Thursday, 28 July 2011

Aubergine, Pepper and Coriander Stir Fry

As I mostly live on a vegetarian diet, I'm always thinking of different ways to make mealtimes interesting whilst incorporating as many lovely vegetables in one dish as possible. Also being a Malaysian, I can't seem to say resist rice, no matter how hard I try (carb alert!!). Furthermore, as I am currently working on my Masters thesis, I'm always looking for recipe ideas that can be whipped up in a matter of minutes.

Based on all three requirements, I came up with this recipe. I knew the flavour profiles I wanted to work into my dish - garlic, chilli and ginger. I had a gorgeous aubergine that was calling out to me, so I added that to the mix and while I was at it, why not toss in some peppers and coriander leaves for a refreshing twist.

The sauce was a simple mix of vegetarian oyster sauce, which is easily available in your local Asian grocery store, dark soy sauce and a splash of sesame oil.

For comfort food at its best, top a bowl of freshly cooked rice with the hot and spicy aubergine and tuck in with your favorite pair of chopsticks!

If you prefer a non-vege option, you could add prawns or thinly sliced beef to the dish.




Aubergine, Pepper and Coriander Stir Fry

Serves 2

Ingredients

Aubergine, quartered
Red pepper, sliced thinly
2 cloves of garlic, sliced finely
1 chilli , sliced
1/2 inch ginger, sliced
Bunch of coriander, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons vegetarian oyster sauce
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Few drops of water
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Method
  1. Mix the oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil and water in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Heat vegetable oil in a wok or frying pan. Toss in the aubergine strips and fry on a medium heat until it takes on a soft and fleshy texture, usually about 5-6 minutes. If you are using prawns or meat, this would be the right time to add it to the wok.
  3. Add the sliced peppers, garlic, ginger and chilli and continue frying for 2-3 minutes, until the peppers are less crunchy.
  4. Add the sauce mixture to the wok and toss in half the chopped coriander. Make sure the vegetables are properly coated in sauce and remove from heat.
  5. Toss in the remaining coriander and serve with rice.

A simple, healthy, wholesome dish ready within minutes!


Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Daring Bakers' July 2011 - Fresh Fraisiers

My, what a rushed challenge this was. I haven’t been in the right frame of mind in the last few weeks and was contemplating skipping this month’s challenge. 

But sometimes when life gets in the way, the best way to deal with it is to grab the bull by its horns and just get on with it I suppose. So at 5pm, 24 hours before the deadline, I thought ‘right, stop moping and bake a cake!’. 

For this month’s challenge, Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers’ host and she challenges us to make Fresh Frasiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook Tartine.

I decided to make a chocolate chiffon cake with a vegatarian pastry cream.  The fruit of choice had to be strawberries as I love the contrast of the darkness of chocolate with the tantalising red of a strawberry. I replaced the almond paste with a layer of chocolate ganache and decorated the fraisier with chocolate coated strawberries and a Daring Baker’s emblem to pay homage to our beloved community.

The fraisier is delicious, moist and light – the perfect cake for stuffy July. Possibly even more delicious than one would find in a patisserie (if I dare say so lol)!

Assembling the cake was easier than I thought it would be. The chiffon cake was baked in a 22’ cm pan however I used a cookie cutter to cut out miniature individual cakes. The remainder of the cake is frozen to be used at a later date!




Fresh Fraisiers

Chiffon Ingredients


110g plain flour
20g cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
170g sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup vegetable oil
3 large egg yolks
95ml water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ lemon zest
5 large egg whites
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to moderate 325°F (160°C/gas mark 3). Line the bottom of an 22cm spring form pan with parchment paper. Do not grease the sides of the pan.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour and baking powder. Add in all but 3 tablespoons of sugar, and all of the salt. Stir to combine. 
  3. In a small bowl combine the oil, egg yolks, water, vanilla and lemon zest. Whisk thoroughly. 
  4. Combine with the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly for about one minute, or until very smooth. 
  5. Put the egg whites into a stand mixer, and beat on medium speed using a whisk attachment on a medium speed, until frothy. Add cream of tartar and beat on a medium speed until the whites hold soft peaks. Slowly add the remaining sugar and beat on a medium-high speed until the whites hold firm and form shiny peaks. 
  6. Using a grease free rubber spatula, scoop about ⅓ of the whites into the yolk mixture and fold in gently. Gently fold in the remaining whites just until combined.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. 
  7. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack. 

Vegetarian Pastry Cream

Yields 1 cup


Adapted  from The Vegan Chef


1/4 cup plain flour
1 cup semi skimmed milk
1/6 sugar
Pinch of salt
1/8 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Method

  1. In a small bowl, place the flour and whisk in 1/4 cups milk, and set aside. 
  2. In a small saucepan, place the remaining milk, sugar, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the liquid ingredients and whisk well to combine. Cook the mixture over medium heat, while whisking constantly, for 5-6 minutes or until thickened. Add the remaining ingredients, whisk well to combine, and cook the mixture an additional 1 minute.
  3. Remove the saucepan from the heat and transfer the mixture to a glass bowl. Place a piece of waxed paper or plastic wrap directly on top of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming on the top. Place the pastry cream in the refrigerator for several hours to cool completely.

