Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Indonesian banquet (or at least my family's version)

Siew-on (phonetic) - vermicilli noodles, prawns, chinese mushroom and eggs.

I decided that on Australia day because I am so Australian I needed to revisit my Asian heritage and cook some of my traditional family food for P's family.

So that is what I have been busy doing today. Usually in my family, we sit at one the table and all the dishes are put in the middle. Seafood, beef, lamb, chicken, vegetables, rice there is no focus on one main dish as such.

I rarely cook my families' food and when I think about it I guess the reasons why I don't cook it more regularly are because:

- it involves eating rice quite a lot and I only like to have rice once a week;
- some of the food can be quite high in calories and I do try to limit high calorie food;

I think that they are two fairly significant reasons. I guess if we are only having rice once a week, there much to choose from and we do love our Indian and Thai curries so that means "my families' food" doesn't get much of a look in.

I also decided that because I cook "my families food" so rarely that I had better do it once and for all to prove to myself as much as anyone else that I could actually do it. I often wonder whether the food has any resemblance to the food served in Malaysia or has what we have come to know as our traditional dishes are specific to my family only. Hence why I am reluctant to call it "Indonesian food" in case someone from Indonesia actually sees this blog and says that I can't possibly pass these dishes off as Indonesian/Malay food.

It is quite strange hearing Indonesian words from my mother and her family but having no idea how to spell them in the first place. Which is why I have had to phonetically spell the first dish and I was unable to find anything that resembled the actual dish during my research on Malaysian cuisine on the net.

I also had to create the dessert I prepared just for today because my mother has never prepared us a dessert that I could say was uniquely related to our Indonesian heritage. Because I had eaten crepes filled with fresh mango and whipped cream at the end of Yum Cha, and P and I had ordered mango crepe suzettes. I thought mangos seemed quite a Asian/Malaysian type of fruit. Though I decided to serve ours with vanilla ice-cream and a sauce. (Sorry, no pictures but it was pretty simple looking really I tucked the filling into the crepe and folded it into a rectangle pillow and put the sauce on the dish and sat the crepe on top with the ice-cream next to it - if you want to visualise :o)

For the sauce I used palm sugar, cream and butter, which is similar to a butterscotch sauce that you might serve with a sticky date pudding. However it also went equally well with the mango and cream filled crepes.

I am happy to say that everyone enjoyed the food today.

I don't know though when I will cook "my family food" again maybe for my sister, my Aunts, mother etc. Its unlikely I would cook this food for P's family again for a while even though they enjoyed it. I imagine we will continue with our usual style of food which is Mediterranean influenced rather than Asian.

Oh, by the way my sister made the Sayur Pumpkin, essentially beef and pumpkin casserole I suppose, it was delicious thanks Suga Lu - enjoy your evening out at "Punk night"!

Beans and shredded coconut

400 gram of green beans,
Top and tail the beans slice in half then blanch them in hot water for 3 minutes then drain.

1 onion finely chopped,
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 cm piece of ginger crushed,
canola oil,
1/2 teaspoon of shrimp paste.

Saute the above until golden brown. Add 1/2 packet of shredded coconut.
Add beans and toss through the onions and coconut. Season with sea salt to taste.

Corn and prawn fritters
1 kilogram of cooked prawns (medium size)
Peel and chop the prawn into thirds.

In a food processor, finely chop 1 and a half onions, 2 cloves of garlic and a 3 cm piece of ginger.

Change the blade in the food processor to a gentle blade. Add 1 cup of sifted plain and 1 cup of sifted self-raising powder. Add prawns, 1 tin of corn pieces, then break 2 eggs into the mixture.

Begin to process gently adding 1 cup of milk slowly till the mixture is well combined. Make sure that the mixture is not to be runny - which is why I add the milk slowly.

Cover the bottom of a frypan with a thin layer of canola and heat over medium high heat. Reduce to medium heat and place at least one heaped tablespoonful of corn and prawn mixture in the frypan per fritter and turn till both sides are golden brown. Keep finished fritters in a slow oven while cooking the remainder of the mixture.

