A blade shines in the darkest of the nights
This month, the 4 Velveteers picked an easy challenge theme: 'Fruit' as in fruits fruits not the vegetables that are technically speaking fruits (so hold off your tomatoes). To spice up the challenge, it had to be a savoury dish. If fruit salad comes to your mind immediately, strike that out - it's the forbidden dish of the game. Ha Ha! We thought of everything.
For this month's challenge, I thought of making something with pineapple or mango or jackfruit or apples. Pierre kindly suggested Pineapple Rice but I have already posted that 3 years ago and have also done a simple stir-fry Pineapple Prawns, Coriander Pork with Pineapples and Rolled Roasted Pork with Dried Fruits . On top of that, my mom has been cooking pineapple savoury dish lately so I don't think my whole family wanted to eat another pineapple dish. Now jackfruit: the taste and texture is rather special. When I was a little girl and we were still living in a kampung (village), my mom used to cook this delicious jackfruit curry often, however that practically stopped once we moved to a housing flat. The last time she cooked this dish was back in the late 80s! The other childhood dish that I fondly remembered is green papaya curry. My mom used to cook it very often too as papaya plants were aplenty in our front and back garden. Back in the old days, a childhood friend of mine used to climb up our papaya plant to pluck the fruit for me. And she was very fast & agile too. I often wondered even till this day, how she managed to do that. I think if I ever climb one, I will snap it into two! For the life of me, I can't even climb a tree least a plant to save my life.
So I asked my mom to show me how to make this dish, however for some odd reason we couldn't find any green papaya in the markets nearby. In the end, we settled for one that looks the greenest among the sea of ripe papayas. My mom learnt how to cook this Green Papaya Curry from my paternal grandmother who used to make lots of delicious nonya dishes.
Before we proceed to the recipe, here are some information about papaya:
Green papayas are usually cooked in curries, stew or eaten as salads. Choose papayas with reddish-orange skin and that are slightly soft to the touch if you are eating it on the day of purchase. A few black spots on the surface are ok as they will not affect the taste. However avoid those that are bruised or overly soft. Store ripe papayas in the refrigerator and eat it within a day or two. For those that are green with some yellow patches, leave them at room temperature and they'll ripen in a few days. To speed up the ripening process, place them in a paper bag with a banana. (yeah, really!)
Very aromatic with the sweet-spicy pepperish taste of coconut milk gravy. The papaya slices were cooked just right - not too soft and I could still taste the slight flavour of the papaya.
For a spicy taste, you can replace pepper with one or two long red or green chili (deseed). Just cook it together with the paste.
The 4 Velveteers
The 4 Velveteers (started by Pamela, Aparna, Asha, and Alessio) are a group of food bloggers, who are passionate about a new dish/ style of cooking/ cuisine and food in general. Each month, we will share with you our recipes, experiences & verdicts on our blogs. If you are interested in joining The 4 Velveteers! in our monthly adventure, please feel free to drop by our food blogs and leave a comment.
Do, check out what other Velveteers have created:
Alessio - Recipe Taster
Aparna - My Diverse Kitchen with her Eggless Vegetable Nut Loaf with sweet
Asha - Fork, Spoon & Knife
Ken - Hungry Rabbit NYC with his Skillet Roasted Sweet n Sour Pork
Madhuli - My Food Court with her Raw banana Cutlets & mix fruit chutney
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.
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.
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.
As all of you already know, Pierre and I love Indian food, besides cooking some at home, we frequent a lot of Indian restaurants too. The menus always have a lot of unfamilliar words that we can only understand thanks to the provided translation. As I was writing this post, I decided to do some search on what those we see most often mean.
Here is what I found: Batak (duck), Chingri (shrimps), Gosht (meat - invariably lamb), Jingha (prawn), Kofta (meat balls), Murgh (chicken), Nargis (boiled egg), Paneer (cheese), Bhindi (okra, ladies' fingers), Dall (lentils), Ghobi (cauliflower), Kumbi (mushrooms), Matar (peas), Saag (spinach); and "Aloo Gosht" means Potatoes with Meat. And this is what is simmering in our pot today.
It all started on twitter with a group of wonderful and good food blogging friends. We were twittering about food (what else) and such when I kept seeing the word 'Ghost' popping up. Whenever Jamie and Deeba mentioned about Jamie's Aloo Gosht, they would joke about Meeta seeing ghost when having this dish. Now that piqued my ninja curiosity wondering if Meeta really had some ghostly encounter with this dish. To my great disappointment, it was nothing of the kind. LOL! You see, Meeta was trying to compliment Jamie on her recent Aloo Gosht dish when she accidently typed Aloo Ghost instead, causing Jamie and Deeba teased her non stop about it. To be honest, I never really made the connection between gosht and ghost until Meeta let me in on the joke. It was then that I took a double look at the word 'GOSHT' - LOL. So here we are, I made our very own Aloo Ghost, oops, I mean Gosht.
