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Tofu Curry

Woohoo! I'm back home in Singapore for summer vacation. What a relief to finally touch down at Changi Airport last evening! After a delay from taking off at CDG airport due to technical checks, we had a long 13 hours of very turbulent trip, sending poor Little One into waves of nausea through out the flight. It's one thing watching people throwing up in plane in a movie, it's another facing the real thing. Never had I had so many panic attacks each time she said these words: 'Mommy, I don't feel well. I feel like throwing up.' I was literally groping in panic for the paper bag in the seat pockets, so afraid of Murphy's Law playing up at me. Phew! Luckily, for me, her & the passengers on the flight, she didn't threw up at all. And surprise my family at their doorstep we did. Because of the jet lag, we let Little One stay up till near midnight (6 pm French time) last night as we didn't want her to wake up at 3 am bright & chirpy. This didn't quite work out but luckily I was able to convince her to go back to sleep until 9 am this morning.

Anyway, a few days before we flew off, I was busy doing my very late entry for Velveteers' Challenge - Mochi (Minty Green Tea with Strawberry & Nutella) as well as baking 2 chocolate velvet cakes (recipe coming soon) for Little One to celebrate her birthday together with 2 other classmates at school. Both the teachers and children loved it - what a relief to hear! Not that I doubted the cake but whenever I have to cook, specially for an event, I tend to screw things up with my closet perfectionist disorder. And on Sunday, we celebrated my sister-in-law's birthday with coconut prawns curry, tofu curry (recipe below) and a simple stir-fry brocolis with rice. Of course no birthday is done without a cake: Pierre loves the cake (recipe coming soon too) I baked for Little One's birthday so much that he requested me to make the same for his sister.

Now tofu is not one of the favourite food in my household. The last time I made an attempt to seduce Pierre into liking it, the result was totally flat. So after 3 years of tofu abstinence, I thought of re-introducing this infamous ingredient to his whole family on this birthday celebration. Quite a big risk as it was the first time I was making a curry out of a tofu (cooking by blind faith hoping everything will come together). But lucky me, by chance it happened that my sis-in-law and father-in-law like tofu.

Tofu Curry
Ingredients
  • 2 packet firm tofu (cut into 9 cubes each)
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1/2 tsp ground mustard)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • a bunch of curry leaves (fresh or dried - about 10)
  • 2 tsp ginger/garlic paste
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder (more if you prefer it to be spicier)
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 cup water (approx.)
  • a pinch of sugar
  • salt (for seasoning)
Directions
  1. Cut tofu into small cubes and pan-fry them dry on non-stick pan until light brown, delicately turning them often. This is to remove some water from the tofu.
  2. Add a little bit of oil into the pan and let the tofu brown a little by the oil. Remove and set a side.
  3. Heat up a little bit of oil in a wok or pot, add in the chopped onions and let it brown a little.
  4. Add ground black mustard, roasted cumin seeds and curry leaves. Stir-fry it with the onions for a minute or two.
  5. Stir in ginger and garlic paste. Cook until it is fragrant.
  6. Add ground coriander, turmeric powder, chilli powder and tomato paste. Stir to mix well before adding approximately 2 cups of water to it.
  7. Add a pinch of sugar and season it with salt.
  8. Let it cook for about 10 minutes.
  9. Add in the tofu, cover partially and let it cook for another 15-20 minutes to allow the curry to thicken and the tofu to soak up the curry flavour.
  10. Serve hot with rice.
Curry Tofu
The Verdict

The result was actually great and much better than my older tofu experiment! A very flavourful curry with a clear tomato background. Of course the faint tofu flavour takes a back-seat in this dish. Judging by the many times Pierre went for it, I say it's a great success. Everyone loves it.

Notes

When I cooked this dish, I didn't really measure the water - just add it in according to what I feel is correct amount. Basically it should more or less cover your tofu.

I happened to have in hand some coarsely ground roasted black mustard seeds and roasted cumin seeds. However if you don't have, you can pan-fry the black mustard seeds, cumin seeds and curry leaves first with oil. Once the seeds pops, add in the chopped onions.

Curry Tofu
13 comments on this post.

Mochi (Mint Green Tea with Strawberry & Nutella)

For our June challenge, the 4 Velveteers (Aparna, Alessio, Asha & I) picked Mint and a seasonal fruit or vegetable (we settled on that because all 4 of us reside in different parts of the world so seasonal fruits/vegetables differs from continent to continent). For me, mint doesn't pose a lot of problem now as I have learnt to use it in some dishes ever since I live in France. Now if I was still living in Singapore, that would be a different story for mint is not very much used (or none at all) in Chinese cooking or dessert. At the start of this month challenge, I had in mind different ideas about what to do with mint and fruits or vegetable but in the end, somehow I got swayed to making Ichigo daifuku, a Japanese dessert. Ichigo what? I hear you. Don't worry, full explanation below. Don't ask me how that came about for I still have no idea. It just popped up in my head one day and refused to go away until I made this dessert. Ok, now let me introduce this infamous Japanese dessert, mochi.

Mochi is a Japanese dessert made of glutinous rice pounded into paste and molded into shape. Traditionally, it is made and eaten during Japanese New Year but these days it can be eaten all year-round. This dessert is very popular in Asian countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Hongkong, Thailand etc. There are many different types of mochi sold, for example:

