Friday, 26 September 2008

Malaysian Chicken Curry

Malaysian Chicken Curry

I've been craving curry for ages now. Not Indian curry, not curry from the Chinese takeaway but the coconut milk based curry of home with big pieces of chicken on the bone and chunks of potato. I daydreamed about this dish for about two weeks before I got round to making it myself. I wasn't too keen on playing around with spices (spices make my head spin - never quite sure what goes with what) but after rummaging through my horde of bits and bobs in the pantry (yes, I have one of those thanks to my 1940s -1950s build flat) I found a packet of spice mix - Asian Home Gourmet's Indonesian Rendang Curry Gulai. It was given to me by a very thoughtful ex-colleague to try ages ago. I know rendang (a dry curry made usually with beef that has been slowly simmered in coconut milk and spices) and chicken curry are two very different dishes but what the heck... I was getting desperate here! It had roughly the same ingredients that I was looking for - chillies, shallots, ginger, galangal, lemongrass, turmeric, cumin - amongst other things. So into my wok it went :)

Putting it all together:
  • Clean and cut up a whole chicken into roughly equal size pieces. Set aside.
  • In a wok or a large pan (with a cover), heat up about 2 -3 tablespoons of oil on a medium heat. This is mainly to ensure that my spices don't stick to the wok. Add in the curry paste and (this is where I cheated again) 3 heaped tablespoons of shop bought mild curry powder. Fry the spices until fragrant but not burnt.
  • I added in an extra cinnamon stick, about 3 star anise, 2 bashed up sticks of lemongrass, about 5 lime leaves, a large teaspoon or two of turmeric powder and few teaspoons of mild chili powder.. There is really no need to add these extra bits but I like to fool myself into thinking that this was really home made :) Plus I like the fusion of flavours anyway - India meets Thailand - reminds me of home.
  • Add the chicken to the pan and coat the meat with the spice mixture. When it is well coated, add in about 400 - 500ml of coconut milk. I used the tinned stuff because it's almost impossible to trek down fresh coconut milk here and I don't even want to imagine the price I would have to pay! If you want a thicker, richer curry, use coconut cream instead.
  • Cover and cook for about 30-40 minutes on a simmer. Half way through, add peeled and cut up potatoes. Don't cut the potatoes too small or it will melt into the sauce but you don't want them bigger than your pieces of chicken either.
  • Serve with steamed rice. Also rather good with some freshly cooked floppy, soft hor fun.
Malaysian Chicken Curry

Heaven! After dreaming about it for about two weeks, it didn't disappoint. Yes, I know I cheated ...I could have even walked 10 minutes to Chinatown during the week when I was at work to pick up a proper chicken curry spice mix (actually...why didn't I??) but now a little more confidant, I'm going to make a proper rendang from scratch! How exciting :D

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Grilled Miso Salmon

Grilled Miso Salmon

A quick weekday supper dish of grilled salmon fillets with miso (fermented paste usually made with soy). I actually first thought of making this when I was trying to find a recipe for my home grown aubergines. Killing two birds with one stone, I split the miso mixture between the fish and aubergine. The aubergine was a little burnt hence only a photo of the fish but can be seen in bottom right corner :D

Putting it together:
  • Make a mixture of miso (I used the stronger red miso - for depth of flavour), mirin (Japanese rice wine), rice wine vinegar, grated ginger and soy sauce. Mix into a thick-ish paste.
  • Wash and cut the aubergine length ways. Rub all over with oil - as aubergines are like sponges, I usually just rub them with oil instead of putting the oil in the pan. Of course there are exceptions, like when I'm feeling really greedy and want yummy aubergine soaked in oil :) Put the aubergine into a hot pan and cook for a few minutes until slightly charred and soft. Turn over to cook the other side. At this point add some water to the pan (a 1/4 of a cupful should so) and cover the pan. The water should hiss and sizzle quite rapidly. Cook until the water has evaporated. Give the aubergine a little prod - if it's soft, it's cooked. If not add a little bit more water and put the lid back on.
  • In the meantime, clean the fish and pat dry. When the aubergine is cooked through and soft, take it off the heat and lay the pieces of fish in the pan. Spread the miso mixture evenly over the fish and vegetables. Put the pan under a hot grill until the miso mixture is brown and bubbly.
  • This was served with rice, a sprinkling of black sesame seeds and a salad. The salad consisted of steamed broccoli and sugar snap peas tossed in a dressing of rice wine vinegar, grated ginger and garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil and oil.
It was very yummy and pretty healthy ... I felt that I was being good after I ate it. It was all good oil anyway ;)

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Ribeye Steak with Sweet Potato Wedges

