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Friday, 31 October 2008

Sarah's BBQ part One - Barbecued Prawns

I had mentioned previously that my little princess Sarah wanted a BBQ and this is the first of many posts to come concerning that BBQ!

Not only did she plan the menu, but she also decided she was going to invite her maternal grandparents as well as her uncle, aunt and cousins (on my wifes' side). Since my dad was away, I got my mom to come along too. So yes, quite a few people to cater for - and as usual, we made more than enough food for an army. Not quite, but you get the idea...

Anyway, first item on the menu was Prawns. I had brought back a load of lovely big, huge prawns from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah and I marinated them as such:

2 kg large prawns
2-3 inches ginger - pounded
1/8 cup olive oil
1 tsp turmeric
3 tsp Tabasco sauce
1 tsp honey
4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Black Pepper

Shell and devein prawns but leave tails intact. Mix all the ingredients together and allow to marinade.

Before grilling them on the BBQ, we needed to set up the BBQ and the kids were more than happy to help me out there.

Getting the fire going was quite a chore and suffice to say it involved burning a wooden stool that I had stupidly used as a base since the legs on the BBQ set were too short. One would think that I had more brains...

Nonetheless, the prawns were rather delicious. My son, who claimed that he "only likes prawns a little bit", promptly devoured more than 10 and then proceeded to proclaim that "actually I like prawns."

The Lovely Wife had a few prawns too although she has an allergy to shellfish. There's just something rather spectacular about BBQed prawns...

Monday, 27 October 2008

Citrus Prawn on Spiced Pumpkin

All Hail the Queen! Jenn, the Leftover Queen, organises a monthly Royal Foodie Joust where 3 ingredients are selected by the previous months winner. This month, the 3 ingredients were selected by last month's winner, Susan of Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy. She chose to challenge us with :
Acorn Squash

Acorn what?! Acorn squash. What? Apparently it is a winter squash. Since I live in South East Asia where winter is an unheard of occurence, there was no possibility whatsoever of finding an Acorn Squash. (Never mind that I have no idea what they look like!)

Jenn had allowed us to use "...pumpkin or some other orange fleshed winter squash." So I decided to use pumpkin. Then when I was doing the shopping, I noticed some tiny, green coloured pumpkin lookalikes and I got all excited. Only to be told that these were made of plastic and were simply decorations for Halloween...

When did Malaysia ever celebrate Halloween?? I guess this is due to the effects of globalisation...

Now October has been a rather busy month for me where I've also been away for two weeks even! So I just managed to squeeze in making this entry for the RFJ over the weekend.

The inspiration for this dish actually came while I was watching an early morning breakfast show (I think it was on channel 7) while waiting to leave for the airport from one of the hotels in Sabah (where I was on work the whole of last week).

The chef featured on this show, from Carcosa Seri Negara (a very, very swish hotel in Kuala Lumpur) had made a Scallop dish with a celery mash. This was a main meal for one. I figured why not make something similar but use prawns instead of scallops and use a pumpkin mash instead of celery. Sounds good right?

This is what I did.

Citrus Prawn on Spiced Pumpkin

4 large prawns - shelled and deveined leave tails on
black Pepper
Juice from 1/2 orange
quarter small pumpkin
1 tbsp milk
1 tsp curry powder
Black Pepper
Juice of 1/4 orange
2 cloves garlic - chopped
2 tsp sage
1 red chilli
celery leaf for garnish

Marinate the prawns in orange juice and black pepper.
Cut the pumpkin into small pieces. Fry the curry powder and black pepper together with the pumpkin until soft. Add some water to prevent it from drying out if necessary. Using a masher or fork, mash the pumpkin and then add in milk and orange juice and mix till smooth. Season with salt. Set aside
Meanwhile, in a clean pan, fry chopped garlic and sage until fragrant. Add in prawns and cook quickly until prawns turn pink. Serve by laying the pumpkin on a plate and then arranging the prawns on top. Garnish pumpkin with chillies and prawns with celery leaf.

The prawns tinged with citrus and sage were delicious on their own while the sweet pumpkin flavoured with a little curry powder paired very well with the prawns. The chilli lent an extra bit of spiciness to every bite of prawn in true Malaysian style.

