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Monday, 31 May 2010

Chicken Mushroom Salad

This is something I whipped up some time ago when we all felt like a healthy lunch. You all know about my love for mushrooms and how the family loves them too. Both my boy and girl love anything with corn in it and The Lovely Wife just adores anything that has to do with vegetables - especially if the word Salad is in it.

Salads are always great to have on a hot day - which is practically every day in Malaysia. The thing about salads is that you can eat a lot of it and not feel guilty. Aside from that, its really nutritious and wholesome and best of all it doesnt take long to make!

The real beauty about a salad is that you can add anything and everything to it and it tastes just great. To add more body to my salad, I added in some chicken.
This is what I did:

200g chicken breast - sliced
200g brown mushrooms - sliced
1 onion - sliced
1 clove garlic - chopped
1 tsp oregano
1 Head Lettuce Leaves
1 Orange Capsicum - sliced
1 Red Capsicum - sliced
1 Cucumber -sliced
1 tin corn

Sautee the garlic and onion and then add in the oregano. Put in the the mushrooms and chicken and cook till tender. Season with salt and pepper.
On a separate plate, combine the lettuce leaves, cucumber, capsicum and corn. Arrange the chicken on top and toss before serving.

Very tasty and very wholesome. I didnt add any dressing but you could add in a little vinagrette dressing if you like. The mild flavours from the chicken and mushroom provided enough of a dressing for me and you could get the real taste and flavour of the vegetables.

Fresh, crunchy, tasty and perfect for a quick meal!

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Indian Scrambled Eggs

I'm a great fan of scrabled eggs. Not only are they easy to make but they make a nice meal eaten on their own or with some bread. The kids like their scrambled eggs too.

When The Lovely Wife mentioned that she wanted to try out a recipe from her "Indian Shortcuts to Sucess" recipe book by Das Sreedharan, I smiled supportively. Although I don't think she needs any help with Indian food, she has surprised us all with some recipes from Indian cookbooks. I asked her what she was going to make and thats when my supportive smile vanished. I rolled my eyes upward to heaven as if to ask the Good Lord for strength as she answered "Indian Scrambled Eggs"

What the heck are Indian Scrambled Eggs? Surely, just adding in a little spice to eggs and then frying them scrambled does not consitute Indian Scrambled Eggs! Surely Mr Sreedharan, the author of that cookbook, had simply run out of ideas and needed to add in something to fill his pages. Maybe he had needed and extra page or two to fill and he thought Ha! Put some spices in eggs and everyone will think its a special recipe and buy my book.

Heck, when I was first starting to cook, I used to make Scrambled Eggs with onions, tomatoes and curry powder. Maybe if I had the foresight to brand it as Indian Scrambled Eggs, I might be famous now!

Anyway, this is the recipe as Das Sreedharan does it.

3 large eggs
2 Tbsp vegetable Oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
10 curry leaves
1 small shallot, peeled and sliced
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp chilli powder
1 tomato - chopped
coriander for garnishing.
Break the eggs into a bowl and add a little salt. Whisk with a fork or baloon whisk till well mixed.
Heat the oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. When they start to pop add the curry leves and fry till fragrant. Add the shallots and cook over low ehat till soft.
Stir in the turmeric and chilli powder then add the tomato and cook for about 5 minutes. Pour in the beaten eggs and stir constantly as it cooks until they are nicely scrambled.

All very simple and not at all complicated! Taste wise, it was interesting to say the least but nothing really spectacular. Tasty yes, but not the sort of thing that you would really expect to find in a cook book.

The Lovely Wife thought it was interesting and remarked that it wasn't something that she would have made if not for reading it in her cookbook.

I decided that instead of rolling my eyes, I would just reach out and take another helping of those Indian Scrambled Eggs...

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Prawn & Taufoo Curry - and a little joke about Half Past Six!

There's nothing quite like a good Prawn Curry. A favourite way of making prawn curry is to make a dryish curry with lots of potatoes. My mother-in-law makes a great prawn curry this way and it's no surprise that The Lovely Wife does just as great a job with her own version of Prawn Curry. Actually, I think her version is better!

Prawns are kind of expensive but they are so, so delicious. It doesn't help that prawns are high in cholesterol either as I'm supposed to be watching mine. It doesn't help that I love prawns - in any form or fashion - but there's nothing quite like a good prawn curry eaten with rice.

This is what The Lovely Wife did:

1 kg prawns - shelled and deveined
4 firm taufoo - cubed
2 Potatoes - cubed
3 cloves garlic - minced
2 inches ginger - minced
2 large onions - sliced
2 Tbsp Fish Curry Powder
1 Tbsp Chilli Powder
2 tsp turmeric
5 stalks curry leaves
1 to 2 medium tomatos
1 cinnamon stick

Marinate the prawns and taufoo with the ginger, garlic, curry powder, chilli powder and turmeric for about 1/2 hour
Fry the cinammon stick in a little oil till fragrant. Add in the onions and fry till soft. Add in the curry leaves and fry till fragrant and then add in the tomato. Cook until a nice paste is formed and add in the potatoes. Cook till just tender before adding in the prawns and taufoo and cook well till the prawns turn pink. Add salt to taste. Keep cooking over a simmering flame till you achieve the dryness you want.
You can use more curry powder or chilli powder depending how hot and spicy you want it!

The Lovely Wife and I both have different ways of making our curries. Usually, I will fry the chilli powder and curry powder to bring out the flavours but The Lovely Wife has her own method of doing things.

Regardless, The Lovely Wife's prawn curry was really delicious. I'd have preferred it withouth the taufoo but I have to admit it was different and it also added more quantity to the dish. Prawns are expensive and anything more you can add to the dish is always good!

