Saturday, 29 August 2015

Thai Red Curry Paste...and the time I admitted to being a meddler.

Ladies and gentlemen I am a meddler. curry.......

I am that person who sticks their nose into things they really don't need to be sticking their noses into.
In my defence I don't do it to complete strangers. If some people are having a fight, I'm not going to get in there and put in my two cents. 
I'll simply eavesdrop and judge from afar. 

But say I know the people involved
Say a friend of mine has a girl he fancies 
...well that's an entirely different story. 
I'll fan the flames of that budding romance till I can't feel my arms anymore. 

It's terrible. It's awful. I now have a reputation. Nobody tells me anything anymore, for fear that I'll swoop in and attempt to play wingman when really... I end up making a fool of us both.

It's not just relationships I meddle in though. I mix shampoos to make 'super shampoos'. I've rearranged books on library shelves because I felt they needed to be organised according to colour rather than the overly practical Dewey decimal system. This meddlesome habit of mine is a big part of the reason I find it so hard to follow recipes. 

"Vanilla? Nah man, this would taste much better with lemon juice. Oh!! And cardamom."
"One clove of garlic?? Nonono... I think you mean five" 
 Look, I'm aware this is a terrible habit and I am working on kicking it, but there is one thing I'll always allow myself to meddle with. 

Supermarket spice pastes. 

Oh come on, we've already established I'm a bit of a snob when it comes to stuff like this so you can keep your abuse. But guys... you have to admit, supermarket pastes taste a little...'blah'. They're NEVER spicy or fragrant enough. I always find I need to doctor a supermarket paste with some garlic or a couple of chillies to get the result I'm looking for. 

It got to the point that I meddled so much with the spice pastes from Tesco that...well...they weren't so much Tesco pastes as they were my own. And that's when I decided it was maybe time to start making them myself from scratch. I got a beautiful multipurpose grinder for my birthday from Cate, it was time to put it to work.

Ok, yes. A small side note. 
This is a snobby post.
When you're on the go everyday and you barely have time to throw together a sandwich, how can I expect you to make a spice paste from scratch? I hear you ask.
And in truth, I can't expect that. Hell, the only reason I had the time is because it's the summer and I don't have to worry about working 9-5 or feeding a family.
So look, if there's a brand of paste you LOVE and you are happy with, you use that paste and hold your head up high. Who the hell am I to tell you what to do?
But... I do ask that you try at least once. Just once. That's all.
The ingredients aren't too hard to get a hold of and you can accumulate them over the course of a week. Making the paste takes just half an hour. I promise! And then you can freeze it for a later date.
But please, just try this once ok? Try this curry you made from start to finish completely from scratch. Even if you don't taste a difference, at the very least you will see how quick it all comes together.

This recipe will yield a fairly spicy yellow curry to feed 4-5 people. I like my curries quite thick and strong, so I used the whole lot, but if you like something lighter this quantity of paste would probably be enough for two separate curries. Just freeze half to use at a later date.

I've prepared it with salmon and green beans here, but that's merely a suggestion.

Go ahead. Get meddling. 

1 1/2 tsp whole coriander seeds
1 tsp whole cumin
1 tsp whole black pepper
1/2 red onion
4 fresh red chilli
6 cloves garlic
1 thumb ginger
1/2 thumb galangal
2 tsp shrimp paste
8 kafir lime leaves
2 stalks lemon grass
1/2 tsp salt

~ Curry
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp turmeric
400ml coconut milk, that's 1 can I think.
1 tbsp fish sauce
6 salmon fillets (just a little note here, no shame in using frozen. You don't even need to defrost them, just cook the fish a little longer in the curry)
A handful of green beans, ends removed and cut in half.
Juice of half a lime.
A handful fresh coriander, finely chopped stalks and all.

Toast the whole spices on a low heat in a dry pan until you can start to smell them. Be careful of the cumin, it'll go very quickly and if it burns you'll have to start over again. Grind the toasted spices as finely as you can and set aside.
 Blend the rest of the paste ingredients. You may have to do this in stages to get a nice fine paste. Go slowly, one or two ingredients at a time. Once you've got a paste add the ground spices and the salt then blend to combine. Your paste is ready. 

When you're ready to make the curry, heat up the oil in a medium sized pot/wok and add the paste. Fry it till you can see the oil separating (in Malay, we call that 'minyak pecah' which translates into 'oil breaking'). Sprinkle in the turmeric and fry for a few seconds, then pour in the coconut milk and season with the fish sauce. Let that simmer for 2 minutes.

Finally add the salmon fillets and green beans, covering to cook till the fish is flaky but not dried out. Finish with the lime juice and chopped coriander. Serve hot on a bed of rice.

If you have any leftovers, lucky lucky you!! As my dad taught me, fish curry is always better the next day.