I think this dish tasted rather fabulous, even if I do say so myself! My wife is a little allergic to prawns so that is why I only made a single serving. She did however try one bite of the dish and proclaimed it to be of "Restaurant standard."

All I can say is that I thoroughly enjoyed the dish and I almost patted myself on the back for this creation.


Sunday, 26 October 2008

Sarah wants a Barbecue and its nothing to do with Palin!

Mention Sarah these days and you automatically associate it with Sarah Palin - the US VP Candidate and maybe even US VP come November 4th. Its amazing isnt it how the whole world focuses on US Politics... but I wont get into my political genre right now and I'll just stick to food!

So...My little princess - Sarah - has been asking for a BBQ for some time now. Since this weekend is a long weekend thanks to Deepavali, we decided to throw a BBQ tonight.

She's all excited about it and has prepared a list of what she wants. Its rather a substantial list too and also includes some of Michael's favourites. This is really going to involve a lot of firsts and will also be a team effort between The Lovely Wife and I. We also plan to get the kids involved as much as we can.

So this is the plan as per Sarah's list...

Satay - home made this time!
Kuah Kacang (Peanut Sauce for the satay)- Home made too. Hope it turns out good.
Ketupat/Nasi Himpit - going the instant route with prepacked goods.
BBQ Chicken Wings
Mashed Potatoes
Garlic Bread
Meringue with Fruits and Pink Cream

Now, since I just returned from Sabah and bought some lovely seafood there, I've added this to the menu:

BBQ Prawns
Spicy Scallops

So stay tuned for more on Sarah's Barbecue...

In the meantime, to all my Hindu friends, have a Blessed and Happy Deepavali!

Friday, 24 October 2008

Chicken ala Queen or is that Chicken ala Princess

Yes, you're right. Your eyes do not deceive you. The title DOES say Chicken ala Queen when by right it should be Chicken ala King. However, there IS a reason for it just like most times there IS a method to my madness.

You see, I dont like to discriminate by virtue of gender so why the heck should a King get credit for a dish when in all likelihood, it would have been the Queen that prepared it. Well actually, in all likelihood the kitchen damsels would have prepared it but thats another argument altogether.

I did a search for the
history of Chicken ala King
and if you are interested too, well just click on the link.

I first made Chicken Ala King when I was in Uni. You see, during my first two University years, my flatmates were both Malaysian Indians and invariably we ended up eating Curries and Chinese almost every night. Eating out was expensive and I used to long for some western dishes. I remembered my Mother making a Creamy Chicken dish using Cream of Chicken soup as the base. Thats what I did then too. I chopped up some chicken, added in a bag of frozen peas, corn and carrots and dumped in a can of Cream of Chicken soup to get a very simple yet satisying Chicken Ala King.

That was then though and nowadays I frown at using canned soups as the base for anything. This time I made my own creamy base instead and I must say the results were far, far better. Instead of the usual corn, carrots and peas, I found a pack of imported frozen veges that consisted of Turnips, Leek, Carrots and Long Beans. Much, much nicer!

This is what I did.

300 gm Boneless Chicken Breast
200 gm Fresh Button Mushrooms
1 Large Onion
2 Potatoes
1 Tbsp Oil
1 Packet Frozen Vegetables (Turnip, Leek, Carrots, Long Beans)
200 ml cream
Black Pepper
Paprika Powder

Cut the chicken into bit size pieces. Cut the mushrooms into halves. Dice onions and potatoes. Heat a little oil and fry the onions with a litle pepper, oregano and thyme. Cook the chicken until cooked through. Add in the mushrooms and cook till juices come out, then add the potatoes and continue cooking. Add in the cream together with the vegetables and season with salt. Allow to simmer till potatoes are soft and mixture thickens. Sprinkle on some paprika and serve with rice.

Very satisfying indeed and the reason for the title? Well, my little princess loved this dish and declared it 'very yummy'. So, since my princess loves it, and for the sake of equal opportunity, lets just call this dish Chicken ala Princess.

There doesnt have to be any better reason than that now, does there...?

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Busy with work...

Just wanted to say that I am rather busy with work this week and wont have the time to update my blog.
Hope to be back blogging real soon though...

