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The warmth of ginger

>> Wednesday, January 31, 2007

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Rosie from What's the recipe today Jim? is hosting this month Jihva for Ingredients with the theme of GINGER, which she described as “hot, spicy and incredibly versatile”. For this event, I am going to submit those little Ginger Coconut Cakes.

I initially thought that my cakes should be featured in the last edition of JFI when the theme was coconut. In fact, the original recipe entitled Coco Au Miel (Coconut Honey Cake) from this beautiful book did not even contain ginger at all. But having made the cakes a number of times, I felt that a touch of ginger would work beautifully here.

And it did turned out well. The warming aroma matched perfectly with the rich and creamy flavour of coconut. The ginger was not overwhelming but just enough to add a mysterious note. The cake was better eating warm since the ginger fragrance came out more.

Next time I may try cardamom after seeing Gattina’s incredible Coconut & cardamom candy (Burfi)!

Ginger Coconut Cakes

Recipe adapted from Paris Boulangerie-Patisserie: Recipes from Thirteen Outstanding French Bakeries

Ingredients (for 10 muffin-size cakes)

310 ml milk

tsp honey

230g shredded coconut

110g sugar

70g plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsps or more of ground ginger

2 large eggs, well beaten

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200C. Line 10 muffin tins with paper cups.
  2. In a heavy saucepan, bring the milk and honey to a boil then remove from the heat.
  3. In a mixing bowl. Combine coconut, sugar, flour, ground ginger and baking powder. Slowly add the milk mixture and stir until smooth.
  4. Stir in eggs until well combined (the mixture is quite liquid)
  5. Pour the mixture into paper cups, filling them nearly full
  6. Bake for about 25-30 mins or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Cool on a wire rack. Serve warm.
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Winter food for a cool summer day

>> Saturday, January 27, 2007

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Melbourne is famous for its unpredictable weather. Having lived here for a few years now, I can’t agree more. After 2 weeks or so of high temperature, the weather has cooled down over the last few days. At the certain moments, it actually feels like winter or autumn. I won’t complain about the cooler weather though. In fact I love it since I can take a break from the salad season and indulge myself in warm comfort food.

Getting into action, I cooked up my favourite winter dish – Chickpea and Lamb Stew. This is my adaptation from the traditional North African soup called Harira. The combination of chickpea, lamb and warming spices provides a satisfying and comfortable stew. Serve it with some crusty bread just out of the oven and I will be happy…

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Although the stew uses varieties of herbs and spices, I would love to feature about chickpeas (or garbanzo as called in the US) for this edition of Weekend Herb Blogging. They have a beautiful nutty flavour and a crisp texture. The beans are high fibre and protein. Highly nutritious, chickpeas are also low in fat and most of their fat content is monounsaturated. Chickpeas are used widely in different cuisines. Personally I love them especially in hummus and falafel… Truly wish I could have some now!

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Chickpea and Lamb Stew

Recipe adapted from Harira recipe from the Australian Women Weekly.

Ingredients (serves 6-8)

200g dried chickpeas

Olive oil

2 medium onions, finely chopped

2 trimmed celery stalk, sliced

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

4 cm piece fresh ginger, crushed

1 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground black pepper

Pinch of saffron thread

500g diced lamb

3 large tomatoes, seeded then chopped coarsely

4 – 5 cups of water, or as needed

½ cup firmly packed fresh coriander leaves

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Method

  1. Soak chickpea in water overnight. Drain, rinse under cold water then drain again.
  2. Heat olive oil in a sauce pan, cook onions, celery, and garlic until onion softens. Add ginger, cinnamon, pepper and saffron. Stirring for 2 mins or until fragrant. Add lamb, stir until lamb is browned (about 5 mins)
  3. Add chickpea and tomato; cook for about 5 mins or until tomato softens.
  4. Add water, bring to the boil then reduce heat. Cover the pot and simmer for 1-1.5 hours or until the chickpea and lamb soften. Add more water is needed.
  5. Stir in coriander and lemon juice. Serve with crusty breads if desired.
***

This week WHB comes to beautiful Melbourne and is hosted by Tomato, a blog I truly appreciated. Please check his blog out for the round-up of WHB. And if you are a bit more adventurous do take a look at Ed’s beautiful posts about his recent trip to Cambodia. They are truly amazing!

