Sunday 29 July 2012

Rojak Puteh

This is the rojak my grandparents used to make when I was a child. They did not make this very often as there is quiet a bit of work involved in the preparation. On rojak day, the mood at home would take on a carnival like atmosphere. Grandpa would be busy frying the peanuts, peeling and then pounding them. Then there's the sesame seeds that need to be toasted.

Grandma would take care of the bulk of the work - making the sauce, frying the beancurd, and peeling and cutting the vegetables. My grandparent's version of this rojak also had hard boiled eggs and boiled potatoes. Did I help out ? Oh, yes I did. Little me would help grandpa pound the peanuts. I remember grandpa telling me that if I pounded the peanuts fine enough, I would get peanut butter.

I eyeballed the recipe below as that's how it works with my family recipes (always "agak-agak"). Please feel free to make adjustments according to your personal taste.

Rojak Puteh

Sauce :
- 500 ml tamarind juice
- 10 fresh chillies
- Belacan (2 heaped tablespoons if using granules)
- Gula Melaka (palm sugar)
- 1 tub prawn paste
- Crushed peanuts
- Toasted sesame seeds

Vegetables :
- Cucumbers
- Sengkuang
- Beansprouts 
- Pineapple
- Kangkung (blanched)
- Potatoes (boiled till tender and cut into chunks)

Garnishing :
- Crushed peanuts
- Toasted sesame seeds
- Hard boiled eggs (cut into wedges)
- Fried beancurd (taukwa or taupok)

To make the sauce :
1. Blend chillies and belacan.
2. In a saucepan mix tamarind juice, blended chillies and belacan and prawn paste.
3. Bring mixture to a boil and simmer until sauce is slightly thick.
4. Add peanuts and sesame seeds to futher thicken the sauce. Take off the heat and cool.

To assemble the rojak :
1. Put all cut vegetables, beancurd and boiled potatoes in a mixing bowl.
2. Pour rojak sauce over vegetables and mix,
3. Garnish with hard boiled eggs and sprinkle crushed peanuts and sesame seed.
4. Serve with keropok.

My preferred brand of prawn paste.
Rojak Sauce.

Veggies ready to be mixed.

All tossed up.
My childhood rojak dreams come true.
You can't take the Terengganu out of  me, I must have this with keropok!

Saturday 28 July 2012

Chilli Tuna Pasta

When I have no idea what to eat or if I am not in the mood to cook, I make chilli tuna pasta. It started off on a whim when I decided to empty a can of chilli tuna onto some pasta and raw veges. A squeeze of lime and it was transformed into a very nice and simple dish.

All you need is any kind of pasta, a can of chilli tuna, cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes, onions, herbs and lime juice. To add some kick to it, I recommend a dash of fish sauce. Toss it all up and enjoy!

Chilli Tuna Pasta
Any pasta of your choice, cooked as per packet instructions.
Daun kesum (Laksa leaves)
Daun selasih (local basil)
Lime juice
Fish Sauce
1 can chili tuna

Mix all ingredients together and serve.

I used this brand.
A simple and healthy dish.
Add sambal belacan for the X-factor.

Sunday 22 July 2012

Kari Kapitan

This curry has a special place in my heart. It was my first ever attempt at cooking a new dish from a recipe book. It turned out quiet well and is now a firm family favorite. 

Kari Kapitan is another great Nyonya dish and it is served with plain white rice. I took this recipe from the book At Home with Amy Beh. Amy Beh is one of my favorite chefs and I always look out for her recipes which appear every Tuesday in The Star.

One tip that I have for you is always be generous with the spice paste ingredients. It is the spice paste (rempah) that makes or breaks this dish. Also don't stinge with the oil when you saute the spice paste or else you will not get good results.