Simple syrup


1/6 cup sugar
1/6 cup water

  1. Combine water and sugar in a  saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let it cool.


Assembly

  1. Using a cookie cutter of your preferred size, cut the cake. Once you have your desired size, cut the cake horizontally to form two layers.
  2. Line sides of the cookie cutter used with cling film and fit in the bottom layer with one layer of the cake. Moisten the layer evenly with a few teaspoons of the simple syrup. When the cake has absorbed enough syrup, to resemble a squishy sponge, you have enough.
  3. Slice in half enough strawberries to arrange around the sides of the cookie cutter and place the cut strawberries against the side of the cutter, point side up, forming a ring.
  4. Pipe the cream in and around the strawberries and a thin layer across the cake.
  5. Place the remaining slice of cake on top of the cream and moisten with simple syrup. Refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours to allow the fraisier to set. 
  6. Once set, remove the cookie cutter carefully.
  7. Melt dark chocolate with a touch of cream and spread a thick layer on top of the cake. Dust with icing sugar and remaining strawberries.
  8. For the chocolate abstract, fill a piping bag with a narrow tip with the remaining melted chocolate. Pipe your desired pattern on to parchment paper and freeze for a minimum of 15 minutes. Remove carefully and stick on cake.






                                                                        
Vegan Pastry Cream







Saturday, 16 July 2011

Prawn and Chilli Linguine


A couple of years ago when I was living in Aberystwyth, my friend Siew and I used to venture into the town whenever we got bored of revising. We’d do a bit of window-shopping and grab some lunch and head to the fishmongers. We spent quite a bit of money in there, buying the freshest seafood you can imagine. Nothing like the stuff you get pre-packed in the supermarket. These were produce that was alive literally hours ago! Needles to say, he soon became our friend, giving us discounts and extra portions, much to our delight!


I miss the luscious, juicy, fresh prawns I used to buy in abundance and when I spotted some in Waitrose the other day, I knew I had to bring some home!
As I needed a quick refuel I decided to stick to a deceptively simple recipe that is low in calories yet so deliciously satisfying.

This is a versatile recipe as you can add or remove ingredients that don’t suit your fancy and you'll still end up with a delicious bowl of pasta.

I love my chillies and garlic so I tend to go a bit ott adding far too much but if you’re not a big fan of heat, feel free to reduce the amount of chilli suggested.



Prawn and Chilli Linguine

Serves 1


Ingredients

Linguine/Spaghetti/ Fettuccine
5-6 raw king prawns
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 large red chilli, sliced (de-seeded, if you prefer)
A handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and black pepper
Basil, to garnish


Method
  1. Start by cooking the pasta according to packet instructions. Once cooked, drain and set aside.
  2. In a separate frying pan, heat the olive oil. Add the chopped garlic and cook on a fairly low heat for a minute without letting the garlic brown. Add the prawns and sauté until cooked. 
  3. Unfortunately I only had enough cash on me for three prawns! So I had to utilise the frozen cooked prawns from the freezer. I know - poor me :( 
  4. Add the chilli, salt and pepper and cook for 30 seconds. Toss the pasta and cherry tomatoes into the pan for 30 seconds and voila! Done.
  5. Tear in the basil leaves and stir. 
  6. Perfect with a rocket side salad.




A little tip - cooking prawns in their shells gives the prawn additional flavour as well as better texture. But then maybe its just the Asian in me. 

Unlike fish/prawns dishes cooked in the UK, where every piece is de-shelled and cut into nice fillets, in Malaysia, when you order a fish/prawn/crab dish, it turns up in its original state, only cooked!

Moving on, don't you just love watching prawns turn from a dull-ish grey to a vibrant pink in a matter of seconds - so pretty!






Thursday, 14 July 2011

Daring Cooks July 2011 - Noodles




So my first Daring Baker's challenge went down a treat which got my excited about what the month's Daring Cook's challenge was going to be...Steph from Stephfood was our Daring Cooks' July hostess.  Steph challenged us to make homemade noodles without the help of a motorized pasta machine.  She provided us with recipes for Spätzle and Fresh Egg Pasta as well as a few delicious sauces to pair our noodles with!

The concept of noodles for this challenge was applied loosely and we were encouraged to use flavours and textures from our cultural background. I spent quite a few days wracking my brains trying to figure out a do-able Malaysian noodle dish. I was tempted to make rice noodles from scratch but at the last hour chickened out and decided to stick to making pasta instead!

This was the first time I've attempted making pasta and what a success it was! I was torn between making beetroot fettuccine and ravioli and ended up going for the latter. I stuffed the ravioli with spinach, ricotta and five spice and made a simple olive oil, garlic and sage sauce to go with it.

The ravioli had such a lovely bouncy texture and tasted so fresh! Will definitely be making it again, but not before I attempt beetroot and spinach fettuccine!

