AFC GRILLED : Chef Sean Connolly

An evening of good food.

Lap Cheong Watermelon Bites

An asian take on watermelon bites!

Baked Fish with Kiwi in Sweet and Sour Sauce

Add a twist to sweet and sour fish!

Semperit Pandan Cookies

Cute cookies for the festive season!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Veggie Cooking Guide

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Here's something useful I found on my favourite infographic website visual.ly

It's a neat guide that gives you an overview how to cook veggies best in order to maintain its full flavour. I know I've broken more than one rule in this guide! Well, now I know.


Veggie Cooking Sheet
Veggie Cooking Sheet infographic

Original post (includes a print option for chart) : Veggie Cooking Guide

 
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Monday, April 29, 2013

Baked Mandarin Orange Chicken with Buttered Potatoes and Apples

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Baked Mandarin Orange Chicken with Buttered Potatoes and Apples

Distributing mandarin oranges to friends and family during the Lunar New Year is an age-old practice for people with Chinese roots in my homeland. I received my fair share during the festive season. That said, this is a long overdue blog post, at least two months behind schedule!

Aaah..anyway, back to the oranges. I wish I could have eaten it all as is, peeled fresh and just out of the fridge, but there was more than this household could handle with two boxes in keeping. So, I did what I could to clear it off quicker - I decided to cook it. And this is really yummy stuff although it's a simple recipe! Then again, when it comes to food, I've rarely ever said yuck.

I didn't mess the flavour with too much seasoning. I felt the juice from the orange would be sufficient to pass for delicious and it did.

Ingredients:
- 2 chicken drumsticks
- 2 potatoes (sliced thin, not all the way through)
- 2 red apples (sliced)
- 2 medium red onions (quartered)
- 3 mandarin oranges (Peel skin off from the segments of two oranges. Squeeze the juice out from one)
- 1 tbsp salted butter (softened)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cooking oil

How-to:
1) Season chicken with a little bit of salt, pepper and some mandarin orange juice.

2) Place the chicken on a lightly oiled baking tray. Add onions, orange segments and the remainder of the orange juice to create the yummy gravy. Sprinkle on a wee bit of salt and pepper.

3) Spread butter onto apples and potatoes. Place in a separate baking tray (also lightly oiled).

4) Bake for about 45 minutes at 175C. Baking time differs. You're done once the chicken is cooked and the potatoes are tender.

I garnished mine with some chopped celery leaves.
 
In the oven - Chicken with mandarin oranges

Baked Chicken and Mandarin Oranges


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Nai Pak Choy (Extra Dwarf Chinese Cabbage) with Pork in Egg Gravy

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Extra Dwarf Chinese Cabbage (Fairlady) in an Eggy Gravy

Extra dwarf chinese cabbage..mmm. Ok, that's a weird translation for"nai pak choy" but it was the closest description I could find on the internet. That, and Fairlady - something I connect only to Nissan..

Nai Pak Choy - it's fresh, it's so fresh!

It has a distinctive thick white stem with dark green scrunched-up leaves. This particular head that I'm holding up for the camera has also been in my fridge for four days but looks as fresh as when it was popped into my shopping cart.

I've often included this vegetable into soups. Soups are a must-have on our dinner table. It's almost a daily affair and I'm surprised I haven't resorted to pulling my hair out yet thinking what to put on the table everyday. When I'm short of time, the nai pak choy comes in handy for making a quick bowl of soup. I'd toss it into a hot pot of boiling water with just garlic, some seasoning and voila! Sneaky, I know.

Today, I wanted to try out an eggy gravy that I so often see served in Chinese restaurants.  It gives the otherwise plain stir-fry green vegetables dish more appeal and more "slurp".

It's a simple recipe but requires some quick work, so I would prepare everything before I even think of lighting up my pan and I would keep things close.

Ingredients:
- 2 cloves garlic (chopped)
- 200g / 7 heads nai pak choy (cut stemmed leafy parts away from main stem)
- 1 tbsp dried wolfberries (soaked for 10 minutes)
- 50g boneless pork meat - loin (sliced thin)
- Two small eggs
- 1-2 tbsp cooking oil
- 1-2 cups water
- 1 tbsp corn flour (diluted in 2 tbsp water)
- Salt and pepper to taste

How-to:
1) Heat oil in pan. Add garlic, fry until lightly fragrant. Add pork slices, stir it about.

2) Add 1 cup water or more (just enough to make the sauce). Once it boils, add wolfberries, vegetables and season with salt and pepper.

3) When the vegetables are almost cooked, stir in the corn flour and lift the pan off the fire.

4) Crack one or two eggs in, immediately stirring it but lightly. Quickly serve it out onto a plate before the egg cooks further.