This mixture makes A LOT.

Sayur pumkin

Chicken satay

Satay sauce

2 shallots finely chopped
1 dessertspoon curry powder/garam masala
1 piece of garlic crushed
2 tbs tamarind paste
1/2 teaspoon shrimp paste
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 tbs honey
1 red chilli finely chopped.

Saute shallots and garlic, shrimp paste and chilli till shallots are soft. Add tamarind and peanut butter and curry powder, stir over heat for 1 minute. Add coconut milk and honey, stir till warm though.

When reheating the sauce add a drop of coconut milk so the sauce becomes liquid.

Marinated chicken
1 kilogram of chicken thigh fillet
1/2 cup of Kikoman teriyaki marinade
1/4 cup kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)
3 pieces of garlic
ground pepper
canola oil 1/2 cup.

Cut the thigh fillet into bite sized pieces and place in a marinating dish. Peel and finely dice the garlic and scatter through the chicken pieces. Pour teriyaki marinade, kecap manis and canola oil over the chicken. Grind as much pepper as you desire over the mixture. Marinate for at least 24 hours ensuring you turn the chicken pieces.

Soak wooden skewers in water for at least 4 hours (this ensures the wood won't burn when you barbecue or grill the skewered chicken) . After the skewers have been soaked, thread chicken onto skewers, then barbecue till cooked.

To serve, see if your husband will part with one of the four bananas leaves on our new banana tree plant. Its worth it honey, its worth it!

Sunday, January 16, 2005

The Perfect Dinner.

P and I went out last night to celebrate a number of things:
-our daughter is no longer sleeping in our bedroom
-our son is no longer sleeping in our bedroom
-our children are both sleeping through (touch wood)
- New Year's 2004 and 2005
- Our anniversary 2004
mmmm that can do because we can save up any other previous occasion that we failed to celebrate suitably at the time for another evening out, minus the children in our home on our return, plus a sleep in!

We went to
this restaurant. It lived up to the review too. In terms of decor it is busy bistro which means lots of noise an no table clothes and big wine glasses. Noisy, though we were not straining to hear each other and we were reasonably close to the next couple. It also has footpath dining and P and I during the evening both questioned the value of dining out on a path were people normally tread up and back. It is what it is, a long thinish piece of concrete with cars parked besides. For me footpath dining has no appeal unless the road and cars are obscured. Plus it was a balmy night and we relished the cool interior of the restaurant.

It is the first time in a very long time that we both had 3 courses, each. The portions were perfectly sized we felt neither over-full nor under- fed once finished. P suggested that bigger eaters might have thought that the portions were too small. For us, there have been occasions at the end of restaurant dining experiences where we have both sat back and patted our tender tummy's and felt filled to the tippity tip,top of our stomachs and said

"If only we hadn't shared that dessert/drank that white wine/had that champagne/eaten that bread/ordered that heavish red etc."

This time we paced it all perfectly the food and the drinks. A couple of glasses of the restaurant's bubbly and on to a red from our stock which we decided needed/had to be consumed for fear that keeping it any longer might see it spoil.

At most restaurants we usually share the dessert or the entree or both. We ordered entrees which were Asian influenced. My scallops (without roe what a pity) were served with seaweed and a small crispy piece of pork belly in the centre, hints of ginger and splashes of blackbean and soy completed the tasty plate. P had a crab salad, heavy on the lime and coriander but refreshing and appetizing nevertheless.

On to mains and we chose meals with a Mediterranean influence. Quite unusual for me as I like to stay with a theme. However we had taken a 1998 St Hugo Cabernet Sauvignon which was in peak drinking condition and while I was tempted by the baby chicken with harissa, I couldn't go past the confit of duck with rocket, Braseola and fig salad. P can never resist meat - an aged piece, rare of course with golden roast potatoes ( a nice change from creamy mash) with baby beetroot and a frothy cream.