The below recipe is a slightly modified version from the original version by Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking on Jamie's blog, Lifesafeast.
It's savory and very aromatic with just a teasing tint of spiciness in each spoonful. The meat is very tender. It's also a bit soupy and the broth is lightly tangy. My mom-in-law finds it very refreshing and umpf! A wonderful dish to have on a cold day!
In my above recipe I have reduced the quantity of water from the original recipe of 900 ml as I find my dish was way too soupy (very thin broth) to my liking and I had to simmer it uncovered for a long time to reduce water. I find that it is better to add less water first and dilute it later to your preference if one finds it too concentrated.
If you are using normal pot to cook the above recipe, cook step 5 until oil separates from the sauce and sauce thickens. However if you are using a non-stick wok or pot, oil will not separate from sauce.
If you have some very firm potatoes, you may let potatoes simmer together with the rest of the ingredients for an hour or so. As for me, the normal potatoes I had in my pantry just simply melt to pieces at the end of an hour or so of simmering.
Adjust the spiciness according to your taste. Omit the green chili totally if you can't take spiciness, but put more if you like it hot as I made it mild for my family. The chili powder I use in all my recipes is from grounded dried chilli. I understand that there are different version of chili powder available - some are a blend of chili with other spices.
The good thing about having your own cooking blog is that you can quickly refer to certain recipes without having to flip to through your notes, cookbooks or surf the internet just to find that recipe. Having said that, my little family has finally had enough of me cooking the same old dishes from my blog, delicious as they may be... getting BORING, BORING, BORING!
Now cooking for my household isn't that easy too... hubby likes spicy food, is a sauce person, doesn't quite like fish with bones or crab (too much work to eat), is not a vegetable or soup person, etc. His loves meat and is a difficult man to cook for. Whereas Little One & I are the opposite, we like soup, vegetables, fish etc, however Little One can be equally difficult to cook for too. She loves pasta and rice. You would think 'oh that's easy then, just cook any meal that has pasta or rice.' Wrong! Mademoiselle has her days - good days, she eats everything presented to her, difficult days (which is often the case now) - she picks out everything off her rice or pasta and simply happily just eat plain rice or pasta with cheese much to my chagrin. And getting her to eat meat is another story - it's like serving her poison. She shows a clear sign she isn't a meat person since she was a baby.
You must be wondering how do we ever come to a compromise on our palate - well, apparently hubby and baby share a common love for PIZZA! Any mention of that send both of them into a joyful pizza dance, but not so for me. Since it's 2 vs 1 - I'm out voted. LOL! Both love cakes and cookies, a true blessing for me since I love to bake. I have to say in regards to bakeries, she's a true Daddy's girl for she has the same possessiveness about her sweets just like her papa. Just this evening, she told everyone at the table (grandparents included) not to touch her cake as it is only reserves for little ones like her, and if any adults eat it, it will make them sick to their stomach. LOL!
So what binds hubby and I? Love for spices and spiciness. Little One has been prepared and trained for it since the day she entered our lives. And apparently she loves it too for I had 9 months of pure bliss savouring all sorts of spicy food. Once she started on solids, now and then we sneaked some spicy food on her plate without her knowledge. From experience, we found that once she knows it is spicy, she won't touch it or she will spit it out even though it is not that spicy. However there are times when she sees us tugging in our spicy food with such sheer delight that rouse her curiosity and she asks for bite, just like tonight's dinner. At first she was hesitant, but encouraged and coaxed by me, she gave it a try. Much to her own surprise and ours, she loved it and even asked for some on her rice. Now that's my true little ninja spirit.
(taken from Indian - Shehzad Husain & Rafi Fernandez)
This is not a "curry" in the sense that most western people think of it: there's no curry powder inside and it doesn't have the characteristic flavor. This is however a very aromatic and spicy dish and is definitely one of my favorite Indian recipe. It's also quite healthy as you can see from the ingredients - low fat and veggies but definitely not bland Everyone loves it, especially hubby who isn't a vegetable person.
I used normal vegetable oil and omitted onion seeds in above recipe as I couldn't find it anywhere in town. And also I only put 1 green chili, it's already a bit spicy so if you can't take spiciness, it's better to totally leave out the green chillies.
We are back in Singapore. Woohoo! With the pandemic N1H1 flu, we did consider skipping Singapore this year if it got real bad... then again, it is a pandemic, so even if we stayed in France, we would still get it at some point. So we decided to just go ahead and not bother.