The result? You can taste the juice from the pork, mixed with a mildly salted egg sauce. Along with it, is a tinge of sweetness when you bite into a wolfberry.


The ingredients - Nai Pak, Wolfberries, Pork, Egg and Garlic

Toss the vegs in once the water boils

Nai Pak Choy (Extra Dwarf Chinese Cabbage) in an Egg Gravy



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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Food Discovery : Rice Balls

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Rice-Balls served with Steamed Chicken, Bean-Sprouts
and Boiled Egg in Soy-Sauce.


Have you tasted rice-balls before? My first tasting was in Hoe Kee Restaurant - famous for its chicken rice-balls, which is located at Jonker Street, Malacca.

It's just normal plain cooked rice - rolled compact into smooth round size of a golf ball. As the taste is plain, you would need other dishes to go together with the rice-balls for extra flavour. Of course, steamed-chicken is a must. But it is definitely something that home-chefs can prepare and cook themselves at home. 

You can even 'tweak' the preparation of the rice-balls to your liking, if you are the adventurous type. Examples - adding a bit of other ingredients, herbs and/or spices in the rice - you'll have a more fragrant rice-balls or stuff fillings in the rice-balls like minced chicken, stir-fry mushrooms, etc. Many options.

I, definitely am going to cook and experiment the rice-balls with stuffings as I think it makes the dish more interesting. ^^


Dining at Hoe-Kee Restaurant
(Looks like these dishes are something home-chefs can attempt to cook at home)



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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Herbs and Spices - Uses and Origins (Part 1)

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Herbs are in general dried parts of plants, such as roots, blossoms, leaves, flower buds and barks. They are specially cultivated because of their rich, strong flavours. Herbs and spices are used in food preparation to enhance the natural flavour and tastes of the various dishes. In addition they are important for the digestion as they stimulate appetite and the flow of the gastric juices.

Herbs and spices grow all over the world and they are available in different qualities.

Bay Leaves

These are the leaves of the bay laurel or sweet bay trees or shrubs. They may be fresh or dried and are used for flavouring soups, sauces and stews. They are usually included in a bouquet garni or mirepoix.

Aniseed

This plant grows in all the Mediterranean countries and Russia. The seeds come from the ripe umbel and look very similar to the carra-way seeds. It is used for liquors, drugs for colds and coughs, biscuits, fish dishes and pastry dishes.

Basil

It is a plant which grows in any garden. The leaves and the pulps are giving the flavour. It is used for fish and meat dishes, salads and for pickling meat and vegetables.

Cloves

Cloves are unopened flower buds of a tree (8-12 m height) which is harvested in countries such as Zanzibar, Madagascar, Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka among others. The buds are picked when green and dried in the sun till they turn to a rich brown colour. They are used for flavouring vegetables, meat dishes, all kinds of fish, cakes, etc.

Cinnamon

It is the bark of the cinnamon shrub. The inner pulp and the outer layer of the bark are removed and the remaining pieces are dried. It has a pale crown colour and is obtained and used in sticks or powdered form. It is mainly used in bakery and pastry work. Doughnuts, Apples & Banana Fritters are passed through a mixture of sugar and ground cinnamon. It is another one of the spices that's blended for mixed spices.

Turmeric 

This plant comes from the Far East but also grows in other countries with similar climate. The root is peeled and dried and then it gets grounded into fine powder of yellow colour. It is mainly used for curry blends specially for the colour of the curry.

Curry

Curry is the name of the blend made from several spices. This mixed spice includes ginger, carraway-seeds, paprika, cayeen pepper, coriander, curcuma, cardamon, cinnamon and chilli pepper, etc. It is used for all sorts of curry dishes. The composition (blend) of the curry powder depends on the individual.


Credit Source - Kitchen & Operation Book 1 (Systematic School of Hotel & Catering Management)



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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Fifteen Useful Cooking Tips For Home-Chefs (Session 2)

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(1) Always under cook pasta slightly before adding it to a finished sauce as the pasta will finish cooking in the sauce.

(2) Refresh cooked pasta in cold water to stop the cooking process and lightly toss it in oil to stop it sticking together.

(3) For a rich creamy dressing made in a healthy manner, substitute half the mayo with plain yoghurt.

(4) When cooking vegetables always have tons of water in the pot so the vegetables can move around easily.

(5) Never cover a pot when cooking green vegetables, the covered pot will make the veggies loose their lovely colour.

(6) When boiling shrimps, plunge them in salted boiling water & when the water re-boils they are done.

(7) When cooking steaks, sear them at very high temperature to trap in all the juices and prevent them from going dry.

