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Monday, 27 July 2009

Bond does Milan...

But first the obligatory lines...

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

And now on to Bond, James Bond, Britain's finest - now relegated to baking...

"You've got two cookies to make Bond." M snarled at him.

Bond was rather mesmerised, seeing M wearing a black cocktail dress. She always looked so matronly but now she actually looked semi decent. He snuck a peak at her cleavage and then suddenly felt slightly nauseous as he realised he was actually having nasty thoughts of M... terrible, terrible! He really must be getting old.

"Ummm.. cookies M? Dont you mean biscuits?" Bond replied, looking quickly at the floor to avert his eyes from her cleavage which seemed to draw his eyes to them like a magnet.

"Yes, Biscuits to us Brits but you DO know how the Yanks always try and be different. What we know as Biscuits, they call Cookies and what they call Biscuits, we know as Scones. All very confusing really. They confuse things even more by not following the Metric system. Think about it James... part of the reason why the American girls love you so much is because they assume you are talking inches instead of centimetres."

"Centimeters or inches M, it really doesnt matter. Its what you do with it that..."

"Oh Shut up James! Here. Two cookies, err.. biscuits. Go do what you are supposed to do." M held out a dossier.

Bond's heart fell. He sooo hated baking biscuits. He loved eating them, but he just hated baking them. All that fuss in piping out the dough, baking for a short spell then repeating the whole process always got his knickers into a knot. Although, he quite rightly reminded himself, knickers were usually worn by women. He finally understood the emphasis of knickers in the traditional British saying of "to get one's knickers in a knot, meaning to get flustered or agitated. It was knickers and not underpants as it was simply because it was women that always got flustered and agitated - especially around him....and then he so enjoyed unknotting the knot in their knickers.

"Your mind wandering again Bond?" M queried.

Bond snapped out of his reverie and reached out to take the dossier from M. "Blasted biscuits." he mumbled quietly to himself as he briefly wondered if M had Her knickers in a knot...

Bond looked through the dossier in detail. His frown turned to a scowl as he read that he was required to make Chocolate Covered Marshmallow cookies. Not quite his cup of tea and the bigger problem was that it really wouldnt even GO with a cup of tea. Certainly not Earl Grey or even English Breakfast for that matter. His eyes lit up a little as he saw that the second recipe was for a Milano Biscuit.

Aaaah!! Milano! He recalled that lovely Italian agent, Francesca Sofia Giada Alessandra Valentina del Piero. He smiled at how he thought he would be meeting 5 women and how it had turned out to be one woman with 5 names. She was one of the most beautiful women he had ever met let alone ever laid eyes upon and not to mention laying his hands all over and of course laying in the other sense of the word... her knickers were pretty too - definitely no knots in them.

Then there was the time that they went to watch AC Milan playing at the San Siro but he hardly remembered the match - he was too enamoured with Dolcezza (that was his pet name for her that meant Honey) in their very own corporate box. Good thing too as he found Italian football so boringly boring. The best thing about the Corporate Box though were the Milano biscuits that he had eaten.

It was only when he returned back to England that he realised that Milano cookies are a trademarked dessert manufactured by Pepperidge Farm as part of their series of "European" cookies. There is really nothing Italian or Milanish about the Milano biscuit. Further checks showed that the Milano was created as a result of Pepperidge Farm's original cookie concept, the Naples, which was a single vanilla wafer cookie with dark chocolate filling topping it that would often get stuck together when shipped to and sold in warmer climates. The company resolved the problem by sandwiching Naples cookies together, creating the new Milano variety.

Bond returned to the dossier and his eyes lit up at the very last line that read:
* You can either do both recipes or just choose one.

"Bully for you Nicole!" Bond punched his fist into the air, happy that he only had to make one biscuit. Now that Milano would go really well with English Breakfast as well as Earl Grey. Why for that matter even Prince of Wales and Lemon Scented would go very well with the Milano. Ahhh... nothing like a good cup of Twinings Tea!

As usual, Bond woke up early on a Saturday morning to do the challenge. He decided he was going to half the recipe and just make a small batch and that is exactly what he did. Everything mixed up rather well and he followed the recipe exactly as it was written. Bond felt that the mix was a little thin but he plodded on anyway. he used a large tray to pipe out his dough and stuck it into the oven. Alas, when the biscuits came out, they were very thin. Almost to the point of looking and tasting like Tuilles. Further, the biscuits were extremely sweet. The children that he offered the biscuits to were not impressed and thumbed their noses at him.

Bond was disappointed. Very, very disappointed.

