Monday 27 May 2013

Queenie's Sweet and Spicy Roasted Chicken with Tomato Salsa

My new found friend, Queenie, has a very nice chicken recipe which I have been wanting to try. But you know me, the only time I can roll around in the kitchen is during the weekends. And being a chicken lover (I choose chicken anytime over seafood) I always welcome new recipes using my favourite meat.

By the way, if you understand Bahasa Malaysia, do head over to Queenie's. This girl is hilarious with a capital H. She has lots of stories to tell and wise words to share. When I read her posts, more often than not, I will be giggling discreetly (if I'm in the office) or laughing out loud (at home).

I got to know Queenie from the comment she left at Sonia's post. If you want a good laugh, the rolling on the floor kind, please go here or a very sad story here (this one made me cry). In spite of her vocation as a caterer, Queenie is very generous in sharing her recipes. And although she has a heavy schedule of cooking for her clients and her family and all the other work a mother has to do, she still finds time to update her blog regularly. I don't know where her energy comes from and when I think of Queenie, I think of the Energizer bunny. Way to go sis!

Last Saturday, I finally tried this Ayam Bakar Manis Ala Q. I marinated the chicken the day before and did my own estimates of the spices used. It is basically an aromatic dry spice mix. Queenie uses dark brown sugar but since I ran out of that, I substituted with honey instead. As usual, I put the chicken and the marinade in a freezer bag and let it sit in the fridge overnight.

It would be better to rub the marinade with the chicken first before putting in the bag. I just dumped everything in and massaged the bag to evenly coat the chicken.

The next day, I took the chicken out and let it come to room temperature before roasting it. 

As the chicken was roasting, my kitchen was filled with a very exotic aroma. Sort of reminded me of Kuzi Ayam and I couldn't wait to have lunch. As it was, I was very hungry. I think it was due to carbohydrate hunger :) I was thinking of what salad I could do to pair with this chicken and tomato salsa came to mind.

Since salsa also contains cumin and coriander, it would complement the flavors of the roasted chicken. When the chicken was done, obviously I couldn't dig in right away because I had to take photos. Do you find it a hassle to photoshoot your food? Sometimes, I do find it a hassle. Setting up and arranging the platter and props and then adjusting the angles take up time. And the most frustrating part is when there is inadequate lighting. I am still getting the hang of photography.

After calling it a wrap, I sat down and eagerly tasted the chicken. Yummeh!!! It was delicious, with very Middle Eastern undertones. All the ingredients in the marinade came together beautifully and the tomato salsa made an excellent pairing with this dish. I am really loving my low carbohydrate  diet and I am reproducing Queenie's recipe below together with the Tomato Salsa recipe from the book Eat Well Stay Well.

Queenie's Sweet and Spicy Roasted Chicken
Recipe source : Adapted from Queenie

Ingredients :
- 3 chicken legs, thigh and drumstick separated.

Marinade :
- 1 tablespoon coriander powder (serbuk ketumbar)
- 1 tablespoon cumin powder (serbuk jintan putin)
- 1 tablespoon fennel powder (serbuk jintan manis)
- 1 teaspoon chilli powder (or chilli flakes or black pepper)
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 cloves garlic, pounded
- 1/2 inch ginger, pounded
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- juice from 1 lime

Method :
1. Mix all the marinade ingredients together. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
2. Add chicken to the marinade and coat well.
3. Marinate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
4. Take marinated chicken out from the fridge and bring to room temperature.
5. Preheat oven to 180C.
6. Place chicken pieces on a lined baking tray. For the thighs, place it skin side down.
7. Roast for 30 minutes. At 20 minutes, turn the chicken pieces and continue to roast until chicken is cooked and browned.

Tomato Salsa
Recipe source : Reader's Digest Eat Well Stay Well (page 111)
(Note : I didn't follow the recipe exactly in terms of amount but used it as a guide)

Ingredients :
- 500g ripe tomatoes
- 4 spring onions, sliced finely
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh coriander
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
- 1 small chilli, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- Salt and sugar to taste (this was not in the recipe)

Method :
1. Cut tomatoes in half and remove the seeds.
2. Dice the flesh and place in a medium bowl along with the spring onions, fresh coriander, mint, chilli, ground coriander, cumin and lime juice.
3. Season with salt and sugar to taste.
4. Stir to combine and then stand for 30 minutes to allow flavors to develop.

I love the flavors of the salsa.

This chicken is delish! Will be on my regular roasting menu.

Saturday 25 May 2013

Grilled Steak with Tomatoes, Onions & Portobello Mushrooms

This is a good start to my Atkins low carbohydrate diet. I love portobello mushrooms because they are meaty and tasty. I especially love these mushrooms in an omelette.