Ribeye Steak with Sweet Potato Wedges

How to get a guy happy? Cook him a steak :) Works for Stuart... I got a couple of nice pieces of ribeye steaks (yes, on did you guess? ;), which I cooked on the griddle pan. It could have probably spent a little more time in the pan, it was a little too rare even for me. Stuart who usually likes his steaks charred black, or thereabouts, bravely ate it as it was - too hungry to wait for me to put it back into the pan. The meat was good enough not to have anything else and to be honest I was too lazy to make anything else :D

I also made some sweet potato wedges, which we both love. I remember the sweet potatoes of my childhood - boiled in ginger syrup...erghhhhhh! It wasn't until I was in university when a flatmate suggested I chucked a few in the oven that I learned to appreciate the sweet potato. I like them in wedges or cut into large chunks even more, allowing the edges to crisp up and caramelize...yum! I didn't forget the veg, we had a green salad. Nothing exciting - lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Noodles and Dumplings - Baozi Inn

I dragged Stuart all the way to Chinatown last weekend amidst much excitement to try out Baozi Inn. The reviews were good and the menu sounded even better. At long last, I thought, there could possibly be a place to get some different Chinese food. We arrived at the about 5.00 in the afternoon, probably one of the most ungodly hours to turn up at a restaurant - but we beat the crowds and got a table. The seating is a little squashed and the place is decorated with Chinese Communist propaganda tack - not that I mind, mind you - it's pretty darn different and it did bring a few smiles to Stuart and I.

Pork Dumplings with Chili and Garlic - Baozi Inn

The menu is limited, good or bad, I'm not quite sure. As we were pretty hungry, we decided to share a pork baozi, a steamed minced pork filled bun (about £2 each) - no photos I'm afraid. It came out pipping hot and was very tasty. A little sloppy to share with the filling spilling out as I tried to split it the bun. Much, much better than the buns from the baozi stall opposite the restaurant. Next up, the pork dumplings with chilli and garlic (about £4 per portion). There were five dumplings to a portion and very good they were too. The dumplings were meaty and the chili oil imparted a good amount of heat. As much as I love garlic (I do get a little garlic mad at times)...this was way too much. It tasted as if a whole bulb was used for just one little dish. I tasted and breathed garlic for the rest of the evening and everyone else I passed on the street must have smelt the fumes.

Pork and Aubergine Sauce Noodles - Baozi Inn

Stuart chose the pork and aubergine sauce noodles (about £6.50). The little chunks of meat were very tender and went well with the aubergine on the noodles. The dish also came with fresh, green soybeans and little baby pak choy. From the little taste I had, I think the pork and aubergine was cooked with some bean paste. The dish sounds good, looks good... but unfortunately didn't taste that great. There was a lack of depth in the flavour as I would expect from a dish like this. Stuart allowed me to spoon over a little bit of extra chili oil. It gave it a slightly different dimension but the flavour was still flat.

Noodles with Pork Ribs and Musrooms - Baozi Inn

I wanted something with soup and uncertain how spicy their spicy noodles were, I played it safe and ordered the pork rib and mushroom noodles. The meat was tender (if I was really picky...I would say it could have been cooked a tad bit longer) and quite generous with 5-6 ribs but meat looked a Dyed pink rather than uncooked pink ... hmm... The soup was such a letdown. It lacked the punch and 'oomph' of a good meat broth. Actually it only had slight traces of meatiness, which demonstrated to me that meat and soup wasn't cooked for long enough. It was also lacked seasoning. I did ask for extra soy sauce and chili oil, which I used liberally. I ended up with a soy sauce and chili oil soup. Oh how disappointing!

If only the punch and flavour from the baozi and dumplings continued to the noodle dishes... the food here would be great. I love the dish combinations - pork and aubergine...Stuart and I fought to order it. However, I have read favourable reviews of this restaurant; perhaps it was the ungodly hour of my visit then? I would go back for the dumplings (minus the garlic, unless I feel particularly inclined towards a spot of vampire hunting that day) and the baozi, which I believe can be ordered as a takeaway.

Baozi Inn
25 Newport Court, London WC2H 7JS

Creamy Mushroom and Vegetable Sauce on Panfried Chicken Breast with Rice

Pan Fried Chicken with a Mushroom and Vegetable Sauce

I love snapping up a bargain in the supermarket and on this particular visit, I managed to pick up a whole chicken for a good £2 less! Yay! But it was the middle of the week and I couldn't be bothered to cook the whole bird. So I removed the breasts and wrapped the rest of the chicken up for another meal.