  • Daifukumochi or Daifuku (means "great luck"), is a small round mochi stuffed with sweet filling, like anko (sweet red bean paste). It exists in many varieties but the most common is white, pale green or pale pink colored mochi. It is also covered in a fine layer of cornflour to keep them from sticking to each other.
  • Ichigo daifuku is a variation of daifuku containing strawberry and sweet filling (usually sweet red bean paste). In my case, I gave it a little twist by adding green tea (matcha) and mint flavour to the mochi envelopping it with a strawberry dipped in chocolate (Nutella more precisely). Below is an adapted recipe from Little Corner of Mine who adapted the recipe from LeeLee.
Mochi (Mint Green Tea with Strawberry & Nutella)
Ingredients
  • 1 cup (160 g) glutinous rice flour
  • 1/2 tsp green tea powder (for baking)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 180 ml hot water
  • a few mint leaves
  • a packet of strawberries
  • glorious, precious Nutella
  • Cornstarch for dusting (microwave cornstarch for 2 mins, let it cool completely before using - optional)
Directions
  1. Soak the mint leaves in the hot water for 5 - 10 minutes. Take out the leaves and let the water cool to room temperature.
  2. Combine flour, green tea powder and sugar together in a big bowl. Then add in the water and stir until sugar is dissolved.
  3. Cover with a microwavable film wrap and microwave for 1 minute 30 seconds. Remove and stir well. Return to microwave for another 30 seconds. Stir-well and check if it is cooked (done). If not, put it back for another 30 seconds, be careful not to burn it.
  4. Flour a big plate with some cornstarch. Dip your spoon with a bit of cornflour, then scoop a ball of mochi and drop it on the plate. Cover it with some cornflour.
  5. Flatten it with your palms and spread it out into a big circle. If it sticks to your hands, flour your hands with a little cornflour.
  6. Put a drop of nutella in the middle of the mochi, top it with a small strawberry. Wrap the filling inside like a dumpling and shape into a ball. Continue to do the same with the rest of the mochi.
  7. Now it is ready to serve with tea or fresh beverages.
Mochi (Mint Green Tea with Strawberry & Nutella)Mochi (Mint Green Tea with Strawberry & Nutella)
The Verdict

This is a surprising dessert for most westerners as the mochi is soft and chewy, a far cry from cakes found around Europe and North America. The combination of strawberry and Nutella is actually pretty nice with a minty green tea taste. I also made some with just Nutella filling. Little One loves both version. This mochi is so soft and melt in your mouth that it's quite addictive - I kept eating them while making my Ichigo daifuku.

Notes

The original recipe said to microwave the mixture for 2 minutes at 800 watts but mine was cooked by 2 minutes. It could be that my microwave oven is higher than 800 watts (I thought). So I would suggest to try it at 1 minute 30 seconds first and proceed another 30 seconds until it is cooked.

I don't know if it is true or not but it is said that the green tea for baking is more fragrant and green in colour than the drinking matcha type. I didn't have any of the baking type in my pantry and I just used the normal matcha I have on hand. And I didn't use spoon, just pinch a bit off and roll it into a ball. It's a bit sticky so make sure your coat your fingers/hands with some cornflour.

As for the filling, you can put any filling you wish - it can be ice cream, ground peanuts, jams, fruits, palm sugar, sweet shredded coconut etc. If you want just plain mochi flavour, just omit mint and matcha (green tea).

Mochi (Mint Green Tea with Strawberry & Nutella)Mochi (Mint Green Tea with Strawberry & Nutella)

The 4 Velveteers

The 4 Velveteers (as we called ourselves) host a monthly event that explores food/cuisine and share our recipes, experiences and verdicts on our blogs. Every month will be a surprise - we never know what we'll make next. So if you're interested in joining the Velveteers, please feel free to drop by our food blogs and leave a comment and we will get back to you.

Do check out what the other Velveteers have come up with:

* Aparna created Apple Tomato & Grilled Paneer Salad
* Asha created Potato Frittata with Garlic Scape and Mint
* Alessio created Flat Chinese peach salad with cherries, mint and a sesame butterscotch sauce

17 comments on this post.

Curry Coconut Prawns

I had a wonderful week meeting up with the Food Bloggers at Food Bloggers Connect 2010. But the highlight of the week started with this hilarious conversation I had with the British officers at the border - me and my Singaporean accent (yes we chatted for quite a while, who cares about the other travellers waiting for their turn, right?):

Officer: So you are staying in London for a week. What will you be doing there?
Me (all excited): Oh, I'm going there to attend FBC. There will be lots of FOOD bloggers at that event.
Officer: I see, FOOT Bloggers you say. So what is this meeting all about?
Me (babbling on): Oh we exchange notes, experience, recipes, take pictures of FOOD, share photography taking techniques, getting to know each other and exchange our blogs etc. I also have my own FOOD blog. (I said rather proudly)
Officer: Oh! So what do you blog about?
Me: Oh about FOOD, a bit of restaurant review but not much. Mainly FOOD, what I cook with, how it tastes, the result of my experience with the recipe, etc.
Officer: FOOT, yeah ??
Me: Yes, you know FOOD like : I show him the hand sign of eating.
Officer: Oh you mean FOOD. I thought you were talking about FEET. I was starting to wonder - recipes, photos and all with FOOT.
Me: Oh, no, not FOOT... Now that would be a bit of too fetish, isn't it?
Officer: Oh, don't worry. We are used to all sorts of things here working in this line. Talking about food, my wife baked 3 cakes last night and it's all for her office.
Me: Oh lucky her. A food blogger's dream - to be able to bake and give it away to others to eat.
Officer: You can say that again. Look at me, I got it all here (pointing to his waist and tummy).
Me: Oh, my husband complaints the same but he can't stop eating what I make. So your wife loves to cook. Do you like Indian food, Asian Food or French Food?
Officer: Oh yes, I love it.
Me: Here's my name card. You can find delicious Indian, Asian & French recipes in there. (So I gave the 2 officers my name card - what a start of a great day!)

Off I went with a big smile on my face to meet Sarka of Cooking Your Dream, Tiina of Sparkling Ink & Giulia of Jul's Kitchen (my bedmate for the weekend) at FBC 10. Sarka was so generous to offer her home for us to stay. We got to know each other better, had brainstorming sessions, exchange camera techniques etc. till late at night. Each night we slept only like 5 or 6 hours. We had a real blast together!

