Monday, July 12, 2010

Black Pepper Beef

At last I am beginning to conceive a world without instant noodle. Stir-frying is going to be the way of life for this busy working mum who has secretly fed herself MSG ridden instant noodle (and her husband to add to her guilt) which is hard to resist on cold winter days. The appraisal from my husband who was probably thanking heaven above for seeing a meat dish in front of him, made me all warm inside he might as well been Matt Preston and I, Julie Goodwin.
Whilst cooking black pepper beef, I was so proud of the sense of proficiency I have attained. While letting the beef marinate for 20minutes I chopped the ingredients and prepared the sauces. The beef was cooked to perfect medium rare and capsicum warm and crispy. As I was carefully wiping the excess sauce off the side of the plate, I saw a bowl of crushed black pepper still sitting on the bench at the corner of my eyes. The dish of my perfection was not quite so perfect without the central ingredient.
Lucky I am well trained in handling emergencies. It was quickly rectified with the whole plate of dish diving back into the wok along with the bowl of black pepper.
Needless to say the dish was well worth the save with the black pepper and all (well except for not so rare beef and soggy capsicum).

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Steamed Lemon Chicken

This chicken did not have the warm reception from my family. There is a new addition to my family who is not shy of any food. Although it is only one other person sitting at the table (5 adults and 2 kids), I find myself cooking the double the amount. If the two dishes are popular there seem to be just enough for everyone. Thank goodness for the cereals in the cupboard. They are great for any time of the day, especially for substitute dinner (either from lack or bad cooking).

Mastering cooking has reached another level with the larger portion of dishes I have to prepare. Not only do I have to cook for longer, all the cooking utensils have to get bigger. This is a good time to re-think for anyone who is thinking of having a large family.

Coming back to the dish, the comment I received from the members of food critiques, was that the steamed lemon chicken was ‘too lemony’. It may just have to do with the fact that it was a lemon dish. Or, it could also have to do with the fact that the sizes of lemons I used were unusually large. In any case, it is what it is, a lemon chicken tangy on your palate. I suggest combining this dish with a blend green vegetable dish with a dash of soy sauce and oyster sauce.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Wong Birthday Banquet

I am proud to introduce my guest to my blog who is a true connisieur by palate and a true lingualist by tongue! Here is his true to his word on his experience on 'pleasure and pain' (according to my family who has to endure and enjoy my cooking challenge week and week out).

To celebrate our birthdays last week, my wife and I had the privilege of being invited to sample some of Neil Perry's best, dining in style and comfort in the home of our lovely friend, accomplished chef, and author of this blog. Having seen some of the tantalising creations regularly posted here, I couldn't wait to see what we were going to be served.

The starter was hot-and-sour soup, practically a meal in itself with prawns and rice noodles. It was similar in taste to tom yum, and very spicy - just the way I like it. This was accompanied by no less than four(!) exquisite dishes:

Sashimi salad: Notable not only for being extremely tasty - with the salmon perfectly matched with a vinegar and wasabi-based dressing and cos lettuce base - but also for being so freakin' humongous! The sauce and lettuce also went so well together that if it weren't for being completely and utterly stuffed from the other dishes we probably would've polished off every last leaf (remember: this thing was HUGE).

Braised Soy Tofu: Seriously, this dish was restaurant quality. The trick mentioned in a previous post of coating the tofu and frying it a bit beforehand was ingenious, giving it that slightly-crispy-on-the-outside-but-soft-and-silky-inside texture. This dish gets my vote for dish of the night (followed closely by the sashimi salad) - even with the tofu gone, I greedily grabbed an extra bowl of rice and finished off all the vegetables.

Roast duck and lychee salad: I've never been a huge fan of using fruit in cooking, and the duck was store-bought, but otherwise this too was on par with what you'd find in a restaurant. There's just something about peanuts, duck and shallots (I think!) that goes really well, and the sauce held it all together wonderfully.

Steamed fish fillet in black bean sauce: Set on a bed of asparagas, the perch fillet was perfectly done - the meat fell apart but was still soft and tender; neither over- or under-cooked. I think the original recipe called for some kind of cod, but I really didn't notice the difference. What was hilarious though, was seeing these pieces of fish cooked in a huge bamboo steamer. (For the record, I also nabbed the last crumb of fish but was beaten to the last of the asparagus.)

There were six of us in total, and we only barely managed to finish everything, and that's only because we forced ourselves to over-eat due to everything being so tasty - I even suggested keeping the sauce from the sashimi salad, only to have it pointed out to me by slightly more level heads that because it had raw fish in it, it guess wouldn't keep. If there was any one thing that could have been improved about the meal, it'd be to suggest getting a gas stove! Some of the dishes got cold a bit too quickly and would've been even nicer if they'd maintained their temperature for longer. Having said that though, I've always had access to gas so I probably don't truly appreciate how difficult it was to have made everything above using an electric.