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Soufflé in a Tart???

>> Friday, January 26, 2007

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Yes, continuing from last post I am writing about tarts again. This time is a savory type though, so I think it should be quite different!

The theme of Hay Hay is Donna Hay #9 hosted by Running With Tweezers is soufflé. This is an excellent theme in deed since I am always attracted to the lightness and fluffy of soufflé. Cooking them is another interesting challenge. It requires skills and patience. The most exciting part is to see the soufflés puff up just out of the oven then “fall” down after a while. All we need to do is eating them as quick as possible to savour the soft and sponge-like texture.

I love eating all types of soufflé – sweet or savoury. But for this event, I wanted to challenge myself with something different, something more exciting to make and of course to eat. Having said that it had to be easy to make since simple cooking is what Donna Hay is all about! Thus, the cheese soufflé tartlets were born! The idea was not mine but from this excellent book by Jennifer Paterson and Clarissa Dickson Wright. I do not have any moment of regret making these! They were so delightful to eat, especially straight out of the oven. The hot and light soufflé was combined with the rich crust and a little softened onion… Comfort food at its best!

I still have one confession to make. I was more enthusiastic eating those little tartlets than taking the photos for this blog. The photos were taken in a hurry so they did not turn out so well, and you couldn’t see the rising moments of the soufflé filling. Hm... All is for the love of eating!

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CHEESE SOUFFLÉ TARTLETS

Adapted from recipe by Jennifer Paterson. Remember to use eggs at room temperature.

Ingredients (for 24 tartlets, using false-bottom 5.5 cm tartlet tins)

For the pastry case

225g self-rising flour

55g ghee (original recipe uses lard)

55g butter

A pinch of salt

For the soufflé filling

1 medium onion, finely chopped (food processor is good for this)

25g butter

25g plain flour

150ml milk

Salt and pepper

2 eggs, separated

115g sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Method

  1. Pastry case: sift flour & salt and rub in ghee and butter. Press into a dough (add some iced water to bind if needed). Press into tartlet moulds. Put in the fridge until required.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 200C/400F.
  3. Fry the onion in little oil till softened. Set aside
  4. Filling: Melt butter over low heat, add flour and cook for a minute or two, stirring constantly. Add milk slowly, keep on stirring. Cook over low heat for 3 mins, season well. Allow mixture to cool slightly before adding the egg yolk and grated cheese.
  5. Whisk egg whites until stiff then gently fold in the cheese mixture.
  6. Divide onion mixture among pastry cases. Cover each with a spoonful of soufflé mixture.
  7. Bake for about 15-20 mins.
  8. Serve IMMEDIATELY!
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It’s choKolate & it’s Black

>> Monday, January 22, 2007

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The theme for this month Sugar High Friday is Chocolate by Brand. When it comes to chocolate, I don’t stick to a particular brand. Chocolate is a timeless art and the chocolatiers are artists who can explore and create different flavors and depth. Enjoying such diversity and colorful of flavors is a great pleasure. Nevertheless, my true weakness lies in dark chocolates since I love the intense bittersweet taste. A piece of good dark chocolate with a perfect espresso is something I am always ready for!

Back to the SHF theme, I have decided to feature my favourite local brand – Koko Black. Opened in 2003, Koko Black is very young compared to the long history of chocolate seduction. Despite the short history, they manage to capture and deliver the fine quality and timeless art of chocolate making... Come to Koko Black, you can watch how chocolate is made, taste the beautiful truffles and bars with different varieties, enjoy one of the most beautiful hot chocolate in Melbourne and most of all, indulge yourself in the culture where chocolate is everything.