For me, the highlight of the FBC 10 was Friday evening & the Sunday session. Jaden of Steamy Kitchen talks on 'monetizing your blog' was very inspiring with her boundless enthusiasm on how she got started with nothing, worked to cookbook, TV shows after only 6 months into blogging and how she could earn enough by then to pay her household bills. It was truly awesome - every food bloggers dream come true. So much was learnt from Kerrin Rousset of My Kugelhopf & Julia Parsons of A Slice of Cherry Pie on 'how to get published & get feature work'. Thank you for sharing with us your tips and secrets of trade. Kerrin's boundless energy is infectious: she's like an Energizer rabbit - never stop moving. I'm so impressed by Julia's personality: so down-to-earth, open, very friendly and very approachable. Lastly, Niall Harbison's (lively personality with great sense of humour) talk on social media left all of us hungering for more information. I was kinda of disappointed that there wasn't any hands-on photography workshop as I was so looking forward to having one. Instead I found tables of fruits/cakes set up on the table for us to play with our camera mode by ourselves. Other than that, I got to finally meet several bloggers that I have known online for some time and lots of new bloggers!

Sarka's partner, Pavel, came home from his European conference trip and showed me one evening the difference of the aperture and shutters speed hands on with his camera and explained it in details. I greatly appreciated him taking the time to teach me. Now I know the difference. It's one thing listening to talks and reading from the manual, it's totally different when someone actually show it to you. On my last day in London, I cooked dinner for Sarka & Pavel and letting them taste my home (Singapore) & French food - Assam Fish (Singapore Nyonya), Curry Coconut Prawns (Indian - recipe below) & Moules Marinière (French) and last minute whip up dessert like this rich & delicious Lava Coffee Chocolate Cake that only took 10 minutes to make & 8 minutes to bake. Thank you Sarka & Pavel for hosting me for a week.

Curry Coconut Prawns
Ingredients
  • 2 mediume sized yellow onions (finely chopped)
  • 1 tsp ginger garlic paste
  • 800 g - 1 kg prawns (peeled)
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp chilli powder (more if you prefer spicer)
  • tumeric powder (a pinch)
  • salt
  • 200 ml coconut milk
Directions
  1. Heat wok or pan with some vegetable oil, stir-fry the chopped onions until lightly brown.
  2. Add in the garlic-ginger paste and stir till fragrant.
  3. Add in the prawns and mix it well with the onions and garlic-ginger paste.
  4. Mix in the coriander powder, chilli powder, salt & a pinch of tumeric powder.
  5. Cook it until it is slightly done and pour in the coconut milk.
  6. Stir to mix well and adjust the seasoning if needed.
  7. Serve hot with rice.
Curry Coconut PrawnsCurry Coconut PrawnsCurry Coconut Prawns
The Verdict

This truly is a great Indian dish, very aromatic and exotic. Unlike some other Indian recipes, this one is really simple and fast to put together, and yet it really taste authentic. The coconut milk doesn't overpower the flavour of the spices.

Notes

If you don't want it with too creamy coconut, add half coconut milk and half milk. Add the chilli powder according to how spicy you want it to be. It's always better to start with little bit of chili and add more if needed as we cannot reverse the spicy taste the other around.

To make garlic-ginger paste, just process the same amount of ginger & garlic together in the food process. Keep this paste in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Curry Coconut Prawns
26 comments on this post.

Strawberry Tart (with crème patissière)

Last Sunday, all mothers and mothers-to-be celebrated Mother's Day in France. This year, Little One's class, together with their teacher, made a lovely heart-shaped card with a poem and a hanging mirror with crystals all around it. What a lovely surprise gifts! Little One had been so excited about it and couldn't wait for Mother's Day to give it to me. The poem says 'There are millions of bees in hives, there are millions of birds in trees but there's only only 1 mommy.' Although it's not written by her, still I can't help being all weepy about it. Yes, us women and our hormones...

To celebrate this special day, we decided to make a lovely strawberry tart with crème patissière as strawberries season has just began. They are still kind of expensive but heck, why not indulge ourselves?

This is a very simple yet tantalisingly delicious tart to put together. Definitely an all time family favourite.

Strawberry Tart (with crème patissière)
Ingredients

Pâte Sablée (Sweet Shortcrust Pastry)

  • 250 g Plain Flour
  • 125 g Chilled Butter (cut into cubes)
  • 80 g Sugar
  • 1 egg
  • A little water (ice cold)
Directions

Pie Crust

  1. In a large bowl, mix the flour and sugar together and put in the diced up butter.
  2. Using your fingers, rub the butter into the flour until it is crumbly (like sand). To make sure that all butter are rubbed in and there is no big lumps left, scoop some mixture into your hands and rub it in a rubbing motion.
  3. Make a small well in the middle, crack in the egg and just a little bit of ice cold water. Mix the dough mixture with your hands until it forms a ball of dough. It will be a little bit sticky but the dough should hold together and comes off the bowl easily. Do not work the dough too much.
  4. Wrap the ball of dough with a plastic wrapper and refrigerated it for 1 hour.
  5. After 1 hour: Roll out a clean piece of cloth on the table; sprinkle generously some flour on it.
  6. Flatten the dough slightly with your hands and dust the dough lightly with flour before rolling the dough out with a rolling pin. Start rolling at the centre of the dough and work outwards. Roll the dough into a circle and larger than the size of your pie dish.
  7. Put your pie dish face down to the centre of dough. Put your hand underneath the cloth (centre of the dough) and gently flip the dough over.
  8. Without stretching the dough, press the pastry firmly into the pan and trim any excess dough from the edge.
  9. Prick all over the pastry bottom with a fork and put a smaller pie dish on top of it and bake it at 200°C (400°F - gas mark 6) for about 20 minutes or until it is golden brown. However if you don't have a smaller pie dish, cover the top with either baking paper weigh the pastry down with either beans or uncooked rice.
  10. Remove pie crust from the oven and allow it to cool totally.

Making Crème Patissière

  1. While pie crust dough is resting in the fridge or baking, make your crème patissière (French Pastry Cream) and set it aside to cool.
  2. Keep your crème patissière chill in the fridge until it is ready to use.