Friday, 17 October 2008

Meatballs again - this time with sauce. I'm not letting Ikea beat me you see!

I've been away on work for a while and havent been able to update my blog. I could have posted on auto-scheduling but I was just plain lazy. Anyway.

I know that I mentioned previously that my son likes the meatballs at Ikea. I also know that I mentioned that he prefers just the meatballs without the sauce or lingonberry jam that Ikea serves. You must realise though that he said this about a year ago and I guess that times change and tastes change too.

Now he says that he also likes the meatballs with sauce -just like how they serve it at Ikea. Ditto said my daugther.

My son explained that "Daddy's meatballs are nice but the one's from Ikea are quite nice too."

My daughter went on to say, "I like the... that kind of sauce... you know at Ikea... they have that light brown kind of creamy sauce."

Can you see the the smoke coming out of my ears? Like in the cartoons? And can you hear the sound of the train blowing its horn as the smoke came out of my ears??!!

I couldn't very well let my children grow up thinking that Ikea's meatballs are better than mine. No way! I had to try to make this blasted sauce that they seemed to like so much. I admit, I tried making a brown sauce once by cooking a roux till it became brown - but no, it wasnt well received.

This time, I reckoned on making a sauce out of the drippings. You see, I bake my meatballs before taking them out and giving them a quick 'toast' in a hot pan. Baking the meatballs yields a lot of drippings and this would be precisely what would give the sauce a lovely flavour.

I reduced the drippings over high heat for a while and then added in a tbsp of flour to make a roux. Then I added in some milk and cooked it till it thickened up slightly, added in some Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper and I had a lovely sauce that I reckoned would put the Ikea sauce to shame!

The kids had to give their seal of approval though and I waited with almost bated breath as they dipped their meatballs into the sauce and then ate them. My son declared the meatballs and sauce BETTER than Ikea while my daughter gave me a 10 out of 10 for both - she's into scoring my meals nowadays! They both liked the sauce so much that they added it together with the Mushroom and Spinach Pasta I had cooked.

I'm always happy when my Children enjoy a good homecooked meal but this time I got an extra bit of satisfaction knowing that I had beaten Ikea at their own meatballs!!!

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Pasta Aglio Olio i Funghi e Spinaci

I think I'm getting into the 'romance' of naming my pasta dishes by their Italian names. Only problem is, I'm not sure if they are grammatically correct and I run the risk of an Italian coming to my house and saying "Ciò è rifiuti. Non state parlando Italiano! (This is Rubbish. You are not speaking Italian!) while he takes of his gloves and slaps my face twice. Or is that what the French do?

The kids were feeling a little under the weather with both having the flu and fever. This didnt diminish their appetite however and they both asked for pasta. I decided to keep it simple but yet very nutritious by making a simple Aglio Olio but fortified with Mushrooms, Spinach and a little chilli for both flavour and colour.
This is what I did:

8 cloves garlic
1 small onion
200g large Swiss Brown Mushrooms
1 bunch spinach
2 chillies
2 tsp oregano
Black Pepper
Olive Oil

Chop Onion, Garlic and Chilli. Fry with black pepper and oregano in Olive Oil till soft. Add in the mushrooms and cook till juices come out. Blanch the spinach and chop finely. Then add into the mixture. Season with a little salt. Toss together with cooked pasta.

I just love how simple this dish is. I think sometimes with Pasta, it is the simplicity that makes it really special.

I also made some meatballs that went really well with this pasta but thats for another time and another post! In the meantime, this is also my entry for Presto Pasta Nights hosted by (and also the brainchild of) my friend Ruth at Once Upon A Feast

I know I dont speak Italian but I do know what Bellissimo means and in my mind, this pasta dish is certainly that. Bellissimo!

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Ikea Daim Cake - Take Two

I'm almost there! Even with all my modifications, I beleive I have almost made the Ikea Daim Cake also known as the Almondy Cake. Heck, my son even thinks my version is better so I guess that is something in itself isnt it!

For those of you not familiar with this cake, it is a delicious nutty cake with Daim chocolate. It is one of the 'must-haves' at the Ikea cafe and you can also get the whole cake, frozen that is, from the Ikea deli just after the exit - at the Kuala Lumpur, Ikea anyway.

