Saturday 30 June 2012

Pickled Green Chillies

Do you like pickled green chillies ? My Mum, Aunt and I are notorius when we dine at Chinese Restaurants. We will practically deplete the restaurant of their pickled green chillies. Every half an hour or so, my Aunt would holler "Hello, excuse me, can we have some more green chillies ?"

This condiment is my second favourite after sambal belacan. It is incredibly easy to make.

Pickled Green Chillies :

1. Green Chillies
2. Garlic (optional, minced)
3. Rice vinegar
4. Sugar and salt to taste

Method :

1. Slice green chillies.
2. Mince garlic if using.
3. Put green chillies into a bottle together with garlic.
4. Put vinegar in a saucepan together with sugar and salt. Stir to dissolve sugar and salt. Taste and adjust if necessary.
5. Bring to a boil and pour vinegar into bottle.
6. Leave to cool before storing in refridgerator.

The amount of green chillies is up to you. The volume of vinegar would be half the volume of the bottle your are using to store the chillies. And your vinegar mixture must have a balance of sweet, sour and salty.

Slice the green chillies.
Place chillies and garlic in a bottle.

Bring vinegar to a boil.

Pour boiling vinegar into bottle and leave to cool.
After a while the color changes.

Sunday 24 June 2012

Chicken Rendang

I always associate chicken rendang with Hari Raya. It is usually served with rice, lemang or ketupat. It is also good eaten with bread. I once made a sandwich using leftover rendang.

Two essential ingredients to cook rendang are kerisik and tumeric leaves. Without kerisk and tumeric leaves, the distinct taste and aroma of rendang would be missing.

Rendang is cooked by simmering on low heat to bring out the aroma of the spice paste. It is perfect for tough cuts of meat like beef. When cooking chicken rendang, old chicken is normally used as it can withstand the long cooking time. If you look at rendang recipes, the standard operating procedure is to put all the ingredients into a pot and bring it to a boil and simmer on low flame until the meat is cooked. If regular chicken is used, you will end up with a pot of mush.

My Aunt taught me a different method that is suitable when using regular chicken. The spice paste is sauteed first, then cooled and used to marinate the raw chicken pieces.  It is preferable to marinate overnight before cooking the following day.

I adapted this recipe from Chef Hanieliza's book "Senangnya Memasak Ayam".

Chicken Rendang :
1. 3 chicken legs (I cut these into 6 pieces)
2. 1 packet santan
3. 1/2 cup kerisik
4. 1 tumeric leaf finely sliced
5. Salt to taste

Spice Paste :
1. 15 shallots
2. 4 cloves garlic
3. 3 stalks lemongrass
4. Ginger (2 inches)
5. Galangal (lengkuas, 1 inch)
6. Tumeric (1 inch)
7. 4 dried chillies (soaked to soften)

Method :
1. Blend spice paste ingredients.
2. Saute until fragrant and oil rises to the top.
3. Cool the spice paste and use to marinate the chicken pieces. Marinate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
4. Heat oil and fry the marinated chicken for about 10 minutes. Add santan, tumeric leaves and kerisik.
5. Bring to a boil and lower the flame. Simmer on low heat until chicken is cooked and gravy is thick. Add salt to taste.

Spice paste ingredients.

Use the cooked spice paste as marinade to marinate the chicken. Marinate for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight before cooking.
Chicken Rendang cooked and ready to serve.

Saturday 23 June 2012


What is kerisik ? It is simply grated coconut dry fried in a hot pan until golden brown and crispy and pounded into a paste. Kerisik is an essential ingredient when cooking rendang as it imparts that signature taste and aroma to the dish.  There is ready made kerisik available but I am a little cautious and prefer to make my own.

So how do we go about making kerisik ? What you need is grated coconut and a frying pan. I get my grated coconut from the supermarket or you could buy from the market. 
One packet grated coconut.
Heat up the pan (no oil is required) and when hot, simply put the grated coconut in and stir fry. What you are doing is slowly roasting the coconut to dessicate it. In the beginning, the coconut feels dense and heavy as it has lots of moisture. Keep stirring. It is a simple process but time consuming. And you will work up a sweat.
Dump grated cocnut into hot pan and stir fry.