I was looking through my cookbook for recipes using mushrooms and this recipe from Vegetables for Vitality caught my eye. It was colorful and the prospect of cooking a steak was exciting because I have never done it before.

Besides, I am finally trying out recipes from my many cookbooks. This is great isn't it? My cookbooks are now getting my proper attention and I am finally cooking instead of just admiring the beautiful photos.

This dish is quite simple to prepare. You need to make some garlic oil and then grill the mushrooms and onions. When the mushrooms and onions are done, simple toss them in the garlic oil. Then you need to grill the steak after seasoning it with salt and pepper. Once done, just put it on a plate and layer with sliced tomatoes and the mushrooms and onions.

Instead of salt, I seasoned the beef with oyster sauce and pepper. And I pan fried it instead of putting it on the grill.  To be honest, although the dish looks colorful and appetizing, I was not that thrilled with the flavors. I'm thinking that the beef would be a lot tastier stir fried with the mushrooms. But that's just me. Perhaps, a mushroom sauce would really lift the flavors.

But I am happy that I am on the road to burning some fats by restricting my carbohydrate intake. And oh, I have started exercising too. For the next few months, my neighbor would have to tolerate some early morning tremors when I jump up and down to Wang Chung's Everybody Have Fun Tonight. I guess it will no fun for them :)

Grilled Steak with Onions & Portobello Mushrooms
Recipe source : Vegetables for Vitality (Page 125)

Ingredients :
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 2 clove garlic, minced
- 4 slices (1/2 inch thick) red onion
- 4 large portobello mushrooms, stems removed.
- Non-stick olive-oil cooking spray
- 2 boneless rib-eye steaks (12 ounces each)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 3 ripe tomatoes
- Fresh chives or parsley, finely chopped (optional)

Method :
1. Heat grill to high.
2. In a small skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Add garlic and saute for 2 minutes. Transfer oil and garlic to large bowl.
3. Coat onion slices and mushroom caps on both sides with cooking spray.
4. Grill onions and mushrooms until just browned, about 2 minutes each side.
5. Cut mushrooms into thick slices.
6. Add mushrooms and onion to garlic and toss to coat.
7. Cut steaks crosswise into two equal-size pieces. Pat dry. Season with salt and pepper. Coat lightly with cooking spray.
8. Grill steaks until seared and browned grill marks appear, 3 to 4 minutes.
9. Turn steaks over. Grill 2 to 3 minutes for medium rare, or until desired doneness.
10. To serve, cut each tomato into 6 slices. Arrange 3 slices on top of each cooked steak. Top with mushroom-onion mixture. Sprinkle with chives, if desired.

This post is linked to the event, Little Thumbs Up organised by Zoe of Bake for Happy Kids and Doreen of My Little Favourite DIY and hosted by Joyce of Kitchen Flavours.

Wednesday 22 May 2013

Mushroom and Barley Soup

I stood on the bathroom scale and the needle accelerated to the right. A bit too far right for my liking. I looked at the numbers. What???!!! One hundred...****....Yarrgh!!! Boing! Boing! Boing! (That was my eyeballs popping, not my belly fats bouncing, thank you). I stared at the numbers again. Not good. Not good at all.

To torture myself further, I took out my measuring tape and measured my vital statistics. The reading : Still the same-too big-too big. I tell you, these fats never go to the right place. I regained the 15 or so pounds I lost no thanks to the bags of Twisties, Mr Potato and Doritos (the Smokin' BBQ is really good, don't try it) I have been munching to cheer myself up. Work and deadlines does put a damper on my spirits but chowing down on sodium laden carbs is not the answer. 

No wonder my waistband is choking me and I feel vibrations  when I climb up the stairs. In all fairness, this shouldn't be cause for unnecessary panic. I mean, I'm still below 200lbs muahahahaha!!! But still.......

I needed to take stock of the situation and start eating healthy. And I mean healthy, no more empty carbs and junk food. Yah, yah, I know I shouldn't be stuffing my face with things like Rempeyek and I promised myself that that would be my last indulgence.

So when I came upon this recipe for Old Fashioned Mushroom and Barley Soup, I decided that this is going to be the start to my eat healthy resolve. This soup calls for Shitake and Button Mushrooms. I guess any kind of mushroom that can withstand long simmering would be alright. Another ingredient is Pearl Barley, something I did not expect to use in a soup. 

After cooking the soup, I eagerly dug in. It was good but the tomato puree was too overpowering for me. It was sour and smelt very strong. I should have used less than what was called for in the recipe. Also I felt that Shitake mushrooms were not suitable for this soup. After that one bowl, I decided that I could improve the soup further. Sad to say, the remainder of the soup went into the compost heap. 