This SHF inspires me to try something new using Koko Black’s products. I have tasted their wide ranges of truffles and hot chocolate but this is the first time using their dark chocolate to bake. I used two varieties to make Mini Dark Chocolate Tartlet – 60% and 74% coverture. Both products are house recipes, created by master chocolatier Arno Backes. They are rich, dark and especially smoother than other dark chocolate varieties that I have tried.

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And the tarts turned out so well. The crisp chocolate pastry was filled with rich and soft mousse-like chocolate. But that was not all. At the top was a thin layer of the 74% coverture chocolate which provided a surprisingly beautiful crunch.

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MINI DARK CHOCOLATE TARTLETS

Adapted from recipe by Natalia Schamroth printed in Cuisine Magazine. Use the smallest tart moulds that you have.

Ingredients

For the pastry

60g unsalted butter, softened

60g castor sugar

1 tsp of vanilla extract

70g plain flour

25g cocoa powder

For the filling

70ml thickened (whipping) cream

100g 60% dark chocolate

2 teaspoons espresso coffee (or 1-1.5 tsp instant coffee powder dissolved in 2 tsps of hot water)

50-60g 74% dark chocolate

Cocoa powder for serving

Method

  1. Beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add the vanilla extract.
  2. Sift together the flour and cocoa then stir in to the butter mixture to form a dough. Break off small pieces of dough and press into greased tart moulds. Use your fingers to press a 2mm layer of pastry evenly into the tart moulds. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
  3. Bake at 160°C for 8-10 minutes or until the pastry has cooked through and puffed slightly. If the pastry shrinks; press it back up the sides of the moulds immediately after removing from the oven while still hot. Cool, in the moulds, on a cake rack.
  4. Heat the cream almost to boiling point then pour it over the 62% chocolate and add the espresso. Leave for 5 minutes then whisk well until shiny and thick. Spoon into the baked pastry cases.
  5. Melt the 74% chocolate in a double boiler or microwave. Spoon a little over each tart to form a thin layer. Once set, pop the tarts out of their moulds. Refrigerate in an airtight container until 30 minutes before serving. Dust with a little cocoa powder to serve.
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***

This post is my entry for Sugar High Friday #27 Chocolate by Brand hosted by David Lebovitz.

* Chocolate bar image is courtersy of Koko Black, Australia.

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My little herb corner & a tangy chicken dish

>> Friday, January 19, 2007

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My work and study load has been unexpectedly high lately, and it will only get worse in coming months. I have started to feel the stress and exhaustion of long working hours. Many things to do yet so little time!

During this stressful period when I do not have much time in the kitchen, one of the relaxing moments is to take care of my herbs. I started to grow them about 2-3 weeks ago in a small pot placed in my little balcony and they have done quite well in the heat of summer. As you can see in the photo, I have some marjoram, thyme, sweet basil and sage. They all have beautiful fragrance which is so soothing. Even looking at their green leaves makes me happy. I guess this is what we call “Herb Therapy”!

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Despite the heavy workload, I did manage to spend some times in the kitchen to whip up a beautiful dish called Havana Chicken. I used my first harvest of marjoram in this and it went well! Funny how little things can make us delighted? Using my home-grown herb (although just a little bit!) brings a sense of pleasure which I have never experienced before. Now I wish I could have my own garden one day!

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If you love tangy flavour, give this dish a try. It has a sharp appetizing taste from the lime and orange marinade. I actually used half of the recommended lime and orange, but it still worked well since the marinade was left overnight. I did add a little sugar before roasting the chicken to balance out some of the tanginess, but this is up to your preferences. The recipe is from Cuisine Magazine, but the online version can be viewed here.

For this, I also used plantains for the first time! Plantain is a “neighboring” fruit of banana. It has the same shape as the normal bananas, yet needs to be cooked. They are a lot firmer and contain less sugar, too! I love the roasted plantains and will definitely try them in other dishes. The recipe suggested using sweet potatoes to substitute. I guess they will also work, but you will lose the beautiful texture and flavor of plantains. They are definitely worth trying if you can get hold of some.

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This post is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, an event founded by Kalyn. This week edition is hosted by Scott from Real Epicurean.