(8) When cooking lamb chops they cook very quick if they are thin, the meat should still feel soft when they are cooked.

(9) Use fresh rosemary to scent roast lamb, veal & chicken, also use it to flavour roasted vegetables & grilled mushrooms.

(10) When making stocks never boil them, just simmer or they will turn cloudy. 

(11) Bring your soup or sauce to a slow simmer so you can scoop all the impurities from the centre with a ladle or spoon.

(12) To stop soups and sauces from getting too thick, leave a lid on the cooking pot all the time.

(13) If you slowly saute sliced onions they will almost disappear & become very sweet making a great base to brown sauces.

(14) After finishing a dark sauce, just add a dollop of fresh butter & stir it in whilst its hot to give it a great shine. 

(15) It's bad to add alcohol from the bottle into a finished sauce, the alcohol should be burnt off during cooking process.




Great cooking tips given by Chef Michael Saxon, the judge for the TV series - E&O search for 'AFC'S Next Celebrity'. He's also the current E&O Group Director of Hospitality & Lifestyle.
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Monday, April 22, 2013

Spaghetti Chicken (Simple Style)

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I have a friend who had continued his tertiary education in Rome, Italy a few years ago. And I remembered every time when he comes back for his annual holidays and even in his emails, he would complained loudly about the food over in Rome - that's it's all pasta and pizza. As I'm a pasta lover, I told him, why don't we switch place - I don't mind having Italian's authentic pasta almost every day ... I sure won't complain ! ^_^

I never get bored with cooking and/or eating pasta. But I prefer to cook spaghetti over others as the members in my family are more receptive to it - maybe it resembles my very own Asian yellow noodles :)

Anyway, this home-made Spaghetti Chicken is quite straightforward. I use tomato sauce and tomato puree together instead of making a tomato concasse as my family members aren't really receptive to pure tangy tomato flavour - or else, no one will eat it. :)

Ingredients :

Sauce 
- 3 pieces of medium-size drumstick (without skin, de-bone and cut into smaller pieces)
- Tomato Sauce (about half a 500gm bottle)
- Tomato Puree (one and a half standard can)
- 1 carrot (big size)
- 1 or 2 fresh tomatoes 
- 2 medium size onions
- a few cloves of garlic (chopped)
- a few teaspoons of sugar - according to taste (optional)
- cooking oil

Pasta
- 500g of spaghetti (serves about 4 persons)
- 2 teaspoons of sea-salt
- some butter
- Parmesan cheese (grated or shredded)
- a bit of cooking/olive oil (optional)

How-to:
1) Parboil tomatoes (with skin), then dice it (after taking out the skin & seeds)
2) Parboil carrots & onions (both with skin peeled off), also dice it. 
3) Heat up pan with cooking oil, put in the chopped garlic, stir it until near brown.
4) Put in immediately the chicken drumstick pieces, stir-fry it until near cooked.
5) Add in the parboiled carrots, onions and tomato, continue stir-frying under medium heat. 
6) When the chicken meat is cooked, time to add in the tomato puree and tomato sauce.
7) Stir evenly until all ingredients are covered in the sauce, add in sugar.
8) Add some water if you need to create more gravy for your pasta, bring it to boil. 
9) On another stove, bring to boil a pot of water that is big enough to submerge the pasta. 
10) Add in the salt, then slowly dip in the uncooked spaghetti.
11) Add in a little cooking oil if you like, stirring the pasta occasionally thru out the cooking.
12) Let it boil until 10 to 20 mins, depending on whether you like it al-dente (firm) or soft.
13) Drain the pasta, and toss it in a bowl, mix/toss some butter into the cooked pasta.
14) Serve a portion of the spaghetti on a plate, add in the sauce & sprinkle some Parmesan cheese on it.

Options:
- If you can take the acidic/tangy tomato taste in the sauce, you can leave out the sugar or/and you can even add more of the tomato sauce.
- If you like 'firm bites' of onions, you can leave out the parboiling process.
- After adding water into the sauce, if you like, you may add a bit of corn flour to thicken the consistency of the sauce.
- You may not need to add in oil while cooking pasta, but for me I still think it does help in preventing the pasta from sticking together in a clump, plus I like that it glistens the texture of the pasta.
- Instead of Parmesan, you can use Mozarella ... but it wouldn't have the same pungent taste and aroma - which I favour. ^^ 







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Friday, April 19, 2013

Fish Balls in Ginger Sauce

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Yummy Fish Balls in Ginger Gravy

Fish balls are easily found in Malaysia and perhaps one of the commonest food you'll see in our supermarkets.