Kari Kapitan (adapted from At Home with Amy Beh)

Ingredients :
- 4 chicken legs cut into 8 pieces
- 1 packet santan (200ml)
- salt and sugar to taste
- lime juice from one lime
- oil for frying

Spice Paste Ingredients :
- 4 dried chillies, soaked
- 4 fresh chillies soaked
- 20 shallots
- 5 cloves garlic
- 3 stalks lemongrass
- 1 inch tumeric
- 5 candlenuts (buah keras)
- 1 heaped tablespoon belacan granules

Method :
1. Blend spice paste ingredients.

2. Heat oil  in a wok and saute spice paste until aromatic and oil rises on top. If you find the spice paste is too dry, add a bit of coconut milk.

3. Add chicken and mix until chicken is covered with spice paste.

4. Pour coconut milk into the wok and simmer over low fire until chicken is cooked and tender

5. Taste and add sugar and salt to taste.

6. Serve with white rice, roti jala or bread.

Note : I did not dilute the santan because from experience, the chicken will bleed water. I want my curry to be thick and not runny.

Serve with white rice and Acar Nyonya.

Saturday 21 July 2012

Nyonya Acar

My family used to eat this lovely Nyonya Acar (Nyonya Pickles) once a year. My mother and grandmother would make this acar for the Chinese New Year reunion dinner.  The reason why we only make this once a year is due to the time consuming preparation. There's the job of cutting and slicing the vegetables and a whole lot of shallots need to be peeled. The very thought of that is enough to bring tears to your eyes.

This dish is usually eaten as an accompaniment to a main meal or can be eaten as an appetizer or a snack. There are many recipes and preparation methods. I understand that the proper way is to blanch the vegetables and then dry them in the sun to make them crunchy. My mother and grandmother skipped this step and as long as it does not compromise on the flavor of the dish, I suppose it is alright.

It is important that your vegetables are fresh to ensure crunchiness and be sure to remove the pith of the cucumbers and salt them to remove excess water. You should also prepare the acar one day ahead of serving to enable the vegetables to be properly pickled and to give the spice paste enough time to develops its flavors. Don't ever serve this on the day it is made or you will be disappointed.

Nyonya Acar

Vegetables :
- 2 cucumbers 
- 2 carrots
- 6 long beans
- 2 red and 2 green chillies, sliced (optional)
- 10 shallots peeled and left whole (optional)

Note : You can also put cabbage and cauliflower.

Spice paste :
- 15 shallots
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 red chilli (more if you like spicy)
- 4 dried chillies (more if you like, soaked to soften)
- 2 stalks lemongrass
- 1 inch tumeric (kunyit)
- 2 candlenuts (buah keras)
- Belacan (1 heaped tablespoon if using granules)

Tamarind juice
Palm sugar (gula Melaka)

Roasted peanuts (coarsely pounded)
Sesame seeds (toasted)

Method :
1. Cut cucumber into four and remove the pith.

2. Cut cucumbers into strips and rub with salt. Drain in colander for about 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Squeeze excess water from cucumbers and set aside.

4. Peel carrots and cut into strips.

5. Cut long beans into 1 inch length.

6. Blend spice paste ingredients and saute until aromatic.

7. Pour in tamarind juice, vinegar, palm sugar and sugar. Let boil until mixture is slightly thick.

8. Taste the mixture and adjust if necessary. It must be salty, sweet and sour. And let the taste be more intense ie saltier, sweeter and more sour because the vegetables will bleed water and dilute the flavors.

9. Add the long beans first and mix. After about 5 minutes, add in the rest of the vegetables and stir to mix for about another 5 minutes.

10. Remove and put into container. Mix once in a while to ensure that the vegetables are evenly coated with spice paste. Once cooled, put in the fridge.

Notes :
1. I did not rinse the cucumber after squeezing out the water because the water that oozed out has diluted the salt and also I want the cucumber to be slightly salty.

2. The amount of tamarind juice and vinegar should be enough to cover the vegetables and I used half tamarind juice and half vinegar. 