After about 15 minutes, you will notice that it starts to brown and the grated coconut feels lighter. Keep going.

Coconut starting to brown.
Eventually, after about 45 minutes, you will get golden brown crispy coconut. Test it by crushing a small amount with your fingers. If it is crispy and crumbles easily, you are done. Take some and taste it. It is quite yummy and you can use this as topping for some of your desserts.

Almost there.

Golden brown crispy coconut. Taste soem, it will make you smile.
At this point, pound the crispy coconut. Pound until you see coconut oil oozing from the paste.

My family heirloom, the "lesung batu". Heavy as hell.

Pound to a shiny paste.
You don't need to make such a big amount like I did. I normally do it in a big batch and freeze some for future use. It is very convenient.

Before and after.

Sunday 17 June 2012

Pandan Chiffon Cake

This is my happy cake. Nothing gives me more joy than to see the cake rise beautifully in the oven. The first time I made this, I ran to the oven every 5 minutes, all anxious to see if the cake would rise. I was overwhelmed with joy when it did.

My Auntie taught me how to bake this lovely chiffon cake. My first hurdle was to tell the difference between soft peaks and stiff peaks when beating the egg white. Then the next anxiety inducing step was the folding of the egg white and egg yolk mixture. I initially used a spatula and chanted my Auntie's mantra - "Up, Down, Up, Down". In the course of making this cake, I developed my own technique and noted a few pointers (and made a few mistakes along the way) to share with you.

My Mum has declared this the best pandan chiffon cake she has eaten. Well, well, bring out the clarions and buccina and trumpet away...............(I tell you, there's no praise like self praise).

But as any novice baker will attest, before you get to the first of your drum rolls, mistakes do happen. One common mistake is incorrect folding of the two batters. When this happens, you will get spots of dense green batter dotting the sponge. Or if the egg whites are not beaten to the correct stiffness, the cake will not rise as high as it should.

My Auntie gave me this recipe but she could not remember where she got it from.

Mixture A :
1. 5 egg yolks
2. 115 ml coconut milk (Santan)
3. 85ml vegetable oil (I use virgin coconut oil)
4. 70g sugar (I reduced to 60g)
5. 150g flour (I used superfine flour)
6. 1 tsp baking powder (see note below*)
7. 1/8 tsp salt (I omitted this)
8. 1 tsp pandan essence and a few drops of green coloring (my Auntie's recipe uses natural pandan extract, this shortcut is my doing)

Mixture B :
1. 5 egg whites
2. 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
3. 70g sugar (I reduced to 60g)

Method :
1. Preheat oven to 160C

For Mixture A :
1. Whisk egg yolks with sugar to mix well.
2. Add coconut milk, vegetable oil, pandan essence and coloring.
3. Sift flour and baking powder into the mixture and mix until a smooth batter forms.

For Mixture B :
1. Add cream of tartar into the egg whites and beat until foamy.
2. Add sugar gradually and beat until stiff peaks.

Pour Mixture A into Mixture B and fold the two batters to ensure that they are evenly mixed. Pour into chiffon pan and bake for 45 minutes. When done, remove from oven and invert pan. Cool completely before removing from pan.

*Note about baking powder. I discovered that baking powder is not essential. This discovery came about when I forgot to add baking powder. It was one of those days when a certain sector of my brain shut down. I was hyperventilating all over the kitchen, but all that drama was totally unnecessary. The cake still rose because the egg whites were properly beaten and properly folded into the batter. The baking powder would have added maybe about an extra 1 inch to the cake's height. If that extra inch matters to you, by all means add baking powder (even if you are using self raising flour, I've done that).

I have had no professional training and I depend on this gadget to separate the eggs. Depending on the size of the egg, there are occasions when the yolk slips through the slits and tries to make a getaway. Naughty....naughty......

Santan and virgin coconut oil. Use of coconut oil in place of vegetable oil will give the cake a fabulous aroma.

Egg yolks, sugar, santan and coconut oil all mixed. Pandan essence and coloring awaits.

If mixture A is too thick and lumpy after addition of flour, feel free to add a little bit more santan to smooth it out. This mixture must not be lumpy or too thick, or else it may not fold properly into the egg white mixture.