I usually dump them into soups but decided to explore a different angle. This is a simple dish that goes well with Hainanese Chicken Rice. It is a delicious strong flavour of oyster sauce and ginger, topped with the pungent aroma of spring onions.

It took me less than half an hour to prepare and cook this.

Ingredients:
- 15 fish balls
- 1 clove garlic (chopped)
- 2 thumbs ginger (cut into smaller pieces, blend in a bit of water or some chicken stock until fine)
- 1 stalk spring onion (sliced)
- 2 tbsp oyster sauce
- Dash of sesame oil
- 1 tbsp cooking oil

How-to:
1) Heat pan with cooking oil. Stir-fry garlic until fragrant.

2) Add blended ginger, oyster sauce and a dash of sesame oil. Stir well, then add fish balls. Stir until everything is cooked and well coated with sauce.

3) Serve garnished with spring onions.

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Food Discovery : Deep Fried Fish in Three-Flavoured Sauce (aka Three Taste Sauce)

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TheThree-Flavoured Sauce Fish, commonly referred to as Ikan Masak Tiga Rasa  in Malaysia, is a delicious Thai dish that is laden in a rich sauce of sweet, sour and spicy - the three flavours that gave rise to its name.

You can order this dish at local stalls offering Thai/Malay cuisine. Here's one I tried at Selera Sri Delima, a restaurant located right behind Kepong Brem Mall.

Three-Flavoured Sauce Fish - Selera Sri Delima

The Basics Of Cooking This Dish
A piece of fish, coated in corn flour and fried crisp.

The recipe for the sauce involves a variety of chopped ingredients, usually - garlic, onion, chili, tomatoes, pineapple and coriander. It is then usually cooked with fish sauce, tamarind juice and a sweet-tasting element such as sweet Thai chili sauce, palm sugar or brown sugar.

This sauce is then poured over the fried fish.

I've never tried making this dish yet but it's just a matter of time before I do. I cannot resist such lively presentation of food!

If you've never eaten this before, I'd urge you to try. Its robust taste will make you crave for more....unless you don't prefer strong flavours of course.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Red Plums

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Plump Red Plums

A variety of plums can be purchased at most supermarkets in Malaysia. Red plums, however, isn't a local fruit so it may be harder to find in smaller markets and almost impossible to find at roadside stalls. I purchased mine from a hypermarket.

Red plums are juicy and sweet on the inside, but the skin has a sour taste to it. For this reason, I prefer having it peeled when eating it fresh.

Buying Plums
Choose plums which are plump and rich in natural colour. Don't be too alarmed over the whitish coating on top. That is just wax bloom - something produced by the fruit to protect it against invading insects.

It may even be a good thing if you see more wax because it would mean that it has been handled less by people or could be fresher.

Culinary Uses and Storage
Plums can be eaten fresh or cooked into sauces. It is also great for making jam or jelly and compliments many baking recipes.

It can be kept in the refrigerator for about five days. If you have an unripe plum, just leave it outside. It takes just a day or so for it to ripen at room temperature.

Wash well before eating!

How To Cut Plums
There are several ways to do this. A quick search on the internet led me to 5 Tips on How to Eat a Plum in Two Bites - wikiHow. Place your thumbs in the center and pull it apart. Remove the stone and it's ready to be eaten.

I attempted it as instructed but having all that juice wasted on my fingers is just not my cup of tea.  It is, however, a great way to eat if you don't have a knife with you or you want it quick.

The wikiHow way

Knowing how sour the skin is, I decided that it would be best if I removed it first. I discovered that the best way to do this is to use the knife. Peeling it off using my fingers involved too much work. My trusty old peeler was no match against this juicy fruit either.

Slicing it with a knife works best for me

After removing the skin with a knife, I sliced it in the middle, all the way around the stone.
Then, I applied the knowledge I had gained from wikiHow - with thumbs on top, I easily opened the fruit up to reveal the stone. Pull that out and tadaa! That's how I eat plums!


I guess everyone has their own way of doing things. Do share with us how you eat yours.


A Plum Affair


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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Food Wastage : Stop It!

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Food wastage is a serious issue that needs to be addressed by every household.

According to a report in The Star newspaper in 2011, it was estimated that “Malaysians discard about 930 tonnes of unconsumed food daily." 

Worldwide, the figures run up to one-third of total food production, based on findings by the FAO.

Imagine that amount of food being distributed to starving families and the impact it could have on combating food scarcity that is near inevitable with growing numbers of the human population.

Here are some tips on being a responsible foodie:

1) Skip The Buffet Line especially if you're a fussy or a small eater. Buffets are the easiest place to waste food. The many varieties on the table tempts us to overload our plate and stuff ourselves full. Admit it, many of us have been guilty of not finishing our food at one time or another. Picky eaters are equally guilty when they push aside what they deem to be unedible because "it isn't tasty" and head for tastier treats on the buffet table.