Please check out his blog for the round-up. WHB is a wonderful place to find awesome recipes. This week I tried Sher’s Spanish Cod Soup, With Spinach, Chick-Peas, And Parsley, which was shared in previous WHB. It was so tasty I wanted to lick the bowl!

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The ice is green

>> Monday, January 15, 2007

Can you guess what this is?

The picture above is not anything fancy like green sugar crystal. It is simply crushed green tea (matcha) ice cubes. Yes, I mentioned green tea again! But I do love the flavor of green tea so deeply that I will try to put that beautiful powder to anything. Well, almost anything…

This time round I made some crushed green-tea ice to serve with mung bean sweet soup. Mung bean sweet soup is a popular dessert in Asia. I love the version where skinned mung bean is boiled until very soft almost like a paste, sweetened with a little rock sugar then served with some coconut cream and crushed ice. This was my regular snack back in high school time, and until now I still believe it is a perfect drink for summer.

The idea of matching green tea flavor and mung bean actually turned out well. The green tea lends an interesting taste which cut back some sweetness of the mung bean. Not to mention the lovely and refreshing aroma. I ate my dessert with an extra bowl of crushed ice on the side so I could add as much as I wanted. It was fun and lovely to eat in the midst of summer.

I don’t have the exact recipe since everything was done just by the eyes. But you can view a similar recipe for the mung bean sweet soup here. For the green tea ice, simply dissolve 1 – 1.5 tablespoons matcha powder with a little hot water, then, mix with 1 cup of filtered water. Pour into your ice trays and let the fridge does the rest! You can crush the ice cubes easily in a food processor when ready to serve.


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Summer Goodness

>> Friday, January 12, 2007

I think I have complained a lot, but this year summer has been hot, hot, hot!!! According to the news, we will have two continuous days of 39C (~100F) next week! Oh my….! However, rather complaining about the weather, I am trying to enjoy the heat. After all, it is summer! With the theme of summer in mind, my entry for this week Weekend Herb Blogging will feature snow pea sprouts, my favorite ingredient for summer salad.

Sprouts are germinated edible seeds such as beans, nuts or grains. They are high in vitamins and minerals. According to this link, during WWII when there was meat shortage in the US, it was advised that sprouts were a cheap and effective alternative to proteins found in common meat. Furthermore, sprouts contain very high level of active antioxidants which are known to prevent DNA destructions and slow down the aging process. With these reasons, we really should use more sprouts in our daily diet! There are various types of sprouts available, which you can have a look here. I am personally more familiar with mung bean sprouts since they are used quite extensively in Asian cooking. Nevertheless, I have been trying other varieties lately and really enjoy them.

Generally, sprouts lose their nutrients during cooking process so it is best to eat them fresh. Some firmer types (like mung bean sprouts) can be stir-fried briefly or added to clear broth just before serving.


I love to enjoy the light and refreshing tastes of sprouts in my summer salad. In a recent “experiment”, I combined green tea soba, snow pea sprouts and a couple of other ingredients for a Japanese-inspired noodle salad. At the time, I lost my appetite due to the heat and wanted something light to eat. Luckily the result was something revitalizing and enjoyable. Since then, it has been the dish I live on to “fight” the summer heat!

Japanese-inspired Green Tea Soba Noodle Salad


Ingredients (for 4 serves)

200g dried green tea soba (cha soba)

185g or more canned tuna in spring water

1 large handful of snow pea sprouts, trimmed

½ Lebanese cucumber, sliced into bite size

2 green onions, green parts only, chopped finely

1 tablespoon of roasted sesame seeds

Japanese pickled pink ginger (beni-shoga), to serve

Dressing

80ml vegetable oil

80ml rice vinegar

2 tsp Japanese soya sauce (shoyu)

1-2 tsp sugar

A dash of sesame oil

Directions

  1. Cook noodles as per package directions, set aside.
  2. Combine dressing ingredients in a jar, whisk to dissolve the sugar.
  3. Combine noodles, tuna, snow pea sprouts, cucumber, and green onions in a mixing bowl. Pour the dressing over and toss to combine. Sprinkle with half of the sesame seeds.
  4. Serve with pickled ginger and extra sesame seeds.

