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Archive for September, 2008

Ta da!! It’s once again time to unveil Sept’s DB challenge….LAVASH CRACKERS with dips! I was really excited about this challenge as I’ve never had a savoury challenge since joining the group and crackers are definitely new to me! I haven’t even heard of lavash crackers before this!

Initially I was gonna make these for a catering engagement I committed to. Sadly, as most know, I fell really sick so had to cancel. Guess who the lucky one was? You got it! Alan! I had so much fun making these…and even more gobbling them down! The choices were endless and the opportunity to mix and match flavours was too hard to pass. If you have never had them, you need to try them! These are the perfect hors d’oeuvres accompaniment and definitely a lot healthier than having chips and nachos! :)

I borrowed a sauces, dips and relishes book from the library and after flipping through it, I wanted to make EVERYTHING!! Then there were those magazines I had that have amazing recipes in them. Between all these resources it wasn’t surprising I couldn’t decide. In the end, I decided I’ll play safe (cause Alan’s not an adventurous eater), so I decided on 3 flavours for the crackers: (a) thyme and lemon salt with fresh thyme, (b) black sesame seeds, and (c) mixture of fennel, cumin and ajwain seeds. As for the dips I decided on the ever classic basil pesto (but with pistachio nuts instead of pine nuts) and chili relish. The result: YUMMY!! Good choice Natalie (Gluten A Go Go) and Shel (Musings from The Fishbowl)!

Lavash Crackers by Peter Reinhart

Ingredients: (Makes 1 sheet pan of crackers)

  • 1  1/2 cups (6.75 oz) unbleached bread flour 
  • 1/2 tsp (.13 oz) salt
  • 1/2 tsp (.055 oz) instant yeast
  • 1 Tb (.75 oz) agave syrup or sugar
  • 1 Tb (.5 oz) vegetable oil
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 Tb (3 to 4 oz) water, at room temperature
  • Black sesame seeds
  • Thyme and lemon salt and fresh thyme
  • Ajwain, fennel and cumin seeds
  • Any other spices or seasoning of your choice
Method:
1. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt yeast, agave, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball.  You may not need the full 1/2 cup + 2 Tb of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.            

2. Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter.  Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the ingredients are evenly distributed.  The dough should pass the windowpane test (see http://www.wikihow.com/Determine-if-Bre … ong-Enough for a discription of this) and register 77 degrees to 81 degrees Fahrenheit.

The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled.  Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
3. Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading or mixing).            

4. Mist the counter lightly with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter.  Press the dough into a square with your hand and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour.  Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. 

You may have to stop from time to time so that the gluten can relax.  At these times, lift the dough from the counter and wave it a little, and then lay it back down.  Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap while it relaxes.  When it is the desired thinness, let the dough relax for 5 minutes.  Line a sheet pan with baking parchment.  Carefully lift the sheet of dough and lay it on the parchment.  If it overlaps the edge of the pan, snip off the excess with scissors. 

 

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with the oven rack on the middle shelf.  Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of seeds or spices on the dough (such as alternating rows of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, kosher or pretzel salt, etc.)  Be careful with spices and salt – a little goes a long way. If you want to precut the cracker, use a pizza cutter (rolling blade) and cut diamonds or rectangles in the dough.  You do not need to separate the pieces, as they will snap apart after baking.  If you want to make shards, bake the sheet of dough without cutting it first.  

6. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (the time will depend on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough).

7. When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes.  You can then snap them apart or snap off shards and serve.

Chilli Relish

Ingredients:

  • 6 tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and shopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 3 tbsp sugar 
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 5 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • A handful of basil leaves, chopped
Method:
  • Put tomatoes directly on stovetop and heat on medium-high heat. Continue to turn it around until the skin splits and wrinkles. 
  • Slip off the tomato skins and roughly chop the flesh.
  • Heat saucepan on medium and drizzle with olive oil. Add chopped onion, red pepper and garlic to pan.
  • Cook till pepper is softened. Add chopped tomatoes, cover and cook for roughly 5 minutes or until the tomatoes release their juices.
  • Stir in the cinnamon, chilli powder, ginger, salt, pepper, sugar and vinegar. Bring gently to boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. 
  • Simmer, uncovered for 20 minutes, or until the mixture is pulpy. Stir in the basil leaves and season if needed. 
  • Allow to cool completely then transfer to a jar with a tight fitting lid. Store, covered in the fridge.