2) Plan What To Buy, always bring a shopping list . Overstocking on fresh produce is a surefire way to waste food if you cannot finish it up before it rots. Buy little but often, or plan grocery purchases around expiry dates.

For instance, I would stock my fridge with a variety of vegetables that I know has different shelf lives - like celery which lasts for weeks, spinach which stays fresh as long as three days and the asparagus that can go up to seven days. The trick is to eat the spinach first, the asparagus second and celery, last.

3) Stop The Habit Of Pressing Fresh Produce To Test For Freshness or Ripeness. How often have we walked past the fresh produce section only to find fruits with bruised brown fingerprints?  When you press a fruit or vegetable, ensure that it goes into your shopping basket too because there is a high possibility that it will bruise and you are guaranteeing that chances for it to be sold is nil.

Use other means to test for freshness or ask an expert. I usually go by using my sense of smell, looking at the colour and touching it. If I land myself with an unripe fruit or if it's not too fresh, I'll find alternative ways to use it like make a jam or cook it into a sauce.

4) Be Versatile With Recipes. Don't buy items that you're going to use only once.

If a recipe calls for one piece of dried wood fungus and it's not something you use often, don't buy a whole packet thinking you will. Substitute it with something you would use regularly such as the more common mushroom.

5) Make It A Habit To Clear Leftovers. Conduct regular spotchecks on refrigerated leftovers which should not be kept for too long. Plan your day's meals around it and trust me, you'll be happy to see how much space you still have in the refrigerator and you'll be pleased with yourself for not throwing food away.

There are many ways to use leftovers to make a perfectly good and healthy meal. Besides sandwiches, I use it to add flavour to stir-fry dishes. And if I have time on my hands, I'd roll my sleeves up to make our Chinese New Year favourite, the Kiam Chye Boey, a salted vegetable stew where the key ingredients are leftover meats.
 
 * * * * * * * * * * * * *

World Environment Day falls on 5th June this year. The blog owners of Sweet Home-Chefs join hands to raise awareness against food wastage.

GreenUp, a green initiative powered  by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) is running a "Love Your Leftovers" competition in support of the THINK.EAT.SAVE - REDUCE YOUR FOODPRINT campaign.

Share your leftover recipes to win mystery prizes and a chance for your recipe to be included in the Love Your Leftovers recipe book! Click on the image to find out more.

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Monday, April 15, 2013

Pan-Fried Shrimp Corn Cakes

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Shrimp Corn Cakes and Tomato Ketchup

Bloom wherever you are planted, and right now my feet is firmly rooted to the kitchen. Hence, the inspiration for this little floral design using shrimp cakes, spring onion and tomato ketchup.

I have been diligent in ensuring that my fridge does not get loaded with leftover cooking ingredients. A spotcheck revealed that it was time to clear off the spring onions which was starting to lose it's shade and some leftover corn kernels which had been sitting there for a week.

With it, I made shrimp corn cakes - a very doable and versatile recipe. It makes for a nice tea treat.

And how did I come about this recipe? I went by blind intuition that surely egg and some flour could stick all the ingredients together!

Ingredients:
- 400g small shrimps
- 1 medium onion (roughly chopped)
- 2 cloves garlic (roughly chopped)

- 2 tbsp sweet corn kernels
- 1 tbsp spring onions (chopped)
- 3 tbsp rice flour
- 1 egg
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Oil for frying

How-to:
1) Blend shrimp, onion and garlic into thick paste.

2) Add corn kernels, spring onions, rice flour and egg into the blended shrimp paste mixture.

3) Season with salt and pepper. Stir well.

4) Heat oil in cooking pan. Spoon tablespoon-sized paste onto pan. Fry until cooked and browned - takes just a few minutes.

I got 16 pieces out of this portion.

Best eaten with tomato ketchup.

Note: You can double the quantity of corn and spring onions if you prefer or replace it with other ingredients, like chopped boiled carrots or coriander.  


Rice flour, corn, shrimp and an egg

Add spring onions and mix it all together

Fry it

Tadaa..Shrimp Corn Cakes!

Shrimp Corn Cakes on the inside

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Ten Useful Cooking Tips For Home-Chefs (Session 1)

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(1.) Use apple juice or white grape juice as a substitute for recipes requiring white wine if you don't like alcohol.

(2.) To make scrambled eggs fluffier, the eggs should be heavily beaten before cooking to trap as much air in as possible.

(3.) To re-moist dry muffins, wrap them in paper & blast them for 30 seconds in a microwave eating them straight away.