My solution to jazzing up this beautiful soup is bacon. Oh yes, everything tastes good with bacon :) And it's partner in crime - sausages. I fried the bacon until brown and crispy, removed it from the pot and then fried the sausages. Once browned, I removed the sausages and sauteed the onions, garlic and ginger until the onions were wilted and slightly brown. 

The evil accomplices.

Then I added the carrots, mushrooms, water, chicken stock, pearl barley and the bacon and sausages. Instead of tomato puree, I added 2 cups of tomato ketchup with 1/4 cup tomato puree. The soup was simmered until the barley was tender.

As expected, the soup turned out a lot tastier than the original version. Very good smoky flavours from the bacon and sausages. The only small hurdle for me is getting used to the faint aroma of barley. I guess it is something I could get used to. I also felt that there was too much barley and in future I would reduce it to 1/4 cup. I wouldn't mind cooking this soup again as it made for a very satisfying and robust meal.

Old-Fashioned Mushroom and Barley Soup
Recipe Source : Reader's Digest Eat Well Stay Well (page 139)
(My adaptations are in red)

Ingredients :
- 2 teaspoons olive oil (I used more than this)
- 1 onion, finely chopped (I used 2 big onions, sliced)
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed (I used 5 cloves, roughly chopped)
- 2 carrots, diced
- 375g button mushrooms, sliced (I used 200g)
- 125g shitake mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced (I used 250g Portobello mushrooms)
- 1/2 cup pearl barley (I would reduce this to 1/4 cup next time)
- 2 cups chicken stock (1 used 2 cubes Maggi chicken stock)
- 1 cup tomato puree (I mixed 2 cups tomato ketchup with 1/4 cup tomato puree)
- 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger (I used 1/2 inch fresh ginger, finely julienned)
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper (or to taste)
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley (I omitted)
- 2 cups water (I used about 800ml water but please adjust to your preferred consistency)
- 3 rashers streaky bacon, cut into smaller pieces.
- 250g pork sausages, cut into 1" pieces (I used low sodium Taiwan sausages)

Method :-
1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over moderate heat.
2. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes or until tender.
3. Add the carrots and cook, stirring frequently, for 4 minutes or until crisp-tender.
4. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until tender.
5. Stir in the barley, stock, 2 cups water, the tomato puree, ginger and pepper.
6. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 45 minutes or until the barley is tender.
7. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.

My method :
1. Heat oil in pot and fry the bacon until brown. Remove and set aside.
2. In the same oil, fry sausages until brown. Remove and set aside.
3. Add more oil of necessary and sautee the onions, garlic and ginger until onions and wilted and slightly brown.
4. Add carrots and stir for about 5 minutes.
5. Add mushrooms, stir and add water, barley, chicken stock, bacon, sausages and tomato ketchup/tomato puree. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 50 minutes or until barley is tender.
6. Adjust seasoning and serve.

This post is linked to the event, Little Thumbs Up organised by Zoe of Bake for Happy Kids and Doreen of My Little Favourite DIY and hosted by Joyce of Kitchen Flavours.

Monday 20 May 2013

Beer Battered Mushrooms

This Beer Battered Mushrooms came about after I read Kelly Siew's Review on Chicago Rib House and she mentioned that she couldn't stop eating the Beer Battered Mushrooms. That got me curious and I did a search on the recipe. I found the recipes herehere and here.

I have heard about beer batter but I never ventured to try it. I don't have any beer in the house because I can't tolerate alcohol anymore after undergoing a detox. Not for alcohol addiction, mind you! That detox was for health reasons and involves organic coffee. I shall not talk about the coffee bit because most of you might freak out.

I used to be able to down 3 cans of beer without suffering any  ill effects but now, half a can will knock me off. Just a cup of red wine and the whole room starts to spin and I feel like passing out. Maybe that's for the better :)

This recipe is really simple. You add 1 cup of beer to 1 cup of flour that has been seasoned with salt, pepper and whatever seasonings that strike your fancy. I chose white and brown button mushrooms for my maiden attempt. 

For the flour mix, I added salt, pepper, chilli powder, sweet paprika, garlic powder and Maggi seasoning powder. My batter was a bit to thin and therefore I suggest that you add the beer bit by bit to the flour mixture until you get the right consistency. I followed the method on Youtube here where an egg is mixed with the beer and then poured into the flour mix.