Assembling Strawberry Tart

  1. Rinse your strawberries and pat dry them with a towel.
  2. Cut them into half and remove the stem. Set them aside.
  3. Place the pie crust on a big plate, spread a layer of crème patissière on it (even it out smoothly).
  4. Carefully place the half strawberries on top of it starting from the outer circle working your way to the centre of the tart.
  5. Serve it immediately or keep it chill in the refrigerator until it is ready to be served.
Strawberry Tart (with crème patissière)
The Verdict

This is one of Pierre's favorite dessert: it is sweet and provided you put it in the fridge before serving, very refreshing as the water and crème stay cool. All those components (crust, crème patissière and of course strawberries) actually can be eaten on their own, but together they also form an amazing combination!

Strawberry Tart (with crème patissière)
Notes

If you have a food processor, to save time, process the dough ingredient with it. And if you can't bake your dough on the same day, wrap the raw dough pasty in a cling film and put it in the refrigerator - it can stay there for 2 or 3 days. It can also be kept frozen for up to 3 months. When required, simply defrost it slowly in the refrigerator.

Strawberries are very perishable, so only purchase them a few days prior to use. Choose those that are firm and have shiny deep red colour with attached green caps. When buying prepackaged strawberries, make sure they are not packed tightly and the container looks clean (no sign of stain or moisture). Before storing it in the refrigerator, check for any strawberries that are mouldy or damaged. Remove them from the the good ones or they will not contaminate others. Store them unwash in its container in the fridge.

Strawberry Tart (with crème patissière)
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Chocolate-Pear Cupcakes

What do you know - it's the time of the month again - the Velveteers' Challenge (Aparna, Alessio, Asha & I). This month we decided to go nutty fruity to lift up our spirit to welcome summer after a long spell of rain and gloomy weather in Europe. At the beginning, I had in mind to make something with cheese, nuts & fruits but I got seduced by Aparna & Shellyfish chatting about their moist, oh so heavenly tasting cupcakes. So curious was I to know if their cupcakes are that good that I started dreaming of it. Soon, my imagination took a different angle - imagining all sort of ways to improvise over the Velveteers' project. Et voilà ! An adapted recipe was born.

I made these cupcakes earlier but didn't have time to post it as I was in the rush to put the house in order, before I left with Little One for a long weekend trip to visit friends and attend a little boy's (Noah) birthday party in Nantes. This time, I was able to meet Jamie of Life's a feast for lunch, had our dessert at her place, met her shy Man & handsome (very French) son, Clément, and of course her adorable but very shy Marty (ooh, I so love Marty). After dessert, we went for a "walk" (I mean shopping spree). I had in mind to shop for a few things for Little One's birthday party but in the end, I bought some tops and a dress for her instead. Jamie got herself a great bargain - a Curnonsky's cookbook for 10 €!! I'm so dying of jealousy! Little One & I had a wonderful time in Nantes and wish that we could stay longer than just over a long weekend. I would also like to thank my wonderful mother-in-law Michèle & sister-in-law Irène for driving us to Nantes and back to Clermont-Ferrand and for taking care of Little One the whole Saturday so that I could spent the day alone with my girlfriends.

Chocolate-Pear Velvet Cupcakes

(Adapted from Aparna's Cinnamon Cupcakes)

Makes: 8 - 10 cupcakes

Ingredients
  • 1½ cups cake flour (sifted and then measured)
  • 1¼ tsp baking powder
  • 2 - 3 tbsp cacao powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt (omit if using salted butter)
  • 100 gm butter (softened)
  • 3/4 cup demerara (or light brown) sugar, packed
  • 1 egg (room temperature)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cups milk (room temperature)
  • 1 pear (peeled & cut into 4 or 8 parts)
  • walnuts (roughly broken up)

Caramel Sauce

  • sugar
  • water
  • about 2 tbsp salted butter
  • about 2 tbsp cream or crème fraîche
Directions
  1. Sift together the flour, cacao powder, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the butter and sugar till light and fluffy.
  3. Add the egg and vanilla and mix well.
  4. Add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating it with milk. Starting and ending with flour. Beat just enough to combine the ingredients and do not overmix. After all the ingredients are in, beat it for just one minute.
  5. Divide the batter equally between 8 to 10 paper lined cupcake tins (depending on the size of your tins) so that each one is 2/3rds full.
  6. Lightly insert a slice of pear in the middle of the cupcake.
  7. Bake the cupcakes at 180°C (350°F - gas mark 4) for 20 to 25 minutes till done or a skewer inserted in them comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes and then turn out and cool completely.
  8. Spoon some caramel sauce on top of the cupcakes. Sprinkle some walnuts on top of the caramel sauce. Then drip some caramel sauce all over the walnuts.
Chocolate Pear CupcakesChocolate Pear Cupcakes

Making the caramel sauce

  1. While your cupcakes cool, you can start preparing your caramel sauce.
  2. Put some sugar and enough water to wet the sugar in a small pot and heat it up on medium heat.
  3. Sugar will dissolves and when it turned into bubbling brown and golden, turn off the heat.
  4. Quickly stir in the salted butter until combined.
  5. Put the pot back on stove under very low heat and stir in the cream.
  6. Continue stirring until you get a thick consistency like crème patissière.
  7. Voilà, your caramel sauce is ready for your cupcakes.
Chocolate Pear Cupcakes
The Verdict

The cupcake is very soft & moist like a sponge cake with a light touch of chocolate flavour. The pear compliments the chocolate cake very well. Everyone loves the cupcakes and the caramel sauce with walnuts topping. I'll make it more chocolaty next time.

Chocolate Pear CupcakesChocolate Pear Cupcakes

The 4 Velveteers

The 4 Velveteers (as we called ourselves) are hosting a monthly event that explores food & cuisine and share our recipes, experiences and verdicts on our blogs. Every month will be a surprise - we never know what we'll make next. So if you're interested in joining the Velveteers, please feel free to drop by our food blogs and leave a comment and we will get back to you.

Do check out what the other Velveteers have come up with:

9 comments on this post.