(4.) When separating egg yolks from whites, crack the eggs straight from the fridge, egg yolks are harder to break when cold.

(5.) When testing a bird to ensure its cooked, prick a skewer in the leg, when juice pours out clear without blood, its done.

(6.) Do not over-mix a good pancake batter, stir just until blended trapping in as much air as possible

(7.) When liquid reduces, the salt content increases, always correct the seasoning at the end to avoid over salting.

(8.) When cooking a cream sauce, never boil it, simmer it lightly to ensure that the butter segment does not separate.

(9.) When cooking meat rare, always let the meat sit outside of the fridge to ensure that it gets up to room temperature.

(10.) Never cover a pot when cooking green vegetables, the covered pot will make the veggies loose their lovely colour.


* Fifteen Useful Cooking Tips For Home-Chefs (Session 2) *


Great cooking tips given by Chef Michael Saxon, the judge for the TV series - E&O search for 'AFC'S Next Celebrity'. He's also the current E&O Group Director of Hospitality & Lifestyle.
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Monday, April 8, 2013

Stir-Fry Butter Cereal Prawns (Instant)

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Crispy Crunchy Tasty Yummy Prawns

Who doesn't love big prawns? Most adults love it as much as children - unless they're seafood allergic. :-) One of my all-time favourite prawn dish is the ever popular Butter Cereal Prawns. You can find this usually served as one of the courses for Chinese sit-down course dinners in restaurants.

But, for home-chefs who may not have the luxury time to painstakingly prepare the cereal-mix from scratch, you can get the instant pre-packed cereal mix/seasoning from supermarkets or grocery stores - which is what I had done for this occasion. It cut short half the preparation time and taste just as nice.


Ingredients :
- 10-15 white prawns (sea-caught is better, medium size, approx. 4-5cm in diameter per prawn)
- Curry leaves of about 2 sprigs (you might want to add more if you like it more fragrant)
- 1 or 2 medium size chili (de-seeded and cut into small squares or julienne)
- Butter (a few tablespoons or more upon you're liking)
- Cooking oil
- 1 packet of pre-packed cereal mix


How-to:
1) Heat up wok with a few tablespoons of cooking oil. When oil is hot, add in the prawns and stir-fry evenly until the prawns had turned pinkish-brown and curled up a bit. Remove the prawns immediately as you don't want to overcook it. Set aside. Clear up any oil residue in the wok.

2) Using the same wok, you need not rinse, add in the butter and melt it under medium heat. Once its melted, add in the chili and curry leaves immediately. Stir-fry until its fragrant and add in the prawns.

3) Stir-fry the prawns evenly for a little while, then add add in the cereal pre-mix.

4) Under very low heat, stir the prawns thoroughly until all are covered with the cereal. When the cereal mix had turned crispy after soaking up the excess butter in the wok, dish up the wonderful prawns and serve it hot.

Options :
- I did not de-shell my prawns as I prefer it in its original form for more crispiness. I only snipped off the head's front pointy part where the whiskers are and trimmed the legs.
If you prefer, you may de-shell it but do keep the tails intact - it looks nicer and classier when served, also easier to be finger-picked. :-)
- Instead of normal chili, you may go for a hotter taste by choosing bird's eye chili.
- Instead of stir-frying, you may deep-fry it if you prefer for the ultimate crispy crunch.



Ingredients

Step by Step Stir-Frying



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Friday, April 5, 2013

Tomato Chicken Curry

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Tomato Chicken Curry with Finger-licking Tender Potatoes

It's chicken curry day! Cooking curry is usually reserved for Sundays in my family. This is because of the amount of work involved. Mom's a firm believer of the "pound with pestle and mortar" method. She's been pounding chilies, onions and garlic for years! I prefer the electric blender ....shhHhh..

This is my version of yummy Tomato Chicken Curry. It's been sometime since I last cooked tomato curry. I've forgotten what really goes into it so I've come out with this new version, which is not bad either - an aromatic, tomato rich flavoured dish which does not come with an overpowering taste of curry powder.

I am someone who loves curry but I don't quite fancy curries with that powdery taste so I tend to cut down on the powder or add on other ingredients to balance things out.

Anyway, this is the recipe. Quite a number of ingredients in there but very easy to cook and well worth the effort. 

