Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Mushroom soup...and the time I asked Santino and Paolo to fall in love with me.

Someone please put an end to my torment. Why do we have exams? Why? I am not going to be a doctor. My line of work is not going to need me to make split second decisions on someone's life. I'm assuming as a psychologist I will have the luxury to let the patient leave, then calmly consult my copy of the DSM-IV-TR (whichever edition it will be in) and determine "hmm...yes...schizophrenia it is..."

Elisa has done nothing but laugh at me this past week, simply because I've been watching John Bluth's Thumbelina on repeat and listening to the Roger and Hammerstein's Cinderella musical soundtrack (ahem, Santino Fontano? Paolo Montalban? Please fall in love with me?) from dawn to dusk. And you know what I have HAD IT. Where is my prince charming? Is my fairy prince lost? Normally I rescue myself with chocolate, but I need reinforcements for the exam diet. If anyone can look you in the eye and say that they sincerely do not want a fairy prince to take them on a magical bumblebee joy ride so they don't have to study, then they are LIARS.

Ah well...ranting and fantasy aside, what I say is true. My body is weak and my soul is TIRED. And assuming you're in the same place, this recipe will help. Mushroom soup is is the elixir of life. It has the power to calm the body and soothe the soul. This version is very chunky, and you get nice chunks of mushroom throughout, held together by a thin rich broth. Use any mushrooms you'd like. Well...ok, please don;t use button mushrooms if you can help it. They're sad sad little things with basically no flavour. Much like students during finals week.

Mushroom soup

~ 1 Tbsp butter
~ 1 Tbsp olive oil
~ 2 cloves garlic, minced
~ 1/4 diced sweet onion
10-12 mushrooms of your choosing, cut into rough 1cm bits.
~ 1/2 cup chicken stock
~ 1/2 cup milk
~ salt, black pepper and smoked paprika to season
~ a handful of chopped chives.

+ In a small pot, melt the butter and olive oil together, then use it to fry the onion and garlic till fragrant.
+ Add the mushrooms, and let them sweat for a little bit. They'll soften up and go nice and tender. Season with some salt and smoked paprika.
+ Add your chicken stock and milk, simmer till the soup is as thick as you would like it to be. At the last minute, toss in your chives. Sprinkle over some black pepper for a little extra kick.

Alright guys, this recipe is my exam week present to you. Take a break, stretch your back and make it for yourself. Mop the bowl with some bread and feel your body slowly come back to life.
Remember, you are going to be absolutely fine. You have done as well as you possibly can and no one can ask for more than your best.

Good luck!

Friday, 2 May 2014

Sago Pudding with Strawberries and Coconut Cream...and the time I made dessert on the fly.


Revision week is upon us, and as usual all I can do is watch Anthony Bourdain wax lyrical about the food I have left behind. I really need to force myself to start thinking about Comp Phys and Psychology instead of Nirwana Maju banana leaf...but I'll just watch one more curry laksa video...just ONE more..

Anyways, before the sadness of revision week set in I had two lovely people come over for dinner. Ben and Jen helped me so much during Flavours of Malaysia and were such an integral part of the night. Problem is Flavours turned out to be a bigger success than we expected it to be, and because Ben and Jen were helping two of our volunteers by the time they got to the hall all the food was gone. That dinner was my way of saying thank you for being there every step of the way, especially when it came to bargaining for ingredients in Dundee.

I'd already decided on a chicken rendang and briyani for the main meal, but dessert was proving to be a challenge. Sago Gula Melaka would've been the perfect end to such a heavy meal, but I was a little low on the sago front. Making a cake would've been too involved, and also very heavy. It got to the point where I was almost resigned to sending them home without dessert when one of those beautiful flashes of inspiration hit me in the face. I had strawberries.

So, this Strawberry Sago dessert was born and by God did it go down well. Not too sweet and very refreshing it was almost a... Malaysian take of strawberries and cream if you will. To keep it nice and chilled we use frozen berries instead of ice cubes so the whole thing doesn't get watered down. It also adds a very nice texture, and if you use clear bowls you'll get to see the ruby red crumble peaking out between layers of smooth smooth coconut cream and sago. I have to say though, you could probably do this with any berries. The key to making this dessert lies in using pandan leaves. Without them the sago loses some sparkle and the coconut cream is not half as fragrant. Any Asian supermarket should carry them, or if you plan ahead, I'm fairly sure you can get them from Amazon.

Ben was nice enough to come by a little early to take all these beautiful photographs you see today. He and Jen came bearing a veggie and pork stir fry and some dim sum. And believe you me, we FEASTED.

Strawberry Sago
Serves 4

+ 1 punnet strawberries
+ 1/4 cup sago pearls (the small ones)
+ 1/2 can thick coconut milk (about 200ml)
+ 3 pandan leaves
+ 1/4 cup sugar
+ 1/4 cup water
+ The juice of 1/2 a lime
+ salt

~ Wash the strawberries and hull them. Choose 4 of the prettiest ones and set aside for garnishing. Cut the rest up into smaller pieces, wrap in foil and freeze for at least 2 hours. 

~ Wash the sago pearls and soak them for 30 minutes. Place in a saucepan with a pinch of salt, 2 knotted pandan leaves, and plenty of water, then boil till translucent. Strain, then pour into a lightly oiled container and place in the fridge to set and chill.

~ Don't forget to stir the can of coconut milk before pouring out! The really thick cream would have floated to the top and set. Pour the coconut milk into a saucepan with the remaining pandan leaf knotted up and a pinch of salt. Set on a low heat. Be careful here guys... coconut milk is very prone to separating on high heat. You want that in a rendang, but not a dessert. Heat the milk till steam starts to rise off the top, then immediately take off the heat and allow the pandan to really infuse it's scent and flavour. Pour into a jug, keep the pandan leaf in there and set in the fridge to really chill.

~ Melt the water and sugar together to make a simple syrup. When all the sugar has dissolved, take off the heat and squeeze in the fresh lime juice. You shouldn't add it at the beginning because lime juice can get bitter when it's been heated too high. Once again, when cool to touch place in the fridge to completely chill.

~ Now, when you're ready to serve take the strawberries out of the freezer and mince em' up in a food processor with a little bit of the lime syrup. Remove the pandan leaf from the coconut milk, and mix in your chilled sago. Layer the dessert up, starting with the frozen strawberry mixture, then the coconut-sago mix. You should have 4 layers, ending with a coconut-sago layer. Garnish with the strawberries you set aside earlier and a drizzle of the lime syrup. Serve up more on the side for those guests with a sweet tooth (I'm looking at you, Ben :p)

And that's that! Good luck for finals week everyone. Don't forget to treat yourself and be kind to your body. It'll be summer soon!!