Putting it all together:
  • The rice was cooked by first frying off some garlic and salt in a pot with oil. Before the garlic browned, the rice went in and tossed until each grain was slightly translucent. I then added chicken stock - I did actually have some home made chicken stock on hand. When I'm not feeling lazy after we've had a roast, I do put the bones into a large pot filled with water. I'll let it simmer with some onions and carrots, if I have them. If not, it's just chicken and water.
  • I pan fried the breasts with a little oil, trying to ensure that the skin was nice and crispy.
  • In the meantime, I made a sauce by sautéing some red onion and garlic then adding thickly sliced field mushrooms and some soaked dried mixed mushrooms (it came in a pre-packaged mix of shitake and oyster). Once it has all softened slightly, I added a splash of white wine and let the alcohol cook off. Once the acidic alcoholic smell had gone, I sprinkled on some English mustard powder and seasoned it with salt, pepper and some Maggi seasoning (it really is a lifesaver!). For creaminess, I used a small tub of low fat crème fraîche and to break it down slightly, I added the liquid from the soaked mushrooms. Last in, a few handfuls of washed spinach. I let it simmer for awhile to let the spinach wilt, to burn off some of the liquid and to let the flavours...fuse.
Pan Fried Chicken with a Mushroom and Vegetable Sauce

The chicken was still nicely moist but unfortunately the skin was not as crispy as I would have liked. I love creamy sauces but unfortunately my tummy doesn't agree with my brain and taste buds :( So this was the perfect compromise. A hint of cream without being overwhelmingly heavy. Mushrooms + cream? Match made in heaven :)

Little Toasts

A few weeks ago my friends who were supposed to come round for dinner ran late - 2 hours late! Starving but unwilling to stuff myself with toast or instant noodles, I made up a few of these little toasted baguettes to tide Stuart and myself over.

Prawn Cocktail on Toasted French Loaf

I rummaged through the fridge and found some prawns and leftover ceasar dressing. The sliced baguette was lightly toasted on the griddle pan (I would very likely have lost them in the toaster!) and topped with rocket leaves and the prawn, which I had mixed with the ceasar dressing, a light squeeze of ketchup, lemon juice and cracked black pepper. Why ketchup? Well, I was thinking along the lines of a marie rose sauce :)

Lamb Stew on Toasted French Loaf

The second batch of baguette toasts I topped with some of stewed lamb I was making for dinner and a sprinkling of chopped coriander. I exactly remember what into making the lamb - but off the top of my head - de-boned lamb leg steaks, onions, garlic, tinned tomatoes, peppers, courgettes and a spice mix of ground cinnamon, coriander, turmeric, cumin.

Rather good for something that was rummaged up :) The prawns that came pre-cooked from the supermarket were crunchy, fresh and went really well with my "marie rose" sauce. The lamb was tender but slightly lacking in "oomph" - depth. I got a little desperate in the end as I tried adding other bits in to bring out more flavour - ie: maggie seasoning! Haha a lifesaver that ;)

Grilled Cod with Noodles and Vegetables

Grilled Cod with Noodles and Vegetables

This was a quick and easy dinner after another long and stressful day at work.

The fish was put under a very hot grill on an oiled oven tray (if not the skin tends to stick) for about 5 minutes. I usually steer clear from buying cod (considering how little there are left...I thought I'll do my bit for cod conservation :D), but I was in a rush and the choice was between salmon and cod. I like salmon but I was in a white fish mood, so cod it was.

I cut the courgettes and field mushrooms up quite thickly. Both were stir fried with garlic, soy sauce and finished off with some chicken broth. The noodles, which I had boiled in a separate pot, went in last - just to finish off.

Dish up the noodles and vegetables onto waiting plates. Place the fish over. I actually forgot to season the fish but it tasted fine.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Soba with Roast Duck

Roast Duck Noodles

As Stuart couldn't join the little family get together dinner over the weekend at Gold Mine, I bought back a roast duck for him ... well... for us :) I had a little bit too (alright quite a lot and then some as I sneaked in a few pieces whilst I was in the kitchen and he wasn't looking!). I did ask for a whole uncut duck but even though the waitress nodded and repeated the order, I was still handed a neatly cut up bird. Oh just as well...I don't own a cleaver and trying to chop up a duck "Chinese style" would have been a nightmare.

It made for an easy Monday night dinner with Japanese soba noodles and some boiled choy sum. I mixed the noodles with some of the sauce that came with the duck. A dark, sweet and sticky sauce, which never makes an appearance in the restaurant as the ducks get a good douse of soy sauce mixed in the the natural duck fat. Yum! The sweet sauce did, however, make a nice mixing sauce for the noodles. I heated the pieces of duck in the over wrapped in foil and once the meat was hot, I unwrapped the foil and switched on the grill to crisp up the skin. It worked wonderfully well, the duck skin was even crisper than what is served in the restaurant. Ohhh.... and the fat that dripped out! A dieter's nightmare :) I have to admit that I did sneak a tablespoon or two of the fat back into the noodles. Naughty, naughty! But oh-so-delicious!