Ingredients for Pasta



200g pasta flour. I used Very Strong Canadian White Flour
A pinch of salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1.5 tablespoons cold water

Ingredients for Filling
3 garlic cloves, chopped
300g fresh spinach
200g ricotta cheese
Zest of half a lemon
1 teaspoon five spice
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

Ingredients for Sauce
3-4 tablespoons of olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
Sage leaves

Method


Mix flour and salt and pile on to a flat surface, making a mound. Make a well in the middle and add the eggs and olive oil (as shown in the picture above). 

Using a fork, slowly start a whisking motion, incorporating the flour and eggs. When the dough starts coming together, knead the dough using both hands, pouring a little water, every so often to maintain slight moisture. Do not be tempted to add more flour!



Kneading the dough should take about 10 minutes. The dough should be elastic and not sticky. Wrap in cling film tightly and leave to rest for about 30-60 minutes. I left my dough to rest for an hour.

In the meantime, you can choose to take a break, as kneading pasta dough is hard work(!) or you can move on and start preparing the filling.



Start off by heating oil in a pan and add the garlic to it. Sauté for about a minute or so and add the spinach leaves. Continue cooking until spinach leaves are just wilted. Transfer spinach leaves to a colander and let drain excess liquid. 

In a separate bowl, add the five spice, salt and pepper to ricotta. Chop the drained spinach leaves and add to the ricotta mix.



To assemble the ravioli, cut the dough in pieces slightly bigger than golf balls. If you have a pasta machine, lucky you! Otherwise using a rolling pin, roll the dough out on a heavily floured surface. At this point, use as much flour as you want, it won’t affect the texture of the ravioli. Also keep the remaining flour covered to prevent it drying out.


Roll until you get thin layers (as thin as you can get them) and set aside. Roll out another layer of a similar size. 
Spoon spinach mixture on top of one layer, making sure you leave sufficient space between each dollop. Lightly wet the dough around each filling with water and place the second layer of dough on top.



Press the dough down gently with your fingers to seal the filling in and also to remove any air trapped (It will prevent the ravioli from bursting when cooked). I used a cookie cutter to cut my ravioli pieces but you can also use a knife or espresso cups!

Repeat with the remaining pasta dough and filling.

To cook the ravioli, bring a large pan of salted water to boil. Add the ravioli and cook for about 4-5 minutes until al dente.

For the garlic oil sauce, simply heat 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil to a pan. Add crushed garlic, sage leaves and chilli flakes and fry for a few minutes until sage leaves are crunchy. Remove the crushed garlic and pour on top of ravioli. Add a sprinkling of cheese.



Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Passion Fruit Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting

A few months ago I signed up with a secret shopper agency and what an exciting experience it has been so far. Recently I was phoned up by the company to take up a last minute assignment in a shop that specialises in kitchenware! On top of a set fee I was to be paid, I could also buy anything in the shop which fell under a certain amount and will be fully reimbursed! Paid to shop and get free kitchen equipment on top of it? Sounds like a dream assignment don’t you think.

While in the shop it took a lot of willpower to be sensible and pick out something practical yet fun. I got myself a professional piping set, something I have been eyeing for a few months, and a packet of passion fruit pulp only because I’ve been having intense cravings for passion fruit recently!

Yay new toys! :DSo me being me, I needed to test out my new toys as soon as I got home.
I knew cupcakes had to be made and that the passionfruit pulp needed to be tested out as well, so lo and behold, Passionfruit cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting came to mind! I have to admit this combination of flavours has been playing on my mind since reading about Pierre Herme’s Mogador macarons!





Passion fruit Cupcakes


Makes 9-10 cupcakes

Ingredients

30g butter, softened
110g castor sugar
2 eggs
150g self raising flour
60ml passionfruit pulp
1 tsp vanilla extract


Method
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180’C and line the muffin pan. Beat butter and sugar until combined and fluffy. Add the eggs and flour and beat until the mixture turns pale.
  2. Stir in the vanilla extract and passion fruit pulp. The passion fruit seeds give a nice crunchy texture to the cake.
  3. Fill each muffin liner up to two-thirds with cake batter and bake for 15-18 minutes.




Chocolate Frosting

Adapted from The Curvy Carrot

Ingredients
 
*I used one thirds of the original ingredients as the cake batter only yielded 10 cupcakes
75g milk chocolate + 75g dark chocolate
20g cocoa powder
2 tablespoons hot water
110g butter
20g icing sugar
Pinch of salt

Method 

There are three parts that make the frosting. 
  1. First melt the dark and milk chocolate using the bain-marie technique, or if you are lucky enough to own a microwave, whizz it in for a few seconds just until the chocolate starts to melt. Set aside and let it cool.
  2. Next, combine the cocoa and boiling water in a bowl to form a chocolate paste. Once the melted chocolate has cooled, beat the butter, icing sugar and salt on a medium heat until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed and add the melted chocolate. Finally mix in the chocolate paste until combined.
  3. Pipe on to cupcakes. The glossy texture of the frosting gives the cupcakes a professional look!