for 20 minutes or till tender.

Turkish Style Lamb Sausages



The inspiration from this dish came from our visit to Turkey about 8 years ago. We ate this lovely dish which was made out of minced lamb and large pieces of brinjal/eggpalnt/aubergine in a tomato based sauce. I decided to improvise on it by making sausages and cooking them in a tomato based sauce with lots of brinjal cut up. This is my recipe:

Ingredients
For the Sausages
600g Minced Lamb
1 large Onion
4 cloves garlic
1 inch ginger
3/4 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp chilli powder
Salt
Black Pepper

For the Sauce
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp Oregano
1 tsp basil
4 tomatoes - quartered
1 can stewed tomatoes
2 tsp tomato paste
2 large brinjals - diced
1 large green capsicum - diced into large pieces
Olive Oil
Salt
Black Pepper
Paprika

Method
In a food processor, grind onion, garlic and ginger into a fine paste. Fry this paste till fragrant. Add in chilli powder and curry powder and continue to fry for about 2 mins - just enough to cook the spices. Place mince in a large mixing bowl and add in the spices. Season with Salt and Pepper. Mix well then leave to marinate for about 1/2 an hour.
Shape the meat into sausages and place on a baking sheet covered in greaseproof paper.


Bake in a 200C oven for about 20 mins. Remove from oven and drain juices into a cooking pan.


Sautee the garlic, oregano and basil in the juices from the sausages. Add in tomatoes and brinjals. Cook until tender.


Add in can of stewed tomatoes and break up tomatoes to release their juices. Season with Salt and Pepper.
Add in the cooked sausages and some water. Cover the pan and allow to simmer for about half an hour. Add in tomato paste and mix well. Allow mixture to thicken. Add in capsicums and cook for another few minutes. Capsicum should still be crunchy.

Sprinkle liberally with paprika. Serve with herbed rice - or anything you want really!! :)

Herbed Rice



Ingredients
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp rosemary
3 cups long rain rice or basmati rice
4 1/2 cups water
Olive oil
Salt

Method
Wash the rice well and set aside. Sautee the garlic, oregano and rosemary till fragrant. Add in the rice and stir well, ensuring the rice grains are nicely coated with the mix. Remove from heat and place into a rice cooker. Add in the 4 1/2 cups of water and cook.
Note: Cooking in a rice cooker is so easy and simple. If you dont have a rice cooker, follow the same method except add in the rice and water into a large pan and cover. Cook on medium heat till water evaporates. Make sure rice doesnt over cook or burn.

Dark Chocolate Mousse Cake



Dessert - my favourite part of the meal. I have my own recipe for Chocolate Mousse but its a little too light to be used in a cake, as in it turns gooey if left out too long. What I do for the mousse cake is to leave out the egg whites - so that makes the mousse a lot firmer and yet with the same delicious taste. I also normally use a sponge mix for the cake but this time I made the sponge from scratch!

Ingredients
Chocolate Sponge Cake
3 eggs
½ cup plain flour
¼ cup cocoa
½ cup caster sugar

Chocolate Mousse
250g Good Quality Dark Chocolate
3 egg yolks
300 ml cream

Ganache Topping
250 g Good Quality Dark Chocolate
200 ml Cream

Soaking Syrup
½ cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp rum (optional)

Method
Make the sponge - Grease and line a 8” (20 cm) round cake tin. Sift flour and cocoa together. Beat eggs until thick and mouse like. Carefully and quickly, fold in the flour mixture. Pour into the pan and bake in a preheated 190C oven for about 30 mins or until the cake springs back when lightly pressed. Cool on a cake rack.


Make the Mousse - Melt chocolate in a double boiler with about 20ml of the cream. Mix well and then quickly add in the egg yolks and stir vigorously for about a minute. Chocolate will thicken. Don’t worry if the mixture seizes or becomes a little lumpy. Take off heat and beat with an electric mixer for about a minute or two. Chocolate will become smooth and thick. Let cool. Whip cream until soft peaks form. Beat in the cooled chocolate mixture until nicely incorporated.


Make the syrup - Boil water and sugar until the sugar is melted. Let cool and then add in the rum if using.

Assemble the cake - Cut the cake in half lengthwise and place one half in a 10” round springform. Brush with half the syrup. Spread in half of the mousse mixture, making sure you work it into the sides of the pan. Cover with second half of cake and brush with remaining syrup. Spread remaining mousse evenly onto the cake and smoothen the top. Chill in fridge for about 3 hours.

Make the Ganache Topping - Bring cream to a boil and pour over chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Mix well until it thickens and leave to cool. Remove cake from fridge and remove springform. Coat tops and side with the ganache. With remaining ganache, decorate tops if you desire by piping flowers on it.

YUMMMYYY in my Tummy!

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