Nonetheless, the next weekend, he decided he was going to try and make it again. Again he halved the recipe but this time, he added a little bit more flour and also cut down on the sugar. This time the dough seemed a little firmer. Bond piped out nice strips onto his baking sheet and let the biscuits bake for about 15 minutes. This seemed to work a charm and the biscuits came out looking decent. They didnt taste nearly as sweet either.

With excitement growing, Bond melted the chocolate and when the biscuits had cooled, smeared the chocolate on and sandwhiched the biscutis together. They certainly looked like Milano's but did they Taste like Milano's?

They were very good indeed! Perhaps not as nice as the professional Pepperidge Farm ones but still bloody good!

"Well done old chap" Bond smiled to himself as he sunk his teeth into a Milano and thought of Francesca Sofia Giada Alessandra Valentina del Piero...

and so ends another installment of Bond, James Bond, Britain's finest!

How did my wonderful food tasters like it?

My Principessa loved it as you can well see! My son enjoyed it as well and both of them loved the dark chocolate melding with the slight lemon flavour of the biscuit. The biscuits didnt last long and I was left wondering if I should have made a full batch instead of being stingy and just doing the half measure...

Thanks Nicole for a great challenge that although failed at first, turned out really well on the second try!

Milan Cookies
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website (changes in parentheses)

Prep Time: 20 min
Inactive Prep Time: 0 min
Cook Time: 1 hr 0 min
Serves: about 3 dozen cookies

• 170grams unsalted butter, softened
• 2 1/2 cups (2 cups) powdered sugar
• 7/8 cup egg whites from about 6 eggs
• 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
• 2 tablespoons lemon extract
• 1 1/2 cups (1 3/4 cups) all purpose flour
• Cookie filling, recipe follows

Cookie filling:
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
• 1 orange, zested

1. In a mixer with paddle attachment cream the butter and the sugar.
2. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts.
3. Add the flour and mix until just well mixed.
4. With a small (1/4-inch) plain tip, pipe 1-inch sections of batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, spacing them 2 inches apart as they spread.
5. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 (15)minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan.
6. While waiting for the cookies to cool, in a small saucepan over medium flame, scald cream.
7. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl, whisk to melt chocolate, add zest and blend well.
8. Set aside to cool (the mixture will thicken as it cools).
9. Spread a thin amount of the filling onto the flat side of a cookie while the filling is still soft and press the flat side of a second cookie on top.
10. Repeat with the remainder of the cookies.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Fried Baby Squid or Kalamarakia Tiganita

My son has a liking for squid and calamari. Some time back, when we had dinner at Kuala Selangor after visiting the Firefly Sanctuary we had a dish of fried baby squid in mayonaisse. He really enjoyed that and so when he saw some baby squid on sale at our local market, he got very excited and asked The Lovely Wife if she could buy some and make it for him.

Neither of us have ever cooked baby squid before but how were we to refuse? The Lovely Wife asked the fishmonger how to clean the squid and he said to just "rinse the squid and then pull the head out."

The Lovely Wife decided she was just going to fry the squid and serve it with lemon as another of both our childrens favourites is nothing other than lemon (or lime). Don't ask me where they get this from but they just love sucking on the sour fruit and squeezing lemon or lime all over their food...

The Lovely Wife surfed for some recipe ideas and found a simple Greek styled recipe for fried squid with lemon. It's really so simple that you don't even need a recipe but this is what she did.

A whole heap of baby squid!
Plain flour
lemon wedges
Wash and clean the baby squid - removing its head. Season with a little salt. Dredge the squid in plain flour till nicely covered. Fry till golden. Serve with lemon wedges.

How easy is that I ask you!

My son really enjoyed the baby squid and promptly told his maternal grandmother later than night how much he had liked it. He had one complaint though and that was "I told Mummy that she didn't buy enough and I was right. Can you buy some for me and make it tomorrow?"

Friday, 17 July 2009

Misguided about exotic drinks and spices...

Just last week, I was looking through some food blogs when I realised I hadn't visited my friend Judy at No Fear Entertaining for a while. When I got there, I found her post on Tilapia with Cilantro and Lime. I was intrigued to say the least and decided I was going to do something similar.

For many years, I thought Cilantro was some exotic drink akin to Campari. Then, when I wisened up a little, I thought it was some exotic spice only available in the western world.

Imagine my surprise when I learnt that Cilantro was nothing other than Coriander Leaves! Silly misguided me...

Anyway, enough of my misguidance on exotic drinks and spices!

When the weekend came and it was time to do the groceries, I told The Lovely Wife that I wanted to get some fish. My initial plan was to use some mackerel but as we were shopping in one of the hypermarkets, I noticed there was a special for frozen Dory Fish fillets. No where as nice as Mackerel for sure but so, so, SO much cheaper!