It was all fantastic and the confit of duck melted in my mouth with the exception as it should, the crisply grilled skin on top. P's meat like-wise melted in our mouths. There was a swap of the plates partially through the meals.

We are one of "those" couples we discuss the order and make sure that what the other orders we would both like to order too, very, very rarely do we order the same dishes. Then there is some exchanging to happen. Not the lovey-dovey here I will fed you stuff. No, serious swapping involving the subtle swapping of two plates from one to the other and its subsequent return to the owner. We do this when we dine together or with our friends, sorry, we don't dine out enough to get a return visit its now or never to try exactly what this restaurant is capable of.

Returning to my duck, I have confited duck, once. It was a bit time consuming but well worth the effort (a
Philip Johnson's Ecco recipe). The only thing that keeps me from confiting more duck is the notion that I am steeping the duck in fat, slowly cooking it in fat and then storing it in fat. Fat-saturated, oh so tasty, delicious, gorgeous, confit of duck! So I try to only make it once a decade and eat it twice a year which is how often I might happen across it on a menu.

Dessert, chocolate souffle and home-made chocolate chip ice-cream and P had the mango crepe suzette with home-made vanilla bean ice-cream. Both dishes disappeared in quick time and we of course, swapped and then with a gentle reminder from me to P, my chocolate souffle returned for its final moments to me.

Curiously we both thought the chocolate souffle did not use flour as it was very light. I have made fruit souffles without flour like raspberry souffles but never a chocolate one. I will have to track down a recipe for a chocolate souffle that doesn't use flour.

The mango crepe suzettes were light and the mango perfect it was firm,ripe and sweet. We also shared a glass of their dessert wine.

So very highly recommended and on my list as a definite one to return to in 2005.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Many thanks

to P who assisted with this morning's preparation and photography of the perfect omelette a la Lushlife. P may even be a contributor to this blog - this one he says he can understand. He said he may even teach me some Photoshop tricks :0)

At our table.

Note the cheese ooze.

Turkish bread lightly toasted in olive oil.

Ahh - success. No sign of browning of the egg. The bottom of the omelette is the top and the edges are on the side. Looks pretty glossy in real life.

Have started to roll the top of the omelette down. At this stage I decided it was best to flip the omelette onto a plate to complete the rest of the roll.

Adding a mixture of feta, cream cheese and chives to the centre of the omelette.

How the surface of the omelette will look after you have pressed the surface in order to achieve uniform small lumps evenly dispersed on the surface area.

Pressing the egg mixture with the tines of the fork.

Egg mixture hits the warmed omelette pan.

Friday, January 14, 2005

By demand " How to make the perfect omelette"

I was thinking the other day about how serendipitous it is that I did my maiden post for my new food blog on 'Breakfast'.

I guess I am not ready to move on from this repast just yet. Maybe my next entries (when I get round to them) can involve brunch, then morning tea and so on. I don't know if it wise to subject myself to this kind of categorical pressure but for now I am willing to give it a try. How I wish I could do illustrations for my food blog- but for now I will have to make do with digital photographs.

I was feeling a bit nervous about whether I had spelled omelette correctly so I decided to consult a dictionary. Phew! I was correct and there is an alternative spelling namely, 'omelet'. I prefer the first version.

I also enjoyed the rest of the definition: "beaten eggs cooked in melted butter and folded and often flavoured with or containing herbs, cheese, chopped ham, jam, etc. (savoury omelette with herbs etc; sweet omelette,with sugar or jam; one cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs, something must be sacrificed in order to achieve one's purpose).

Now is that saying " you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs" one which is cited when we draw analogies to some of life scenarios? Just seems to "twig a bell" (one of the mixed metaphors I heard which I can't resist using sometimes and has become one of my personal favourites).

It is news to me that there are sweet omelettes. I wonder what they taste like? Good to know there are still so many more culinary experiences to discover.