Cuban Roast Pork & Black Beans (Frijoles Negros)

Not being able to surf everyday for a month was pure torture for a computer addict like myself... but only at the beginning. Once I got over my PC withdrawal syndrome, I started getting A LIFE. Yes, you heard me right. One of the things I have learnt from this is that I was way too addicted to the Internet than I was willing to acknowledge. Internet is good and helpful but as with everything, it has to be used with moderation, or it'll eat your life before you know it. If you have a family, the first in line is your precious little children, then your couplehood. And yes, sadly Little One was in that front line. Don't get me wrong. I do spent time with her but not as much as I thought I did. After this incident, Pierre & I agreed that whenever Little One is at home and awake, my computer will be switched off.

As some of you know from my previous post, I joined a group of expatriate ladies for a weekly chit-chat exchanging languages and cultural differences etc. It's from this group that I met Corinne who formed a small group of ladies passionate about cooking to meet once a month to cook. Each takes turn to cook something of their home cuisine at their place. And so today we bring you all the way to Cuba. Why Cuba? Two months ago, we met up at Robin's house. She is from New Orleans and it happened that her Cuban-born mom-in-law came for a visit. She taught all of us that day how to make Cuban Pork Roast. Robin's mom-in-law talked a little bit about her growing up in Cuba and how she managed to flee her country just before Castro took over the country and settled down in her new home at New Orleans. I could see that after all these years, talking about the past still pains her but she was happy to share her personal experience with us. We had a wonderful time talking and exchanging cultural habits, mannerism, upbringing, etc. It made me wish to have a chance to talk freely about the past with my grandparents, to know who were their parents, how and where did they grew up from, how they meet each other etc. Sadly they aren't here any more to answer any questions that I have in my heart. So dear readers, if your grandparents are still around today, seize the opportunity and get to know them better, for once they are gone, the secrets, the past history goes with them.

Cuban Roast Pork & Cuban Black Beans (Frijoles Negros)
Ingredients

Roast Pork

  • 2 kg pork filet or pork roast
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 onions (chopped)
  • 4 cloves garlic (minced)
  • pinch of ground cumin (generous pinch)
  • a bit of olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Black Beans (Frijoles Negros)

  • 500 g dried black beans (soaked overnight)
  • 1 onion (chopped)
  • 3 - 4 cloves garlic (crushed)
  • 1 green bell pepper (chopped)
  • 4 dried bay leaves
  • 3 - 4 tbsp red/white wine
  • generous pinch of ground cumin
  • salt & pepper
Cuban Roast Pork & Black Beans (Frijoles Negros)
Directions

Roast Pork

  1. In a big ziglog bag, mix the marinate: lemon juice, apple cide vinegar, chopped onions, a bit of olive oil, season with salt & pepper and a pinch of ground cumin together.
  2. Place pork in it and let it marinate over night in refrigerator for 12 to 14 hours, turning the bag over occasionally. This is to make sure it gets marinated evenly. Take out the meat from the refrigerator an hour or so before roasting it, allowing it to come to room temperature.
  3. Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F - gas mark 2).
  4. Place the marinated pork in a roasting pan, pour the marinade over it and cover it with aluminium foil or put it in a crock pot.
  5. Roast it for about 3 hours, basting the roast with its juice every now and then. If juice dries out a bit, pour some wine or water and continue to bast the roast with it. Do not let the roast dries out.
  6. Uncover the roast a few minutes before it's done to let it get a bit brown on top.
  7. Once the roast is done, remove it from oven. Let it rest covered with an aluminium foil for 10-15 minutes before serving.
  8. Serve the pork slices with a bit of pan juice on top it with rice, panfried plantain & cuban black beans.

Black Beans (Frijoles Negros)

  1. Rinse the beans well. Soak it overnight covered with about 2 inches of water above the beans.
  2. The next day, cook the beans in its water. Bring it to a boil and then let it simmer covered for about 2 hours or until beans are just tender or cooked. Add more WARM water to the pot if necessary. Never add cold water.
  3. Remove some of water that the beans cooked in, leaving about 2 inches of the liquid above the beans.
  4. Now starts preparing the sofrito: sauté chopped onions, crushed garlic and chopped green bell pepper together in a pan with some olive oil until fragrant.
  5. Sprinkle a generous pinch of ground cumin (more if you like) and season the sofrito with salt & pepper.
  6. Add the sofrito to the beans together with the bay leaves and red/white wine. Mash/crush the beans a little bit with a potato masher.
  7. Bring it to a boil and then let it simmer partially covered for 1 or 2 hour or until the beans are tender and the liquid has thickened. Adjust seasoning if necessary.
  8. Reheat before serving it with rice if you cook it in advance.
Cuban Roast Pork & Black Beans (Frijoles Negros)
The Verdict

I was pleasantly surprised at the first bite of the roast. The pork was so tender, succulent and very aromatic. Each bite just got me drooling for more. The beans were delicious and fragrant and the fried banana a nice sweet addition that makes the whole thing fruity and exotic.

Notes

The Black Beans (Frijoles Negros) takes some time to cook so make this first before the roast.

Cuban Roast Pork & Black Beans (Frijoles Negros)
9 comments on this post.

No Knead Brioche (with M&M Peanuts)

Woohoo! It's about time! I'm back online again with my spanking new hand-me down laptop (Pierre's new toy finally arrived). I was slowly withering away in withdrawal syndrome of not being able to write new entry on my blog and keeping in touch with my readers and friends for a month. However something good did come out of this, like Little One getting 110% of mommy's attention and the house too (yes, the dreaded housework got done faster). Being without a computer for a month taught me quite a few things but I'm not going to bore you with this right now (later, I promise). Ah... lots of news and recipes to share with all of you.