I would never have thought of using Coriander Leaves with fish so this is truly inspired by Judy's post. I also decided on using lemon instead of lime for this. This is what I did.

Baked Dory Fish with Coriander Leaves and Lemon
500g Dory Fish fillets (about two large pieces)
1 large bunch Coriander, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic - chopped
Black Pepper
1/2 a lemon

Cut dory into large pieces. Combine cilantro, oil, garlic and salt and spread over the fish. Leave to marinate for at least 1/2 hour.
Preheat oven to 190C. Line a tray with aluminium foil and place marinated fish on top of the foil. Sprinkle top of fish with black pepper. Fold the foil over the fish and seal it like an parcel, making sure the fish is covered.
Bake for about 20 mins and then open the parcel carefully as the steam will be very hot. Transfer the fish together with its juices to a serving platter. Squeeze the lemon over the fish and garnish with lemon slices.

The fish was really very tasty and the two flavours complemented each other very nicely. Who would have thought that something this easy could be so tasty? I served it with rice and it was enjoyed by everyone. I was only sad that there wasn't any left over when my princess asked for seconds...

Monday, 13 July 2009

Stuffed Peppers with Spiced Beef

In my previous two posts, I talked about Dinner for the Girls where some of The Lovely Wife's friends came over. This is the last post about that and I feature the Stuffed Peppers that I made.

I've made stuffed peppers before and even posted about it. Usually, I slice the capsicum into quarters and then stuff them but this time I decided to stuff them whole.

I found some lovely 'mini' capsicums at the market and I lobbed of their heads before stuffing them. I realised that the bottoms of the capsicums weren't flat so I would need to stand them in something. I used my muffin pan!

After stuffing them, I place the 'heads' back on top, fastened them together with a toothpick and then baked them.

This is what I did:

Stuffed Peppers with Spiced Beef
12 small capsicums
1 medium onion - chopped
2 cloves garlic - chopped
2 tsp oregano
4 red chillis - sliced
500g minced beef
2 slices whole meal bread
3 handfuls sunflower seeds
4-5 Tbsps Tomato Paste
Cut of tops of capsicum and place in a muffin pan or similar container
Sautee onion, garlic and oregano till fragrant. Add in chiilis then then beef and cook well. Make breadcrumbs by whizzing the bread in a food processor. Set aside. Add the tomato paste to the beef and season with salt and pepper. Lightly fry the breadcrumbs and sunflower seeds till crispy and quickly stir into the beef mixture. Spoon into the capsicums and cover with tops. Fasten with a toothpick and bake in a preheated 200C oven for about 20mins or till capsicum is tender.

When it was time to serve the stuffed capsicums, I realised that they woulnd't stand on their own either, so I place each pepper into cupcake moulds.

I actually wanted to use Pine Nuts instead of sunflower seeds but pine nuts are just so blasted expensive in this part of the world.

The Stuffed Peppers turned out really delicious and they looked very colourful too! Next time I do this, I might toast the breadcrumbs and then sprinkle them on top before capping the peppers to get a 'crusty' layer on top. Nonetheless, the addition of breadcrumbs into the meat helped hold the meat together and it didnt all collapse when it was cut into.

This could even work as a main meal if you use large peppers. I will definitely make these again. I think stuffing whole peppers look a lot better, taste a lot better and are easier to do as well!

Friday, 10 July 2009

More about Dinner for the girls...

I posted in my previous post about how The Lovely Wife had a few of her old school mates (nothing old about them though so I guess I should reword that) Ex school mates over for dinner. I didn't take pictures of all the food as I've posted about most of them before.

Lynn however, did take pictures and I am sharing her pics here! It also gives me a chance to be lazy and not write too much of a story as sometimes pictures are better than words!

Thanks Lynn for the photos!

The rice tarts - still in their moulds. I should really have taken them out while they were still hot as some of the rice stuck to the bottom and it didn't hold its shape up as well as they did the last time.

The Peppers that I had to bake in a muffin pan so that they stood up properly! I'll post the full recipe and more pics soon.

The Olbigatory Salad - compliments of The Lovely Wife...

The Chicken Pie that was very well received. The Lovely Wife still says this is one of her favourite dishes. Somehow, I find that it seems to taste even better the next day. It certainly cuts better after a night in the fridge!

And Dessert was featured and explained in the last post as well! Come back again anytime girls!

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

A dinner for the girls ... ends with a fabulous dessert!