So how did it turn out? Yummy! The batter was light and crispy and the mushrooms meaty and tender. Very addictive! No wonder Kelly couldn't stop eating her mushrooms :) I will definitely repeat this recipe with other combination of seasonings and I will take note to ensure that my batter is of the right consistency. For your information, I fried 12 button mushrooms and had lots of leftover batter. Try this and you will love it! For the beer drinkers, this would make a good snack for your beer sessions :)

Beer Battered Mushrooms
Recipe source : Adapted from The Little Vlog

Ingredients :
- 12 button mushrooms (or more)
- 1 cup beer
- 1 egg
- 1 cup flour
- 2 teaspoons Maggi seasoning powder (or any seasoning of your choice)
- 1 teaspoon chilli powder
- 1 teaspoon Hungarian sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- oil for deep frying

Method :
- Wipe off any visible dirt from mushrooms and remove stem. Set aside.
- In a mixing bowl mix flour and seasonings.
- In another bowl, mix beer and egg.
- Pour the beer mixture into the flour mixture. Stir to mix. If the batter in too runny, add more flour until you get the right consistency.
- Heat oil in a deep pan.
- Coat mushrooms with batter and deep fry until golden brown and crispy.
- Serve immediately with your favorite dipping sauce.

This post is linked to the event, Little Thumbs Up organised by Zoe of Bake for Happy Kids and Doreen of My Little Favourite DIY and hosted by Joyce of Kitchen Flavours.

Saturday 18 May 2013

Simple Chicken Soup with Oyster Mushrooms

This soup tastes very good and the oyster mushrooms added a smooth and silky mouth feel to it. Thanks to this month's Little Thumbs Up event, I am reunited with Oyster Mushrooms. There was a time when I grew Oyster Mushrooms for my final year thesis on fungal genetics. My research had to do with the effect of cross breeding of irradiated mushroom spores on yield and size. The mushrooms were grown on cotton waste. I had to soak the cotton waste overnight and then squeeze the water out by hand. That resulted in blisters on both my palms. Sobs! And the smell of the cotton waste stuck with me for a few days. The squeezed cotton waste were then put into plastic bags and then the mouth of the bags were secured with cut out PVC pipes.

Photo courtesy of Adventures of Juan Or and Mommy
Before implanting the mushroom spores, I had to grow them in an agar culture made from agar-agar and taugeh (beansprouts). I bought the taugeh from the mini market and the friendly cashier thought I was going to fry them for lunch. The taugeh had to be boiled and then strained just for the water. It contains nutrients for the spores to grow. Next  agar-agar powder was mixed into the water and distributed onto petri dishes. Once cooled, the mushroom spores are inoculated onto the agar-agar and left to grow. This has to be done under sterile conditions to avoid contamination by bacteria and fungus.

Here bottles are used instead of petri dishes. Photo courtesy of FAO Corporate Document Repository
In my first attempt, all my petri dishes were contaminated. Huge spots of ugly greenish grey mucor grew on the agar. And I broke down in tears. I had to start all over again with the help of my friends. The next step was to inoculate the spores from the petri dishes into the prepared cotton waste bags. These bags were then placed in a room specially set up for growing mushrooms. That room was called the "Bilik Cendawan" (Mushroom Room, obviously). One time, I accidentally locked myself in the room and was rescued 15 minutes later by one of the professors who was passing by. Instead of comforting me, he chided me with a stern "Hah! Menyorok lagi!" (Hah! Hiding again!).

Photo courtesy of Oyster Mushroom Facebook Page

It was a joy to see the mushrooms grow and mature. After harvesting, I had to weigh and measure the size and thickness of the mushrooms. Once the empirical results are recorded, I basically gave away my mushrooms to my classmates. Mind you, my mushrooms were very popular and there were always people eager to receive my research subjects.

All that was 24 years ago and I can't even remember the title of my thesis! Sadly, my copy of the thesis was eaten up by termites 2 years after graduation. I should have hauled it along with me when I moved to PJ. 

Anyway, this soup brought back sweet memories of my days spent in the science lab. Besides Oyster Mushrooms, Shitake and Lingzhi mushrooms were also grown in the lab.

Those were the good old days. I also had friends who did research on rabbits and even cows. And there was a guy who did a thesis on chickens. And after lectures he liked to announce that he'll be going off to feed his chickens and clean the coop. Hah! Hah! That's why I chose mushrooms :)

Chicken Soup with Oyster Mushrooms
Recipe source : Phong Hong

Ingredients :
- 2 chicken legs, thigh and drumsticks separated
- 1 medium carrot, cut into cubes
- 1 medium daikon, halved and sliced
- 1 big onion, sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, sliced
- 200g oyster mushrooms, rinsed and stems removed
- 2 chicken stock cubes (optional)/or salt to taste
- 800ml water

Method :
1. In a pot, heat some cooking oil and saute onions and garlic until onions are wilted.
2. Add carrots and daikon and fry briefly.
3. Add chicken, water and chicken stock.
4. Bring to a boil and simmer for 45 minutes or until chicken is tender.
5. Add mushrooms and simmer for about 5 minutes.
6. Serve with a dash of pepper.

This post is linked to the event, Little Thumbs Up organised by Zoe of Bake for Happy Kids and Doreen of My Little Favourite DIY and hosted by Joyce of Kitchen Flavours.