Ingredients:
- Half chicken (cut into small pieces)
- 4 medium tomatoes (quartered)
- 1 large potato (cubed)
- 4 cloves garlic (roughly cut)
- 1 large onion (roughly cut)
- Pinch of ginger
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp meat curry powder
- 1 tbsp blended fresh chili
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 2 tbsp cooking cream (or more)
- 2 one-inch cinnamon sticks
- 2 star anise
- 2 cardamom pods
- 1 tsp light sweet-saltish soy sauce (optional)
¼ tsp dark soy sauce (optional)
- 2-3 tbsp cooking oil 
- Salt to taste
- Water

How-to:
1) Blend onion, garlic and ginger together (with a bit of water if necessary), into a rough paste. Set aside.

2) Mix coriander and curry powder with a bit of water, into a wet paste. Set aside.

3) Heat cooking oil in pot. Pour in garlic, onion and ginger paste. Add cinnamon sticks, star anise and cardamom pods. Fry until fragrant.

4) Add curry powder and coriander paste. Mix well, then add tomato puree, fresh chilli, tomatoes, potato and chicken. Stir until all the ingredients are coated. Add water, just enough to cover the chicken. Cook covered until chicken and potatoes are tender to your liking. (Don't be afraid to add more water if you want more curry gravy.)

5) Season with salt, and soy sauce (optional). Lower the heat and stir in cooking cream. Mix well and that's it. Serve garnished with chopped spring onions if you like.

Tomato Chicken Curry..Perfect with Breads and Rice

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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Spicy Apple Chicken

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Spicy Apple Chicken with Snow Peas

An apple a day keeps the Doctor away, so they say. I think it's just one of mom's tricks to get us to eat our fruits .. seriously.

This is a really simple recipe, something I made the other day because I had one red apple left in the house and I wanted it gone before it starts to get all dry and wrinkly.

It's mildly sweet and spicy all in - not strongly flavoured. Check out the recipe below.

Ingredients:
- 2 chicken leg quarters (marinated with salt and 1 tsp meat curry powder)
- 1 red apple (roughly chopped)
- 1 clove garlic (roughly chopped)
- 1 medium onion (roughly chopped)
- 1½ tsp blended fresh red chili
- A pinch of dried rosemary
- A pinch of salt and pepper

How-to:
1) Bake chicken in a preheated oven (180c, approx. 45 minutes for me). Save the chicken juice.
 
2) For the sauce, blend apple, garlic and onion together (with a little water to get things moving), until fine.

3) Heat chicken juices in pan with the blended ingredients, rosemary and chili. Season with salt and pepper. Stir until the sauce is slightly thickened.

4) Coat baked chicken in the apple sauce. Serve with vegetables of your choice.


Baked Curry Chicken

Plate the Chilied Apple Chicken

Spicy Apple Chicken Garnished with Coriander

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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Stir-Fried Celery with Black Fungus

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Stir-Fried Celery with Black Fungus, Carrots and Dried Shrimps

A bunch of celery? That's a lot for this small family. I cooked five dishes out of it. Yes, five! And ...I'm glad to discover that it lasts, sitting two weeks in my fridge without signs of rot. Now that's what I call a sturdy vegetable.

This is one of the dishes I made, celery stir-fried with black fungus - mildly sweetish. I hope you like it.

Ingredients:
- 2 stalks celery (sliced small) 
- 1 pc (or more) dried black fungus soaked in water until soft (30mins or so)
- 1 medium carrot (shaved)
- 1 tbsp dried shrimps (soak briefly)
- 2 cloves garlic (chopped)
- 1 tsp cornflour (mixed with 2 tbsp water)
- 1 tbsp cooking oil
- 2 tbsp water or more (for that bit of gravy)
- Salt and pepper to taste

How-to:
1) Heat oil in pan. Add garlic and fry until a fragrant brown.

2) Add dried shrimps. Give it a quick stir before adding the rest of the ingredients, that is, black fungus, carrots, celery and a bit of water.

3) Season with salt and pepper. Stir until all the vegetables are cooked.

4) Once cooked, stir in the cornflour/water mixture to thicken the gravy slightly and that's it.

Best eaten with rice in a typical setting of one meat, one vegetable, one soup kind of meal.


Stir-Fried Celery with Black Fungus
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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Vegetarian Minced Meat with Mango

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Vegetarian Minced Meat with Mango

I had with me an unripe mango...well, not as ripe as I want it to be anyway.

So, I scoured the internet for a recipe and found one for Pork Mango Picadillo from Simply Recipes. It looked fabulous.
 
I didn't have a number of the ingredients on hand so I used whatever I could find in my kitchen. That's how I landed myself with a vegetarian dish. This is how I did it, but do check out the original recipe!