Just this weekend, The Lovely Wife invited some of her old school mates over for a get together. She had asked me earlier if I could cook up a nice dinner for four of her friends. How is a guy supposed to say no to dinner with four lovely ladies?! Errr... I mean FIVE including The Lovely Wife!!

One of the girls, Lynn, has become a good friend of mine as well. The last time she came over, she had told me about some swanky restaurant that she had been too where they had printed individual menu cards with the diner's name on it. She 'insisted' that the next time she came for dinner, I would have to print a menu card for her.

I had planned on individual cards for all the guests but as I ran out of time, I just quickly strung this together - that's my excuse for the Typo Errors!

As you can see from the menu, I stuck to the tried and tested although the Stuffed Peppers were different from anything I had ever done with stuffed capsicum before. I'll post about them soon enough.

I did some small variations on the Mediterranean Rice Tarts where I used beef pepperoni and cheese. I also omitted the bacon from my Chicken Pie and for both dishes, I used Portobello Mushrooms - more out of necessity than choice because the supermarket had run out of white button mushrooms. No complaints though as Portobello's are always good!

The piece de resistance was of course the dessert! Lynn had asked for an ice cream cake and I was actually planning on doing that but kind of changed my mind at the last minute. I didn't want to tell The Lovely Wife what I was planning to make either as sometimes, she will wrinkle her pretty little nose at my ideas just because she thinks it may not be up her alley - oftentimes she is completely wrong!

I spent the better part of Saturday morning making the dessert. It is loosely based on Le Kit Cat the famous dessert creted by Michel Richard, renowned chef of Citronelle Restaurant in Washington D.C. (Adapted from Happy in the Kitchen by Michel Richard)

I added an almond meringue base to the recipe, used more cream and added egg yolks to the mousse. This is what I did:

3 Eggs whites
150 g castor sugar
150 g ground almonds

Bottom Layer:
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
200g ounces milk chocolate, melted and at body temperature
1 1/4 cups crushed corn flakes

Top Layer:
400 ml heavy cream
200g dark or semisweet chocolate
3 egg yolks
2 tbsp Sugar

Make the base. Line a 9" Springform pan with baking paper. Whisk eggs whites till foamy and then add in sugar and whisk till stiff. Fold in ground almonds. Spread meringue mixture into springform and bake in preheated 170C oven for about 40 minutes or till meringue is cooked. Remove from oven and cool slightly. Remove springform and greaseproof paper from meringue. Allow to fully cool then replace into springform.

For the bottom layer, Whip peanut butter and vegetable oil on medium speed until combined and light in color, 2-3 minutes. Reduce to low, add the melted chocolate and mix until combined. Stir in the crushed corn flakes. Pour over almond meringue in springform. Spread into an even layer. Chill in fridge until firm.

For the top layer, melt the chocolate over a double boiler on low heat. While chocolate is melting, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and quickly add into the melted chocolate. Remove from heat and continue whisking till smooth. If chocolate becomes clumpy, add in a little warm cream. Whisk the cream until soft peaks form. Fold a little of the whipped cream into the chocolate, then fold in the remaining cream.

Pour mixture over the peanut layer layer and spread evenly. Slice into rectrangles or cake slices to serve.

My Little princess helped with crunching up the corn flakes and she had a lot of fun doing it.

I had planned on making some miniature Le Kit Cat Almond Meringue Cake but I ran out of the peanut feullantine. What I did though was to make mini Almond Meringue Chocolate Mousse tarts! My mom had come over for lunch as Dad had a function to attend and she just Loved my little dessert! This is the first time I've posted a picture of her on this blog too!

I decorated the dessert with strawberries and when I brought it out, it was welcomed with oohs and ahhs. I want to perfect getting desserts cleanly out of a springform without leaving the sides all messed up. I guess the trick is to line the sides of the springform too...

The dessert itself was simply divine. I have to admit that this is probably one of the nicest desserts I have ever tasted - EVER! All the guests loved it as did The Lovely Wife. She too proclaimed that it was probably one of the best desserts she'd ever tasted. Lynn, ever my foodie-fan, simply oohed and raised her thumb in appreciation as she savoured the dessert. Most everyone had two slices while I sneaked in three!

There was some left over for the next day and I cut it into cake sized slices and took a few more photos. I think the dessert tasted even better the next day! Both the kids loved it too and the leftovers were polished off very quickly.

As I sit here blogging about this dessert, I wish I had saved a piece (or two) as it was really, really delicious. I have to say that this is definitely a dessert that I would make again - and again and again!

Oh, and thanks ladies for a wonderful time! It was a lot of fun having you over for dinner and even more fun watching you all enjoy dessert. It's always nice to be in the company of lovely women who know how to enjoy their dessert!


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