Flying back to Singapore via Singapore Airlines big jumbo plane - the A380 got hubby all excited like a little boy. To me, no big deal - just a bigger plane that can load more cattle in it, that's all. But I have to admit that the plane is indeed awesome to look at - big and beautiful. We chose the upper deck and hoped to get some empty seats around ours, hélas no such luck, it was fully seated. To top it off, passengers were coughing, blowing their nose left, right, front and back of us. My goodness, one would think in view of the pandemic flu, those who aren't feeling pink in health would either postpone their trip or wear a mask before coming on board. Sharing your germs is NOT the true spirit of sharing. Other than that, the flight went well, the Singapore Airlines service was excellent as usual and we got more leg room in this new plane. I liked their kids meal - Little One even got to keep her little red lunch box that came with it.
We landed on time and were greeted by my sister. My parents were waiting patiently for us at home and our dogs barked excitedly upon our arrival and Little One, for a moment, got all distracted by the dogs... but when she saw her 'ma ma' (or Ah Ma - "grandma" in dialect), she shouted out loud, jumped with joy and ran up excitedly to my mom with her arms wide open to hug her. The weather was very hot when we arrived but luckily for us, there were some rain to cool the hot weather off a little. Everything was going well till my family got a call from the Ministry of Health on Monday night informing us that I was quarantined due to a person sitting behind our row that had N1H1. So a nurse and a security guard, all masked up, came to my home, gave me some papers to sign, gave me instructions to isolate myself from my family members to avoid risk of contamination and take my temperature 3x a day. If everything goes well, I'm officially off quarantine as of Saturday 8 am. One more day to go... Hubby is dying to dine at his favourite Indian restaurant on Saturday as soon as my quarantine is over.
In the meantime, I got to indulge myself with my mom's delicious cuisine. Besides being treated with the freshly made lemon juice and other fruit juices every day, I also get to eat her yummy deep-fried chicken wings, curry fish, seafood curry, stir-fried sambal long beans (snake beans) and today's featured recipe: Stir-Fried Prawns with Salted Soy Bean. Boy, am I pampered.
You know I mostly blog about successful recipes, so yes, this one is delicious. Taste wise, it's quite similar to my mom's chili prawns however the taste and fragrance of the salted soya bean is more prominent.
The nice part about this dish is that even if you don't add curry leaves or chili or oyster sauce, it will still taste wonderful.
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.
Did you ever find yourself getting stuck with a recipe that list a paste or ingredient that you have no idea how to get or make? I often did and it is so annoying. Recently I was trying to making an Indian recipe and I stumbled upon Madras Masala Paste??? erhm... huh? What is that? I flipped through the whole book from back to cover... no mention of what this paste is nor how to make it. Thank goodness for the Internet, without it, I wouldn't be able to make this paste nor know what it is.
Ok, Confession time: when I made this paste the first time around, I didn't have exactly all the ingredients and I improvised a bit. I replaced the spices with ready-grounded spices. I replaced black mustard seeds (I didn't have them at hand) with wasabi (I know, the Indian chef would have a heart attack if he knew this) and I used balsamic vinegar instead of cider. On top of that, I absently added the oil into the paste mixture. I realised my mistake too late. Anyway I cooked the paste, curious to see how it would turn out - although the oil never separated from my paste, the paste was still delicious and very fragrant.
Coming soon, recipe that uses this paste. Do watch out for it.
As noted by one of my reader and confirmed by my friend from India, vinegar is not part of any traditional madras recipe. As far as my friend's knowledge goes, South Indians use tamarind juice wherever they need the sour taste and not vinegar. So I guess the vinegar is an improvised solution when one doesn't have tamarind on hand.
This paste is very aromatic and spicy - as it is really white-hot-fire-burning-inferno-from-hell. For those who can't take it very spicy, reduce the quantity of chili powder added to the paste. You have been warned!
It's funny how living in hustling and bustling city life for too long makes one takes lots of things for granted. I have been so busy with my life that I forgot to take a pause and enjoy the beauty and simple pleasures in life. Spending the last few weekends up at the mountain house with a snowy mountain view reminded me about it and it also brought back a lot of fond childhood memories. So before I post today's recipe, I would like to share with you this lovely poem that I came across when I was 14 and it has since then imprinted in my heart and mind.
"What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this is if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare."
Today's recipe is by my best friend Leeza, who taught me how to cook this delicious mutton curry. If you are like me, who doesn't really like mutton because of the smell of the meat when cooked, you shouldn't worry about it when making this dish. The trick is to get rid of as much fat surrounding the meat as you can possibly take out, leaving only a bit here and there as it is needed for cooking.