Ingredients:
- 1 slightly unripe mango (cubed)
- 1 large onion (sliced)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 6 baby cut carrots (sliced into threes)
- 4 cherry tomatoes (halved)
- 1 can meatless spaghetti minced sauce
- 4 tbsp tomato puree (from can)
- 1 tbsp blended fresh chilli
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground sweet cinnamon
- A pinch of salt and black pepper
- A pinch of dried rosemary
- Fresh coriander (chopped)
- 2 tbsp cooking oil

How-to:
1) Heat oil in electrical multi cooker. Add onions and garlic. Give it a quick stir-fry and let it brown a little.

2) Then, add carrots, tomatoes and tomato puree, chili, ground coriander and cinnamon. Stir well and simmer with some water until carrots are cooked.

3) Add meatless sauce. Season with black pepper and salt. Stir and once it begins to boil, add in the mango.

4) Leave it to cook for awhile. You're done when the mango is slightly tender.

5) Serve with rice and garnish with coriander.

What I got was a saltish, sour, spicy dish. That hint of sourness hits the tongue only when you bite into a piece of mango. I don't know about you but to me, this is a definite appetite booster!

Cooking carrots in a tomato based sauce

The "pretend" minced meat

In goes the mango

A perfect blend of sour, salty and spicy!

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Poof! Fire In The Oven!

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There are so many things to learn about cooking and although there are many resources available for us to gain the knowledge we need, I've discovered that experience is still the best teacher.

I joyously doused a tray of large cut potatoes with extra virgin olive oil. Mixed in the salt. A scene from Kitchen Boss played on my mind - "Be generous, Sharon!"  Buddy advised in his robust voice.

La dee dah ..  shoved the tray into the oven at a temp between 180c to 200c.

Just about half an hour into it (or was it less), it burst into flames! I happened to be right next to the oven when it happened, and instinctively flipped the oven switch off. Just as quickly as it appeared, it disappeared.

I waited awhile just to be sure the fire was completely out before attempting to open the oven door, all this while my heart was pounding furiously. I don't recall how long I stood there with my jaw dropped open. Imagine my astonishment. It didn't cross my mind then that olive oil could be the cause. I just assumed that my oven was faulty. But after some reading up, since I couldn't find anything wrong with the oven, I've learned that all oils have a smoking point whereafter it begins to burn, olive oil being faster than most.

This article on smoking points helped me understand what it was all about.

Smoke Points of Olive Oil
http://www.oliveoilsource.com/page/heating-olive-oil

In case I have a repeat experience, I'm keeping in mind that one of the most effective ways to put out a grease fire is to pour baking soda over it or to keep a lid on things, that is, don't open the oven door and if it is a burning pot, cover it completely to cut off the oxygen supply. Note that this is only advisable for small grease fires. Don't hesitate to call for help if you feel it's unsafe or too big to handle.

Here are more useful tips I found here:
- How to Put out a Grease Fire: 6 steps (with pictures) - wikiHow

Happy reading! 
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Monday, April 1, 2013

Shepherd's Pie - Cream Corn Style

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Shepherd's Pie, also known as Cottage Pie, is probably one of the easiest pies to make. It's basically meat pie with a mashed potato crust on top. No flour based pastry required. Like! I know this isn't Facebook but I had to say it.

I was left with half a can of cream corn when I used half to make soup earlier. And I figured I should clear it off before it stays too long in the fridge. I have this habit of keeping too many things in there - waste not, being the motivation.

But I have been keeping track of my fridge hoarding activities! I contain it by making a conscious effort to include leftover cooking ingredients into the pot even though the recipe does not call for it. I've now come to realise that this is good practice and I don't need a bigger fridge after all.

Ingredients:
- 3 large potatoes (more or less, enough to cover the bowl/s, skinned)
- 1 tbsp salted butter
- 3 tbsp milk

- ½ can sweet corn cream style (425g can)
- 1 tbsp whole kernel corn (can)
- 200g minced beef
- 2 cloves garlic (chopped)
- 1 tbsp cooking cream
- 1 tbsp cooking oil
- Pinch of salt and pepper

How-to:
Corn Filling
1) Heat cooking oil in pan. Add chopped garlic. Give it a quick stir-fry.
2) Once you can smell the garlicky aroma, pour in sweet cream corn, cooking cream, whole kernel corn and minced beef.
3) Stir until meat is cooked. Don't let it dry out, add water if necessary.
4) Season with salt and pepper and you're done.

Mashed Potato Top
1) Boil potatoes until tender. Then, mash until fine.
2) Stir in butter and milk.

To assemble, pour the filling into a baking dish (not too high - leave some space for the topping). Lay the mash potato on top or pipe it on (I used an icing bag). Bake until lightly browned which took me about 30 minutes at 180c.

Minced meat and corn in cream

Potato piped on - Into the oven it goes!
 
Mmmm..mmm..yum!

Nom nom nom


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