Long before I had ever had my own on-line journal or had even heard of the word "blog", in fact I don't think the word had even been spawned, I spent my time reading the newspapers of the world on-line. One of my favourite on-line newspapers being the New York Times. What attracted me to the NYT was the Dining and Wine feature section and I think it was around 2000, that I came across a series of articles which provided some very detailed instructions from a Cookery School/Institute on how to make the perfect french omelette.

I wish I could reproduce or link to that article and its lessons but alas that was too long ago and all the googling in the world can't unearth it. The best I can do is explain how I have come to prepare omelettes based on those instructions.

"Fine de herbs"
In the vague recesses of my mind I remember that terminology and the phrase refers to an omelette being made with the incorporation of finely chopped herbs. I usually make this particular one.

I use 3 fresh free range eggs (approximately 60gram eggs). I break the eggs into a bowl and gently whisk the eggs together with a big dash of cream (though milk is fine instead of cream too) and a pinch of sea salt and ground pepper. I finely dice some chives and italian parsley and add the herbs to the egg mixture.
I place my omelette pan over a medium to high heat and use some butter and olive oil and heat them till they coat the bottom of the pan.

When the butter and olive oil evenly cover the pan I pour in the egg mixture and reduce the heat till it is low to medium. I then draw the egg mixture into the middle of the pan with a fork, from the edges so that the egg mixture will begin to cook evenly - and letting the uncooked egg mixture run onto the surface of the pan. Obviously the egg mixture having hit the warmed pan will cook quickly. What I am seeking to obtain is an evenly cooked, smooth and shiny omelette and not to brown the egg mixture, so the slower the cooking process the better.

After drawing the egg mixture into the middle of the pan a few times so that it is approximately 1/3 - 2/3's cooked, I then use the fork tines to gently squash the top of the omelette so that the lumps that have been produced by my having previously moved the egg mixture will be made smaller. I squash the surface of the omelette in order to produce an even look over the surface of the omelette and for even cooking as well.

At this stage I do not want to move the egg mixture it only involves the pressing of the tines evenly over the surface of the omelette till eventually I leave it to set in one unbroken circular piece.

At this point I usually add grated cheese - guryere is a favourite. If you can't get hold of guryere, then Jarlsberg would be great or even crumbled feta. By adding the cheese at this stage the cheese will be warmed through and ooze out of the omelette when cut.

Once the omelette has set further and the cheese appears to be softening and melting, I move the handle of the pan in front of my body and lift the handle so the omelette is tipped away from you. l try to coax the top of the omelette down over the filling. If it only partially covers the filling I usually then decide to try slipping the omelette out of the pan and on to a plate and as I do so I flip the omelette so it folds again. So the edges of the omelette should be under the omelette and the top surface will be what was the bottom of the omelette.

(O my goodness this is so hard to explain and I think the French Culinary Institute, New York Cordon Bleu whoever they were did it much better though it was still quite involved).

Key to the success of my omelettes have been the following:

low heat; and
a new omelette pan kept only for omelettes and the occasional pancake but no eggs or bacon may darken its fine scratch free Teflon surface.

Sometimes you can brush the omelette with some melted butter just prior to serving so it looks all glossy. I have found that an omelette made this way just melts in your mouth.

Another addition to the middle of omelette might include smoked salmon just prior to folding the omelette and then topping it with creme fraiche and finely diced chives.

This size omelette is a hearty breakfast for two or a nice light breakfast for three. Of course there must also be either English muffins or Turkish bread and bacon or smoked trout and asparagus.

Tomorrow morning I will cook an omelette and I will take a photograph of a few stages namely the part where I use the fork tines to produce that surface I speak of.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

P's "manly" breakfast note the chillie sauce and sports section of the paper.

Breaking my fast

Well actually that was the food with which my fast was broken last Saturday after I returned from the Farmer's markets about 6amish. I bought the fresh asparagus and herbs there and couldn't resist poaching a free range egg, toasting some turkish and eating bacon after having had smoked trout for my weekend breakfast staple for the last few weeks.