Wednesday, 19 August 2015

The Honey & Co. Baking Book - Rose and Strawberry Jam

Today's post is going to be a Honey&Co. related post, and in that vein it should lead in with a Honey&Co. related announcement.

Sarit and Itamar read the babka post guys. And they loved it. Sarit loves the blog. She thinks I'm 'so sweet and enthusiastic and full of love'.Yes, I am still reeling from that happening. It was such an uplifting, positive, wonderful e-mail to come home to after work that I didn't stop smiling for days after. While they did ask that I not share the recipes (since they're copyrighted to Saltyard Books), they loved that I'm planning to give the book a good testing. I really can't think of any other way to thank them for such a mid-week boost. So today, we're going to talk about jam making.

I promise they were redder than that. Damn night time photography.

But first! Let me tell you about my relationship with strawberries.

Strawberries back home are on the expensive side. They cost five times more what they cost in the UK and don't taste...well...they just don't taste of anything really. They don't smell of anything either. I ate them purely because they were exotic...but secretly would crave mangoes while trying to swallow their sour red juices. In a world of papayas, mangoes and a smorgasbord of bananas, strawberries emerge as the 'exotic fruit' redolent of pale skinned, golden haired strangers in lands far away. But in comparison to the juicy longans you could get at the market for a fraction of the price, they seemed a little...blah.

This summer, things changed. The first time I tasted a summer strawberry my world exploded. Color became sound, sound became color the sky split and fireworks went off behind my eyes.  Ok, none of those things happened. But let me tell you it was pretty damn close. Finally. THIS was what all the fuss was about. I got it now. All the hype made sense.

I have spent the past two months gorging on strawberries. These big, juicy rubies have stained my lips and dribbled their juices down my chin and fingers on an almost daily basis. But ( as all good things) summer is coming to an end, and it's taking strawberries with it. In an attempt to bottle my British summer, I tried making the strawberry and rose jam from The Baking Book. Itamar did say at the book launch that if you try ANYTHING in this book, please please please make our jam.
And I can see why.


I mean, ok. I have consumed many a jar of commercial jam (Hey Mrs. Bridges! Hello Bonne Maman! How's it going?) before. I have also consumed many home made strawberry jams, lovingly made in big pots by watchful home cooks. But see.... they always just tastes of...well...strawberries. And yes, that is what you ask for when you buy strawberry jam. But it's always just...strawberry. Good...straight up...strawberry.

This jam has ruined me. and the secret touch? Roses. They put rose petals and rose water into the jam. Just...just what? That sweet floral note just makes this jam. It gives your nose something else to concentrate on besides sugar cooked strawberries and rounds out the sweetness of the actual jam. But it's not cloying. There's just enough rose water to get things going.

 I want to bathe in this stuff. I want to smear it on my face. The perfume is unbelievable. My house smells divine. The kitchen and living room have been perfumed with strawberries and roses....this is what Valentine's Day should smell like.

That bubbled up to 3x it's original volume. It was intense.

Making jam is not for the faint of heart. That's not meant to turn you off. Do it. It'll put a little gumption in your soul. And really most of the jam making adventure is stress free, if not a little tedious. Be careful, hulling and preparing that much fruit may give you a sore wrist. Just go slow and take breaks. And read the recipe, the WHOLE recipe at least twice. I missed Sarit's jam making 101 at the beginning of the chapter and that made things a little hectic.  Imagine haphazardly stirring hot sugar and frantically reading how to test if your jam is cooked enough and then burning yourself and running to put plates in the freezer...just...just read the recipe ok? Read it twice. At least twice. You've been forewarned.

The really scary bit is when you start cooking the jam. Sarit insists on boiling at the highest heat possible which makes the mixture bubble up to over twice it's original volume. Play it safe and use the biggest, heaviest bottomed pot you have. And don't fill it to more than 1/2 full. Once you get over the fear of your jam bubbling over and catching on fire it all becomes quite fun. Nothing will make you feel more witchy than stirring a cauldron full of bubbling goo.

Bottled and ready to go!

And that's it! Divide into your sterilized bottles and let them sit on the counter overnight to make sure they seal properly. Spread over warm bread or save it for the winter months when the sun has gone down at 3p.m. and you need a reminder that it was ever there at all.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Silken Tofu with Peas and Mushrooms...and the time I admitted to being homesick.

When I was growing up, my nanny spoilt me by feeding me rice that had been cooked with pandan. The first time I had rice that had been cooked without it, I immediately noticed the lack of that familiar perfume. Putting a knot of pandan leaves into the rice pot is a practice I have continued to this day, and boy was I relieved to find them sold in the Asian supermarket!

You know, I have a tiny bone to pick with the UK.
Yes, the entirety of the UK.
Ok no...just the people who advertise for Scottish universities.

