A blade shines in the darkest of the nights
My hubby has always been a big lover of Indian cuisine - so much so that whenever we are back in Singapore, the very first restaurant he heads for is Shahi Maharani. We eat there so frequently that even the manager recognises us instantly whenever we are back in Singapore, never mind that he hasn't seen us for over a year.
Since we haven't been back to Singapore for almost a year and I haven't been cooking any Indian food for a long long time, he needed to satiate his cravings, and I gave in after a few days of bugging. Flipping through our favourite Indian cook book, of course, he had to pick THE dish that has an ingredient that not only I had no idea what it was nor where to find it: madras masala paste. The book did not say how to make it or what it's supposed to be like. The Internet came to the rescue, and once I got the paste made it was now time to do this Beef Madras, which according to the book is a popular South Indian curry prepared mainly by Muslims.
It's very aromatic, delicious, tender and super spicy. I personally couldn't take the heat of this dish eventhough I was wise enough to put only 2 green chillies minus the red ones. Hubby loves it so much that he didn't even care if his taste buds were on fire. He had 2nd and 3rd helpings. I salute him for his bravery - not bad for a ang mo (a Singapore local word for 'Caucasian').
This dish taste even better the next day.
I realised when preparing this dish the 3rd time that how spicy this dish is depending on how spicy is your Madras Masala paste. If you reduced the spiciness in your paste, then you can add more fresh chillies (1 green & 1 red) or whatever combination you prefer. However if your paste is very spicy like mine (when I first did it), reduce the amount of paste added to the dish or simply leave the fresh chilies out.
It's funny how I have thought for years that lasagne were difficult and complicated to make - I mean, looking at the multiple layers of pasta and tomato sauce oozing out with the cripsy cheese on top etc. I thought only chef could whip that up... definitely not for the layman I used to be.
Now you would have thought that since I have now done quite a few dishes, making lasagne would be child's play for me... well, a few days ago I was still thinking that making lasagne was really complicated and beyond my cooking capability. Why in the world do I still think that way, I have no idea. It's strange, isn't it. However after making these lasagne the other night, I realised that sometimes something that may look complicated sometime isn't. You should have seen my jaw dropped on the floor when I was preparing them - it is really is child's play: a layer of this and a layer of that, repeat it a few times and top it with grated cheese. Et voilà !
For this post, I really have Pierre and Michèle to thank for. Why ? If not for him thinking of his mom's lasagne and requesting for it, I wouldn't have overcome my cooking shyness. And thank you Michèle for sharing your recipe with us.
Serves : 6
Making Meat Sauce (Bolognese)
Making Béchamel Sauce
The flavour of meat sauce and béchamel blend so nicely together giving these lasagne a rich and creamy taste that makes you long for the next bite, just to get more of the flavour. It is so good that you can easily over-indulge yourself. So be warned! The texture is a bit rich because I put a lot of béchamel sauce, you might want to put a little bit less of it if you like your lasagne to feel less creamy.
This is a great dish to prepare in several quantity and freeze it to be baked later whenever you wish.
Btw: In the US, this dish is commonly known as 'lasagna' (singular) while the rest of the world refer it as 'lasagne' (plural).
Chili con carne seems to have almost a cult following in the US, and of course especially in Texas. In France however, chili is mostly found in the form of cheap canned food, and is as spicy as some baby powdered milk. This has gotten Pierre interested into cooking some of his own. His recipe is far from the canonical form (which supposedly doesn't include any veggie but kidney beans) but it's easy to make and tasty.
Plain chili is actually quite healthy (if you don't indulge into the cheese, cream or guacamole extra). The beans in particular are full of qualities: they are rich in fibers, iron, proteins and vitamins, while of course low on fat and sugar like other veggies. As they absorb the flavours well and are slow to cook, they are ideal for stews.
I love Pierre's version. It has an equal amount of meat and beans, great flavour and a nice spicy kick. Best of all, it's not swimming in a pool of sauce. Most of the chili con carne that I had in Tex-Mex restaurants here have either way too much beans (the amount of beef inside the bowl is so pitiful.) or way too much sauce like soup.
You could skip the onions and cubed tomatoes and still get a decent dish, but the onions add a nice sweetness, while the tomato cubes compensate for the tomato puree dull flavor (well, unless you make your own puree of course). It's better to use ground beef that is not too lean (Pierre buys some with 15% fat) as fat contributes to flavor (much to the chagrin of everyone who's on diet).
Many years ago a friend of mine highly recommended me this cook book by Mrs Lee Chin Koon (the mother of Singapore's Prime Minister Mentor Mr Lee Kuan Yew). She found the instructions to be very easy to follow and had already tried out a few of the recipes with delicious results. While I was tempted to go straight to the nearest book store to pick it up, I realized that it would end up sitting on the shelf like a white elephant for years: my mom reigns over the kitchen and is a great cook...
Funnily enough, I came upon this book by chance while on vacation in Singapore recently and immediately bought it without hesitation. Out of the many delicious recipes to try out, I opted for a beef rendang: it's really one of my favourite dishes!
For those unfamiliar with this fine delicacy, Beef Rendang is very popular in Malaysia and Singapore - traditionally prepared by the Malay community during festive occasions. The recipe originates from Padang in West Sumatra, hence the name Nasi Padang which is sometimes used as well.
(taken from The New Mrs. Lee's Cookbook: Nonya Cuisine)
Cooking the rendang
The sauce was awesome and tasted as good as I was hoping, but I can't say the same for the beef: it was unfortunately very tough. It seems that I don't have much luck in cooking beef: every time I cook some, the meat never turns out tender. When we are having steak, it's Pierre who cooks it but I so wanted to eat beef rendang. Michèle loved this dish even though my beef was tough. She suggested that I use the normal beef next time as the beef shin takes a long long time to cook for it to be tender. Most likely I didn't cook the meat long enough (that's Michèle's opinion too). If the meat is cooked correctly, it should falls apart and melt in your mouth.
I can't get any freshly grated coconut here so I replace it with 750 ml of can coconut milk.