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Friday Night Takeaway

Friday night is almost always takeaway night for us, usually kebab from Effes, Chinese from Jade Garden or more recently, from the newly open Dragon Fry. This Friday it was kebab.

Chicken Shish Kebab

I try to be healthy by going for the chicken shish kebab - eight pieces of chicken breast flavoured with a tinge of curry powder grilled on a skewer with green peppers and onions and a squeeze of garlic sauce. For some strange reason they have started serving my pita separately whilst they still tuck the pieces of meat from Stuart's order into the bread. I was a little annoyed when they first started doing this to my order but I'm not too fussed anymore. On the side a salad of shredded iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, red cabbage and two pickled chillies. No onion for me. Much as I love onion in my salad I hate having the taste linger in my mouth the whole night. This is the medium priced at £5.20 - for all this, not bad since I manage to stretch the meat over two meals. Always enough for chicken to have with my noodle soup the next day.

Lamb Doner

Stuart's order of lamb doner kebab. I've never been too keen on this dish of vertically grilled compressed minced lamb .. ha.. and this is coming from me who loves processed meat in almost all forms ;) But Stuart seems to like it and even more so with extra garlic sauce. Stuart's a bit of a chili wuss ... te he he... so I always get his...yay, score! It's £4.30 for this medium doner but no leftovers for another meal as Stuart happily finishes it all. We do get a large portion of chips to share between us ... yup, we're really big eaters! And recently I made the discovery of burger sauce!!!! LOL it tastes like a cheap mixture between ketchup and mayonnaise, of which it probably is anyway. Still .. it's pretty yummy anyway :D

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

A Dinner of Black Miso Cod .... emmm.....

Black Miso Cod and Vegetables

Invited a month or two back to flat-sit for my dad who was off to Paris for the weekend, Stuart and I jumped at the chance. Mainly to get away from the mundaneness of weekends at home and it's always fun to have a night away... :) And when in the High Street Kensington area, I always find an excuse to poke my nose around Whole Foods. I never buy that much, I just love looking but this time I had the perfect excuse ... we needed dinner!

I wasn't much in the mood for banging pots and pans around the kitchen, so I stocked up on big chunks of ready marinated black miso cod and ready cooked vegetables from the salad bar. I LOVE black miso cod but it's so disgustingly expensive! I had puzzled for years why cod sold in Malaysia tasted nothing like the cod in the UK until I finally discovered that black cod (sold in Malaysia as plain old "cod-fish") was in fact no relation of the "normal" cod .... ooooo!

The fish came in overly thick, generous portions, which I put under the grill for about 6-7 minutes a side (they were really thick). They were deliciously moist and separated in thick flakes. I got some roasted tomatoes, chunks of aubergine, mushrooms and new potatoes that I heated up in the oven with the fish. To fill up the plate even more, I also bought a salad of blanched asparagus and green beans tossed with shallots, peas, carrots and fresh soy beans. The greens were nice and crunchy but was slightly over-seasoned with thyme. The meal was very enjoyable but we were bursting by the end of it - all fished and veg-ed out :D

Monday, 1 September 2008

Roast Chicken Legs with Rice Salad

Roast Chicken with Rice Salad

I'm quite fond of chicken legs - lots of moist meat, especially when it's left on the bone. My fondness for this bit of meat has even rubbed off on Stuart, who was a confirmed white meat eater until I started cooking for him :) What's even better is that it's so much cheaper than buying chicken breasts in the UK. Yay - even more of a reason to love dark meat!

Roasted Chicken Pieces
I used a dry rub on the chicken pieces (I cut the legs in half - thighs and drumsticks) of English mustard powder (Colman's, of course), black pepper and garlic and coriander powder that I picked up from the halal butcher down the road. The chicken went into a hot oven set to 180°C for about 30-40 minutes, or until the meat is cooked and the skin is golden brown.

Rice Salad
Leftover rice is pretty good for this salad or if you don't have any sitting around, boil some up and leave it to cool to room temperature. You don't really want stone cold or boiling hot rice for this dish. I then cut up some cucumber, tomatoes, avocado, blanched baby corn and snow peas into chunks and added them to the rice. I also added some blanched sweet corn kernels and some freshly cut mint and basil from my plants on the balcony. I made a quick dressing from sunflower oil, lime juice, black pepper and equal measures of soy sauce and fish sauce. A quick shake in an old jam jar and poured it over the rice and vegetables. A good mix and it's ready to serve.