I tried making this before but the custard icing I tried turned out really runny. I've also learnt (after making this cake again) after a trip to Ikea, that the yellow layer in the cake is actually marzipan. So I guess my doing an almond flavoured pastry cream wasnt too far off the mark!

For the base of the cake, I made a Joconde - the same Joconde from the Opera Cake made for a DB challenge .

For the chocolate topping, instead of using Daim chocolates, I used Toblerone. Then I sprinkled Roasted Almonds all over.

This is what I did:

2 tbsps (30g) unsalted butter, melted
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 tbsps granulated sugar
1 cups (110) almond flour or finely ground almonds
1 cups icing sugar, sifted
3 large eggs
¼ cup all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 425F (220C). Line jelly-roll pan with parchment paper, and coat parchment with 1 tbsp of the melted butter.
In a clean, dry mixer bowl fitted with the whisk attachment, whip on low speed until the whites become foamy, then whip on medium-high speed until the whites reach soft peaks. Add granulated sugar, and whip on high speed until the whites are stiff and glossy.
In a separate mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, beat almond flour, icing sugar, and eggs on medium speed for 3 minutes or until light and voluminous. Add flour and beat at low speed until it disappears. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold meringue into the almond mixture, then fold in the remaining melted butter until just combined. Spread mixture into pan and spread evenly.
Bake cake for 5 to 7 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from the pan and let cool to room temperature.

Pastry Cream

1 1/4 cups (300 ml) milk
1/2 tsp almond essence
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup (50 grams) caster sugar
1/8 cup (20 grams) all-purpose flour
Scant 3 tablespoons (20 grams) cornstarch
50g butter
5 tbsp icing sugar

In a medium-sized stainless steel bowl, mix the caster sugar and egg yolks together with a wooden spoon. (Never let the mixture sit too long or you will get pieces of egg forming.) Sift the flour and cornstarch together and then add to the egg mixture, mixing until you get a smooth paste. Set aside.

Meanwhile in a saucepan heat the milk on medium heat until boiling. (The milk will foam up to the top of pan when done, so watch carefully.) Remove from heat and add slowly to egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent curdling. (If you get a few pieces of egg (curdling) in the mixture, pour through a strainer.)

Place the egg mixture back into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until boiling, whisking constantly. When it boils, whisk mixture constantly for another 30 - 60 seconds until it becomes very thick and it is hard to stir.

Remove from heat and immediately whisk in the almond essence. Pour into a clean bowl and immediately cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming. Cool. Beat with icing sugar before using to firm it up a little more and get rid of any lumps that may have formed.

250g Dark Toblerone
200ml Cream
Roasted Almonds

Break chocolate and place into a heat proof bowl. Boil the cream and then pour over the chocolate. Mix well till melted and then let cool.

Layer the Joconde with the almond pastry cream. Then cover with the Chocolate Ganache and Roasted Almonds.

In retrospect, I think I should have baked the joconde a bit longer to make it crisper. I should also have halved the recipe and then cut the cake to get really thin layers. I'd also chop the toblerone and add it to the top of the cake with a ganache rather than just melting it down into a ganache. Other than that, I think this cake was really scrumptous.

Maybe Take Three might produce the perfect Ikea Daim Cake...or at the very least a further improvement on this one!

Ikea Daim Cake - Take 3 was done in February 2009 and I think this is the best and closest version yet!!!

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Sambar for World Food Day

I posted about the World Food Day Event that my friends Valli and Ivy are hosting together earlier on this blog. I think this is a very noble cause in raising awareness of hunger and deprivation that exists all over the world.

Although I already posted about this, I thought that since the intent is to 'Feed that World' albeit in a virtual manner, the more food brought to this event the better. So in addition to my earlier post, I'm bring along a Sambar.

Sambar is definitely one of my favourite foods. This lentil based dish has many variations and is often considered one of the staple dishes in South Indian cuisine. It is akin to the Dhall in North Indian cooking. It is also very Malaysians since Malaysian food is so darned varied and includes Malay, Chinese and Indian Cuisine not to mention a whole host of other ethnic cuisines. This is my own homemade version of Sambar and since I am as Malaysian as can be, I reckon this qualifies as a National food!

