Monday, 28 February 2005

Indian Sweets

I have a lot of Indian colleagues at work. Through them I discovered a lot about Indian culture, geography, customs, and of course food. I was fortunate enough to visit India (New Delhi in particular) and experienced and tasted first hand the great variety of yummy Indian food.

When my colleagues celebrate a milestone - wedding, a new child born, Diwali festival, or just arriving from a holiday in India; they always bring back boxes of sweets. And I never fail to taste test all of them. :LOL: Among my favourites are these two:

Soan Papdi is made of sugar, ghee (clarified butter), wheat flour, gram flour, cardamom. Then it has spinklings of pistachio, cucumber seeds, and crushed almonds on top. I'd like to see how they make this because although as you can see above that it's in blocks, it is actually made up of tiny thread like strands that are then compacted to shape into squares. It melts in your mouth the moment it touches your tongue. Lovely! The texture is exquisite and oh so very buttery with the sprinkled nuts lending the right crunch for this confection. The closest I can think of similar is the dragon's beard of the Chinese.

The Kaju Roll on the other hand satisfies my craving for nuts. Made mainly of ground cashews (notice the phonetic transliteration of the word), sugar, milk, and flavoured with saffron. Actually the right generic name would be Kaju sweets. If shaped like a log (as above picture shows) then it is 'Kaju Roll', if square then it's called 'Kaju Squares' and so on. The latter are usually decorated with edible silver foil. While the 'roll' usually have some saffron or cardamom flavoured ground nuts stuffed in the middle. It is quite chewy, obviously very nutty, and not too sweet. Both the kaju and soan papdi are very addictive. Once I sat with either in front of me I can't stop eating!

Saturday, 26 February 2005

Stir Fried Cabbage

I love stir fried veggies, whether they're combination type or single veg one, they're welcome to my stomach any time (well probably not at breakfast). This dish is a singleton - featuring the irrepressible cabbage. The humble cabbage has a lot of health benefits like helping in preventing cancers (stomach, colon, breast), prevents ulcers, stimulates the immune system, etc. Although, like most anything in life I would suggest moderation in eating cabbage because it can also block the absorption of iodine by the thyroid gland which results in reduced secretion of the thyroxin hormones which in turn regulates metabolism in our body. How do I know? I have hypothyrodism (means: my thyroid is too shy to give out enough hormones) and I know from the PGH Internal Medicine team's (or whatever they were called) research of farmers in the area of Baguio, Philippines that the cause of the high incidence of hypo/hyperthyrodism in the area is because cabbage is a staple food of theirs. So I wouldn't recommend eating cabbage 3 times a day but have it once in a while maybe once a week.

Now this is sounding like a medical blog ... let's get back into the cooking fire. The only problem I had when I cooked this is that the cabbages here in UK are quite tough compared to the one in Asia. The leaves are certainly thicker and the midrib much more. So much so that I have to trim the latter out otherwise I would have to boil it first before stir frying. Double dead. That would defeat the purpose of stir frying vegs, isn't?

This is adapted from the Chinese Cooking for Beginners by Huang Su-Huei.

Stir Fried Cabbage

450 g  cabbage - sliced to bite sized pieces
1 medium tomato - sliced
2 Tbsp cooking oil
3 Tbsp water
1 tsp sugar
2/3 tsp sea salt
  1. Combine the water, sugar and salt in a bowl. Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt.
  2. Heat the wok then add the oil. When the oil is smoking, add the tomato and stir fry lightly for about 30 seconds.
  3. Stir in the cabbage and stir fry for about 1 minute or until a bit limp.
  4. Add the water mixture and quickly stir fry until thoroughly mixed. Serve.

Sunday, 20 February 2005

Hawaiian Adobo

Sorry folks, that's the best picture I can come up with. Every other shot was fuzzier. I think I was holding the camera too near the subject. Anyway, about this dish - nothing fancy schmaltzy about it. Just your usual adobo (pork or chicken) then add a tin can of pineapple chunks, simmer a little and presto you've got grass-skirted adobo! I just love the tangy bite of the pineapple mixing in with the salty-soury adobo sauce. To give the pineapple a chance of blending well, your adobo sauce should not be too vinegary or at least equal balance of soy sauce saltiness and vinegar sourness. This does not necessarily mean equal volume. You will have to go by taste or trial and error to achieve this. For the brand of soy sauce and vinegar I use (Wo Hup and Datu Puti respectively) my proportion is of equal volume. But if I use Marca Pina or Silver Swan, I have to reduce the soy sauce or increase the vinegar to achieve the same.