This post is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, founded by Kalyn. This week the event is hosted by Coffeepot from Coffee and Cornbread.

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Playing with my bread

>> Monday, January 08, 2007

Something very strange happened last week in my kitchen. Or rather, there was something strange with me??!! In the rising heat of Melbourne summer, I was astonished to find myself in the kitchen, making bread. Sure I made pizza crust occasionally, but to make bread from scratch instead of going out to my local bakery was something unusual indeed….

The truth was my mood kinda swung on that day, feeling restless, moody and uneasy. You know, there were certain moments in life when you just wanted to get out of the normal routines, doing something new, traveling to somewhere unfamiliar etc. No, I don’t think it was boredom, but some kinds of forces pushing myself to break through the existing “comfort zone” and try something different. On that particular day, I took on the challenge and pleasure of bread making…

… I admit I found something new during the process of kneading, proving, shaping, proving then baking in the oven. The wholething was like an adventure to me. While kneading helped me to let loose the anxiety inside, the proving phase required a bit of patience and timing, something I lacked. But that was not all. I simply love playing with the dough, shaping it according to my imagination. Of course my shaping skills weren’t perfect, but the pleasure was still there...

I picked a random bread from The Italian Baker – Sweet Pepper (or Red Capsicum as called here in Australia) Bread – a “new wave” bread created by Italian bakers. The fragrance of roasted capsicum filled my little kitchen when the bread was baked in the oven – so lovely… Such fragrance in the finished products was not as strong but slightly there. Perhaps next time I would increase the quantity of capsicum a bit more because their fragrance was absolutely gorgeous…

As you could see from the photos, I made different types of shapes from my dough: some sticks, medium pleated and some small no-particular-shape ones. Home-made hummus was also specifically made to enjoy with the freshly baked bread.

This is the interior look of the bread. I was surprised at the texture – kinda dense yet not chewy. This is my favorite photo of the whole lot, too.


Feel like I have been captured by the charm of bread making, haven’t I? I begin to love everything about it – the patience, the frustration, the hope and the release of stress… Should I expect more breads coming from my kitchen? – “Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps”.

***

Sweet Pepper Bread

Adapted from The Italian Baker

Ingredients:

1 large sweet red pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

11/4 tsp active dry yeast

11/4 cup warm water

500gram unbleached all-purpose flour

2 tsp salt

Directions (some steps modified by me)

  1. Roast the capsicum in hot oven with little olive oil till soft. Take out and out into plastic freezer bag, leave for about 15 mins. Once slightly cooled down, peel off the skin and discard seeds.
  2. Stir yeast with water in large mixing bowl, stand until creamy. Stir in pepper and 2 tbp of olive oil. Slowly mix in the flour, one cup at a time, till the mixture comes together. Knead on a lightly floured surface till soft and elastic (about 8-10 minutes)
  3. Put the dough in oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise till doubled (around 1 hour)
  4. Punch the dough down onto lightly floured surface, knead lightly. Shape as desired. Place the shaped dough on oiled baking pans, cover with damp towel, let rise until doubled (45 mins ~ 1 hour)
  5. Heat oven to 450F. Place the dough in the oven, immediately reduce the temperature to 400F. Bake, spray 3 times with water for the first 10 mins. Bake till bread is golden (depending on the shapes). Cool completely on rack.

Note:

- The author suggests grilling the sweet pepper, then lightly stir-frying with olive oil.

- The suggested shape for the bread to two J-shaped log. The quantity specified above is sufficient for 2 loaves.

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WBB # 8 - Kalyn's Greek Frittata

>> Sunday, January 07, 2007

The special topic for the current edition of Weekend Breakfast Blogging hosted by Saffron Trail is Christmas Special, where bloggers will present their best breakfast menu.