Pour Mixture A into Mixture B.

Fold the two mixtures. You can use a spatula but I use my hand to do the folding. I find it very effective, our hands are the best tools.

Pour batter into chiffon pan. Bake for 45 minutes.

I wish I could take pictures of my cake rising in the oven but my oven door has turned opaque over the last 10 years due to fossilized grease and whatever. All this a result of the "I'll clean it later" syndrome.

Invert pan after taking out of the oven. Cool completely before removing cake from pan.
To remove the cake, run a spatula around the edge of the pan to release the cake.

Make this cake. Store bought pandan chiffon cake will never taste the same again. 

Saturday 9 June 2012

Nasi Hujan Panas (Rainbow Rice)

Nasi Hujan Panas is the colorful cousin of the more well known Nasi Minyak.  I don't know why it is called Nasi Hujan Panas but if I remember correctly it refers to the rainbow that forms after a short spell of rain on a sunny day.  

Before I begin, I would like to credit Chef Hanieliza whose "Senangnya Memasak..." (So easy to Cook...) series has given me much inspiration and guidance.  Her mini cookbooks also come with DVD of her demonstrating selected recipes from the books.  
What I love is her tagline "Gerenti Jadi!" (Guranteed Success!).  Now that is certainly what we want when we try out a recipe for the first time.  I highly recommend her books to anyone interested in Malay cooking as her recipes are simple and easy to follow.  And of course, guaranteed to succeed.
This rice dish is very flavorful and is usually served on special occasions like weddings and complements dishes such as Ayam Golek, Ayam Masak Merah or Kuzi Daging to name a few.
It is a simple rice dish to prepare and these are the ingredients I adapted from Chef Hanieliza's recipe :

For the rice :
1. 4 cups basmati rice (soak for 10 minutes, wash and drain)
2. 4 cups water
3. 1/2 cup milk
4. 2 stalks lemongrass (bruised)
5. 4 pandan leaves knotted
6. 1 cube chicken stock
7. Some red, green and yellow food coloring

Spices :
1. 3 cloves
2. 3 cardamom
3. 2 star anise
4. 1 inch cinnamon stick
5. 1 inch ginger (pounded)
6. 5 shallots (pounded)
7. 2 cloves garlic (pounded)

Oil to Saute Spices :
1. Enough oil to saute spices (I used grapeseed oil)
2. 1 tablespoon of ghee

Now, ghee gives the rice a distinct aroma, however if you do not like the smell of ghee, just leave it out or substitute with butter or margarine.

Method :
1. Heat oil and ghee in frying pan.
2. Throw in all your spice ingredients together with lemongrass and pandan.  Saute on medium heat until fragrant (about 5 minutes).
3. Put in the basmathi rice, chicken stock  and stir to ensure that the rice is properly mixed with the spices and coated with oil.
4. Transfer to rice pot and add water and milk.
5. Cook rice as normal.
6. When the rice is cooked, immediately pour in the coloring onto 3 spots and cover for another 15 minutes.
7. After 15 minutes, stir the rice to get an even mix of colours.

Spice ingredients
Pound ginger, shallots and garlic.
Bruised lemongrass and knotted pandan.

Basmati rice drained after soaking and washing.  I used Jasmine Pusa 1121 extra long grain basmati.

Transfer to rice pot after rice is mixed with sauteed spices.  I did this because I don't know how to cook rice on the stove.

The three stooges, Green, Red and Yellow, all waiting for the rice to cook.

Pour in the coloring on three spots.  Do not, I repeat, do not stir at this point.  Cover the rice pot for about 15 minutes.

Stir after 15 minutes to even out the colors.

A colorful dish to whet your appetite.

Sunday 3 June 2012

Grilled Spicy Chicken (Ayam Golek)

Ayam Golek is a very popular dish in Kelantan and Terengganu. This spicy fragrant chicken is very easily found in food stalls and restaurants in the East Coast states.  It is also very much available throughout Malaysia especially during the fasting month.  The word "Golek" means to roll or rotate.  I guess it refers to the way the chicken pieces are grilled rotisserie style. As far as I am concerned, the "Golek" is more likely to refer to someone rolling on the floor in ecstasy after tasting this grilled chicken.  This dish can be eaten with plain rice or better still Nasi Minyak.