The first time I met this dish was in the 70s when I think there was a rage of anything Hawaiian i.e., pineapples were added to everything. My Tita Perly first cooked them for me and it's only recently that I remembered this one favourite. 'Hope you liked it, too.

Hawaiian Adobo

1 kg  pork or chicken - cut into serving pieces
1 x 425 g  can of pineapple chunks
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup vinegar
  1. Combine meat, garlic, peppercorns, soy sauce, vinegar, and bay leaves in a pot or saucepan. Bring to boil and simmer until meat is cooked and tender (about 30 minutes for chicken and 1.25 hours for pork). If it becomes too dry add a little hot water.
  2. [Optional] Fry drained meat in batches in a separate pan with oil. Fry them briefly, just enough to brown them a little. Bring the meat back in the pot with sauce.
  3. Add half of the pineapple chunks and all of its juices. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
  4. [Optional]Add the remaining pineapple chunks for garnishing.
  5. Dish up and serve.

Friday, 18 February 2005

Ginisang Munggo (Sauteed Mung Beans)

My father-in-law is in love with anything cooked with mung beans (munggo). Whether it's sauteed, ginataan (with coconut), in pastries, etc. He will have it anytime. Some of this bias was passed on to my husband. That's why this Pinoy standard is a regular in our dining table.

One thing about the cooking of mung beans, other people strain the mush after softening (by boiling it) mainly to separate the skin from the 'meat'. My FIL and husband couldn't care less. They eat it skin and all. But me I'd like to get as much skin out as possible but do not like the tediousness of straining it. Besides you get less of the 'meat' (will somebody please tell me what do you call the inside of a bean?) when doing the latter. As for the meat that goes with this, we usually have the pork and the tinapa (smoked fish) flakes when we were in the Philippines. Here it's harder to source the tinapa so we just make do with shrimps. You can have all 3 meats (pork, shrimp, tinapa) in there it's all up to you. Or you can just have a combination of 2, 1 or even none. Nowadays, we skip the fatty pork for health reasons. :-p

Ginisang Munggo
(Sauteed Mung Beans)

1/2 cup sliced fatty pork meat [optional]
1 Tbsp cooking oil
1/2 Tbsp minced garlic
2-3 medium tomatoes - sliced
1 medium onion - sliced
3-4 Tbsp bagoong (sauteed salted tiny shrimps)
1 cup mung beans
1 cup shelled shrimps or prawns
1/3 cup flaked tinapa (smoked fish) [optional]
2 cups spinach - washed
1 tsp sea salt or 1 Tbsp patis (fish sauce)
  1. [Optional] Put the mung beans in a container and add enough water to cover it. Discard all ones that float. Soak for several hours.
  2. Drain mung beans and put in a saucepan. Add about 4 cups water and bring to boil. Bring down heat to low and simmer until mung beans are soft and separating from its skin.
  3. To remove as much skin as possible without straining, make sure the boiling water level is at least 1/2 inch above the mung beans level. Bring up the heat to medium, cover and bring it up to boil. Remove cover and you can see that the skins congregate at the centre and around the sides of the pan. Once you remove the cover you have to immediately scoop out the skins. You have to catch them while they're still floating on top because upon lifting the cover the cold incoming air (or the loss of heat) makes them sink that's why you have to be quick. Cover and wait for it to boil again and repeat the exercise until you've given up removed as much skin as you can. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. [Optional] Put pork meat in a separate saucepan and add just enough water to cover it. Bring to boil and let it simmer at medium heat until water dries out. Just before it does, add the oil to make the meat render more oil and let it fry in its own fat. Do this until pork is lightly brown. Push to one side in the pan.
  5. Saute garlic in low heat until light brown. Then add onion, bring heat to medium and cook for about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook until soft.
  6. Add bagoong, stir fry for about 1 minute. Add the shrimps and stir fry until pink.
  7. Tip in the cooked mung beans including its sauce. If it's too thick add a little hot water. Bring to boil and then lower heat to simmer for about 5-10 minutes while stirring from time to time. Taste and if need be add some sea salt or patis.
  8. Stir in the flaked tinapa (if using) and spinach. Simmer again briefly for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and serve.

Tuesday, 15 February 2005

Boozy Beef

We've been hankering for some beef stew for quite sometime. But not wanting to make mechado again, I rummaged thru my magazine cutouts to try out a new recipe. Out came this stew with lots of stout beer and mushrooms. This is adapted from Sophie Grigson's that was posted in The Sunday Times Cookery Cards. I don't have a clue on what year this came out.