Before we dive into my new recipe, I want to draw your attention to some NEW features on the Blog (courtesy of Pierre's programming talents):

  • Print button (bottom right) - to print your recipe easily
  • Translate button (bottom right) - different languages like French or Italian etc. I have checked the French translation and it was pretty good, even the measurement units get translated.
  • Picture of each dish when you do a search by main ingredient or cuisine

And the following recipes to look forward to:

Now just before my infamous laptop failed me, I joined a food blogger book club This Book Makes Me Cook - besides reading the nominated book of the month (of course), we also make a book inspired dish as the club is aptly named. I'm very late at this but hey, better late than never! Anyway, April book review was Can you keep a secret by Sophie Kinsella - a light hearted and humorous chick book with kind of predictable scenarios (sometimes a bit over-the-top) but a good read all the same. I enjoyed it thoroughly, even laughed out loud many times at some hilarious situations. The story begins with the heroine, Emma Corrigan, who is aviophobia (fear of flying) babbling out all her secrets to a total stranger seated next to her on flight during a very bad air turbulence, thinking the plane was going to crash. Unfortunately for her, that stranger unexpectedly become a permanent fixture in her life.

There was a company family picnic day scene in this book that inspired me to make this no-knead brioche. I figured that if it works on bread, no reason why I can't make a brioche the same way? Et voilà! It's as easy as 1, 2, 3. From now on, I don't have to knead my brioche anymore - makes my life a lot simpler (pssst... because I suck at kneading big time). Just stir everything in, let it rise, punch it down and let it rise over-night covered in the fridge or a very cool place. Bake it the next morning and you have a lovely delicious breakfast.

No Knead Brioche (with M&M Peanuts)
Ingredients
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 11 g dried yeast
  • 60 ml milk or buttermilk (lukewarm)
  • 300 g plain flour
  • 45 g sugar
  • 3 eggs (lightly beaten)
  • 125 g salted butter (melted, cooled)
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • a few handful of peanut M&M's
No Knead Brioche
Directions
  1. In a big bowl, mix 1 tbsp plain flour with dried yeast and stir in lukewarm milk making sure it is well mixed. Leave it for 15 minutes.
  2. Mix the rest of plain flour and sugar together. Pour it on top of the yeast mixture.
  3. Make a well in the centre, pour in lightly beaten eggs, cooled melted butter and vanilla essence.
  4. Stir until everything is well incorporated.
  5. Let it rise on the table for about 2 hours or until it doubles in volume.
  6. Lightly punch it down and pull/fold the outer edge of the dough to centre.
  7. Cover it with a plastic film and let it proof in the refrigerator or a very cool place overnight.
  8. Lightly flour your work surface, turn the dough out and lightly dust it with flour. Roll it out into a big rectangle.
  9. Sprinkle M&Ms all over the surface.
  10. Roll in from the longest side like a swiss roll. Cut it into 6 or 8 even slices and arrange them loosely in the prepared round baking pan lined with baking paper.
  11. Melt butter and sugar together in a small bowl. Brush this mixture on top of the brioche and let it rise for 1 hour.
  12. Bake it in preheated oven at 160°C (325°F - gas mark 3) for 40 minutes.
  13. Coat the top with some melted buttery sugary mixture again and let it cool.
  14. Serve it with a cup of tea or coffee. Savour it.
No Knead Brioche
The Verdict

It really tastes as good as the kneaded brioche. Pierre suggested using M&M's instead of the traditional pralines: OK, so it looks like a clown that has been thrown into a carwash, but it actually taste great and the peanuts still give the same crunchy sensation as the pralines

Notes

If you are living in cool climate country like me, I let my dough rise overnight outside on my window sill in spring or autumn but the coolest part of the house during winter.

I'm sending this No Knead Brioche recipe to YeastSpotting!.

You might like this too:

23 comments on this post.

Afghani Murgh (Cheesy Chicken Kebab)

POISSON D'AVRIL!

Happy April Fool's day, everyone! This day celebrated worldwide is however known in France as 'Poisson d'avril' (April Fish). On this day, like the rest of the world, jokes are played on family and friends and the medias are all so full of funny hoaxes - it's hard to know the reality from the jokes. For the children in France, it's the day where they have fun discretely sticking a paper shaped fish on their parents, teachers and friends back.

Dear Readers, you must be like me as curious as a cat wanting to know why it's call April Fish here. Well, sadly the story is kind of blurry, but is connected to the fact that in some part of France, the year-end was celebrated around 1st of April in the Middle-Age, and the end of Lent during which meat was forbidden and fish was the alternative. Oh, admit it, you feel kinda let down like me by the the lack of mystery surrounding this fish day.

Now guess who is all excited jumping out of bed this morning when I went to wake her up? Yes you guessed it right (sorry no price for guessing it right this time) - Little One! You see, it's her first 'Poisson d'avril'. So she was all excited this morning, jumped out of bed in excitement 'Mommy, it's Poisson d'avril' today!' 'We got to hurry up - dress up and make some fish.' Boy, was she fast in dressing up and finishing her breakfast! (record time) Quickly some fishes were cut out and coloured with a sticker tap on. Giggling with excitement, she just couldn't wait to reach school to stick one on the back of her teacher. Said teacher was sportive enough to pretend she didn't see that coming and turned her back for Little One to stick it on it. You should have seen that glee on her face when she did it and said 'Poisson d'avril' to her teacher and giggling non-stop. PRICELESS! I wish I could capture that moment on camera and freeze frame it forever. Then she went into her class and sticked another one on her best friend, Lise, giggling. Ahh... it's so wonderful to see things through the eyes of a 3 year old. Thank you dear daughter for reminding me what's like to be a child again. And who says we, adults, can't have fun like Little One. I dare you to stick a coloured paper shaped fish on your family, friends and colleagues next year - it'll be a nice French touch.

Which brings me to this chicken kebab. Well not, but bear with me, it's a slow day.