What did you cook for breakfast during the Christmas and New Year festive period? I admit being lazy and getting up late almost every morning. By the time I got up, it normally passed breakfast time. Never mind – that is why we have what’s called Brunch. But I am not much of a breakfast girl. Spending lengthy time preparing breakfast is not my thing. Something easy and simple should be on the list ( I don’t mind simple toasts or cereal even on special holidays!)!

Therefore, if I am “forced” to produce something special for breakfast, I would absolutely choose to make the Greek Frittata which I learned the recipe and detailed instructions from Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen. It was easy to make and wonderfully tasty for a Christmas breakfast. I love the combination of eggs and cheese – they are just heavenly matched. I think I did go overboard, putting a lot more cheese than specified in the recipe. Just that the Bulgarian Feta Cheese I got from the local deli was so tasty and nice that I could not stop adding it to the egg mixture… Never mind! You could afford a bit more of luxury in festive season! :D

I highly recommend you try the recipe if you, like me, love eggs and cheese. I would like to have this once or twice per week if I can get up early enough!

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My Forever Love – Vietnamese Beef Noodles in Broth (Phở Bò)

>> Saturday, January 06, 2007

Weekend Herb Blogging is back after one week holiday. For the first WHB of 2007, I would like to write a little about my most loved dish in the whole wide world (and I’m really not boasting!!!) – PHO BO or Vietnamese Beef Noodles in Broth.

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Pho is perhaps the most well-known Vietnamese dish. Originated from Nam Dinh, a small city in Northern Vietnam, but it is in Hanoi that the art of pho has been perfected. I have eaten pho in different areas of Vietnam and overseas, and trust me; the only place where you can truly savour the best pho is in Hanoi. The few best pho restaurants have their family secret recipes that make them stand out. Not all pho restaurants in Hanoi are good, but the good ones there are world best.

The type of pho that are popular here in Australia is more of southern Vietnamese version. I love southern food but I cannot stand the way all the ingredients, especially herbs, is over-mixed and overused. Firstly, the broth should not be be made from the mixture of beef, chicken and pork – there should be one single type of meat used to concentrate the taste. Secondly, table salad of herbs (mint, bean sprouts etc.) is not supposed to be eaten with pho. The reasons are simple. Pho should be eaten hot to be flavorsome – dipping cold herbs will make your soup cold. Herbs normally accompany seafood style of noodle soup to tone down the smell, not here when the broth has already contained enough herbs and spices… I am very picky when it comes to pho, almost too picky sometimes ;)

I crave for Pho from time to time here in Australia. But cooking it isn’t easy. It is hard to get the flavour right. After several not-so-good results, I finally get what I want – A bowl of Pho that suits my taste. Of course it cannot be compared to the glorious version in Hanoi, but it is good enough to satisfy my craving. My flatmate, who has tasted Pho in Hanoi, gave a thumb up!

For those who are interested in the recipe, I have posted the recipe separately since it is quite long. For now, I just want to point out a few herbs that when combined make the beautiful noodle broth – shallots, ginger, garlic, green onions (or spring onions) and believe it or not, coriander roots! Herbs (and spices) are beautiful and elegant… And how to correctly use and combine herbs and spices together is truly a culinary art!

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This post is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by the Kalyn. Please check out her blog for the round-up.



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Vietnamese Beef Noodles in Broth (Phở Bò) – my adapted recipe

One of the “secret” ingredients to cook pho is a type of dried sea snail that exists in only certain parts of Vietnam. I have searched high and low for it here but there is no result. Nevertheless, in one of the random pick a while pack, I bought some Chinese sea snail to try out. Surprisingly, they did give a beautiful sweet taste to the broth. Here is the picture of the package (click on the picture to enlarge).


The version here includes two types of beef: Long-boiled one made from beef chuck & the freshly cooked beef slices made from tenderloins. Choose to serve the rice noodle with one type of beef if you wish.