SHIOK ! (DELICIOUS)
The meat is so tender and savorous with its very aromatic and spicy gravy. A great dish to have during cold season - sure warms you up right away.
If there is any leftover gravy, don't throw it away. It tastes great with pasta.
What I love about this dish is that it is very simple and easy to prepare (fuss free) - just dump everything into the pot and bring it to boil and then let it simmer for 2 hours and the meal is ready.
If you prefer to have more gravy, add more tomato paste and water. Add more curry powder if needed for the spiciness.
4 months have passed since we moved into our new house and it's beginning to look more and more like home. Off with the old wallpaper (in most of the rooms, the wallpaper have been there for 4 decades!), a fresh coat of paint... voilà: it looks a whole lot prettier and modern. All this is possible due to relentless effort of my parents-in-law, without them, it would have taken us a lot longer to get the house looking like home. THANK YOU Michèle & Patrick for all that you have done for us.
Early this week we hosted a lovely Canadian couple who were here to visit Michèle & Patrick. With so many people around the house, it was la fête (a party) for Little One. Basked in the adoration limelight of everyone, she shines like a true star and charmed the Canadian couple (needless to say, the grandparents are already under her spell). Since this couple had been to Singapore before, I decided to cook curry - something local for them, my mom's Nonya Chicken Curry (who learned it from my grandma) - a Peranarakan Cuisine.
Mmm...yummy. It really DOES tastes like the curry I have back home, so I guess this is a success. I had prepared a tiramusi for dessert, but it was a tough sell after everybody had gotten a second (and for some even third) portion of the curry.
If you can't find galangal (blue ginger) in your area, substitute it with another stalk of lemongrass. As for candle nuts, you can replace it with either raw cashew nuts or macadamia nuts or blanched almonds.
We haven't had curry for a quite some time now... so I decided to cook something different. I have been wanting to try my hands at cooking green curry for years, well, ever since I got this cook book from my ex colleague but I never really dared to try it... when I see the (long) list of ingredients - I usually chicken out. So this time, I was determined to do it and satisfy my hunger pangs for green curry.
In Thai cuisine, curries are a paste used in meat, fish or vegetable dishes. They use local ingredients such as chili peppers, Kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, Galangal and coconut milk, and as a result tend to be more aromatic than Indian curries. Thai curries are often described by colour; red curries use red chilis while green curries use green chilis, and yellow is closer to the Indian one.
Home-made curry pastes have of course more flavour than prepackaged. As such I decided to make my own paste and write this recipe is in two parts: first the green curry paste itself, then the Green Chicken Curry.
Fresh green curry paste will keep for up to 3 weeks in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Alternatively, place tablespoonful in an ice-cube tray, cover and freeze for several hours; then store the cubes in a freezer bag and use them when required. Allow to defrost for 30 minutes at room temperature before using. Frozen paste will keep for up to 4 months.
For this paste, I didn't have coriander nor cumin seeds, so I used grounded ones instead - the same for the black pepper. I also run out of French shallots so I used 2 French shallots and 1 medium size onion. As for the green chillies, I used only 4 as you can see they are extremely big. If you are not used to spiciness, use 6 instead of 8 and also remove the inside core to lessen the spiciness.
I also couldn't find kaffir leaves so I substituted them with 1 tbsp of kaffir lime zests (equals to about 6 kaffir leaves). Another alternative is to use 1 tbsp of lime zests. Note that fresh Kaffir leaves can be frozen, while dried leaves are much less flavourful, so use twice as many as the recipe calls for if you're substituting them for fresh leaves.
(taken from Thai Cooking)
Preparation: 20 minutes
Cooking: 25 minutes
I didn't know what to expect actually, while cooking this curry, the aroma of kaffir lime and coconut flavour filled the whole house... very delightful and mouthwatering.
The chicken curry turned out pretty delicious I must say (a pat on my own back). For the first time, I'm actually satisfied with my own curry. The verdict from Pierre : Nice, fragrant. He likes it. It is spicy but not overly spicy.
I must say that although the long list of ingredients to make this curry (especially the green curry paste) looks daunting, it is rather simple, just put everything into the food processor and let it do the work for you.
Chicken thigh fillets are sweet in flavour and a very good texture for curries. You can use breast fillets instead if you prefer. Do not overcook fillets or they will be tough.
I replaced kaffir leaves and lime zests with kaffir lime zests like I did with my paste. Trying not to waste, I used the kaffir lime juice instead of lime. And I used brown sugar instead of soft brown sugar (I didn't have any of that in my cupboard).
Many of the above ingredients can be tricky to find in western countries, but I have had good success finding them in local Asian groceries.