Afghani Murgh (Cheesy Chicken Kebab)

(Taken from Moti Mahal's Tandoori Trail by Monish Gujral)

Ingredients
  • 600 g chicken (cut into 8 pieces)
  • 2 tsp ginger-garlic paste
  • 1tbsp vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 1/2 tbsp cashew nuts
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp cheese (grated)
  • 2 tsp cardamom powder
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tsp white pepper powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/2 tbsp cream or crème fraîche
Preparation
Directions
  1. Make some incisions on the chicken pieces (simply poke some holes on it with your pointed sharp knife). In a big bowl, marinate the chicken pieces thoroughly with ginger-garlic paste, vinegar & salt. Keep aside for half an hour to an hour.
  2. In the meantime, blend cashew nuts with milk in food processor until you get a smooth paste.
  3. In another bowl, mix grated cheese, cardamom powder, salt and white pepper with cashew nuts milk paste. Add in the eggs and cream. Stir and mix until everything is well incorporated, giving a smooth paste.
  4. Pour this mixture onto the marinated chicken, making sure that each chicken pieces are well coated with the paste. Set it aside for an hour or until it is ready to be cooked.
  5. Soak your wooden skewers for about half an hour or an hour in water before using it. This is to prevent the wooden skewers from being burn in oven. (If you are using metal skewers, skip this part, of course.)
  6. Preheat oven under grill mode.
  7. Thread chicken pieces on skewers and place it under grill for 6 - 7 minutes.
  8. Turn chicken pieces over and baste it with oil. Let it grill for another 6 minutes or until chicken is tender.
  9. Alternatively you can cook it in a preheated oven at 180°C (350°F - gas mark 4).
  10. Serve it hot with mint chutney. (We just ate it with rice.)
Ready to grill!
The Verdict

It's flavorful and the cardamom is definitely strong here! Thanks to the thick creamy cheese coating around the kebab, the chicken doesn't feel dry at all and is very succulent. Both Pierre & Little One loved it very much.

Afghani Murgh
Notes

I have no idea what type of vinegar the author of the book used so I just replaced it with apple cider vinegar that I have in my pantry. It still turned out succulently delicious.

Grated Cheese - Please do not use prepackaged emmental grated cheese in this recipe like I did. They won't stick to your chicken in the marinate. What it calls for in this recipe is finely grated cheese. Or you can cut pre-grated emmental cheese further up with scissors to make it finer.

If you like kebab, try this too :

16 comments on this post.

4 Velveteers' Verrine

Dear Readers, my apologies for not blogging anything new for a week. After my laptop died on me a few weeks ago, I started using my old PC (used to work on this PC before Little One was born) as an alternative but there were a few things I didn't quite bargain for. Like it used to have very weak Wifi signal that would most of the time prevent me from saving my post, but that was finally fixed by Pierre with a €69 plug. However it didn't fix the age of this PC - surfing or even typing something online is something else when we are also used to newer and faster PC. Just to give a general idea: I can type faster than it can print the letters on screen! I can take 40 winks while reading newspaper or blogs. Yep, it's that slow. So please do bear with me for a while until I get a new laptop.

Today, we are going to make a Verrine. I'm sure you have seen lots of cookbooks specialising on Verrine and even had it in the restaurants, as they have become very popular lately. You might be wondering like I did, what precisely is Verrines?

"A verrine is a confection, originally from France, made by layering ingredients in a small glass. It can be either sweet or savoury, making a dessert or snack." (Wikipedia)

So what has today's 'Verrine' got to do with The 4 Velveteers? Well, after our great adventure at making au naturel Red Velvet Cake (hence our name sake - Aparna, Asha, Alessio & I) and enjoyed it thoroughly, we decided to make it into a monthly event to spur each of us to great heights in our cooking/baking arena. For this month, we decided to make a savoury Verrine. To make it more challenging, we decided to do a blind concoction: each of us picked a secret ingredient and the 4 ingredients were revealed at the same time. I picked Salmon, Aparna chose Cheese while Asha decided on Squash/Pumpkin. Now, of course, Alessio being Al, has to throw all of us out of the loop with his pick of Chocolates. Yes you read it correctly. CHOCOLATES!

This month challenge is quite a difficult one for me as I'm not a great cook like Aparna, Alessio, or Asha. I still have a lot to learn. To be honest with you, I have never made anything with pumpkin or made a verrine before. The last time I tried to make a pumpkin tart, it turned out to be a disaster but my in laws and Pierre bravely ate it all the same. (Well that's another story) Anyway, I toyed with different mix and layers in my head for weeks. At first I wanted to make a curried pumpkin version to go with fresh salmon like sashmi but my curried pumpkin turned out awful. (had to dump it in the bin) so I stroke off that idea. Smoked salmon came to my mind a little bit too late as we have already done our grocery shopping for the week, so I had to stick to original idea of using fresh salmon. Then my mind was roused by the delicious fragrance of steamed gingered salmon with nice crunchy refreshing cucumber. Now how to pair it with cheese, pumpkin & chocolates was another challenge. Soon the idea of chived mixed with cottage cheese with small bits of dark chocolates started playing in my mind - then came the idea of having something crispy like chips ...voilà pumpkin chips was born. So with all that in mind, I finally set out to make my very special verrine. Hope you'll like it too.

4 Velveteers' Verrine
Ingredients
  • fresh salmon (cut into cubes)
  • ginger (peeled, julienned finely)
  • a bit of light soya sauce
  • some pumpkin slices (thin)
  • cottage cheese or mozzarella (cubed)
  • grated dark or small broken bits chocolates
  • some chives (chopped finely)
Directions

Preparing Salmon layer

  1. In a small bowl, marinate salmon with a bit of light soya sauce, pepper & ginger. Steamed the salmon for about 10 minutes or until it is cooked. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. (Adjust the steaming time accordingly if it's a big plate of salmon)
  2. Set it aside and keep warm.

Making Pumpkin Chips

  1. Grease a plate (microwave safe) with a thin layer of olive oil.
  2. Coat each slices of pumpkin with olive oil and spaced them out on the prepared greased plate.
  3. Microwave it for 2 to 4 minutes. Then turn each pumpkin slices over and microwave it another 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. Take them out and let it crisp up on a clean plate. Continue to do same with the rest of the pumpkin slices.
  5. Voilà, you have your crispy pumpkin chips.

Preparing Cheese layer

  1. In a small bowl, mix cottage cheese or mozzarella cheese with chopped chives and dark chocolates bits.
  2. Set aside.