Ingredients for the broth (A) - enough for medium 4-5 bowls

200gram of sea snail (optional – see note)

1-2kg beef bones (choose the tail end if you can)

700gram of beef chuck without bones (or gravy beef as called in Australia) in one piece, tied it up with kitchen string like preparation to roast. This helps to prevent the meat from falling out when boiling

1 large piece of ginger

4 shallots

4 cloves of garlic, skinned on

1-2 star anises

1 cinnamon stick

1 black cardamom

Salt and fish sauce, to taste

Ingredients for serving (B) - enough for medium 4-5 bowls

1kg rice noodles: flat types for use in soup.

500gram of beef tenderloins (I used round steak), thinly sliced. Marinate with 1 tablespoons of fish sauce and 1 teaspoon of minced garlic

3-4 geen onion (or spring onions): thinly sliced

4 sprigs of coriander root: clean thoroughly to get rid of the sand

To serve (C): freshly cut chilies or Asian-style chili sauce (like sambal olek), lime or lemon wedges.

To make the broth

  1. Firstly, you need to char your ginger, shallots, garlic and briefly roast the star anises, cinnamon stick and cardamom. I simply put the herbs and spices separately to roast in the hot oven for shortcut. The herbs should take a bit longer while the spice may take around 2 mins.
  2. Clean the beef bone thoroughly. Boil with water vigorously for 10-15 mins. Discard the boiling water. Using food-grade gloves, carefully clean the bones again, remove all the visible fat and beef marrow. This is important so that you will have a light and clear broth.
  3. Add water enough to cover the bones and the beef chuck, bring to the boil then simmer gently over low heat. Add spices, herbs and the sea snail.
  4. When the piece of beef chuck is cooked (after 40-50 mins), take out. Submerge in cold water for a while then thinly sliced. Set aside.
  5. Continue to boil the broth at low heat for another 30 mins.
  6. Remove all the sea snails, spices and herbs. Add more water to make up the amount needed for the serving (you will need around 6-8 cups). Add seasoning to taste. Keep the broth simmering while preparing to serve.

Assembling

  1. Prepare rice noodles according to package if using dried version. For fresh rice noodles, put them briefly in hot water to heat up.
  2. Divide noodles in bowls for serving. Arrange some cooked beef chuck on top. Add some spring onions.
  3. Turn the broth to rapid boiling point. Add in the coriander root. Simmer for 1-2 mins then take out.
  4. Now, to cook the beef tenderloins: in restaurants, the broth is constantly hot so that they just have to pour it over the beef slices and cook them. However, at home, it is harder to have that effect. The trick here is to use place some beef slices in the slotted spoon, dip everything in the boiling broth and let them cook (should not take more than 2-3 mins for a small batch) – this is very similar to eating hot pot (or steam boat). When the beef slices are cooked, place them in the bowl. After this, wait for the broth returns to boiling before continuing cooking the beef slices or serving. Do not cook all the beef slices before hand. Cook as you go to retain the freshness and tenderness.
  5. Pour hot broth into the bowl. Eat when it is hot. Some people like to add few drops of lime/lemon and chili. Some do not, so it is up to you to enjoy your very bowl of Pho!
Note:

1. You can choose to serve Pho with one type of beef.
2. If you cannot find the dried sea snail, replace it with some daikon. Put one medium daikon to simmer with the broth together with all spices and herbs then discard later. Daikon will help to flavour the broth.

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A dish for all season

>> Thursday, January 04, 2007

Firstly, it is so so so hot in Melbourne now! The temperature has reached over 30 degree Celsius high over the past few days. Like everyone here I am trying hard to cope – stay cool, drink a lot of water, eat more fruits, change my jogging schedule to early morning. All is to avoid the heat!

Secondly, I did intend to write about my favourite braised duck for this month edition of Weekend Cookbook Challenge. Hosted by Shaun of Winter Skies, Kitchen Aglow, the main theme, Stew, is perfect for the cold season of the northern hemisphere. The heat here, however, has made me reluctant to imagine and write about a winter dish. Instead, I would like to mention my favourite stew dish for all seasons – Vietnamese Fish Braised in Caramel Sauce.