3. Before serving, mix the acar thoroughly and taste. Adjust for sweet, sour and salty if necessary.

4. Add the roasted peanuts and sesame seeds and mix. Sprinkle more on top if you like.

Cut into four, remove pith and cut as above.
Cut carrots.
Cut long beans to about one inch length.
Vegetables ready to be pickled.
Mix well to ensure even coating and pickling.
Ready to serve.

Sunday 15 July 2012

Roast Chicken

What I love about roast chicken is the simplicity of its preparation. It is also very versatile. You can eat it with rice, put it in a sandwich, add it to your salad or just eat it on its own. As for the preparation, all there is to it is to buy a chicken, clean, marinate and leave it to its own devices in the chiller. After 4 hours or so, or preferably overnight, just chuck it in the oven. Now, how easy is that?

This is Chef Priya Menon's recipe which appeared in Kuali . The marinade, made with garlic, ginger, spices, yogurt and Tandoori powder is a keeper. If you don't like yogurt because of its sour fermented smell, don't worry. Once the chicken is roasted, the sourish smell disappears and in its place an exotic aroma develops. I have adapted Chef Priya Menon's recipe below :

Roast Chicken
1 chicken
4 cloves garlic
1 inch ginger
1 teaspoon fennel
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
3 tablespoon Tandoori powder
1 cup yogurt 
salt to taste
2 tablespoons oil

Method :
1. Pound garlic, ginger, fennel, cumin, and black peppercorns together with salt.
2. Put pounded ingredients into a mixing bowl together with yogurt, Tandoori powder and oil. Mix.
3. Rub the marinade all over the chicken including the cavity.
4. Put chicken into a freezer bag and leave overnight in the fridge.
5. Roast in preheated oven at 180C for 60 minutes. 

Mix marinade ingredients.
Rub marinade all over chicken including cavity.
Place chicken in freezer bag and leave it in the fridge to marinate overnight.
I don't know how to truss the chicken, that's why it's "terkangkang" (legs wide apart). 
Serve with a salad for a healthy meal.

Saturday 14 July 2012

Banana Chocolate Cupcakes

What do you do when you have a bunch of bananas turning black before your eyes? That's when I think of the perfect combination of chocolate and bananas. This cupcake is incredibly easy and fast to make. You only need two mixing bowls, one for the wet and the other for the dry ingredients.

Because it uses oil instead of butter, this cupcake stays soft even when it is refrigerated. It is good just as it is without any frosting. However, I decided to dress it up for the photo shoot. I used ganache and chocolate sprinkles. I think chopped nuts make a much better topping but I was out of nuts.

This recipe is from Joy of Baking with my modifications in brackets.

Banana Chocolate Cupcakes

Ingredients :
1 cup granulated white sugar (I used 1/2 cup)
1 cup all purpose flour (I used 1 1/2 cups self-raising)
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder (I omitted)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda (I omitted)
1/4 teaspoon salt (I omitted)
1 large egg
1/2 cup mashed ripe bananas
1/2 cup warm water
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil (I used grapeseed oil)
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Method :
1. Preheat oven to 180C (I used 160C) and line 12 regular sized muffin cups with cupcake liners.
2. In a large bowl whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
3. In another large bowl, whisk together the egg, mashed banana, water, milk, oil and vanilla extract.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until combined.
5. Scoop the batter into the cupcake liners about 3/4 full.
6. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. (Mine was done in 16 minutes).

Turn these into ................
.....................Yummy cupcakes.
Wet and dry ingredients. Just mix, easy peasy.
Flavorful with tender crumb.

Sunday 8 July 2012

Terengganu Green Salad (Chenh)

The word "Chenh" means green, raw or unripe in Hokkien. In the context of this salad, it refers to the green leaves of the "Pak Choy" and the raw vegetables used. The dressing is made from dried chillies, small onions, palm sugar, tamarind juice, belacan and bean paste. It is salty, sweet, sour and pungent. It may not be to everyone's liking but to a Terengganu native, this is a very appetising salad.