Basil Pesto
Ingredients:
  • Fresh basil
  • Garlic cloves
  • Pistachio nuts
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
Method:
  • Using a pestle and mortar, pound and mix all the above ingredients. If you want it to be finer, then throw it into a food processor and mix it up well.

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Sizzling hot dishes to keep you warm         

Sizzling hot dishes to keep you warm

Pearlyn’s been really sick…but now she’s ready to enter into and embrace the warmth, vibrance and pleasures spring has to offer. Last week, I was sick as a dog. I had a serious case of tonsillitis and was suspected to have glandular fever. Thankfully, I responded to antibiotics or else you wouldn’t hear from me for a long, long time. I was not too happy that I had to cancel a catering engagement at the last minute, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed that more opportunities will come knocking on spring’s doors!

I know it’s spring and that a winter-like post is probably not very wise but this once again was one of the many pleasures I got to experiment this winter. For those not in Tassie, winter this year was a very cold affair for us, which suits me just fine as the snow and cold are probably one of my best friends!

You know how during those cold winter nights, all you want to do is sit in front of the fireplace, with the TV or stereo playing something light in the background, a glass of wine in hand, feet tucked into the soft, fluffy carpet, a doona or a rug over you and digging into a nice steaming hot bowl of soup or plate of stew. That’s the ideal picture…perfect even some might say. This winter, I pinched a couple of sizzling hot plates off ah koh and had the best 3 dinners of my entire winter! :) Oh well, mine wasn’t exactly the picture above – more like sitting in front of the heater, at a study desk in front of my computer and watching “Friends” as I ate off the hot plates – but what the heck, I was close enough to the above dream!

Personally, I think the hot plates were one of the greatest creations of men. Regardless of whether it’s a cold winter’s night or a hot summer’s evening, nothing served on a hot plate would come with any less amount of “oohs” and “aahs” from the people it’s serving. Who would have thought that a cast iron dish on a wooden board would create so much hype and anticipation? If you haven’t tried a meal on a sizzling hot plate, you need to. Somehow, even the most simple dishes taste absolutely stunning on them. 

I haven’t had yee mee for a long time. I don’t really know what these noodles are called in English, but they are these round coil of noodles which have been deep fried hence are really crispy. In Malaysia, it’s normally served on hot plates hence the famous “Tit Ban Yee Meen” (Hot Plate Yee Mee). Call me fussy, some may even say weird, but in my mind, yee mee is best served on a hot plate that’s why I’ve never cooked it in Tassie since I didn’t own a hot plate! But the instant I got my hands on Ah Koh’s hot plates, I knew this was the dish I was going to whip up.

Hot Plate Yee Mee (Tit Ban Yee Meen)

Ingredients:

  • Yee mee
  • Bok choy
  • Chinese shitake mushrooms
  • Prawns
  • Chicken thigh fillets, cut into bite size pieces
  • Baby corn, sliced lengthwise
  • Garlic
Seasoning:
  • Soy sauce
  • Oyster sauce
  • Chinese cooking wine
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Pepper
  • Sesame oil
  • Corn flour
Method:
  • Marinade chicken with the above seasoning for at least 2 hours or overnight. Soak mushrooms in warm water to allow it to soften. Drain and squeeze out the water.
  • Heat a wok on high. Add oil and fry minced garlic till fragrant. Add chicken and toss well. When chicken is about 80% cooked, add corn, mushroom and bok choy. Allow to simmer for a while. Add the prawns last. Mix corn flour with a little bit of cold water and add into mixture. 
  • In the meantime. place the hot plate on another stovetop, and allow to heat on medium. Drizzle with sesame oil. Put 2 pieces of yee mee on the plate and allow them to brown a little so it’s nice and crispy.
  • Season to taste and ladle the hot stirfry and grave onto hot plate. It will sizzle and gravy will thicken a little. 
  • Serve immediately.

Among some of the other dishes whipped up during my triple sizzling hot nights were hot plate tofu, cik kong (black vinegar) pork chops and spicy stir fry. Hhmm…Yum! Just thinking about them now makes my mouth water! The hot plate tofu is probably another of the famous hot plate dishes often served. I normally make something similar without the hot plate but this time round, frying the egg tofu using the hot plates was a lot more fun and definitely looked a lot tastier!