I admit eating this dish once in every two weeks or so. Like I have written previously, it is so common in Vietnamese kitchen that almost everybody can cook it without a specified recipe. There are so many versions, too. You can basically use whatever fish available and some basic ingredients on hand. Chilli, ginger and a lot of white pepper are essential. The rest is completely optional and up to your tastebud – galangal, lemongrass, coconut juice etc.

The one featured in this post is a truly delicious version of the classic dish. I have added some chopped fresh sugarcane and cooked the fish in a clay pot. The sugarcane gives a delightful sweetness which suits the warmer weather. Furthermore, cooking and serving in a clay pot keeps the fish warmer longer on the table (I don't like to eat my fish cold!)… Note that I used Spanish Mackerel cutlets (frozen is fine). Since this fish tends to dry out quickly, I briefly fried them in a little oil before braising.

The recipe with some common variations can be found here. I have shared this recipe around for several friends, and they all like it. Be warned! You will potentially eat extra rice with this since the sauce is simply marvellous!

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Coconut love – Laotian Prawn Curry

>> Tuesday, January 02, 2007


I got to know the great blogging event - JFI for Coconut through the beautiful post of Haalo of Cook anything at least once. Hosted by Ashwini of Food for Thought, bloggers are supposed to post a recipe featuring coconut on January 1. I hope this post (a bit late since it is now January 2 in Australia) is still accepted.

Coconut, in whatever form it may be – fresh, cream, milk, juice or the meat, is an integral part of many cuisines in the world. I cannot imagine Southeast Asian or Indian cuisines without coconut. If I search out for more, I will surely find its presence in other cuisines as well… I love coconut, especially young coconut juice – their light and sweet flavour is awesome during hot summer days. As a child I was amazed to find out that you could use salt, not sugar, to sweeten the coconut juice. Funny, isn’t it?

For this month JFI, I have chosen a dish from “my part of the world” – Southeast Asia. It is a beautiful green prawn curry from Laos, which is called Gang Keo Goung. Like most of SEA’s curry, you cannot cook it without thick coconut milk. I personally do not like the taste of low-fat coconut milk or Carnation “fake” Coconut Milk. Sure they are lower in fat and cholesterol content, but what we lose is the creaminess and even the distinct taste of coconut. So go for the real thing, but be sure eating everything in moderation!

A bit more on this Laotian curry. Unlike the more well-known Thai curries, this dish uses fresh dill (a lot of them) as the garnish to match up the seafood taste of prawn and tone down the intense flavour of the kaffir lime leaves. It was my first time to try dill in a curry, and I have to admit its charm!


GANG KEO GOUNG –

GREEN PRAWN CURRY WITH FRESH DILL

If you cannot find Laotian Kore (Curry paste), feel free to substitute it with a good Thai Green Curry like what I did. Serve with some extra dill on the table so you can eat the curry with fresh dill in every bite!

Source: Curry

Ingredients

3 tbsp vegetable oil

5 tbsp Laotian Kore or Thai green curry paste

1 tbsp shrimp paste

1 tbsp palm sugar

500ml thick coconut milk

500ml chicken or vegetable stock

4-6 kaffir lime leaves, bruised

Fish sauce to taste

2 large waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into 2.5 cm (1in) pieces

675g raw prawns, peeled and deveined

1 bunch of dill

Method

Heat oil in moderately high heat and fry the curry paste for 2 mins or until just golden and fragrant.

Add shrimp paste and palm sugar, stir-fry for 1 min.

Reduce the heat and add coconut milk, stock, lime leaves and fish sauce to taste/ Add potatoes, cover the pot and cook for 20 mins.

Add prawn, stir well and cover again and cook for about 5 mins or until they turn pink. Serve hot, garnish with fresh dill.

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First post of 2007....

>> Monday, January 01, 2007


is the picture of the beautiful lavenders....

Who painting the purple indigo to the sky
Who bring an aromatic scent flow into the air
Forgetting where are you from
Forgetting own your name
Just follow the scent with your deep breath
Just follow the purple with your eyes
Just touch the flowers with your heart
The unforgettable beauty of lavender

(By Alice Ho. View the original post here)


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