It is not a difficult dish to prepare.  This is how I did it :

I cooked 5 chicken legs and the spice ingredients are as follows :

1. 15 shallots (I could not get shallots so I substituted with 5 big onions)
2. 5 dried chillies soaked to soften (you can put up to 10 dried chillies or more if you like more spicy)
3. 6 cloves of garlic
4. 7 candlenuts (buah keras)
5. 1 inch ginger, 1 inch tumeric and 1/2 inch galangal (lengkuas)
6. 1 teaspoon of ground cumin (jintan putih)
7. 2 teaspoons of ground fennel (jintan manis)

Onions, garlic, tumeric, ginger, galangal, dried chillies and candlenuts.
In the old days, these ingredients would have been pounded using a mortar and pestle.  As I understand it, pounded ingredients produce better aroma.  But well, to save time (OK, OK, I don't have the energy), just plonk all your ingredients into the blender and within a minute, you have your spice paste (rempah).

Plonk everything into the blender.

Spice paste, so fast and easy except for the washing up part.
Pour into a bowl and add ground cumin, fennel and stir (you could put these together in the blender which I forgot). When it comes to spice paste, always err on the generous side.  You want more rempah to coat your chicken and extras to baste.  Besides, it tastes great with your rice.  I often find my guests digging for the spicy gravy.

Add ground cumin and fennel into spice paste and stir to mix.
You also need :

1. 4 kafir lime leaves (daun limau purut)
2. 3 stalks of lemongrass (serai), bruised
3. 1 packet of coconut milk (santan).  Use neat, don't mix with water. Your chicken will bleed water during the cooking process and you don't want diluted gravy.

Lemongrass, kafir lime leaves and santan.

Heat your pan and add a generous amount of oil. When you saute (tumis) your spice paste, don't be stingy with the oil or be paranoid about your rempah becoming too oily. This is not the time to think about your health. You need the oil to properly saute your rempah to get good results.  Use medium heat and pour in your spice paste together with the lemongrass.

Saute for about 15 minutes or so until aromatic and oil rises to the top (pecah minyak).  Honestly, I have not experienced this phenomenon, even though I used enough oil and sauteed until aromatic.  But this has not affected the taste and the oil does rise when the dish is completely cooked.  Remember, the paste will taste bitter if not properly cooked through, so if you are not sure if you have sauteed enough, taste it.  If it is already aromatic and not bitter, you have arrived.

Saute spice paste with lemongrass until aromatic and oil rises to the top. Or until the spice paste is not bitter.
Next, put in your chicken and stir to ensure chicken is coated with the paste.  Then add kafir lime leaves, salt (I used fish sauce instead) and santan.  You could lower the flame and simmer the chicken in the pan but I transferred to a pot. Cover and simmer on low heat until chicken is cooked and the gravy is thick. Stir every now and then to ensure that the gravy doesn't get burned.

I transferred to a pot to simmer as I find this more convenient.
When the chicken is done, you can transfer to the oven immediately and grill at 200C for about 30 to 40 mins or until the the gravy becomes thicker and the chicken slightly brown. Baste the chicken with the gravy every 15 minutes.  I was cooking one day ahead, so I cooled the dish and kept it in the refrigerator. This dish actually tastes better the following day.

Chicken legs after cooking but before grilling.

The next day, I took it out of the fridge and let stand to room temperature before grilling in the oven.

Arrange on baking tray lined with aluminium foil (to make cleaning easy) and spoon gravy onto the chicken pieces.
After about 40 minutes this is what it looks like.  Gravy is thicker and chicken slightly browned around the edges.

Arrange chicken on platter and pour the extra  gravy onto the chicken before serving.  You and your guests will be fighting for the gravy to mix with the rice.
Serve this with either plain rice or Nasi Minyak and a simple acar made with cucumbers, onion and pineapple.  And if you are like me, don't forget the sambal belacan.

Ayam Golek served with Nasi Hujan Panas. Not only will you Golek, you will also Gelek after eating this.