Hot Plate Tofu (Tit Ban Tau Foo)

Ingredients:

  • Chicken/Pork mince
  • Egg tofu, cut into half inches slices
  • Egg
  • Spring onion, chopped finely, split white from green parts
  • Garlic, minced finely
Seasoning:
  • As above
Method:
  • Season mince with the above seasoning. 
  • Heat a wok on high and fry garlic and bottom white part of spring onion till fragrant. Add mince and toss well together.
  • Add seasoning and cornflour mixture, allow to simmer.
  • In the meantime, heat hot plate on another stovetop. Drizzle with olive oil. Place tofu and allow it to brown on both sides. Remove and drain on kitchen towel. 
  • Crack an egg onto hot plate and make sure it coats the whole plate well. Once egg has set, place tofu on top then ladle mince and grave over it. Sprinkle remaining spring onions and serve immediately.

I’ve decided that the next 2 items I’m going to be investing in to make my all my winter nights to come sizzling hot and on fire are the hot plate and the claypot. After you’ve tried it, you’ll be converted like me. 

 

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As most who read my blog often enough know, one of my favourite chef is Jamie Oliver. If you ask me why, I probably would say it’s because of Alan. He’s always telling me about “Jamie made this today…” and “Jamie made that yesterday…” bla bla bla. Since we got the Oliver Twist series off a friend, it’s been one of our favourite dinnertime programs. I have to say that in the last year or so since I started reading more gourmet magazines and watching Hell’s Kitchen and also joining Daring Baker, I’m more exposed to different chefs and just the wonders of how some of the most basic flavours when combined produces such an amazing experience. 

Burgers being one of the world’s most staple fast food has always been synonymous to the words “unhealthy, junk, greasy, fattening”. And because of its association with such words, I’ve always tried to limit our intake of fast food. There was a period of time whereby we were eating maccas (or McD’s) at least 3 times a week. It reached a point when I had to put a stop to it and said “No! From now on…we will only eat it once a week..!” A couple of weeks ago, during one of our dinnertime sessions, Jamie introduced us to his version of burger and fries. Man! I was impressed…so impressed I decided I was going to make it for our dinner the next day! 

Jamie enjoys infusing his oils and salt with various flavours. So I thought I’d give it a go too. Off I went to the supermarket and got myself a bag of sea salt (my first bag..woohoo!), fresh lemons and of course rosemary. Out came the pestle and mortar. Pound, pound, pound and whoa…just this incredible fragrance of fresh lemon and rosemary punctuated the air around me. Seriously, you have to try it yourself to believe me. This with fries…the perfect combo!

Rosemary and Lemon Salt

Ingredients:

  • Sea salt
  • Fresh rosemary
  • Lemon

Method:

  • Peel lemon zest and place all ingredients into the mortar. Pound and mix well. Store in container for future use. It gets more fragrant as the weeks go by. 

Homemade Fries

Ingredients:

  • Potatoes
  • Garlic
  • Rosemary Lemon Salt
  • Olive oil
Method:
  • Preheat oven to 200C. Wash and slice potatoes to thin slices, skin on. Par boil them in a pot of boiling water. Drain well. 
  • Heat a pan with olive oil on high. Tossed in garlic (skin on) and fry till fragrant. Toss in potato slices and coat well with olive oil. 
  • Place onto baking tray, sprinkle a generous amount of salt then place in oven to bake for 15-20 minutes. 
  • Remove and sprinkle more salt. Serve hot. 
Burgers
Ingredients:
  • Beef mince
  • Red onion, minced
  • Rosemary
  • Egg
  • Mustard seeds
  • Dijon mustard
  • Parmesan cheese, grated fine
  • Bread crumbs
  • Salt and pepper
  • Buns
  • Salad and sauce, if using
Method:
  • In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together. Season with rosemary salt and pepper. 
  • Using your hands, form them into nice round patties. Depending on the size of your buns or your liking, shape them as you wish. Place onto a baking sheet and refrigerate till ready to be used.
  • Slice buns into half and place face-up under the grill. Heat a pan on high with olive oil and fry patties.
  • Serve on buns with sauce and any salad of your choice and fries…YUM!!
            

 

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