"Chenh" is great with "keropok" (fish crackers) and for me, it is totally addictive. My family loves this salad and my grandmother used to make this once in a while.  There are two versions i.e. the "Kay Chenh" ("Chenh" with shredded chicken) and "Nui Chenh" ("Chenh" with hard boiled eggs). I prefer the one with eggs. This is one of the culinary treasures of my home state. 

Vegetables :
Pak Choy (thinly sliced)
Cucumber (julienned)
Carrots (grated)
Daun kesum (laksa leaves, thinly sliced)
Daun Selasih (basil, thinly sliced)

Garnishing :
Roasted peanuts (crushed)
Sesame seeds (toasted)
Hard boiled eggs (cut in wedges)

Dressing (makes 1 liter) :
1 liter tamarind juice
10 dried chillies (soaked)
15 shallots
2 tablespoons bean paste (taucheow)
Belacan (2 heaped tablespoons if using belacan granules)
Gula Melaka to taste

To make dressing :
Blend dried chillies, shallots, bean paste and belacan.
In a pot mix blended ingredients with tamarind juice and add gula Melaka to taste.
Bring mixture to a boil and boil until dressing becomes thicker.
Cool and store in the fridge. This dressing can keep for up to a month.

In a mixing bowl, throw in all the vegetables, hard boiled eggs  and add dressing. Sprinkle crushed peanuts and toasted sesame seeds and mix until vegetables are well coated.  Sprinkle more peanuts and sesame seeds if you like.

Fresh Pak Choy. Choose organic if possible.
Put daun kesum and basil into a leaf or stack a few leaves.
Roll the leaf tightly.
Slice very thinly.
Salad dressing.
Raw vegetables.

All tossed together.
A very addictive salad
Serve with keropok.
And more keropok.

Sunday 1 July 2012

Butter Cake

I never liked Butter Cake until just recently. The Butter Cake from my childhood came from a local bakery. Though their bread was excellent, the Butter Cake was something else. It had a sickly sweet smell which came from rose essence or cheap vanilla essence. So I didn't have a very good impression of Butter Cake until I baked one myself. 

You see, my father loves Butter Cake (he is the one who buys  the horrible butter cake from the bakery) and I wanted to impress him with my new baking skill. My initial attempts were not very successful. My cake was too dense and it always cracked. I gave up for a while until I came across Mrs Ng's Butter Cake posted by Wendy. I must also mention another recipe posted by Tintin which is also pretty good.

Please go to Wendy's post to get Mrs Ng's recipe. I have experimented and made some adjustments. I must say that this recipe will be my go to recipe for Butter Cake. For once, my Butter Cake did not crack and it was incredible fluffy.

Butter Cake

Mixture A

250g butter at room temperature (I used Golden Churn)
80g fine sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used pure vanilla)
4 egg yolks
2 tablespoons milk
200g self raising flour (sifted)

Mixture B

4 egg whites
80g fine sugar

Method :
1. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla essence.
2. Add egg yolks one at a time and mix well.
3. Add flour in three additions. In the first addition, add 1 tablespoon of milk. Mix on low speed until just incorporated. In the next addition, add in second tablespoon of milk and mix. Then add in last addition of flour. Do not over mix.
4. In another bowl, whisk egg whites and gradually add sugar. Whisk until stiff peaks.
5. Fold in 1/3 of egg whites into the butter mixture. Mix well and fold in the remaining egg whites.
6. Bake in 8" round pan at 160C for 50 minutes.

A word about the egg whites. I noted in Mrs Ng's and Tintin's recipe that the egg whites are beaten to soft peaks. I tried that but my cake did not turn out well as it sort of collapsed at the sides. 

And remember to level the cake batter and make a well in the center so that the cake rises evenly.

I must say that I am incredibly pleased with the butter cake I baked today. Many thanks to Mrs Ng and Wendy for kindly sharing the recipe. Also a word of thanks to Tintin.

Look, Ma! No cracks, just a couple of bumps.

Cut into 12 slices.

One piece for sampling by the cook.
Very fluffy cake.