Sambar is great in that it can be a meal all on its own, eaten with rice. Although usually vegetarian, there are some variants that add meat into it as well.

When I was a student, I used to cook this dish rather frequently. It was great comfort food and was relatively cheap as well while at the same time providing lots of protein. In fact, many friends from my Uni days, still remember my ‘legendary’ Sambar that we all used to tuck into and enjoy. Coupled with a fiery curry, this was just pure heaven on cold wintry nights!

This is what I do:

300g Lentils (yellow or orange lentils)
1 Large onion
2 slices ginger
2 tomatoes
2 potatoes
2 eggplants
2 carrots
2 tsp turmeric
Handful curry leaves
1 tsp curry powder
2 tsp Black Pepper
3 cloves
1 tsp fenugreek
1 tbsp oil
3 cups water
3 dried chillies


Wash lentils and let soak for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, Pare potatoes and carrots and cut each potato into medium sized pieces and the carrot into longish slices. Do the same for the eggplant and quarter the tomatoes. Set vegetables aside.
Slice onion, chop garlic and cut chillies into large piece. Heat oil and fry onion, garlic, chillies, curry leaves, black pepper, cloves and fenugreek till fragrant. Add the curry powder and turmeric and fry lightly. Add the vegetables and fry lightly. Add in the water and lentils. Cover and let simmer till lentils are soft. You may need to add some water from time to time. Season with salt

You can add more water to make a thin Sambar or let it simmer longer for a thicker version. There are just so many possibilities! Sometimes, to add a little more flavour and ‘richness’, a little ghee (clarified butter) is poured over the Sambar and mixed with rice. I sometimes like to add ladysfingers (Okra) to the Sambar as well.

Sambar is just perfect eaten with rice or even flatbreads. A delicious and very nutritious food, it goes a long way and is the perfect food to serve for a lot of people.

So please lay this dish together with all the other ones to get "A conga line of international dishes to feed the world!!!!

Thursday, 2 October 2008

A Baking Weekend

What could be more heavenly than a weekend that includes Brownies with Ice Cream and Cupcakes?

It all started with a trip to the Bicycle store to get my little princess a new bike. My son was at school - on a Saturday. You see, sometimes schools in Malaysia have 'Make-Up' classes for an optional or occasional holiday granted most often to lengthen the time off for the kids. As an example, the kids had the whole week off for Hari Raya when in actual fact the public holidays are only for two days. So the three days off had to be 'Made-Up' or paid back. Sometimes I explain all of this so that at least I remember how it works too!

So anway, while Michael was in school, The Lovely Wife and I took Sarah to get her a new bike. She chose the bike that then needed some minor adjustments to the brakes and training wheels. So while this was being done, we moseyed over to the new bakery next door.

We always like to try out new bakeries, especially the cakes, as its quite difficult to find bakeries that make really good cakes. The Lovely Wife and I shared a chocolate sponge ganache kind of cake that we both thought was pretty average since we both reckoned that mine was probably better. Sarah was torn between a cream eclair and cupcakes so I told her to try the eclair and if she wanted, I wuold make her cupcakes later at home. After eating the eclair, she proclaimed that my eclairs were nicer and insisted that I please make mini cupcakes when we got home.

So that was how I ended up making cupcakes on a Saturday afternoon. I made some mini vanilla cupcakes decorated with sugar sprinkles. I also made some normal sized cupcakes and spread some chocolate glaze on it. Rather tasty I must admit! Half the mini cupcakes were devoured immediately after baking them and the rest were polished off later that night when my parents, my two brothers and their families popped round for cupcakes!

The next day, the kids asked if they could have Brownies! Other than the fact that they "just felt like having brownies", they also wanted to take some to school for their break time too. How can a Daddy say no to a request from his kids? So I proceeded to make brownies on Sunday.

Later that night, I cut a large piece of brownie, zapped it in the microwave for a little bit and then placed a scoop of vanilla ice cream over it and served it to the kids. Sometimes presentation does make a difference and they were thrilled to have it served "just like in the restaurants".

I love my brownies with ice cream too and although I did make this for the kids, I am glad that they asked me to make it as I could indulge as well!!


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