P and I have a great love of the cooked breakfast particularly on the weekend. We rarely feel the need to buy breakfast out on a weekend anymore. To tell you the truth there isn't anyone from whom we can buy it that can prepare it any better than we can. I think awwwwwwwww though maybe The Gunshop in West End comes close and those coconut crumpets at Timmy's in Southbank well they are divine. I think the only reason to continue dining out for breakfast is for inspiration really.

I believe our love of the cooked breakfast and another of the reasons we are loathe to go out for breakfast was because we were spoiled by breakfasting in Vancouver for about a year. While there we would go to Frankies our favourite cafe and P would order a version of Japanese fast food - Katsudon. A deep fried crumbed pork fillet on rice with egg and onion and some soy sauce like sauce. I would have pancakes, maple syrup and bacon. And we would wash this down with bottomless filtered coffee and read the papers to our hearts content. All this for about $12 including a tip.

This type of food probably all sounds a bit odd for the average Australian palate for breakfast. For one Frankies was not your typical Japanese cafe and there were no Japanese waiters for that matter but Japanese food for breakfast seemed right at any time of day when dining at Frankies. The other thing is that most Australians can't imagine ever being used to eating maple syrup with bacon and pancakes for breakfast. It took me a little while to become used to it too, but now that I have I sometimes crave it and it MUST be real maple syrup, imitation maple syrup isn't worthy.

Frankies also had every condiment our little breakfast eating heart's desired. We are partial to a good chillie sauce on our breakfast which these days makes it difficult to share our breakfasts with the little ones. When it comes to chillie sauces I have the best sources in Brisbane for cajun or Louisiana style sauce. Most of the time, when dining out for breakfast I noticed you don't get offered more than the Worcestershire or the ubiquitous tomato sauce if your lucky and your lucky when you ask if it makes it to the table while your breakfast is hot. And you have to pay and pay and pay again if you decide to indulge in more than one coffee. So that means a leisurely breakfast starts looking in the order of $40 or more.

So P and I solved our problems and bought a Gaggia coffee machine and we have our favourite Merlos coffee on hand and we have the papers ( we might even be able to get the Weekend Australian again now that the baby is almost sleeping through) and we can let the wee ones run amok and after breakfast we can sit and relax for as long as we want, taking it in turns to make the perfect flat white.

I learned how to make the so-called perfect omelette from the New York Times and when I worked in the restaurant of a small boutique hotel in London (
The Dorset Square Hotel) I learned how to make smoked salmon scrambled eggs. Two of the most valuable foodie lessons I have ever acquired.

I say it is the so-called perfect omelette because the article said that the perfect omelette must be made so that it has a silky-smooth consistency and the omelette must not brown. However, when making a double cheese omelette, which means putting grated Parmesan in with the egg mixture prior to cooking it is impossible for the omelette not to brown. A double cheese omelette tastes fantastic so as far as I am concerned that doesn't mean to me that its not perfect.

Here are some of my favourite breakfast combinations I would love to hear of others from anyone else:

English muffins, smoked salmon, poached eggs and hollandaise sauce
Herbed double cheese omelette filled with cream cheese and chives, pan fried turkish bread with either smoked trout or bacon.
Pan fried, turkish bread, poached eggs, grilled mushroom, and asparagus, bacon.
Smoked salmon scrambled eggs - turkish or muffins.
French toast with maple syrup and bacon.
Blueberry pancakes, with yoghurt and fruit.

I could go on and on about what is so good to me about breakfast but I think that is enough for my first food post on NJD except I have to post one more picture. P saw my picture of Saturday's breakfast and then Gabriella and I had to go shopping so he took (in his words) a picture of a more masculine version of the same breakfast.

About Me

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Mother of two with one of each. Wife of one.Dogless. Busy working five days a week, baking and cooking when time allows. Writing rarely these days. Wishing I had time to read more often.