Beers are very broadly classified to ales and lagers. Under types of ales is stout beer which is characterised by its dark colour and foaminess. Good examples of this are Guinness, Murphy's, and Mackeson's XXX. It is best served chilled not ice cold. The dark color comes from the large proportion of roasted barley in it. It is said that Guinness is proven to have a lot of therapeutic value. Even my own GP (doctor) strongly suggested to me to drink it regularly when I became anemic after my last childbirth because apparently it is very rich in iron. That news was well received by my husband who promptly went to Tesco's and bought several packs of the thing. Although it was technically for me, I distinctly remember he drank more than I did. ;).

This recipe is very easy to follow and once you've put them all in a casserole in an oven, you can put your feet up and wait in your merry way. The resulting dish was quite good although I think it lacked something. Maybe I would add some Worcestershire sauce next time. Actually I spied another similar recipe with less beer and more flavourings and veggies so maybe I'll try that later.

Beef, Guinness and Mushroom Stew

1 kg  shin of beef (or any stewing cuts) - sliced into 1 1/2 inch cubes
seasoned flour
1/4 cup butter
2 Tbsp oil
2 onions - roughly chopped
125 g  button mushrooms
720 ml (1 1/4 pints) Guinness or other stout beer
2 Tbsp double concentrated tomato puree (tomato paste)
1/2 Tbsp sugar
1 bay leaf
bouquet garni
225 g  fresh shiitake mushrooms (or any flat fleshy mushrooms) - sliced thickly
1 tsp sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 170°C/fan 150°C/325°F/gas mark 3.
  2. Toss beef in seasoned flour. (Seasoned flour is all purpose flour mixed with salt and ground pepper. Suggested proportion is - 1/2 cup flour + 1/2 tsp fine salt + ground pepper).
  3. Heat a third of the butter plus 1 Tbsp oil in a frying pan and brown the meat briskly in batches, adding more oil if needed. Transfer in a oven proof casserole.
  4. Add a third more of butter and saute onions until lightly browned. Add button mushrooms, saute lightly. Transfer fried onion and mushrooms to the casserole.
  5. Pour Guinness into the pan and bring up to boil while scraping the residues from the frying. Stir in tomato paste and sugar. Pour over the casserole.
  6. Add bouquet garni. Season with salt and pepper. (you can make fresh bouquet garni by tying together with a string the following - bay leaf, 1 sprig of rosemary, 2 sprigs parsley, 2 sprigs thyme)
  7. Cover and cook in the oven for 2 1/2 - 3 hours until meat is tender. Check occassionally. If it is drying up too much add a little hot water.
  8. Saute the fresh shiitake mushroom in the remaining butter. Stir into the casserole and return to the oven for 5 minutes.
  9. Discard the bouquet garni, adjust the seasoning and serve.

Saturday, 12 February 2005

I've been Tagged !

Another interruption to our regular programming and a welcome respite it is. A little change from the constant cooking and baking. Let's chill out a little, put our feet up and listen to some music.

Baby Rambutan and Mrs. Tweety tagged me in a music meme. Please go to my other blog to see it.

Thursday, 10 February 2005

Jacket Potato

First time I heard the name, I had in my head an image of a potato in a dinner jacket swanning around in a party. When the lady in the counter handed it to me I thought - why it's baked potato! And so that was another English lesson for me. Jacket potato or baked potato is one of those sublime comfort food that you would want to have on a chilly day. Simple, basic but very satisfying. My favourite topping for this would be crispy fried bacon on melting grated cheese, while my youngest daughter loves baked beans on the same. There is a large variety of toppings available in local sandwich shops ranging from the simple grated cheese or tuna mayo sweetcorn to cream cheese with smoked salmon. The humble potato is of course great source of carbohydrates, rich in vitamin C, B, and other minerals like potassium and magnesium. That is mighty fine unless you're in a low carb diet then you'll have to eat this less frequently. Still there's nothing like tucking into a piping hot jacket potato on a cold day.

Suggested potato varieties to use are those of the 'baking' type. Usually in supermarkets they have labels on the shelf or the package saying if it is baking potato. Here in UK the more popular ones are King Edward, Maris Piper, and Desiree. You would want your potato to be floury to give you that fluffy inside once you slit the skin and opened it straight from the oven.