Now, you take tropical international students like myself and feed us tales of highland bagpipes and kilts and how all the men look like James McAvoy (ok, maybe that lie I got from the media but let's not get nitpicky here). Sure, you tell us the winters are cold. We expect that. We're not stupid. In fact, because we don't know any better we welcome this foray into the winter because it gives us a chance to be like all those cool instagram people! All bundled up in their hipster reclaimed tartan blankets, and urban outfitter jumpers, clutching designer mugs of rainforest certified hot chocolate. Oh how we live for the chance to capture this aesthetic! Yes, the blankets will come from Oxfam and the jumper will probably be from Primark but we will be there. Living the pictures we see on the Christmas cards back home.

But you know what you don't tell us? You know what the ultimate deception is here? Winter may leave. Hell, it might even be summer. That doesn't mean a damn thing. You don't tell us it's COLD ALL YEAR ROUND.

Huh. St. Andrews. Sunniest place in Scotland. 
Well yeah buddy, that really doesn't say much for the rest of Scotland.

Ok ok. I will acknowledge that most of this rant can be attributed to homesickness (yes ma, I said it. No ma, I do not need to fly home).  Being here over the summer while amazing (like genuinely, I've had the best time), it has worn me down a tiny bit. I miss my family, my friends, my boyfriend, my dog, not having to put on a jacket whenever I step out of the house, having durian on demand, having dim sum on the cheap, not having to make biryani myself....

Ok maybe slightly more than a little homesick.

But that is ok!!! 
This is something I can deal with. Millions of students have dealt with this before me and I am NOT going to wimp out. I am the master of my own moods.
And you know what gets me in a good mood?
Oh please...I'm not even going to finish that for you.

This was so simple to make. And don't be fooled, it may look plain but it packs a punch of flavour. 

Silken tofu with peas and mushrooms
~ 2 tbsp veggie oil
~ 1/2 inch ginger (minced)
~ 2 cloves garlic (minced)
~ 5 chestnut mushrooms (stems separated from caps, sliced.)
~ 1 big red chilli (sliced)
~ 1 cup water
~ 1 tbsp soy sauce
~ 1 tbsp oyster sauce
~ 1 cap full Chinese rice wine
~ 1 tsp sesame oil
~ a pinch of sugar
~ 1/2 cup frozen peas
~ 300g silken tofu (cut into cubes)
~ 1 Knorr fish stock pot

OK, first thing you want to do is crank the heat all the way up on that wok. ALL the way up guys. All your ingredients have been prepped. Don't worry. I believe in you.

Pour the oil in along with the ginger and garlic. Keep tossing it around the wok until you have garlic and ginger perfuming the air. Add the sliced up mushroom stems and stir fry till slightly softened. Add the sliced caps and sliced red chilli and stir fry for about a minute. Add your water all in one go. It will sizzle. You will live. I promise. Add the soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice wine, sesame oil and sugar. Stir to dissolve then add you peas and tofu. Stir, but be gentle. You just want to separate the tofu pieces, but silken tofu is fairly delicate and you run a risk of breaking the pieces. That will happen, no getting around that. But let's keep it to a minimum, shall we?
Add the stock pot ( I LOVE THESE. I keep a few of the veggie and chicken ones in my cupboard as well. They're so easy to use and are great for thickening sauces and soups), stir, then cover with a lid and let simmer for 3 minutes to warm up the tofu and peas. Serve hot over a bed of hot rice.

Best eaten whilst under a duvet and watching That 70s Show. 

Friday, 7 August 2015

The Honey & Co. Baking Book - Chocolate and Hazlenut Krantz Loaf

Chocolate and Hazelnut krantz loaf
When did this happen? I have no idea. I woke up and I was 23 and now I need to look up how to pay taxes and buy houses. This is terrifying. I am....ADULTING.

Naturally the only reasonable response to this is to not acknowledge it's happening. So I'm just going to retreat into the kitchen and not give any notice to this strange maturation process. Come get me when I'm 99 and in need of an old folks home where once again I won't have to make my own decisions, and will instead allow people to push me along in a wheelchair while I mumble over recipe books.

Speaking of recipe books, a HUGE shoutout to everyone who got me a cooking related item (which was basically all of you) as a birthday gift. I am now in possession of a teal soup ladle that's been modeled after Nessie, the Great British Bake-Off cook book, a cook book by Mary Berry, a multipurpose grinder to make curry pastes and powders, and a truly fantastic cleaver. You all know me so well, thank you so very much.

Anyways! Today's post is the first recipe review of the Honey&Co. Baking book. The first of many I assure you. Every single dish in that book is screaming to be made and I can barely wait to try them all. I started with this one, because I was looking for an appropriate gift to thank my neighbours for being so nice after a little unpleasant encounter I had.