We finished off the meal with a rousing rendition of happy birthday, punctuated with satisfied burps (well, at least on my part), over a yummy green tea cake from the shops, but the memories of the amazing tastes lingered on in my mouth and in my mind. A very generous meal, and a truly remarkable effort from a full-time working mum - thank you!

- Caesar

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Red-Braised pock hock with shitake mushroom

I have been delaying cooking this dish because I could not figure out which part of the pig, pock hock belonged to. Of cause I could not take the chances of walking into an Asian butcher and taking home the correct piece of pig's body. So I did my due diligence and asked the google master. It referred to it as pork shank, from which I gathered it will be the leg. When I did approach the Asian butcher and asked for a pork hock, she reached over and grabbed undoubtedly the correct anatomy of the pig. She held it by the foot with its hoof pointing up like a ballerina's foot in the air (pigs have big toes!) and asked whether I wanted it to be chopped this way or that way or leave as is. I didn't care how it was chopped as long as it was rendered unrecognisable. The less evidence of where it came from, the better it would be for someone who will be handling it and cooking it. Pig's foot, however remained what it is. A piece I will be offering to my mother or my sister-in-law who like to eat anything from fish eyeballs, to animal kidneys (and it doesn't matter which animal the kidneys belong to).
This is one dish I must have spent the longest time cooking. For whose benefit I wondered greatly at midnight while I was waiting for the stock to simmer. The stock and the hock had to be refrigerated overnight in order to get rid of the layer of fat. By the time it came to reheat the hock and simmer the stock until only 500ml of the sauce remained, I was truly getting sick of anything that had to do with red-braised. My husband's face popped up several times. I hate it when he is right. May be I shouldn't have followed the recipes page by page.
The pieces of pork had disintegrated into pieces by the end, which left the hock truly unrecognisable. The only saving grace was the shitake mushrooms, which I nearly forgot to put in. This is a dish specially reserved for die hard pork lovers... hmm not me.

Braised Soy Tofu

I loved saying "black fungi" to my brother to his question of what the dried seaweed looking piece. In my head I am thinking, "wait till you see what is on next week's menu!". It is amazing how cooking can turn the most uninviting, unpalatable things into something that people would pay to eat. Cooking is truly a form of art that all our senses can appreciate.
A little bit of tip I have learnt from my sister-in-law is on how to cook the tofu without oil cracking on your face. She instructed me at the nick of time as I was about to put tofu freshly out of the package, to cover it with corn flour first. It resulted in giving the tofu a crunchy surface texture, very much like the Agedashidofu.
I loved the dish. Short time to cook and rich in nutrients (great for kids) and not to mention very tasty!

Braised Shitake Mushroom

Ashamedly, my resolution of simplifying my life did not last long. For some bizarre reason (only answer I have come by is that some alien mush kidnap my brain every so pick into my briliance of cause) an odd thought would enter my mind and I end up committing to things which a normal, rational person would not think of doing. It did seem like a good idea to cook three dishes which will mean that I can try new dishes such as Braised Shitake Mushroom, Braised Soy Tofu and give my daughter protein by cooking Steamed Blue eye with Black Beans. My husband, brother and sister in law were all entertained as they watched me frantically chopped and cooked away in the kitchen. They were thoroughly amused as the table was already filled with cooked dishes from my dear mother who feels sorry for me for all my hard effort of juggling home and work life (either that she feels sorry for my family for enduring my cooking). Our kitchen did look like a mad house as both my daughter and my nephew had been way over-due for their dinner. The poor kids were hanging off any legs they can find begging for someone to fill their tummies. My daughters first lesson on patience.
I loved seeing the texture of Shitake mushroom change from dried to soft and chewy. With bit of garlic and ginger in the sauce it was worth all the fussing.
For any advisories out there where can you get yellow bean soy sauce. Again, how many different kinds of soy sauce can you have?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Red-braised chicken

As I plonk four big pieces of chicken legs, I catch myself re-evaluating my life. I just happen to be thinking how I just like to aim too high and overwhelm myself with too big of a task to handle. The four lifeless pieces of chicken appeared to be nodding their headless bodies in agreement. Somehow I have managed to get quarters of chicken with the legs rather than "chicken legs, cut into 3cm pieces across the bone" just as Neil instructed. The choice seemed so obvious when standing at the butcher. It was either buying drumsticks or getting the quarters or buying two whole chickens and cutting around the legs 3cm across the bone. Now what would I have done with the rest of the chicken when I wasn't going to come across another chicken dish in the cook book for another 20 pages?
Again, contrary to Neil's comment about the dish becoming one of the favourite, it didn't make it as one of mine. I am starting to wonder whether the measurement for liquid is correct in the cook book. It seems i often have to use half of the bottle of soy sauce. Hence, what was meant to be used as sauce became stock. I even tried putting corn starch to thicken the sauce.
Perhaps, if you enjoy the taste of star anise this dish may appeal to you. My suggestion is to use less water at the beginning and add as needed. It is also a great dish if you want to impress your guests. Having the spices and peeled tangerine floating in the sauce can make the dish look very exotic.
I am going to return to contemplating how to simplify my life now.