Jacket Potato
(Baked Potato)

baking potatoes
oil (optional)
ground sea salt (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 190°C/fan 170°C/375°F.
  2. Pierce potatoes all over with fork.
  3. [Optional] Put one or two drops of oil on the skin and spread it all around. This will make the skin very crispy.
  4. [Optional] Sprinkle (or roll) the oiled potato with a little salt.
  5. Bake in the oven for about 1 1/2 - 1 3/4 hours or once a knife or skewer can be easily pushed in the middle of the potato.
  6. Take out of the oven and make 2 slits on top made in a cross fashion. Push gently from the sides to open up the cross. Fluff the potato a little and top with butter (optional) and topping of choice.

Tuesday, 8 February 2005

Stir Fried Spinach

My current eating habits has made me comb through my cookbooks of recipes that I have tried and raved but eventually forgotten. Also I dug up old simple recipes that brings out the best in vegetables by virtue of the few ingredients it has. One of them is this stir fry dish from one of my favourite cookbooks Chinese Cooking For Beginners by Huang Su-Huei. It's just spinach, a little water, garlic, and salt. In place of the spinach you can substitute choi sum (Chinese flowering broccoli) or pak choi (pechay) or bok choi (green pechay) or other leafy veggies of your choice. Since the recipe is very basic, the success of this dish lies in the freshness of your spinach and the cooking method. Like in all stir frying, at the start the wok and the oil has to be smoking hot. This is to ensure that the food juices are sealed inside. It is also important not to overcook it. Cooking time of between 3 - 5 minutes is all you need if you maintain the high heat.

Stir Fried Spinach

500 g  spinach
1 Tbsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp water
1 tsp sea salt
2 Tbsp oil
  1. Mix water, garlic, and salt in a bowl. Make sure that the salt is dissolved in the water.
  2. Heat oil in a wok until smoking hot.
  3. Put in spinach in the wok. Stir fry in high heat for about 30 seconds.
  4. Add in water mixture and stir fry until spinach is limp (about 2 minutes) while maintaining the high heat of the cooker hob. Dish up and serve.

Friday, 4 February 2005


Chinese New Year is almost here. The official first day of the Year of the Rooster is on the 9th of February. But already we're celebrating foodwise. Among the traditional food making an appearance during this occassion is the Chinese New Year Pudding or tikoy as known among Pinoys. (apologies to purplegirl's pogi little boy).

The tikoy is made up of ground glutinous rice flour, wheat starch, lard, water, and sugar. The type of the latter will determine the color of the pudding. So you have a choice of brown or white tikoy. I don't have the patience yet of making this which involves steaming for 2 hours. Why slave away when you can conveniently buy one from your Chinese grocers.

There is only one way I know, sorry, like to eat it - dipped in egg and fried lightly. I've seen it in some savoury dishes but it didn't quite appeal to me.
  • As you can see above I sliced the tikoy to about 1/2 - 1/4 inch thick. You may slice it further to make it smaller. If necessary, chill the tikoy first in the fridge to make it firmer and not so sticky, thus, easier to slice and handle.
  • Beat an egg in a bowl. Dip the sliced tikoy pieces in the beaten egg.
  • Fry on low to medium heat in a pan (preferably non-stick) with a little oil for a few minutes. Turn over to the other side. Dish up and serve.
When warm, the tikoy is quite sticky so be careful when you eat it especially if you have artificial dentures. ;) This is very nice as a snack with some Oolong or Chrysanthemum tea. Kung Hei Fat Choi !

Thursday, 3 February 2005

Copyright or Right to Copy?

We interrupt regular programming to bring you some news about plagiarism of food blogs. A popular blogger saw her own recipe copied onto a forum which also included her picture of the dish. While it is the aim of most food bloggers to share their recipes, they would of course want attribution for their handiwork. I don't think anyone would want their labor of love to be copied and not be acknowledged for it. I hope that the forumers learned their lesson not to post cut and pasted material from other websites. Arguably, these blogs/websites are in the public domain but not linking back or at least mentioning who originally wrote the material is totally unfair. It is all about honesty and being truthful. I am not just talking about these forums, whose members and moderators seem to be either careless or ignorant, but blogs and personal websites who lift materials - yes recipes complete with pictures - from other blogs and websites. Me and some friends have seen them before. My advice is: you have to face the truth, if you can't build up your own recipe collection do not copy others' work without permission or attribution. Do not pass others' work as your own just so your blog/site can look good.

Now that the offending party (forumers) of that brouhaha has expressed their contrition and regret I hope everybody can move on and have learned a very valuable and important lesson.

See some copyright issues explained here for the US and UK.