Last week while I was walking home two guys driving a van pulled up in front of me and asked me to get in with them. And in a fairly skeevy manner too. I gave them a very firm "um no thank you" and walked off, and as they drove ahead the guy in the passenger's seat gave me a sleazy grin and a wave. It was all very creepy, and as I was walking home, Kate (the lady who lives next door) was out in the garden and I told her what happened. She was very disturbed on my behalf and said I was free to come over if I wanted to. I got home, called the police, settled everything...but after they left I was pretty creeped out and not in the mood to be alone. So I went next door and Kate and David (her husband) were lovely. They offered to put me up for the night so I wouldn't be sleeping alone and I accepted.

Prove prove prove!
I was extremely grateful and wanted something nice to thank them. This chocolate and hazlenut krantz loaf really fit the bill.

This loaf is one of the three babka recipes listed in the book. And's beautiful.

You don't even understand. This is Cinnabon on crack. This is grown up nutella on toast. This is moist, buttery, cinnamony, chocolatey, nutty, chewy, soft heaven. It is rich. It is lush.

It might induce a sugar headache. Be sensible. Eat small slices.

Now...a quick side note. The posts that I do on the Honey&Co. baking book will not include corresponding recipes. They'll be more of...recipe reviews. How I found making the thing... any drawbacks or kinks... and tips I found helped me. Reason being, I don't feel very comfortable posting recipes from cook books. If (by some miracle) Sarit and Itamar read this post and say "Yeah, sure, go ahead, share our recipes", then I absolutely will because this is a recipe worth sharing. But till then, it's just going to be my experience baking the thing.

We cool?

This was an amazing recipe to follow from start to finish. However, I will say one of the drawbacks right off the cuff is that it is time consuming. But not a bad sort of time consuming. There isn't hours and hours of intense labour, just a lot of waiting time in between. For starters, after making the dough you have to let it rest for atleast 6 hours in the fridge. Bottom line, plan ahead with this one. You will have to start the day before you want to eat it.

There is a basic babka dough recipe that Sarit and Itamar use, that is then filled and molded to make the various buns. This dough is very easy to work with. Like...EXTREMELY easy. I have made a lot of bread, from a lot of different recipes. There have been times where I have kneaded a 'dough' for 3 hours to have nothing but gloop on my counter. There was one time that the 'dough' I was working on was so tough, that by the time it was properly kneaded my wrist was sprained and stayed swollen for a week after.

This isn't at all the case here. Maybe because it's so intense on the butter, this dough comes together like a dream. All you need is about 5 minutes of kneading before you get a smooth elastic ball of putty in your hands. ALSO your hands come out super soft. I am not even kidding, your skin becomes a kind of soft no moisturizer will achieve. I could wax lyrical all day, but bottom line is that this is a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful dough to work with. Don't be scared, just get in there.

Rolled out and filled
I made the dough the night before, then had a nice lie in before waking up to make the filling. More butter goes into this, along with very dark chocolate, some ground cinnamon and a fair bit of sugar. Now, because I used granulated instead of caster sugar the filling came out quite grainy. Personally I liked it, cause it added a sugary crunch along with the nuts. You then roast a handful of hazelnuts and roughly chop them up to be sprinkled on top of the filling.

Sarit and Itamar tell you to leave the dough in the fridge till the last possible minute and I can see why. While it doesn't rise much (which I'm guessing happens because the dough uses all milk and no water), it's also very soft from all the butter. I would not be able to roll this out back home. Not without putting the slab in the freezer every 2 minutes, or working in an air conditioned room. You may think you won't be able to roll out the 50cm x 30cm rectangle specified. Don't worry, you will. Just keep at it. Again it's a very easy dough to work with, but just needs a little patience to be rolled out that thin. The amount of filling specified is perfect. You then sprinkle the hazelnuts over, roll up, then put it back in the fridge for 10 minutes before shaping.

Split in half to twist
It's a little fiddly splitting the log in half and twisting it, but don't worry. YOU are the boss of this dough. Just be firm, and pat any loose filling back into place.

This is the point where you leave it to prove for two hours....and I forgot about it. :p I wandered off to do some cleaning and came back about 3 hours later. Again, don't be surprised if it hasn't proved up alot. It will still feel soft and fluffy to the touch. Bake it and I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH.

Guys do it. don't worry about the loaf having too much sugar in it. Again, just have a small slice. The syrup makes this so so SO moist and gives it a lovely shine...just do it, ok? Promise me you'll do it.
Do it.

So yes, I don't have to tell you anything else about this loaf, I'll let the pictures do the rest of the talking. Please. Please. I'm begging you. Buy the book. Make this babka.


Well done Honey&Co.