Assembling Velveteers Verrine

  1. Take a verrine or a glass yogurt pot, spread a thin layer of diced cucumbers.
  2. Spread a layer of gingered salmon on top of the cucumber.
  3. Spoon a layer of cheese mix on top of the salmon layer.
  4. Spread a layer of roughly crushed pumpkin chips on top of the cheese.
  5. Serve immediately.
The Verdict

To my great surprise, it actually turned out good. The ingredients really blends well. The crushed layer of pumpkin chips gives a good flavour and texture to the chived cheese. The introduction of dark chocolate bits in the cheese was kinda odd at first but once we get over the surprise, we start to enjoy this new taste and find that it actually fits. The gingered salmon turned out really good. Overall, you have a very fragrant taste with a crunchy yet springy and refreshing savour all at once.

On the hindsight, I think mozzarella cheese would have been more ideal than cottage cheese as mozzarella is more firm and springy in taste which would go better with the soft textured salmon. For the salmon, perhaps it might have been better to steam it as a whole instead of in small pieces, to make it firmer. And also a more generous layer of roughly crushed pumpkin chips on top. I would like to make this again with this adjustment and experiment with making one with fresh raw salmon with a squeeze of lemon juice (perhaps).

4 Velveteers' Verrine
Notes

When making pumpkin chips, it is best to wipe the plate now and then or else oil accumulates and your chips will turn out to be very oily.

The 4 Velveteers (as we called ourselves) are hosting a monthly event that explores food, cuisine or our passion about something that catches our interests. All of us shares our recipes, experiences and verdicts on our blogs. Every month will be a surprise - we never know what we'll make next. So if you're interested in joining the Velveteers, please feel free to drop by our food blogs and leave a comment and we will get back to you.

Do check out what the other Velveteers have come up with:

4 Velveteers' Verrine
9 comments on this post.

Prawns & Mushrooms Risotto

The 2010 March Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Eleanor of MelbournefoodGeek and Jess of Jessthebaker. They chosed to challenge Daring Cooks to make risotto. The various components of their challenge recipe are based on input from the Australian Masterchef cookbook and the cookbook Moorish by Greg Malouf.

For this challenge, we must make our own chicken stock and the risotto base. I was not worried about making my own chicken stock but more about making risotto. You see, I had only eaten risotto once in my life when my sis-in-law made it last summer. All I can remember was it tasted super delicious! Since then, I have been wanting to make risotto but was too scared to even start. I even bought ready packaged risotto (like those ready packaged rice) to start out but each time my courage left me. I sound very silly, don't I (even Pierre looked at me weirdly when he found that out). Those packets of risotto are still sitting in my garage. LOL! Now that the Daring Cooks had issued this challenge, I had to stop running and making excuses... however I did procrastinate on it until the last minute!

I had an idea of what kind of risotto I was going to make - Prawns & Mushrooms. Even watched a video on how to make basic risotto just to make sure I would not screw up on expensive prawns (I'm not even talking about fresh ones - the cheap frozen ones already costs about 12 €/kg). I had everything bought and ready to go, and then my laptop went belly up that very day (right after I got back from my grocery shopping). Arrggh! All my data, recipes, food pictures were in there! How can I cook when I don't have the basic risotto recipe to follow? How can I post on my blog? Yep! You got it right. FRUSTRATION is the word that described my state of being for the following days. As if it wasn't bad enough, someone up there decided to put the proverbial icing on the cake and the whole family got seriously sick with flu by late afternoon. Peachy or not, risotto was on tonight's menu. So I spat on my hands and rubbed them well for good luck like a baseball batter (Gotcha! Just kidding!), I went ahead and cooked it sans recipe, with just memories of how the guy in the video did it, crossing my fingers and hoping it would turn out good.

What do you think? Did it turn out good or bad? Did my ninja's training saved the day? Read further to find out!

Prawn & Mushrooms Risotto
Ingredients
  • olive oil
  • 1 small onion (chopped)
  • risotto rice (I use Arborio rice & measure 1 expresso cup per person)
  • 1 expresso cup dry white wine (for 2 expresso cups of rice)
  • 1 litre chicken or vegetable stock (approx)
  • some button mushrooms (sliced)
  • some fresh prawns (peeled)
  • a dash of parsely (chopped)
  • salt & pepper
Directions
  1. Heat oil in a pan and add onion. Fry for a few minutes until the onion is fragrant and translucent.
  2. Add the rice and stir for a few minutes to coat each grain of rice with oil and toast slightly.
  3. Add the wine and let it bubble away until evaporated.
  4. Add enough stock to cover the rice by a finger's width (about an inch or two). Don't actually stick your finger in, it will be hot. Just eye it off.
  5. Cook on medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon from time to time, until most of the stock has been absorbed.
  6. Then add in mushrooms, season it with salt & pepper with another ladle of stock.
  7. Continue adding the stock and stirring it once in a while until the rice is nicely al dente.
  8. Then stir in the prawns, parsley with a little more of the stock. Cover and heat through until the prawns turn pink and are cooked.
  9. Serve immediately
The Verdict

Strike! I got it right - the risotto was done just right, the rice was thick and moist but not mushy, the prawns were cooked just enough to remain crunchy and flavorful, and go well with the mushroom. I can still see a possible improvement by using more refined mushrooms - morilles (morchella) or cèpes for example would probably make the dish a total bliss.

Don't be afraid to cook risotto like me. It's actually very easy - like cooking rice except one adds broth to the rice little by little until it is cooked. It's that simple. The great thing about risotto is that once you know how to make the basic risotto, you can make risotto with anything you have in mind or in your fridge.

Risotto
Notes

To avoid having a very starchy or lumpy looking risotto, don't stir the rice constantly while it's cooking .

For the above recipe, I used my leftover frozen chicken stock from Poulet à la crème (Creamy Chicken). It's a very basic stock of water & chicken carcass without any extra ingredient. However you can also try making DC's Challenge Chicken stock if you wish.

12 comments on this post.

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