The Lovely Wife made this dish some time ago and so I had to get the recipe from her to update my blog. As she was explaining how she made this dish, and as I was busy scribbling it down, I remarked that I would fry the spices first. I also mentioned how I would do things differently. She scoffed at me and said that her way was better.

As a joke, I drew a circle on her shoulder - as a clock face - and then marked out the time as six Thirty. I then called my son over and showed him the 'clock'. I told him that since I thought Mummy's recipe wasn't quite so good, that it was a 'Half Past Six Recipe' and that's why she had a clock on her shoulder that showed Half Past Six.

The laugh from my son was priceless, and The Lovely Wife, who had no idea what I had drawn on her shoulder, couldn't help laughing out too. I'm still surprised that she let me draw on her shoulder but I suppose she knew I was setting her up for a joke. She's a fun lady too that Lovely Wife of mine!

Now to explain: Half-past-six” is a Malaysian slang for 'inferior' or 'lousy' or 'poor quality' - you get the drift. It was probably more in use when I was younger but it's still used a fair bit these days.

I really don't know if this term is used in the rest of the world nor do I know it's origin. The only guess I have is that since both hands of the clock point downwards at half-past six, it's as if it were a 'thumbs down’.

Any one of you have any other takes on this? Any one else around the world familiar with this? Let me know!

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

One Day we made Onde Onde - more Cultural Exchange

Malaysia is famous for its Kueh - pronouned Kway. What the heck is Kueh I hear you say. Well, it's a bit hard to explain but let me try anyway. It's kind of the equivalent of the western pastry - although its not really a pastry. Maybe it'll be easier explained as a sweetmeat. Then again, that's not really all that apt. Maybe the best way to explain it would be to say it's an Asian Cake. Perhaps not quite the best way to explain it but possibly the easiest way!

Kueh-mueh is the plural of Kueh and Malaysia has many Kueh-Mueh. It's available at breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner - anytime at all and like the western pastry, is usually a dessert or mouth sweetener - usually sweet although sometimes there are savoury ones too. There are so many varieties of Kueh-mueh and all of them are delicious.

Mostly, the Kueh are usually made with ingredients that include coconut, or conut milk, pandan leaves(screwpine leaves also known as pandanus leaves) and gula melaka. Incidentally, my very first Cultural Exchange post featured Gula Melaka.

Another key ingredient in kuih is of course flour. However, wheat flour is seldom is hardly ever used. Instead, the flour used for kuih takes the form of rice flour, pulut (glutinous rice), pulut flour and even tapioca and tapioca flour. Sometimes green peas are used as well.

My son loves his Kueh while my little princess enjoys it as well, but not as much as my son. The Lovely Wife and I also enjoy our Kueh and it's always a treat to buy Kueh from the local market, hawkers or food courts. The Lovely Wife refers to the Kueh sellers as the Koi-koi man - a play on the word Kueh. This term is used by quite a few people in Malaysia too!

My son's favourite kueh is Onde-Onde (pronounced as Oanday-Oanday although the 'oan' would be very short). Basically, its a ball of glutinous flour with a filling of liquid Gula Melaka and covered in lightly salted grated coconut. The balls are boiled and the texture would be slightly sticky and chewy - perhaps like a gnocchi? When you pop the ball into your mouth and bite on it, the gula melaka explodes in your mouth - pure heaven to your taste buds!

The Lovely Wife has a couple of books on Kueh - one of which the kids got her for Christmas - and one day, she decided to make Onde-Onde. I decided to help and we consulted both the books. One is by Rohani Jelani called Malaysian cakes and desserts while the other is a collection called Hot Favourites Kueh - author unspecified.

This is what we did:

300g glutinous rice flour
10-12 pandan leaves
150ml water
1/2 tsp alkaline water
180g gula melaka - finely chopped
100g grated coconut

Combine grated coconut and salt and steam for about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Blend pandan leaves with the water in a food processor. Strain to remove the solids and set the juice aside. Mix the juice together with alkaline water and then add into the sifted flour.

Knead well to form a smooth dough. Cover the dough with a damp cloth to prevent drying. bring a large pan of water to the boil then lower heat to simmering. Pinch a small piece of dough (about 2cm) and flatten into a disk. Drop the dough into the water till it cooks and rises to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon, shake off excess water and knead the cooked dough into the rest of the dough.
If dough seems to sticky, add in a litte more glutinous rice flour.

Pinch of small balls of dough the size of small limes and roll in your palms to form smoot balls. Carefully make a small well in the dough and fill with some gula melaka. Pinch the top to seal the sugar inside and then roll gentlty Alternatively, flatten the balls a little like a dumpling and fill with gula melaka before sealing the top and gently rolling it smooth with your palms. Be careful as the gula melaka will cause the dough to sweat and it can leak out.

Drop the balls gently into the simmering water. Don't overcrowd. When the balls are cooked, they will float to the top. Gently remove with a slotted spoon and then allow the water to drain. Toll the balls in the salted coconut. Transfer to a serving plate.

Yes, all in all a rather complicated recipe but the results are well worth it! It takes quite a bit of skill to keep the gula melaka inside when rolling and some of it actually leaked out when cooking.

Granted, the onde onde that we made wasn't quite as good as the ones we get from the kueh man but it was still very good. Nothing is quite so satisfying as making something at home that you would never dream of making.

Best part though, is that my son was pleased as punch with the homemade onde onde. He too admitted that the bought ones tasted better but he was just so thrilled that we could make it at home!

He couldn't stop stuffing his face with them and that, in itself, was worth all the hard work!


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